The earth’s climate has been dynamic through history. Most of the phases of climate change that have historically occurred over millions of years were caused due to slight changes in earth’s orbit.
But the climate change that we are currently witnessing is 10 times faster as compared to what we have ever known. This information is derived from ancient evidence, as shown by tree rings, layers of sedimentary rocks, coral reefs and ocean sediments.
Evidence that climate change is real
Since late 19th century earth’s temperature has risen by 0.9oC. This has largely been caused due CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Most of this warming has occurred in past 35 years with 2016 the warmest year on record.
A large fraction of increase in heat, is absorbed by the oceans. Ever since 1969, top 700 meters of oceans are warmer by 0.4oF.
Ice sheets that prevail over Antarctica and Greenland have shrunk in mass. Once a glacier begins to melt, it melts even quicker, the process is not steady. White surfaces of glaciers reflect sun’s heat, but black surfaces that show up when glaciers melt absorb the heat, hence the temperatures rise even further.
Over the past century, sea levels have risen by 8 inches. The rate of increase in just the last decade has been the double of what it used to be across the rest of the century. With each passing year, the rate speeds up further. Melting glaciers and expansion of warming seawater are both the cause of this effect.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, acidity of the oceans is higher by 30%. This is a direct resultant of humans emitting a higher degree of CO2 into the atmosphere. This emitted CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. In the upper layer of the oceans, the amount ofCO2 which is absorbed is increasing by 2 billion tons each year.
Critical effects of climate change
Temperatures that stay towards the higher side are more common nowadays as compared to what they earlier used to be. The temperatures would become even more intense with the years that follow.
CO2 present in the atmosphere prevents the heat from escaping, making the world hotter.
Rising sea levels have a direct effect over coastal infrastructure and communities. All countries across the world that have a sea coast are at risk. Entire islands might eventually be submerged under water.
More frequent and heavier rainfall over coastal areas is another repurcussion. Odds of inland flooding which is destructive are higher for the future as well.
Hurricanes are now increasingly destructive, resulting due to warmer oceans. Similarly in arid climates, climate change would induce draught seasons that are more severe.
Direct effects of climate change are devastating, but climate change renders indirect effects over our lives as well.
· Staple crop supplies become less stable with increased price spikes a direct result. A higher risk of attack by pests, disease and weeds affects our health too.
· As the climates get warmer, it produces ground level ozone, which is also known as smog. Smog is known to irritate the lungs and accentuates disorders such as asthma.
· Smoke that arises from wildfires affects the lungs further. Heatwaves become very severe. Similarly as freshwater is warmer; disease causing agents grow more quickly, affecting the quality of water.
· Merely as a result of sea level rise, 100 million people could be displaced. As scarce resources are more sought after, political tensions will rise. Similarly, 50% of flora and fauna, that prevails naturally nature rich areas of the world, risk facing extinction.
What can we do about climate change?
Saving the environment starts with us. Acting over climate change comes by as a moral responsibility. It helps preserve the planet for many generations to come.
Using a car to go to work emits greenhouse gases and heats up the environment, through greenhouse effect. Commute to work must ideally be eco friendly. One could, ride a bicycle to work, use public transportation, consider carpooling or consider investing in an electric car.
As power plants produce lesser energy for human requirements, emission of greenhouse gases will be lower as well. So it is preferable to use renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar energy whenever possible. Unplugging devices when not in use and using energy efficient light sources help.
Recycling saves forests and prevents deforestation, making it a highly eco friendly process. Trees absorb CO2 and release fresh oxygen. This improves air quality and prevents global warming. Recycling also safeguards the environment against excessive plastic-waste. This prevents clogging of landfills.
14% of emissions that account for climate change come from meat and dairy production. Going vegan helps prevent the same. So going vegan must be considered.
With severe effects of climate change evident over our lives, acting against climate change comes by as a responsibility of everyone. One can act at an individual level as well. The effect of acting upon climate change would have long standing positive effects for the planet and the mankind. The earth becomes more livable, air is cleaner and climate hazards become more manageable.