What’s Global Warming?
Solar radiations hit the surface of the earth and bounce back towards the atmosphere. The gases present in the atmosphere trap the heat and prevent it from escaping into the space. This is also known as the greenhouse effect. Even a minute of change in the amount of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere can have a significant bearing over the amount of heat that is trapped in the atmosphere.
What causes global warming?
Burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal to create electricity or power up vehicles, releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Some of the other most important greenhouse gases are methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (NO2).
Heat trapping abilities of different greenhouse gases are variable. A methane molecule is at least 80 times more powerful as compared to carbon dioxide for trapping heat. But a CH4 molecule does not stay in the atmosphere for as long as a CO2 molecule does. Similarly, a NO2 molecule is over 250 times more powerful as compared to CO2 for trapping heat. But because their emissions are lower as compared to CO2, they do not trap as much heat as CO2 does.
In the past half a million years, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have fluctuated between 180 and 300 ppm. But in the present day era, they stand at 470 ppm and have been fluctuating quicker ever since global warming has gone underway. A major section of CO2 comes from fossil fuels.
Since the late 19th century, average temperature of the planet has increased by 1.1oC.
Trees and plant help regulate the climate. They absorb CO2 and release oxygen back into the environment. Bushlands and forests hence come across as carbon sinks, and help keep global warming levels low.
Vast stretches of trees around the world are however cleared for developing cities or farming. They may be cleared for deriving tree products such as palm oil or timber.
Upon burning vegetation for clearing the land, carbon is released into the atmosphere and accounts for global warming. One fifth of greenhouse gas pollution arises from deforestation.
Fertilizers used by farmers produce NO2, a significant contributor to global warming.
Livestock such as sheep produce methane. When they are grazed over a large scale, a significant amount of methane is produced which contributes to global warming.
When human beings raise livestock for
meat, eggs and milk, it accounts for 14.5% of global
emission of greenhouse gases. While this is the second highest source emission
of greenhouse gases, it more than the emission caused by all transportation
Moreover, animal slaughter uses up
70% of agricultural land for raising the animals. This
alternately leads to water pollution, loss of biodiversity and deforestation.
Another aspect of the same is that
when we consume too much meat and dairy, it makes us sick. It comes across as
one of the prime causes of cardiovascular disorders, type-2
diabetes and obesity. Each of the optimal diets for human beings majorly
comprise of whole grains and wholesome plant foods.
Stopping Global Warming: Global Warming Solutions
How we can make a difference at a personal level.
What happens if global warming is not prevented?
As per a recent UN report, global warming must be
limited to 1.5° C (2.7° F) more as compared to what it used to be during pre
industrial times. This is going to be difficult, but we have a lot to lose.
Rising sea levels will impact 1 billion people by 2050. The arctic sea
ice will recede further. As heat waves become more severe, it would render its
effects over millions of people. Global warming would also account for climate change, making rainfall, snowfall and all forms of precipitation more severe. It correspondingly
increases the risk of flooding as well. Similarly, warming of the earth does
not keep the environment sustainable for plants and animals. They are losing
their natural habitat and a number of species are at a risk.
The Paris Agreement strives to
achieve the goal by each country submitting a
commitment. This is a commitment towards making a shift from fossil fuels and
bearing the economic burden collectively.
In the year 2015, 196 countries
signed the Paris Agreement which is aimed at
maintaining global temperature increase at not more than 2OC above
pre-industrial levels. It must be as close to 1.5 OC as possible.
Global warming is a threat which is
very real. It is something that we must act upon individually and collectively,
in order to make the world a better place for us and the
generations to come.