We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it
Dr. Ashaq Hussain
Globalization is the single greatest step to a sustainable future but, at the same time, addressing the climate challenge presents a golden opportunity to promote prosperity, security and a brighter future for all. By not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it, there is no planet B. Global warming has really taken effect in the world over the last century. During this period, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. At present the life is moving towards such a destination that human has forgotten everything about climate change, its effects and measures. Today just sitting inside big buildings and cool cars is being considered a successful life but due to such negligence, the life all over the world is in danger today. A recent UN report states that the total global temperature has risen 1.5 degrees above normal. The world has been warned that if the mercury rises to 2 degrees, dangerous consequences will be found. The report added that if global warming is not stopped, it will have a profound effect on the lives of various creatures, including humans, in the coming decades. In 2016, in the African country of Rwanda, 150 countries signed an agreement to stop global warming. At present, the average global temperature is 15 degrees Celsius, but geological records show that it was used to be less in the past. However, the current change in temperature is happening much faster than the changes in the past. Scientists are concerned that this rapid change in human activities will have a severe impact on the Earth's climate in the future.
The greenhouse effect is the natural process by which the earth captures energy from the sun. Greenhouse gases are like a blanket around the Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm. This is called the greenhouse effect and it is natural and necessary to support life on earth. If this process would have not been there, the Earth would have been 30 degrees colder then, and it would have been very difficult to live on it. However, while greenhouse gases buildup, the climate changes and result in dangerous effects to human health and ecosystems. People have adapted to the stable climate we have enjoyed since the last ice age which ended several thousand years ago. A warmer climate can bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety. There are some climate changes that are unavoidable and nothing can be done about it. For example, carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for nearly a century, so Earth will continue to warm in the future.
Scientists say that humans are promoting the natural greenhouse effect by injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through factories and agriculture, which is causing temperatures to rise. This process is called global warming or climate change. The most important greenhouse gases are water vapor, but they remain in the atmosphere for only a few days. In contrast, carbon dioxide lasts longer. Humans are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by burning natural fuels and cutting down forests that absorb carbon dioxide. It also emits nitrous oxide and methane, but their overall effect is small. After the Industrial Revolution of 1750, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increased by 30%, while the amount of methane has increased by 140%. It is estimated that the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere today is unprecedented as compared to the last eight million years.
Temperature records show that the average global temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees over the last hundred years of which an increase of 0.6 degrees is observed over the last three decades only. The recent data of the satellites show that the levels of the sea have risen three millimeters a year in recent decades. The main reason for this is considered that the water heats up and thus spreads. However, another possible reason is that the glaciers and polar ice caps in the mountains are melting increasing water levels. Satellite imagery shows a dramatic reduction in polar ice too. In addition to this, the behavior of animals and plants has changed. Now the flowers bloom prematurely and there is a difference in the migration and behavior of animals.
In recent years, there has been significant debate over whether global warming has stopped or not. Experts say there has been no significant global warming since 1998, although there is a continuous increase in emission of carbon dioxide. Scientists offer various explanations for this like decreased energy from the sun, reduction in the amount of vapor in the atmosphere, absorption of ocean heat etc, but there is disagreement as to what is the real mechanism of this disruption. Environmental scientists say that this disruption is only for one component of climate change i.e. the average surface temperature of the earth, but the other components like melting of ice and the change in the behavior of plants and animals, shows that the earth is still warming. How hot will the earth be in the future is the million dollar question to ponder. The International Panel on Climate Change released an estimate in 2013 that made various predictions based on computer models. They show that global temperatures could rise by 1.5 degrees by the end of the 21st century. Even then, scientists say their effects will continue for a long time, as different parts of the ecosystem, such as water and ice layers, take hundreds of years to respond to changes in temperature.
No doubt, the full effect of this global warming is uncertain, but it is estimated that it will reduce the supply of clean water, cause major changes in food production, and cause floods, storms, famines and heat waves. The rise could lead to mass deaths. Scientists say there will be an increase in overall rainfall, but there will be droughts in areas far from the sea and the duration of summer will increase. Increased sea levels will increase the risk of storms and floods, but will have different effects in different parts of the world. The worst affected will be the poorer countries where resources are lacking to cope with the change. Many species of animals will become extinct due to the sudden change of seasons. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that malaria, waterborne diseases and famine will kill millions of people. In addition, the absorption of carbon dioxide into the oceans will increase their acidity. This will have a detrimental effect on marine life and coral reefs.
To protect the Earth's environment, more than 150 countries have agreed to reduce emissions of certain types of greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons and signed on Global Environment Agreement in this regard. Hydrofluorocarbons are gases that are also used in freezers, air conditioners and sprays. And they are a major cause of global warming. In conclusion, we need to take part and try to stop global warming and other effects on climate change. If the earth’s temperatures continue to rise in the future, living things on earth would become extinct due to the high temperatures. If humans contribute to control global warming, this world would be cooler and the high temperatures we currently have would decrease. If everybody as one take stand and try to end most of the climate changes that are occurring, this world would be a safer place to live on.
Dr. Ashaq Hussain is Assistant Professor Chemistry (Selection Grade)
At Govt. Degree College Chatroo Jammu and Kashmir and can be reached at [email protected]