Causes and the Mitigation of the Effects of Climate Change

By Brooks

The world virtually came to a halt when Us president Donald Trump announced that the US would cease to participate in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change Mitigation, stating that the Agreement will hurt the US economy. This pronouncement shocked the world, given that the US and China are amongst leading pollutants and Greenhouse gas emitting countries in the world, because their rapid industrialisation. Nevertheless, other countries maintained their commitment to the Paris climate Change Agreement.

The earth’s climate is changing so rapidly and in different dimensions. Coupled with this, climate change greatly affects our physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. Climate change can be defined as the seasonal changes over a long period of time in the world. One more definition of climate change that supports our focus is that coined by the United Nations Frame Work on Climate Change which holds that climate change involves alterations in climate that can be blamed directly to human activities which change the configuration of the global atmosphere.

In years past, the concept of Climate change was not known by many around the world, now it is one thing almost everyone is talking about because of its glaring effects right at our door steps. The impacts or effects of climate change are glearing in issues like seasonal changes, natural disasters that are slowly and steadily taking the world hostage, and continuous rise in temperature. The year 2017 recorded one highest number of natural disasters in recent history. From devastating hurricanes that wrought havoc across the Caribbean islands, the Florida peninsular and the Texas coastline, to monsoon flooding that took some countries like Bangladesh hostage as well as mudslide recorded in Colombia, 2017 had a lot to remind us of the impacts of climate change the need for climate change adaptation. The story has been the same in Africa where landslides and floods killed hundreds in Sierra Leone. All these disasters mentioned above paint a picture of what the world would look like if we do not fight against climate change or perhaps try as much as we can, to reduce climate change effects. Climate change poses a threat to places, species and our livelihoods. Sea levels are rising, and oceans are becoming warmer.

The onset of climate change can be traced as far back as the period when the industrial revolution began in western Europe. The coming of the industrial revolution brought about the emission of greenhouse gases from industries. It is reported that 90 companies cause two third of man-made global warming emission. Countries like the US, China India, the EU, Russia, Iran and Brazil are responsible for the highest emission of greenhouse gases. Although African countries have lowest overall and per capita global warming emission on the planet the impacts of climate change are quite visible in Africa. Desertification is eating the continent up, with clear impact in countries like Sudan, Chad, or Tunisia. Drought and famine have characterised countries like Ethiopia, and there are equally natural disasters like the landslide that wrought havoc in Sierra Leone.

As climate change continues to stare humanity in the face, one may be curious to ask what could be done to reduce climate change or what are the possible ways to prevent climate change? I believe it Is the wish of everyone to see blue skies which have become a luxury in heavily industrialised countries like China. If we do not fight against climate change collectively, blue skies could soon become a luxury for all of us. Before delving into the ways to prevent climate change, it worth looking into the causes of climate change.

Causes of climate change

The causes of climate change are mostly from human activities on the earth surface as well as natural forces beyond man’s control. Let’s look at causes of climate change that are triggered by human activities before looking at the natural causes of climate change.

Use of Fossil fuels

The first human cause of climate change can be blamed on the increase use of fossil fuels by most industrialised countries. Since the advent of the industrial revolution, there has been an unprecedented burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gases to produce energy. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution the average world temperature has risen to approximately 0.8 degree Celsius. Because of the industrial revolution, many vegetation areas were cleared to become factories. Burning fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the greenhouse gases that bring about what is today known as the human enhanced greenhouse effect. Globally, power generation is responsible for about 23 billion tonnes of CO2 emission per year. This means that in a second, only 700 tonnes of CO2 is emitted. Coal for example is responsible for about 70% of carbon dioxide for every unit of energy produced as compared to natural gas. This indicates that amongst all the fossil energies coal is the highest contributor of CO2 in the atmosphere

The greenhouse effect raises the temperature of the earth by trapping the heat in our atmosphere. This as a result keeps the temperature of the earth higher than it would have been if the sun were the only thing heating the earth. The moment sunlight reaches the surface of the earth some of it is absorbed which warms the ground and some of it bounces back to the space as heat. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide methane, nitrous oxide that are in the atmosphere absorb it and then redirect some of this heat back towards the earth. Normally without the greenhouse effect life would have been unbearable on this planet earth. The only problem is that human activities such as the burning of fossil fuel, agriculture and land clearing are increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases. This unwanted concentration of greenhouse gases is what has triggered global warming. It is reported that net emission of greenhouse gases increased by 35%from 1990 to 2010. It should be noted that once these greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are produced, they remain trapped in the atmosphere for tens or hundreds of years. Let’s look at some of these greenhouse gases and examine their contributions to climate change.

  • Carbon Dioxide: this gas as earlier mentioned is produced primarily through the burning of fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and or coal. Solid waste as well as trees and wood products also produce this gas. Human activities like deforestation and natural ones like soil degradation add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Some of the excess carbon dioxide is absorb by natural process through which carbon is transferred to ocean sediment. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be reduced if afforestation is encouraged.

  • Methane: This greenhouse gas is emitted during the production and transportation of oil, coal and natural gas. It also results from livestock and agricultural practices and equally from the anaerobic decomposition of organic waste in landfills. It is reported that methane contributes up to 28% of all the global warming caused by greenhouse gases. Studies indicates that 1 tone emission of methane has the equivalent warming effect of 32 tons of carbon dioxide which is slightly up from the previous estimation of 28.

  • Nitrous oxide: it is a powerful greenhouse gas produced by soil cultivation practices. The use of commercial and organic fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion, nitric and acid production and biomass burning bring about Nitrous oxide.

  • Chlorofluorocarbons. They are synthetic compounds that hold their origin entirely from industrial related activities. Because of its enormous contributions to the destruction of the ozone layer it is strictly regulated in production and release to the atmosphere by international agreement.

All the above-mentioned greenhouse gases contribute so much as far as climate change is concerned. So there is need for human beings to reduce activities that contribute to unwanted emission of these gases

Another human induced cause of climate change is deforestation

Increased need for land by human beings have triggered unprecedented deforestation. Land is needed for the construction of houses, constructions of factories and the like. Coupled with the above, there is an increase in the commercialisation of wood, especially in Africa, not just because the land where this wood is taken is needed for any human activity. A chunk of the GDP of some African countries comes from the sale of wood. The massive deforestation is unfortunately enhancing the impacts of Climate change. Forests help protect the planet by absorbing massive amounts of Carbon dioxide, which is the abundant type of greenhouse gas that causes climate change.

The process of logging and clearing of land for agricultural purposes and/or livestock rearing release an unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide and other dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These activities do not only contribute to climate change but threaten tropical rainforests, their biodiversity and the ecosystem they provide. Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, after fossil fuel. Burning or cutting down trees reverses the effect of carbon sequestration and releases greenhouse gases to the atmosphere because of deforestation, the landscape and reflectivity of the earth surface. This brings about an increase in the absorption of light energy from the sun in the form of heat, thus enhancing global warming. So, to reduce the impacts of climate change, afforestation must be encouraged.

Having explored the causes of climate change brought about by human beings, it suffices that we examine the causes of climate change brought about by forces beyond our control, that is the natural cause of climate change

Natural factors that are beyond human control such as volcanic eruptions, ocean current, the earth’s orbital changes and solar variations have brought about climate change. Taking the case of volcanic eruption for example, when it occurs it causes a cooling effect on the earth. When a volcano erupts, large volumes of sulphur dioxide(SO2), water vapour, dust and ash are emitted to the atmosphere. The tiny particles, dusts and ashes will block the incoming sunrays from reaching the earth leading to cooling at the atmosphere. Most of these particles fall out of the atmosphere within few hours or days after the eruption. This effect can last for 6 months to one year and in the long run, volcanic eruptions can cause global warming, according to the US geological survey.

Also, volcanoes release large amounts of greenhouse gases such as water vapour and carbon dioxide even though the amount put out to the atmosphere from large eruption doesn’t change the global amount of these gases that much. That notwithstanding, intensive volcanism can lead to an increase in the amount of CO2 to cause global warming.

Another natural cause of climate change is ocean currenta. The ocean constitutes a major component of climate system. Geographers affirms that the ocean covers about 71% of the earth surface. Ocean currents move vast amounts of heat across the planet. The ocean absorbs the sun’s radiation, it is said, two times more than the atmosphere or the earth. The ocean plays a very significant role in the concentration of carbon dioxide. The changes in ocean circulation eventually affects the climate through the movement of carbon dioxide into or out of the atmosphere. Climate change brought about by the ocean may be peculiar in a region where the ocean is located since they are confined by land masses. Alongside ocean current, the earth’s orbital changes equally cause climate change. One full orbit is completed by the sun in every 1 year. If there is no tilt, we will not experience climate change. Generally, if there is more tilt, the earth will experience warmer summers and colder winters and if there is less tilt the earth will have cooler summers and milder winters.

Having looked at the causes of climate, lets examine what price we must pay because of climate change or how climate change has altered the natural flow of things. Well, we are paying the price of climate change enormously now and if we are not careful, our children will continue to pay in future. Let’s look at the effects of climate change and the ways to prevent climate change or better still the solutions to climate change.

The first glaring effect of climate change is the unprecedented increase in temperature worldwide. The earth’s temperature has been increasing over the years because of climate change. It is reported that 2015 recorded highest temperatures ever. This increase has a profound effect on the ecosystem as well as plants and animals that inhabit them. A warmer atmosphere makes us vulnerable to diseases. This is because warmer atmosphere spurs the formation of ground level ozone otherwise known as smog in polluted regions. Extreme heat during the summer may cause deaths during heatwaves. Warmer fresh water habit disease-causing vectors such as bacteria contaminate drinking water. Climate change can influence the spread of infectious diseases such as meningitis which Is linked to drought. These types of epidemics are common in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The spread of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria may cause death if not well handled. For all these diseases to be terminated we must try as much as possible to stop global warming and climate change

Another effect of climate change is that it has caused a lot of uncertainty as far as agriculture is concerned. Agriculture is what fuels the economy of most African countries. There is uncertainty regarding when to plant crops since it is hard to predict seasonal changes. Droughts for example have caused the damage of crops and the death of many animals. Areas such as Australia and Sahel Africa already affected by droughts will likely experience reductions in water available for irrigation. It is projected that cereal crops yields will decrease in low and high latitude areas. In some African countries, wheat yields could decline by 35% by 2050.

Climate change is equally affecting many fisheries around the world. Because of increasing temperatures trigered by global warming some marine species have moved to cooler waters outside of their normal range. Projected reduction in water flow and increases in sea level may negatively affect water quality.

Climate change has increased the likelihood of natural disaster to occur in the world. In 2017 countries such as Indonesia experience floods that killed many and displaced thousands of her populace. This is because of the rise in see levels brought about by climate change. As glaciers and ice sheets melt, they contribute to the rise of sea levels. This as a result increased flood risk for millions of people living at the coast, where population and cities are growing at a faster rate. The highest people exposed to floods are those living in small islands and low lying coastal areas. In Sierra Leone for example landslide killed hundreds and displaced thousand, a series of hurricanes stroke small island nations in the Americas. All these natural disasters are a testimony that climate change is real

The effects of climate change abound, but the main question that must be answered is how we can mitigate the effects of climate change. We as human beings have contributed a lot as far climate change is concerned, and we can reduce climate change to the barest minimum, or better still device ways to prevent climate change.

One of the ways to prevent climate change or reduce climate change is by limiting our usage of fossil fuels. We have already seen that burning fossil fuels like coal for example produces greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide which as a result trap heat and later release to the atmosphere. We can adopt new energy sources like solar energy, wind turbines or biogas which has no effects on the climate. The Paris Climate change agreement for instance, expect member countries to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases which are the main cause of climate change. This agreement has as aim, amongst other things, to provide solutions to the threats posed by climate change, by keeping global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels. One example of the moves to stop global warming was made by France. In mid-2017 France announced her intensions of banning all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. As from 2022 France will no longer use coal as a source of energy. Coal as noted earlier is the main fossil fuel that produces carbon dioxide. Imagine if all countries on the globe follow the example of France, obviously we are going to reduce climate change. Creating less waste and limiting transportation emission leads to an eco-friendlier world.

Another climate change mitigation strategy is to encourage afforestation. Limiting the way, we cut down trees is very important. It is reported that 33million acres of trees are cut down each year and that timber harvesting in the tropics single handily contributes to 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere. As already noted above, Forests help protect the planet by absorbing massive amount of Carbon dioxide, which is the highest greenhouse gas that causes climate change. Trees should be planted even at the heart of cities. Policy makers should also encourage “green cities”. Planting trees is thus a practical way to stop global warming.

Furthermore, encouraging a one child policy is another way to prevent climate change and stop global warming. This may sound funny but there are a lot of implications when the population is growing rapidly. Population increase means that there will be pressure on the available resources like forests. Forests will be cut down to create new habitants for human beings. As earlier mentioned trees are one of the things that help in limiting the quantity of carbon dioxide that is the main greenhouse gas which is causing climate change. Also, people should be encouraged to use other means of transportation like bicycles. There will be reduction of carbon emissions from vehicles since more people are increasingly using other climate friendly means of transport.

Global Warming

Global warming is used interchangeably with the term climate change. Generally global warming refers to the observed warming of the planet as a result of human enhanced greenhouse gas emission. On the other hand climate change refers to the long-term change in climate that may encompass rise or fall in sea levels, too hot or cold weather conditions or acidification of the ocean. In a way, we may stop global warming, but climate change is still far from being solved. However, looking for a means to stop global warming is a step towards solving the global warming equation.

 Another term that is used because of climate change is climate change adaptation. We live in a world that is threatened by climate change, but are we going to abandon the world because it is threatened by climate change? Obviously not, we must look for ways to cope irrespective of the threats of climate change to humanity. Climate change adaptation is anticipating and taking suitable actions to limit the effects of climate change. Climate change adaptation may equally be a broad range of human policies to reduce the risk posed by climate change. It includes realised and expected risks. Examples of climate change adaptation method include proactive measures such as crop and lively hood diversification, famine early warning systems, water storage, supplementary irrigation or seasonal climate forecasting.

Some of us may not yet feel the effects of climate change, but to deny the fact that climate change is real is like saying that you don’t live on this earth. Fighting climate change is not the duty of the government, it starts from you and I. Remember if we make the world unfit for human habitation, we will suffer the effects, unless otherwise you have your home in Mars. Lets make an effort to fight climate change. If we don’t, our children may not forgive us.

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