Climate is the sum of weather over a long period of time, probably three decades. It has be argued that climate can stay the same for centuries if it is left on its own, but that is not possible because people are constantly modifying their environments and this is increasingly affecting the climate. So when the weather patterns change over a period of time, it amounts to a change in the climate (David Suzuki Foundation para.2). This essay explores the most popular perspective of climate change, that of the greenhouse effect causing global warming after clarifying that climate change is real.
Climate Change is real
The earth’s climate is changing, and has always changed as far back as the earth was formed. However the causes of climate change are varied. No single action is responsible for climate change and therefore altering that action is not the only solution to managing climate change, however it’s a step in the right direction. Scientists have observed that climate is a complex system influenced by different phenomena since it is a sum of weather pattern changes that are prone to diverse influences (Weart para.8). There are various theories that describe or explain climate change and they include the following: Depending on the perspective one takes on the matter of climate change, there are various evidences for and against climate change. The astronomical perspective claims that the warming of the earth is caused by the increased brightness of the sun as it increases its energy output which raises the solar energy getting to earth. In another view, also on the astronomical perspective, is the theory of the earth’s orbit around the sun being responsible for climate change. In some instances the orbit is much closer to the sun and this result to increased solar energy reaching the earth and causing it to be warmer and results to climatic changes. There is also the geological perspective that includes volcanism and continental drifts and oceanic circulation patterns and lastly there is a weather perspective of explaining climate change (Wesker para.5-11).
Evidence of global warming
The hottest three years of the last century were recorded in the 80s by the British Government Climate Research Unit located at the University of East Anglia. Other scientists observing temperatures from the 1950s through the 1990s have observed that the last decade has been the hottest. Physicians have observed that the greenhouse effects are most notable at night when gases block heat radiations from leaving the earth’s atmosphere, and have therefore based their findings on the raising night temperatures of the world which they now consider as proof that the greenhouse effect was causing global warming which eventually leads to climate change. By 2006 scientific evidence had proved that humans were up to 95% responsible for the greenhouse effect that was causing global warming. Drill rigs in tropical ice caps have shown that the last few decades have been warmest over a period of several millennia and the ice that has survived since the last ice age is now melting at a faster rate than can be measured by scientists (Weart para.10-14). Storms are reportedly becoming severe as well as droughts, and this is attributed to an increase in global temperatures. The natural world is changing and insects are now surviving in regions that were previously too cold for them.
We observe that greenhouse gas emissions are the major cause of global warming, and therefore efforts of controlling global warming start with policies aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses. Therefore a method of measuring emissions has been developed and is based on the amount of carbon dioxide that is released to atmosphere. This measure is known as the carbon footprint and reveals the impact of human activity on the environment by measuring in kilograms of carbon equivalent of all greenhouse gases produced. The management of these greenhouse gases has become a global issue, and countries have gone ahead and agreed on protocols such as the Kyoto protocol that bind them to observe their commitments in limiting the amount of greenhouse gases that they release to the atmosphere (UNFCCC para.1-3). That has meant that emissions from industries, houses and vehicles among other processes are measured and when found to cumulate to levels above those set by the agreements, the country responsible if fined. The Kyoto protocol recognizes that industrialized countries have contributed immensely greenhouse gases to the atmosphere because of their advanced industries over the last century; therefore they are taxed more for their emissions compared to developing countries. Carbon credits are offered as compensation to developing countries for their efforts in sacrificing the use of fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources. These credits are tradable and are considered as foreign reserves (Carbon Credits para.1-4).
Recent changes in weather that have resulted in catastrophes have created a considerable panic among people on the negative effects of global warming as a cause to climate change. Such catastrophes include hurricanes hitting the Americas, tsunamis in East Asia and droughts that have ravaged parts of Africa. Globalization together with the increased speed of communication has created a global village phenomenon where the effects of disasters in one part of the world are immediately felt on the other part. It has also contributed significantly to an increase in the carbon footprints of world major manufacturing centers such as the coastal cities of china as specialization allows countries to outsource some of their production needs (O’Brien & Leichenko p.230). We have therefore seen people adopting their behaviors to reduce their carbon footprints with much ease as they are more aware of the consequence through experience or as observed by mass media and education. An increasing number of researches are being conducted to know the exact extent of global warming and the activities that contribute to that.
Green movements are sprouting up all over the globe to advocate for the reduction of carbon emissions. The main industries targeted by these advocacy groups have been motoring, energy generation, manufacturing and mining. The motoring industry has swiftly adopted and is now creating green vehicles that have reduced or non-existent carbon emissions. Use of fossil fuels is being discouraged and in some countries taxes have been imposed to limit the amount of fossil fuels used.
Energy generation industry is also moving towards green, exploring more renewable sources like geothermal and solar, as well as hydroelectric and wind energy.
People behaviors have greatly changed in the past decade to adapt to issues of global warming, and so has their occupations. Workplaces are being transformed in to green certified centers as well as other social facilities like schools and hospitals. Buildings are being constructed in ways that reduce their carbon footprints. And people are embracing the concept of recycling, reusing so as to reduce their individual carbon footprints. Consumer groups are becoming vigilant on the carbon footprint of the products they get at retail stores. The tracing of carbon footprints is being refined and now includes more of the processes that occur in getting a finished product to the market. In some instances, flowers flown to Europe from developing countries mostly in Africa have been labeled as non-green because air transport is considered a major contributor to greenhouses emission. It should be noted that not all efforts are aimed at reducing carbon emissions (Sambu para.1-8).
As it stands now, not everything can go green, and fossil fuels and mining must still continue because consumers have to be supplied with products. Likewise, there cannot be a stop to transportation and other industries essential to the world economy, just because they contribute to emission of greenhouse gasses. The new approach to dealing with this is to create a balance of the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by encouraging the planting of trees and other vegetation to consume the extra carbon dioxide as well as using more biological ways of managing wastes thus reducing dependence on manufactured products. One such initiative is that of using algae capture carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis. Algae have a high photosynthesis rates than terrestrial plants and offers a viable solution as a green measure to capture greenhouse carbon dioxide into biomass using sunlight energy for conversion (Packer p.3428).
Although the case of global warming and climate change has contributed significantly to people’s awareness about the need to reduce ecological footprints, it is not the sole reason for doing so. History has shown that when we fail to use our environmental resources sustainable, we expose ourselves as a society to natural disasters that would have otherwise been avoided. These include soil erosions as a result of deforestation which deprives land of its food producing capacity and hence its ability to sustain life. The need for reducing our ecological footprint is also amplified by the call for sustainable development to ensure that resources are not depleted and become unavailable for our future generations. Besides advocacy, green movements like the Green Belt movement in Kenya are at the forefront of planting trees to capture to reverse the effects of soil erosion and environment degradation (Sinha p.277).World governing organizations for trade and development like the World Trade Organization have adopted sustainable development as one of the requirements that their members should observe and this has meant that reduction of ecological footprint by countries is not just a climatic issue, but also a development issue.
Climate change is a real phenomenon caused by various factors that include human alterations on environment in a non-sustainable way. Among all perspectives explaining the causes of climate change, the perspective of greenhouse effect as a result of global warming has been the most widely adopted. Greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide are responsible for the greenhouse effect. The negative effects of climate change in the last decade have prompted people to consciously aim to reduce their ecological footprints but another reason behind this is the need for sustainable development to ensure that future generations have a nice environment like we found it.
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