Climate Change: The Issue of Global Warming

Climate change is a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. Often climate change refers specifically to the rise in global temperatures from the mid-20th century to the present.[1]

Climate change is a vague term that causes global warmingthe long-term heating of the earth's climate system. Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other air pollutants collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off of the earth's surface. Usually, this radiation would escape into space, but these pollutants, which can last for centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to heat up. These heat-trapping pollutants—specifically carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour, and synthetic fluorinated gases—are known as greenhouse gases, and their impact is called the greenhouse effect.[2]

The issue emerged with the emergence of industrialisation. It has had an immense impact on the world, and its signs are visible as it has turned from subject research by scientists in the 1900s to a subject of common concern. A child knows what global warming is, its impact on the earth and even some standard solutions. However, even when the issue is a concern for all, the steps taken to reduce it are still inadequate. Education has made it mandatory to learn, but the implementation part gets lost.

What is the impact of global warming?

The impact is enormous and on all sectors. It has resulted in the rise of temperature, melting of ice caps, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, declining agricultural productivity, the list goes on and on. It is certainly caused due to human activities. A recent study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has affirmed the connection between human activities and global warming. Moreover, 197 international scientific organisations agree that global warming is caused due to human activities. The IPCC report highlights how crucial the next decade is with unstoppable human activities indisputably causing climate change. Overall, the results are:

  1. Global Temperature Rise: About 1.18°C surface temperature has risen since 1900. It is caused by the increasing emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere. The recent wildfires are prime examplesin Australia, California, Amazon, Turkey, Greece and Siberia.

The wildfires in Siberia have travelled 2000 miles, and its smoke has even reached the North Pole. It has travelled to Canada and is even visible from Greenland. It has released up to 505 million tonnes of CO2. It is more significant than any wildfire currently burning on earth. South America's Pantanal region, the world's largest tropical wetland, has been on fire for months. Fires have also consumed floodplains in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

  1. Melting of Icecaps: The overall sea level has risen to 1.5mm due to the regular melting of ice from Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic. Greenland loses around 279 billion tonnes of ice per year. It also received its first rain, which shows how rapidly global warming is showing its effects on nature. The Arctic is similarly affected—the polar bears are the most threatened species. As per CNN spokesperson, polar bears have been sighted thrice at the Summit Station in years.

  2. Extreme Events: The record high-temperature events have been witnessed in the US, while on the other hand, the low-temperature events have decreased. The US has also witnessed intense rainfalls in the past decade.

  3. Ocean Acidification: The number has jumped to 10.8 billion metric tonnes per year from 7.2 billion tonnes. The ocean has absorbed around 30% anthropogenic CO2 emissions in past years. The industrial revolution marked the beginning of this, and currently, the waste floating over these oceans has increased, which often leads to the formation of harmful bacteria over the surface. It blocks the light source for aquatic plants and animals.

  4. Other Effects: Contributing to these are the changing patterns in precipitation, droughts, heatwaves, intense hurricanes, forest free seasons and much more. A recent study by Nature shows that hurricanes are further strengthening inland due to global warming. Another study in the Journal Science shows that trees will shed their leaves earlier due to high temperatures.

We looked into the impact that global warming has had on the planet. Human health is also affected adversely by this. The extreme heat waves have contributed to more deaths. People are more vulnerable to suffer natural disasters and loose agricultural produce due to variable rainfall patterns—a recent study by the WHO shows that climate change will contribute to 250,000 additional deaths per year. Nevertheless, action is to be taken to save both the planet and humans by humans.

As per the IPCC, until we reduce the large scale greenhouse emissions, limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C is beyond our reach. It seems quite impossible as the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change says, "We are not on track to achieve the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century. In fact, we're on the opposite track, heading for more than a 3°C rise. We need to change the course urgently and before it's too late."

What could be done?

There are several international, national, regional, and local policies and programs to cope with this problem. It is high time we move from informing to addressing global warming and climate change issues in meetings, webinars, and books to make people actually work for the cause and not just talk. Instead, we must conduct workshops that do not wait for people to work on the cause at some point in their lives but take instant action. Knowledge about the subject is necessary, but working upon it is even more.

To help our planet, we can:

  1. Recycle more to cut down CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

  2. Reduce the use of plastic; several countries have taken a stand to ban the use of single-use plastic. India has set a target to ban plastic use by 2022 as it causes much harm to the environment.

  3. Adopt more policies similar to the odd-even—driving less or using public transports. Recently, we witnessed the installation of smog towers to solve the issue of pollution, but again, they are costly and require maintenance which means some other cost-effective steps have to come into place.

  4. Plant as many trees as possible because they absorb CO2 and simultaneously curb afforestation. It should not be limited to certain occasions, events, or childhood activities but must be treated as a practice worldwide.

  5. Switch lifestyles and use more renewable products and energy. The first approach is to have solar panels at homes and workplaces. Moreover, we can work more in natural light.

  6. Efficiently use electronic devices and promote energy-efficient devices that ensure that a reduced amount of CO2 is released into the atmosphere.

  7. Save water—it is also a great and easy way to contribute. It might save millions of tons of energy wasted to create dams.

In conclusion, the policies adopted for economic recovery and growth must align with environmental sustainability aims as well as advocate sustainable, resilient, and equitable growth by including all sections of society. Climate change is waiting for action. Governments should be focused on working on climate change. Every penny spent on tasks that are not so necessary should be stopped. "GO GREEN" should be the motto for all of us. Remember, no one is born as a climate change activist, but they could be one simply by working to save Mother Nature.

"Climate change is one of the greatest dangers we face and it's one we can prevent." - Stephen Hawking.

[1] National Geographic- resource library: encyclopedic entry [2] Global warming 101- Amanda MacMillan and Jeff Turrentine (online resource)

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