The term climate change has been getting popular particularly since the past decades. The scientists, meteorologist, politicians and policy makers have joined hands at several international summits and conferences to address the issue of climate change and discuss policies to mitigate its dangerous impact on human beings, animals, plants and marine life alike. The Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement are two of the most inclusive and far-reaching accords and negotiations on the subject of climate change.
What constitutes climate change?
Climate change refers to the gradual modification of the climatic conditions on Earth, which is caused as the result of changes in the atmosphere and the interactions between the atmosphere and various other biological, chemical, geographic and geological factors. The climate change brings about the changes in the temperature, air pressure, humidity, winds, clouds and precipitation patterns on Earth over a time. Due to climate change, all kinds of life on earth’s atmosphere are facing existential threat including human beings. Climate change is being manifested in the form of intense droughts, storms, rising sea levels, heat waves, melting glaciers wildfires, flooding and warming oceans across the world.
Major causes of climate change:
The issue of climate change has not gotten the front seat overnight, rather it’s been brewing since many decades. The causes of climate change have been adding up and worsening the situation. Since the main topic is the consequences of climate change. Therefore, we will only touch upon one of the major causes of climate change.
- Green house gases
- Burning of fossil fuels
- Water vapour
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Clouroflourocarbons (CFCs)
- Livestock farming
- Fertilizers containing nitrogen
- Milankovitch cycles
- El Nino Southern Oscillations (ENSO)
- Volcanic eruptions
- Solar irradiance
Consequences of climate change:
The macro level consequences of the climate change are as follows.
Global warming and droughts:
Global warming is one of the most striking and dangerous effects of climate change. The scientists and policy makers at the helm of world organizations are worried about the rising temperatures in different regions of the world. Global warming has been around since the pre-industrial times, due to human activities such as fossil fuel burning. However, with the technological revolutions of the past few decades, this issue has worsened. The increasing concentration of green house gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases), burning of fossil fuels, are increasing the temperature of the earth. It is causing the temperature to rise at the rate of 0.2°C per decade. According the World climate forum, nine out of ten warmest years since 1880 had occurred after 2005. The international community and climate scientists have vowed to limit the rate of rising temperature below 1.5°C by 2040 to avoid the devastating climate occurrences such as extreme droughts, flooding, wildfires, tropical storms, insect outbreaks, declining water supply, decreased agricultural yields etc.
Rising sea levels and heat waves:
Sea levels are rising because of global warming and climate change. According to NASA, the global sea levels have increased by 8 inches since 1880 and sea levels are projected to increase by one to eight feet by the year 2100 due to melting of ice lands and expansion of warm seawater. The rising sea levels may result in the surge of storms, high tides that will cause more flooding and harm to aquatic as well as human lives. Oceans are facing large-scale warming at the rate of 1°C and are expected to reach 1.5°C or above. It will decline the coral reefs by 70 to 90%. It will be a great tragedy for humans as well as aquatic life, because around more than half billion people rely on corals and fishes for their livelihoods.
Forests and deforestation:
Forests act to soak up the major portion of CO2 on earth via photosynthesis, thereby contribute in keeping the temperature of the earth under some sort of control. Forests are also home to countless herbs, plants, animal species and wildlife. Climate change is likely to affect the Sub-Arctic boreal forests, which are home to an abundant number of wildlife, causing them to shift towards extinction. Deforestation is another player in the equation. The dying trees are cause of CO2 emissions, which may cause an increase in already increasing greenhouse gases.
Effect on freshwater resources:
Climate change is heavily disturbing the freshwater resources of the world in the form of extreme and regular droughts and floods. The extreme rainfalls are also the cause of climate change, because the warmer air has the capacity to hold high water content. The other contributors of climate change such as pollution, extraction, and silting are already causing the pressure on the freshwater resources such as rivers, lakes, streams. Additionally, the climate change is worsening this situation in the form of more frequent and fatal storms and floods causing more displacement, conflict and loss of human lives.
Melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets:
Extreme weather conditions are causing the polar ice sheets and glaciers to melt at the dangerous rate. Melting glaciers are disturbing the freshwater resources as well. For instance Himalayan glaciers feed the great Asian rivers such as Yangtze, Yellow, Indus, and Ganges, which provide water for drinking, sanitation, agriculture, hydroelectric power and much more. All this is going to be affected due to melting of glaciers. Currently the Greenland is currently facing the most significant glacier-melting event due to increase of temperature at Arctic.
Climate change is causing an increase in the frequency, duration and intensity of hurricanes particularly in North Atlantic regions. The hurricane related storm intensity and rainfall is projected to increase in coming years.
The effects of climate change are going to be worse in the coming decades and already 5.5 million people have been displaced due to climate related natural disasters since 1980s. The world organizations such as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, United Nations Environment Programme, World Meteorological Organization and Green Climate Fund with the help of financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF are working closely to assuage the detrimental impact of climate change via agreements, accords and conferences.