Climate change is having an effect on the world. This is not something that will happen, it is already happening.
What is Climate Change?
Climate change is the long-term changes that are happening with the earth's temperatures and the pattern of weather. Since 1800, there is evidence that supports the notion that human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, have severely impacted climate change.
A greenhouse gas is the gases that trap heat within the earth’s atmosphere. When we burn these fossil fuels, drive cars, participate in deforestation and use landfills, we create these greenhouse gases and it causes the earth to increase in heat.
In comparison to the 1800's, the earth is predicted to be around 1.1℃ warmer. If this temperature continues to rise, it will have catastrophic consequences for the earth, such as:
- Rising Sea Levels
- Melting Polar Ice
Among others, these are the main concerns. This will continue to grow until we are in an uninhabitable climate. At the current rate, it is predicted that by the end of the century, the earth will be warmer by 2.7℃ in comparison to the 1800’s.
What Climate Change Effects
Apart from the overall warmer temperatures of the earth, there are other factors that are caused by climate change. Most of these factors are stated above, but let's explore them in more detail.
In some places, the supply of water is short. This means that there will not be enough water for a regular supply. Consequently, causing droughts. They are dangerous and can cause dust storms and cause tons of sand to shift across continents. This also affects the ability to grow food. Droughts can also increase the risk of wildfires.
Across the world, temperatures are rising and more places are reporting heat waves. With this comes more health issues, difficult work conditions as well as making it easier for wildfires to start and spread, especially in places of drought.
Another effect of temperatures is the risk of storms and severe rainfall. This can consequently cause floods, which destroy land, homes as cause effects to the economy through costs. As the earth gets warmer, it makes the oceans warmer which means that hurricanes will be much more intense and more rainfall will be seen.
It is possible that they will also last much longer than what we know today.
With some of the above mentioned effects of global warming, such as drought and storms, it is harder to produce and grow crops, causing poor nutrition and a lack of livestock. There is also discussion about whether climate change is making our food more unsafe by lowering the nutritional value of foods through reducing the levels of macro and micro nutrients that they have.
Extinction Among Species
Climate change shows a severe risk to species through a multitude of different events. Forest animals are at risk of extinction through wildfires, as well as being killed in the process of deforestation. We have already seen the risk that climate change poses on animals as species are becoming more vulnerable and at risk.
Some animals, such as polar bears, are having their habitats destroyed. Ice is melting and this makes their homes uninhabitable.
Climate Change Health Risks
When we consider the effects of weather changes, it allows for diseases to expand and increase, which health systems cannot maintain. In addition, with less water and less food, this poses a further risk to our health.
Firstly, let's explore what health risks there are attached to climate change.
Pollution of the air can cause risks to human health through ozone matter which has been considered to cause health issues, such as reduced lung function and an increase in the admissions for hospitals. There will be an increase in premature deaths, as well as reported cases of asthma.
There is the potential for climate change to cause higher pollen counts as well as longer seasons, meaning that people are more likely to suffer from health issues relating to pollen, such as irritation and allergies. In addition, it will effect:
- The time the pollen season starts, ends and how long it lasts
- The amount of pollen plants create
- How our health is affected
- Increase in producing an allergic reaction
- The amount of pollen that humans are exposed to
Aside from destroying habitats and large areas, wildfires have the potential to be incredibly dangerous to human life. On one hand, the actual fire itself is a cause for concern, especially if it spreads to built up areas. An example of this is the California Wildfires that happened in 2020 due to extreme and unusual dryness in the middle of August. It caused damage to people's homes and communities.
Extreme heat is never good for humans, especially since it can cause problems with our health. Reported death rates are higher during heatwaves and some of the hottest recorded days. Conditions such as heatstroke, respiratory issues and disorders put people at high risk.
Diseases that are carried by insects such as mosquitoes, fleas and ticks etc that spread illness through pathogens, are at higher risk due to climate change allowing their ranges and population to change and adapt.
Your mental health can be affected by climate change in various ways. In the first instance, devastation caused by storms, floods and other natural disasters can cause depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions as a response.
Alternatively, knowing how big of an impact climate change is having on the planet can cause people to become incredibly anxious.
Why Does Climate Change Happen?
A main contributor to climate change is the action of humans. We are causing the earth to heat quicker by doing the following things.
Creating Greenhouse Gases
A main issue with climate change is the production of greenhouse gases. A lot of greenhouse gases will occur naturally, but there are some things that we are doing which increase the amount of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, as well as fluorinated gases.
Burning Fossil Fuels
Burning fuels, such as coal, oil and gas produce carbon dioxide, which is the biggest contributor to global warming. Coal is the worst contributor and it is thought that it is responsible for 0.3°C of the 1.1°C increase.
The oil doesn't just effect the carbon emissions, but it also has devastating consequences on the oceans when oil spills occur. With that being said, the world is recognising the burning of fossil fuels as the worst contributor and commitments have been put into place in order to reduce carbon emissions.
By cutting down trees, we reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is absorbed by them. A tree will store the carbon and when we burn the trees as a way of clearing them, it has the potential to release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Deforestation is a massive issue, particularly in areas such the tropics.
It is predicted that around 129 million hectares of forest has been destroyed between 1990 and 2015.
By increasing the amount of livestock we have, we are increasing the amount of methane released. It is estimated that around 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions are through raising livestock. There are some ways that we are able to reduce this, such as increasing the amount of vegetarian and vegan diets as it reduces carbon footprint, or simply consuming much less meat. In addition, we can also help to restore the forest that we are destroying.
To put into perspective just how damaging livestock is, it is the second largest source of emissions and is actually greater than all the types of transportation combined. Additionally, raising livestock requires large amounts of water, and when water supply is decreasing, it uses huge amounts of that fresh water.
The manufacturing industry creates huge amounts of emissions and this comes from the fuel burned in order to make goods such as clothes, electronics and plastics. Our reliance on industrial activities, such as factory produced items, release toxic material into the atmosphere.
Using transportation like cars, lorries, ships and planes are dependent on the use of fossil fuels, which means the more these are used, the more need for the fuel. Transportation has become one of the major contributors to carbon dioxide emissions at around a quarter of all emissions.
There are some steps that we can take in order to reduce this contribution. Firstly, driving new vehicles, like electric cars are much better for the environment in comparison to petrol cars. In journeys where you are able to remove all car usage, try alternative such as walking or cycling.
Growing and producing crops can cause emissions when manure or fertilisers are used, as well as any farming vehicles that run on fuels. Food in terms of livestock causes methane, packaging and distributing food also contributes. In addition, as the population grows, more strain is going to be put on the agriculture sector in order to produce more food, which puts a massive strain on the environment.
Natural reasons why Climate Change might happen
With all that being said, there are some natural contributors that we do not control. For example:
The Sun's Intensity
If the earth gets its warmth from the sun, then the variations of the sun's intensity may be a reason towards global warming. However, this has been ruled out as a cause of the current climate crisis.
When the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water. This causes a feedback loop that speeds up the climate by creating more clouds, rain, and storms. Ice is melted by the increase in temperature. The water then absorbs the sun's heat and thus becomes warmer.
Plate tectonics cause continents to move to different positions on the earth. Britain was closer to the equator 300 million years ago, making the climate warmer than it is today.
Another consequence of plate tectonics is that is causes volcanos and mountains to form. A large mountain can effect the circulation of air and effect the climate. During an eruption, the gases and particles that are released into the atmosphere might warm the earth's surface, and the gas will stay in the atmosphere for much longer.
Note that the volcanic emissions that contribute to the carbon dioxide value are very small.
In the past, meteorite and cosmic dust has contributed to climate change. Though, today there is considered to be very little material. These materials are thought to warm the earth through them remaining in the atmosphere.
Climate Change - UN Report
The United Nations (UN) are an international organisation that was founded in 1945 after World War 2. Fifty one countries have signed a commitment that states they are to remain internationally peaceful and develop friendly relations.
There are four main purposes of the UN which are:
- Keeping peace throughout the world
- Developing friendly relations among nations
- Help nations work together and improve the lives of poor people, conquer hunger, disease, and encourage freedom
- Harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals
The UN has also offered important information on climate change in order to unite the nation on the cause. In a report released in 2018, scientists and governments agreed that they needed to work together in order to prevent the temperature from increasing to no more than 1.5°C. They have stated that greenhouse gas concentrations are at their highest levels in 2 million years, with the last decade (2011 - 2020) being the warmest on record.
Of course, with some countries producing more emissions than others, it is important that the world works together in order to reduce the temperature from rising. With that being said, the UN have stated that the 10 countries with the largest emissions generate 68% of contributions. Furthermore, countries are creating a bigger problem by taking longer to act.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are responsible for preparing assessment reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change and the impacts, risks and options for reducing the rate of it.
The UN have declared a code red for humanity stating that we must act decisively now.