Is Climate really changing?
“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”–Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
July 2019 was the warmest month ever recorded on Earth. According to data from NASA, the average temperature over the month of July 2019 was 2.34°C above the average temperature calculated for the years from 1980 to 2015 and used as a reference period for the chart.
The Arctic ice pack reached a historic low in July (19.8% below average), as did the Antarctic ice pack, which reached its smallest extent for July in 41 years of observations.
The last 10 years have been the hottest ever recorded, says the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
2019 was the second hottest year on record – only a fraction cooler than 2016.
- 1 What is climate and what does climate change mean?
- 2 Why the climate is changing?
- 3 Increase in temperature – Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming :
- 4 People views on climate change :
- 5 Increase in severity of Natural Disasters due to climate change:
- 6 Meetings/Conferences on Climate Change :
- 7 Conclusion :
- 8 My opinion
What is climate and what does climate change mean?
Climate is the average weather in a given area over a longer period of time. A description of a climate includes information on, e.g. the average temperature in different seasons, rainfall, and sunshine. Also, a chance of extremes is often included.
Climate change is any systematic change in the long-term statistics of climate variables such as temperature, precipitation, pressure, or wind sustained over several decades or longer. The classical period used for describing a climate is 30 years, as defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Climate change can be due to natural external forcing (changes in solar emission or changes in the earth’s orbit, natural internal processes of the climate system) or human-induced.
Why the climate is changing?
Going by the definition of climate change and from the facts mentioned above related to temperature change, it is clear that climate is changing as the temperature has risen to a great extent during the past decade.
Since climate change can be due to natural causes or human activities. An increase or decrease in volcanic activity or solar radiation is among the natural phenomena which can result in climate change. But nature induced change in climate takes place over a longer period of time. For example, every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips and this can cause small fluctuations in global temperature, up to about 0.2 degrees. On longer time scales – tens to hundreds of millions of years – geological processes can drive changes in the climate, due to shifting continents and mountain building.
As we have seen there has been a drastic increase in temperature over the last 50 years, therefore nature alone cannot be blamed for this, humans are the main culprits.
How do human activities cause climate change? Humans have been very greedy and have exploited the Earth’s resources to a large extent and are continually doing so. This has resulted in a lot of greenhouse gas emissions which has accelerated the rise in temperature. Earth’s capacity to cope up with human needs has been constantly tested so much so that now we require a planet equivalent to 1.7 times the earth to fulfill human needs.
The concentration of greenhouse gases is increasing at an unprecedented rate and it has crossed the 400 ppm concentration for the first time in history. Still, it is increasing continuously and there is no hope or chance that is going to decrease.
Increase in temperature – Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming :
The greenhouse effect is a process that occurs when gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap the Sun’s heat. This process makes Earth much warmer than it would be without an atmosphere. It has an advantage also that it makes Earth a comfortable place to live. Let us understand it in this way, consider earth as a huge glass building; now when the sun’s heat enters the building it is trapped by the gases present in the building and glass prevents the heat from escaping.
Global warming is the long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system. The more the concentration of gases, the more the heat will be trapped and more will be the increase in temperature. Therefore, global warming and the greenhouse effect both are inter-related.
Let us see it from a real-life perspective, if a person eats more than his/her requirement, he/she will become fat and his/her body weight will increase. Similarly, if the concentration of greenhouse gases (such as Carbon Dioxide-CO2, Methane-CH4, Nitrous oxide-NO2, Ozone-O3, etc) would be more than the required amount to maintain proper temperature, the earth will become warmer and temperature will rise. It will ultimately result in global warming and climate change due to the increasing temperature because all the natural processes and ecosystems will be affected by it.
People views on climate change :
A study was conducted by YouGov ( a British International Internet-based market research and data analytics firm ) of 30,000 people in 28 economies. The people who participated in the study acknowledged that “ Climate change is happening and humanity is at least partly responsible for it.” People in India were most likely 71% to think that humans are responsible for climate change followed by Thailand and Spain both having 69% of believers of climate change.
The study also put worst-case climate change scenarios in front of people and asked whether they thought they were likely or not. The majority of people from all countries believe that climate change is going to result in serious damage to the global economy. Rising sea levels with cities submerging, mass displacement of people and small wars for the resources which are extinguishing at a very fast rate.
Increase in severity of Natural Disasters due to climate change:
- Cyclones Idai and Kenneth:
Cyclone Idai which hit Africa in March 2019 took the lives of more than one thousand people and affected millions who were left with no food and basic services. Cyclone Kenneth came just six weeks later hitting areas where no tropical cyclone has been observed since the satellite era.
- East Africa Drought :
Higher sea temperatures due to climate change have resulted in doubling the chances of drought in the Horn of Africa region. Severe droughts in 2011, 2017, and 2019 have repeatedly wiped out crops and livestock and have left 15 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia without the means to put food on their table.
- South Asia Floods :
Over the last year, deadly floods and landslides have forced 12 million people from their homes in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. In some places, flooding was worst for nearly 30 years. While flooding is expected during monsoon season, scientists say the monsoon rains are being intensified by rising sea temperatures in South Asia.
- Dry Corridor in Central America :
Climate crisis has supercharged an El Nino period ( a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns ) which resulted in the 6th year of drought in Central America’s Dry Corridor. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua are seeing their typical three-month dry seasons extended to six months or more. Most crops have failed which have left 3.5 million people without a livelihood.
- July 2019 Heat Wave :
It was a period of exceptionally hot weather, setting all-time high-temperature records across Europe and killing 868 people. This followed the June 2019 European Heat Wave which killed 567 people and exceeded previous records by 3°C in Belgium, by 0.3°C in Luxembourg, by 2.1°C in Germany, by 0.2°C in the Netherlands and 0.2 °C in the United Kingdom.
- Australian Bushfires:
The hottest year on record which had left the soil and fuels exceptionally dry ignited the worst-ever bushfire season in history. Bushfires are common in Australia and help to rejuvenate the ecosystem including plants. But this time they were very severe, at least 33 people died including more than 1 billion mammals and birds and reptiles according to one estimate from the University of Sydney. Also, around 25,000 koalas were feared dead on Kangaroo Island. An area equivalent to the size of South Korea, roughly 25.5 million acres have burned.
Meetings/Conferences on Climate Change :
- UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
A formal meeting of heads of states on a yearly basis to asses the progress in dealing with climate change beginning in the mid-1990s.
- Kyoto Protocol
An international treaty that extends the 1992 UNFCCC that commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is based on the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and it is extremely likely that human-made Carbon Dioxide has predominantly caused it. It was adopted on 11 December 1997 and came into force on 16 February 2005. There are currently 192 Parties to the Protocol.
- Paris Agreement
It is an agreement within the UNFCCC dealing with GHGs emissions, mitigation, adaptation and finance signed in 2016. The agreement’s language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Paris of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. As of February 2020, all UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 189 have become a party to it, and the only significant emitters which are not parties are Iran and Turkey.
All the facts and figures show that the climate is changing. Temperatures have risen to an unequivocal extent, sea levels have been increasing continuously, natural disasters are getting more devastating, plants and animal species are getting extinct, plastic has entered into our bodies and choked our rivers and oceans. Coral reefs are getting destroyed to an extent that 50% of Australia’s coral reefs have been destroyed. Various conferences and meetings are being organized around the world to discuss and find solutions to tackle climate change. Recently, the WEF summit in Davos (21-24 January 2020) took place whose main agenda was Climate Change. More and more people are accepting the reality of climate change.
“There is one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate”. – Barack Obama
There is no doubt that climate is changing and scientists are saying this for a long time now. There is no time left; as per Agenda 2030, we have only 10 years to limit global warming to 1.5°C otherwise there would be no way to stop the warming of 3-4°C by the end of the century. We are approaching the tipping points of many irreversible changes. We need to take drastic steps to mitigate climate change. Governments across the world should work along with the citizens to educate them and provide them with immediate solutions until it is too late.