Anup Shah, Environmental Issues, Global Issues, Updated: February 02, 2015
What Is Global Warming And Climate Change?
Global warming and climate change refer to an increase in average global temperatures. Natural events and human activities are believed to be contributing to an increase in average global temperatures. This is caused primarily by increases in “greenhouse” gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
A warming planet thus leads to a change in climate which can affect weather in various ways, as discussed further below.
What Are The Main Indicators Of Climate Change?
As explained by the US agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there are 7 indicators that would be expected to increase in a warming world (and they are), and 3 indicators would be expected to decrease (and they are):
the report defines 10 measurable planet-wide features used to gauge global temperature changes. The relative movement of each of these indicators proves consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, air temperature over oceans, sea level, ocean heat, humidity and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the Earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern hemisphere.
What Is The Greenhouse Effect?
The term greenhouse is used in conjunction with the phenomenon known as thegreenhouse effect.
- Energy from the sun drives the earth’s weather and climate, and heats the earth’s surface;
- In turn, the earth radiates energy back into space;
- Some atmospheric gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases) trap some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse;
- These gases are therefore known as greenhouse gases;
- The greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature on Earth as certain gases in the atmosphere trap energy.Six main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) (which is 20 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide) and nitrous oxide (N2O), plus three fluorinated industrial gases: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Water vapor is also considered a greenhouse gas.
What Are The Impacts Of Global Warming?
For decades, greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide have been increasing in the atmosphere. But why does that matter? Won’t warmer weather be nicer for everyone?
Rapid Changes In Global Temperature
Increased greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect has contributed to an overall warming of the Earth’s climate, leading to a global warming (even though some regions may experience cooling, or wetter weather, while the temperature of the planet on average would rise).
Consider also the following:
While year-to-year changes in temperature often reflect natural climatic variations such as El Niño/La Niña events, changes in average temperature from decade-to-decade reveal long-term trends such as global warming. Each of the last three decades has been much warmer than the decade before. At the time, the 1980s was the hottest decade on record. In the 1990s, every year was warmer than the average of the previous decade. The 2000s were warmer still.
With global warming on the increase and species’ habitats on the decrease, the chances for various ecosystems to adapt naturally are diminishing.
Many studies have pointed out that the rates of extinction of animal and plant species, and the temperature changes around the world since the industrial revolution, have been significantly different to normal expectations.
Rising Sea Levels
Water expands when heated, and sea levels are expected to rise due to climate change. Rising sea levels will also result as the polar caps begin to melt.
Rising sea levels is already affecting many small islands.
The WorldWatch Institute reports that “[t]he Earth’s ice cover is melting in more places and at higher rates than at any time since record keeping began”.
Increasing Ocean Acidification
Although it has gained less mainstream media attention, the effects of increasing greenhouse emissions — in particular carbon dioxide — on the oceans may well be significant.
These are the 3 main concepts:
- More CO2 in the atmosphere means more CO2 in the ocean;
- Atmospheric CO2 is dissolved in the ocean, which becomes more acidic; and
- The resulting changes in the chemistry of the oceans disrupts the ability of plants and animals in the sea to make shells and skeletons of calcium carbonate, while dissolving shells already formed.
Other related problems reported by the Inter Press Service include more oceanic dead zones (areas where there is too little oxygen in the sea to support life) and the decline of important coastal plants and forests, such as mangrove forests that play an important role in carbon absorption. This is on top of the already declining ocean biodiversity that has been happening for a few decades, now.
Agriculture And Livelihoods Are Already Being Affected
Failing agriculture in the future have long been predicted.Looking to 2100, scientists who looked at projections of global warming’s impact on the average temperatures during the growing season fear that rising temperatures will have a significant impact upon crop yields, most noticeably in the tropics and sub tropics.
Women Face Brunt Of Climate Change Impacts
It is recognized that poorer nations will suffer the worst from climate change, either because of geographical reasons, and/or because they will have less resources to cope with a problem (mostly caused by emissions from rich countries over the past decades).
In addition to poor countries, women are likely to suffer the worst, as the United Nations Population fund explains:
Women—particularly those in poor countries—will be affected differently than men. They are among the most vulnerable to climate change, partly because in many countries they make up the larger share of the agricultural work force and partly because they tend to have access to fewer income-earning opportunities. Women manage households and care for family members, which often limits their mobility and increases their vulnerability to sudden weather-related natural disasters. Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes. Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. This cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality undermines the social capital needed to deal effectively with climate change.
Developing Countries Affected Most
t has been known for some time know that developing countries will be affected the most. Reasons vary from lacking resources to cope, compared to developed nations, immense poverty, regions that many developing countries are in happen to be the ones where severe weather will hit the most, small island nations area already seeing sea level rising, and so on.
German Watch published a Global Climate Risk Index at the end of 2011 listing nations that would be affected the most from climate change based on extreme weather such as hurricanes and floods.
Many Sources Of Greenhouse Gases Being Discovered
Pollution from various industries, the burning of fossil fuels, methane from farm animals, forest destruction, rotting/dead vegetation etc have led to an increased number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And, as international trade in its current form continues to expand with little regard for the environment, the transportation alone, of goods is thought to considerably contribute to global warming via emissions from planes, ships and other transportation vehicles.