The global warming debate is one that is impacted by political exigencies and the respective economic interests of nations. World leaders try and twist facts relating to global warming to suit their own agendas to try but the fact is that Global Warming is largely contributed to by human activities and this is a fact that 90% of the world’s scientists agree on.
Causes of Global Warming
Climate change has been a reality since the nascence of the earth, but man’s activities ever since the dawn of industrialization has sped up that process of climate change. This is due to an undeniable and very significant increase in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Human industry has resulted in large scale deforestation and the burning of fossil fuel (oil, coal and natural gas) and wood which has in turn led to increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Other gases such as ozone and nitrous oxide as well as CFCs and water vapor are also considered greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming by trapping more heat within the earth’s atmosphere. Scientists have examined ice cores to find that these methane and CO2 levels are higher than at any time of the past 800,000 years.
Our cars, factories, cattle rearing, agricultural activities (which firstly cause deforestation and then place a burden on the earth’s limited resources), production of electricity, waste generation and consequent creation of landfills, refrigeration and a host of other activities create greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming.
Effects of Global Warming
Global warming affects not only us humans, but also every other creature on the earth.
Temperature records have shown that there was a rise in global temperatures by about 0.6 degree Celsius in the past century. The temperatures of the seas have risen and have had a dual impact: the polar ice caps are melting and the average sea level is rising, posing various threats not only to marine life but also human coastal populations because of issues like coastal erosion.
The melting of glaciers has the worrying impact of reducing water availability for many human populations. As sea temperatures rise, they are less able to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and this is both a cause and an effect of the acidification of the oceans of the world. All of this also means negative consequences for ocean life including the bleaching of coral.
It isn’t just that temperatures have risen all over the world, climate itself has become more unpredictable: the amount, intensity and unpredictability of rain have increased. There is also evidence to suggest that storms and hurricanes have become more severe and destructive in the past 4 decades or so. Certain areas of the world also experience more frequent and severe droughts.
Scientists have also opined that global warming could indirectly lead to other problems such as malnutrition, the increase of disease and epidemics due to possible drought and other natural disasters. Heat waves and conversely cold waves have become more frequent and cause more deaths than earlier. Incidences of bush fires have increased as has the incidence of vector borne diseases such as dengue and malaria (because warmer climates are more conducive for vectors such as mosquitoes, flies, ticks etc).
Global warming has had serious negative impacts on the world’s freshwater systems, making useable water scarcer as a result. As for the future impacts of global warming on earth, the scientists can but guess!
So is global warming a hopeless situation and are its consequences irreversible ones that we have no hope of arresting? Is our earth doomed for destruction as a result of our own folly?
Mitigation of Climate Change
Experts have suggested many ways in which climate change can be mitigated or limited in the future. The focus is on reduction of the amount of green house gases emitted and increasing the capacity for CO2 absorption by using carbon sinks and so on.
To this end, countries have done much and perhaps need to do a lot more to change policies for making cleaner, less polluting technologies and energy sources. This suggests a greater reliance on renewable and sustainable energy sources and better energy efficiency in our transport systems, appliances, and so on.
Governments need to encourage creation of green jobs and increase reliance on green energy. Self-regulation and compliance of international treaties to limit emissions are some of the other measures that policy makers can adopt. Building better transportation networks and more energy efficient communities are areas where individuals can collaborate with governments to mitigate the impacts of global warming.
There needs to be greater research done into better and more widespread use of alternatives to fossil fuels such as solar power, wind power, thermal power and hydro electricity. Bio fuels, nuclear power and other non polluting energy sources also need more attention.
The possibilities of carbon capture and storage (carbon sequestration) are also being explored and developed – this can capture CO2 as it is produced by our factories, cars and power stations which is then stored underground.
What we can do at personal level
We can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by driving smaller, more fuel efficient cars, and driving less frequently. We can reduce our energy bills by constantly being vigilant about the amount of electricity we consume on a daily basis. Homes and other buildings can be designed in a way that minimizes their environmental impact.
We can live by the mantra of Reduce, Recycle and Reuse to try and limit the impact that each of us has, as an individual, on our environment. Water harvesting and conservation can be implemented by each of us to make sure that this vitally precious but fast depleting resource lasts longer.
Each of us needs to be more conscious of our actions and omissions, and the impact that these have, directly and indirectly, on global warming and its consequences.