Global Warming and Climate Change
The key cause of global warming is climate change. Global warming is currently described as a rise in the earth temperature, whereas climate change is a broader concept that includes changes in precipitation, wind, and disruption of seasons, which causes weather extremities such as floods and droughts. Climate change is not a new phenomenon. Presently, the major concern is not the climate change itself but the undesirable changes that result from various natural and anthropogenic activities, which makes the problem extremely important today. Currently people have developed keen interest on global warming and climate change and have been witnessing national and international organizations efforts directed toward the issue. Although the governments, NGOs and other environmental institutions take efforts to minimize the threats of climate change and global warming, the risks appear to be rising. This paper seeks to highlight climate change and global warming in terms of causes, impacts and recommendations to mitigate human contribution to the problem.
Causes of Global Warming and Climate Change
Being engaged in the relentless pursuit of development, security and comfort, people have exerted tremendous pressure on nature, especially since the onset of the industrial revolution. As a result, the life sustaining environment has been forced to change more rapidly than ever before. There are various negative effects of these changes that endanger lives of every living thing on the planet. The major contributor to climate change and global warming is human activities. Human activities alter the earth’s atmosphere through emission of considerable amounts of greenhouse gases, cloudiness, and aerosols. Burning of fossil fuel is the largest contributor to green house gases, which releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014).
Earth temperatures have nearly doubled in the last 50 years, which cannot be explained solely by the climate change. The increase in the earth temperature can only be associated with the effects of greenhouse gases (GHGs) produced by humans. According to Hansen, Sato, and Ruedy (2012), several greenhouse gases are responsible for warming. The major source of these gases is the activities related to factories, automobiles ad electricity production. Carbon dioxide takes the largest percentage of greenhouse gases that cause a rise in the global temperatures. Other gases include nitrous oxide found in fertilizers, methane emitted from landfills and agricultural activities, gas used for industrial purposes and refrigeration.
Greenhouse gases have heat-trapping properties. According to Rogelj, Meinshausen, and Knutti (2012), annual emission of greenhouse gases have increased to 6 billion metric tons, which translates to a 20 percent increment. The increment in greenhouse gas emission can be attributed to industrial revolution. The industrial revolution has led to increased unnatural level of greenhouse gases, thus bringing imbalances to the system.
The other cause of global warming is the atmosphere boundary shift. According to Rogelj et al. (2012), lower atmosphere boundary has risen more than 900 times in the period of 20 years (1979-1999). The boundary shift is attributed to human and natural factors such as volcanic aerosols, aerosol pollution, ozone layer depletion and greenhouse gas emissions. An increase in greenhouse gas emission results in a heat trap, and a decrease in ozone leads to reduced absorption of sunlight, thus resulting in cooler stratosphere. These two factors put together contribute to 80% of upward shift of the troposphere boundary.
The other contributor of global warming is the rising surface temperature. According to Wheeler and Von Braun (2013), there is an increment of the average global temperature by 1.4°F in 20th century, which is argued to be significant for the last 30 years. The increment in earth temperature can be attributed to natural occurrences and human activity. However, it has been argued that natural factors are short-term, thus making human emissions the primary factor (Wheeler and Von Braun, 2013).
Impacts of Climate Change and Global Warming
Global warming and climate change have a significant impact on people’s health, social and economic status. The impact of global warming spread to wild animal in terms of competing for depleting natural resources. The magnitude of the impact will intensify, cause more damage and grow more costly if actions are not taken immediately. One of the effects of global warming is rise in the sea level and an increase in coastal flooding. According to Hansen et al. (2012), since 1880, the sea level has risen by eight inches. In some geographical areas, the sea level raises more rapidly, for instance, the gulf of Mexico and the United States East Coast. The rise in the sea level increases flood risk especially to poor communities living at the shores of water bodies.
Global warming and climate change have been found to cause wildfires. According to Wheeler and Von Braun (2013), the Western U.S. is experiencing increased and elongated wildfires season. This is attributed to higher summer and spring temperatures and earlier snow melt in spring, which results in drier and hotter forests and thus creates suitable conditions for the start and spread of wild fires.
Global warming and climate change is also causing more destructive hurricanes. Albeit hurricanes are considered as a natural part of the climate system, research indicates that their magnitude, or destructive power, has been increasing since the 1970s, mostly in the North Atlantic region. Climate change and global warming has also witnessed more frequent and strong heat waves. There is an increased occurrence of severely hot weather than it was 60 years ago. Science expert also predicts that the heat waves will become more dangerous as global warming and climate change intensify. Intensified head waves are associated with severe health risks and can lead to heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Global warming is associated with expensive and growing health impacts. According to Fyfeet, Gillett, and Zwiers (2013), global warming and climate change have notable repercussions on people’s health. The rise in global temperature is likely to result in increased air pollution, spread of insect borne diseases, intensified rainstorm and diseases, and regular severe heat waves. All these changes present costly and serious risk to public health.
Global warming and climate change have been found to result in heavier downpour and flooding. Temperature increase leads to heavier precipitation, thus increasing the chances of flood disaster. In the recent years, the Northeast of the US has experienced 67 percent higher level of precipitation, while the Midwest recorded 15 percent higher precipitation than they did 50 years ago. Global warming and climate change have been linked to changing seasons. Thus, spring arrives 10 days earlier in the Northern hemisphere. Snow melts early, thus filling the reservoirs early enough to force water to be released in an effort to control floods. Vegetation also dries earlier, which provides a platform for more damaging fires.
Global warming and climate change is also known to disrupt food supply. Rising temperatures results in regular heat waves, more precipitation in some regions, and intensified drought in others. This variation in weather patterns has significant effects on meat and crop production. The disruption in food supply moves upward, thus affecting both cash crops and food crops (Fyfeet et al., 2013).
Human contribution to global warming and climate change is evident taking into account shrinking ice caps, storms, droughts and extinction of flora and fauna. In the event that greenhouse gases will continue to intensify, the future impact of global warming and climate change is likely to be extreme, with global food security under threat and millions of displaced by rising sea levels.
To mitigate human contribution to global warming and climate change, there is a need to minimize carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Controlling emissions is a challenging and potentially costly undertaking that cannot be solved by a single strategy. Consequently, the costs that need to be met for uncontrolled global warming and climate change might also be significant. Therefore adapting the existing technological and scientific strategies and developing new ones will achieve economic growth and attain better public health through reduction in air pollution. Strategies that might minimize greenhouse gas emissions include increased energy efficiency in cars, homes and power plants, capturing carbon emitted and storing it in a confined place, producing more clean energy, stopping deforestation and soil erosion, and reforesting more land.
The paper also recommends adapting to climate change. Although human can reduce greenhouse gas emission, it is already in the atmosphere and thus cannot be avoided. Therefore, governments and industries should adapt disaster management plans, policies and infrastructure in readiness of anticipated changes. Local government should, therefore, adjust their disaster management plans to accommodate varying weather patterns. There is also a need for individuals, businesses and governments to understand the risk of regional global warming and climate change and implement adaptation mechanisms that achieve more benefits as compared to the cost and risk.
Further research should be done on geo-engineering. Geo-engineering can provide an avenue for slowing global warming and climate change to the point when carbon emission is significantly minimized. Geo-engineering in this context refers to intentionally altering the ocean, land and atmosphere to offset the impacts of global warming.
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