What is Climate Change?

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years, there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

Climate change, also called global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. An overwhelming scientific consensus maintains that climate change is due primarily to the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. The gases trap heat within the atmosphere, which can have a range of effects on ecosystems, including rising sea levels, severe weather events, and droughts that render landscapes more susceptible to wildfires.

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

– Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Today the world Climate Change is used as a holistic term referring to the change in the global climate, which includes all the factors, internal or external, which leads to climate change. Instead, the term has become synonymous with the change in the climate only because of the anthropogenic human factors.

History of Climate Change

Prior to the 18th century, scientists had not suspected that prehistoric climates were different from the modern period. By the late 18th century, geologists found evidence of a succession of geological ages with changes in climate. There were various competing theories about these changes and in 1815 Jean-Pierre Perraudin described for the first time how glaciers might be responsible for the giant boulders seen in alpine valleys.

By the end of the 19th century, scientific opinion had turned decisively against any belief in a human influence on climate. And whatever the regional effects, few imagined that humans could affect the climate of the planet as a whole. However, in 1899 Chamberlin developed at length the idea that changes in climate could result from changes in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

In 1985 a joint UNEP/WMO/ICSU Conference on the “Assessment of the Role of Carbon Dioxide and Other Greenhouse Gases in Climate Variations and Associated Impacts” concluded that greenhouse gases “are expected” to cause significant warming in the next century and that some warming is inevitable.

Is Climate Change real?

Many in the world, including certain well-known personalities, have put across the opinion that the climate change is a hoax and the scientists and environmentalists are just faking the whole thing for the reasons best known to them. But fortunately, these people are not in the majority and the major part of the world concur with these scientists and truly believe that climate change is real and certainly not a hoax.  

These hoax believers are so prominent, that today instead of having detailed debates on the ways to counter the issue of climate change, the talk of the hour is whether climate change is real. For those who are in the minority section having doubts about it, NASA has wonderfully laid out the various evidence, for proving that the climate change is definitely real.

Causes of Climate Change?

The rate at which energy is received from the Sun and the rate at which it is lost to space determine the equilibrium temperature and climate of Earth (ideally, the energy received and reflected back should be equal). This energy is distributed around the globe by winds, ocean currents, and other mechanisms to affect the climates of different regions.

The factors which causes the change in the climate are called the ‘forcing mechanisms’. Variations in solar radiation, variations in the Earth’s orbit, variations in the albedo or reflectivity of the continents, atmosphere, and oceans, mountain-building and continental drift and changes in greenhouse gas concentrations are a few examples of it.

Forcing mechanisms can be either “internal” or “external”. Internal forcing mechanisms are natural processes within the climate system itself, normally outside the control of humans  (like the thermohaline circulation). External forcing mechanisms can be either anthropogenic (like increased emissions of greenhouse gases and dust) or natural (like changes in solar output, the earth’s orbit, volcano eruptions)

IPCC Report

A Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degree celsius has been approved by IPCC in Incheon, Republic of Korea in October, 2018. This report changes the previous set agenda set up under the Paris Accord of limiting the global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels by 2100. This new report has agreed on limiting global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than 2 degrees Celsius. This report will be a key scientific input into the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December when governments review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. 

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of the Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air. The achievement of this report is not at all an easy task as has been specifically pointed out in the IPCC meeting, but it has now become a far more difficult as the USA has removed itself from the Paris Accord, the biggest achievement to curb climate change today, as the President of USA, Donald Trump is a staunch non-believer in the concept called Climate change. This has increased the difficulty because the USA is one of the biggest producers of Green House Gases.

Effects for India

This problem of climate change is the biggest problem for everyone, as only just with a increase of 1 degree Celsius there have been ravaging effects on the weather and the climate, but a still bigger problem for the coastal countries as the rising water is bound to affect the coastal area first. 

The scientists believe that, if the global warming kept going on the current pace then many of the islands as we know today will be completely submerged under the water and will thus disappear from the map. Thus, similar is the problem for the islands of India i.e. Andaman and Nicobar; and Lakshadweep Islands. Moreover, it will also have a disastrous effect on mainland India. The country is primarily dependant on the monsoon for agricultural and many other purposes, and many of the Indian scientists have stated that the worst impact of the climate change is likely to be on the monsoon. Some of the effects have started showing, as the fast recurrence of the El-Nino in the South Pacific Ocean. Thus many believe that the Indian Mainland, along with other monsoon dependant countries will be much massively effected much prior to the submerging of a number of islands. So it is of a great concern to India and the country shall take all the necessary steps to curb the Green House gas emissions and should play a vital role in the International Front to keep in check that the major countries are trying their best under the Paris Accord or should be at the forefront of the Paris Accord.

Way Forward

Tackling the brunt of climate change might not hold many hopes for humans. Thus we shall endeavour to find a solution to this global impact of climate change. The key formula as has been repeatedly been said time and again by many is ‘the time of leadership and the time to act is now’. Without doing anything, nothing can be done, so first and foremost we must accept the reality of climate change and shall start working towards the problem so that a concentrated effort is there to curb climate change. We have no time to waste.

First, we must stablise the greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, we must achieve the target set in the special report of IPCC by curbing the emissions by 2/3rd at a global scale. Thirdly, we must change our consumption habits to put less strain on the environment. Fourthly, we must switch to more energy efficiency. But the most important has to be taken by the Governments. They have to make sure that the more efficient product is able to be produced and should also be cheaply available to the people. They should manage the forests as well properly, which can also be done with the help of the indigenous people so as to give something back to the Earth and thus reduce the issue of Climate Change. 

It is a very hard task, but is something which can be done, and we also shall strive to, otherwise we will have to suffer the dire circumstances of our indifference and rigidness. 

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