One of the most urgent issues in the public agenda of different governments in all parts of the world is the issue of climate change and global warming. A majority of the modern day scientists and environmental experts are in consensus that the temperatures of the earth have increased in the last century and that the carbon dioxide gas is one of the major greenhouse gases that has contributed greatly to the issue of global warming. The main controversies regarding the issue of climate change and global warming is whether these two phenomena are as a consequence of human activity or normal environmental variations and the extent of the problems the world will face presently and in the future as a consequence of climate change and global warming.
As controversies and debates regarding the issue of climate change and global warming rage in different parts of the world, a number of international leaders from 140 renowned nations in the world convened and established a number of legal decrees commonly referred to as the Kyoto Protocol which are aimed at reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. The 140 nations that took part in the formulation and ratification of the Kyoto Protocol are responsible for 61.6% of the world’s green house gas emissions. This paper aims at analyzing and describing in detail the concepts of climate change and global warming. After a depiction of the history of climate change and global warming, the meaning and implications of the two phenomena will be discussed in detail.
This will then be followed by an assessment of greenhouse effect as well as other different factors believed to being about climate change and global warming. The effect of climate change and global warming on the earth will then be discussed followed by a deliberation of the different strategies and policies that have formulated by different international groups and conventions in response to this issue. At the end of the paper will be a summative conclusion followed by an alphabetical list of the references cited here in.
2.0.0 History of Climate Change and Global Warming
Cato Institute (p. 475) claims that despite there being different accounts on the history of global warming and climate change, the most commonly cited records regarding this issue are from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These records indicate two main periods of climate change and global warming namely the 1910-1945 and the 1975-1998 periods. Moser (p. 1) points out that the climate change issue initially emerged in the public agenda in the mid twentieth century to the 1980s. Since time immemorial humans have always harbored the suspicion that their activities could have certain impacts on their environment In the year 1896 a scientist in Sweden formulated the “greenhouse effect” after discovering that the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and consequently raising the average temperature of the earth (Weart, p. 11), as indicated in Figure 1 below.
This speculation was not given much weight at the time since a majority of the scientists then believed that human related emissions had no capacity to transform the climate of the earth. By the advent of the 1930s scientists and environmental experts in the North Atlantic area and the United States of America discovered that the temperatures in the region had increased significantly in the last five decades. Many scientists could not come up with a plausible explanation for the increase in temperature rates and it was assumed that the change in climate and warming was simply a consequence of the earth’s natural cycle. It was then that G. S. Callender rose up and insisted that the world had begun its journey of global warming (Weart, 2004). Rather than realize the dangers that increased temperatures in earth would have, the climate change and warming at this time was perceived as being favorable and many even hoped it would increase some more in the coming years.
(Cato, p. 476)
In the mid of the 20th century, the 1950s, a number of scientists decided to make use of enhanced techniques and advanced calculations to investigate the claims made by Callender. After the end of the Cold War many governments of the world, particularly in the United States of America were more willing to fund technological investigations particularly those related to the space, seas and the weather. After conducting their investigative studies these scientists discovered that in contrast to the previous approximations that have been made in earlier years, the carbon dioxide gas did indeed have the capacity to accumulate in the atmosphere and bring about global warming. By the year 1961 scientists had already been able to prove that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were in fact rising significantly with each passing year.
Readinger (p. 1) points out that advancements made in technology enabled these scientists to formulate mathematical models of climate and establish techniques that could be applied in an attempt to retrieve previous world temperatures. In the year 1967 computer models were utilized in describing the circulation of the atmosphere and it was predicted that the world’s temperature would rise by a few degrees in the coming 100 years. Since one hundred years seemed a long way off for many scientists, there was no urgency in the formulation of policy actions to respond to the climate transformation and global warming (Weart, 2004).
By the advent of the 1970s the emergence of environmentalism school of thought brought about uncertainties and misgivings amongst the public on the advantages of human activities for the earth. Unlike in the previous couple of decades when the world was simply curious about issues to do with the climate, the general public was now anxious and concerned. The anxiety increased when a number of scientists revealed that in addition to the effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, human activities were aggravating the issue of climate change and global warming by increasing the release of dust and smog particles in the atmosphere which in turn served to block the sun’s rays and bring about cooling of the earth. Investigative studies carried out by scientists and weather experts on the weather patterns of the Northern Hemisphere revealed that the cooling of the earth had began in the 1940s.
The mass media at this time was not only confused about the issues of climate change and global warming but also unaware of what to report to the anxious public. Scientists all over the world realized that there was a need for increased research and investigative studies on the issue. This lead to increased activities of data gathering through activities of orbiting satellites and oceanographic water vessels aimed at accumulating the information required to understand the concepts of climate change and global warming.
The increased investigative studies by scientists and environmental experts brought a new understanding in issues of climate change and global warming. Unlike earlier scientists that pursued a single perspective in the explanation of climate issued, the scientists in the last two decades of the 20th century clearly realized that the earth’s climate is a very complex system that is impacted by a myriad of influences. Weart 92004) claims that at this time solar disparities and volcanic eruptions were still perceived as the main causes climate change as opposed to human activities. This perception was shaken when scientists discovered and made their findings public that climate is a very carefully balanced phenomenon with the propensity to be affected by any slight perturbation. As a matter of fact, it was realized that any small shifts in the atmosphere, in spite of how insignificant they may seem, could trigger a great transformation in climate.
By the year 2001 an International Panel on Climate Change had been formed which engaged thousands of scientists and experts all over the world in deliberations about issues of climate change and global warming. By this time the issue of global warming had already become a reality and it become clear that future climate change and global warming patterns on earth would be determined by the policies that humans would formulate and adopt in the management of the greenhouse effect. Since the year 2001 there has been increased data and evidence gathered by scientists and environmental experts by use of advanced computer models that indicate human activities play a very significant role in exacerbating climate change and global warming. In the year 2007 the International Panel on Climate Change revealed that scientists had forecasted 1.4 and 6°C (2.5 - 11°F) increase in the earth’s temperature by the end of the 21st century if strict measures are not taken in the present day to restrict emissions.
The Cato Institute (p. 477) however indicates that it is important to note the anomalies that have occurred in global warming from 2001-2007; these are indicated in Figure 2 below.
3.0.0 Climate Change and Global Warming
Climate change is described as the long term transformations that occur in the ambience or weather patterns in particular region or planet. The transformations in a region’s climate are measured by alterations of the features that are commonly associated with the average weather for instance amount of rainfall, temperature and wind patterns. It is also noteworthy that transformations in the variability of climate is also described as climate change in spite of the fact that weather conditions may not indicate any discrepancies (Doney et al, p. 3033) .
Transformations in the climate of a given region of planet do not occur overnight; rather, such changes occur in the mid of two different periods of time when particular phenomena bring about alterations in the total amount of sun energy that is taken in by the earth’s atmosphere and surface. Climate change may also occur as a consequence of transformations in the amount of heat energy emanating from the surface of the earth as well as the atmosphere to space in a given period of time. Such transformations may bring about subsequent transformations in the variation of weather as well as the average weather circumstances.
Global warming (and global cooling),
on the other hand, is described as the transformations that occur in the average global temperature of the earth. Many times the public miscomprehend the concept of global warming and assumes that it refers to the homogeneous and similar warming of the earth. On the contrary, global warming is characterized by a rise in the world’s temperatures which in turn alter the circulation of the atmosphere and cause the regions of the world to warm more or less than others. Some regions of the world may even cool down rather than warming up.
4.0.0 Factors Causing Climate Change and Global Warming
There are a number of factors that have been said to bring about climate change and global warming. Global warming occurs as a consequence of greenhouse gases which may be emitted into the atmosphere by a number of different ways. A number of the increased greenhouse emissions in many parts of the world such as Australia originate from the burning of fossil fuels for energy such as electricity and fuel for motor vehicles. The combustion of gas, oil or coal leads to the combination of carbon and oxygen which result to carbon dioxide emissions.
Deforestation is another factor that has contributed greatly to climate change and global warming. Deforestation is described as the cutting down of trees of the clearing of forests. In the present day forests are cleared deliberately in many parts of the world for a number of different reasons. In some parts of the world which are very populous for instance the Republic of China, forests are cleared so as to make room for the population to settle as well as provide timber for the creation of the different effects needed by the large population. In other regions of the world forests may be cleared as a consequence of increased industrialization and urbanization or so as to make land for agricultural activities. The clearing of trees and vegetation leads to the conversion of stored carbon into carbon dioxide which is them emitted into the atmosphere.
Farming activities such as cattle grazing are also blamed for contributing significantly to climate change and global warming. Animals such as cattle and sheep produce particularly large amounts of methane which is then released into the atmosphere. Some other farming activities for instance the generation of manure or use of particular fertilizers in the farms cause the release of nitrous oxide.
A multiplicity of human activities in the last two and a half centuries has also played a very significant role in bringing about increased climate change and global warming. In the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change revealed that experts have found out that there is an estimated 90% likelihood that in the last 250 years human activities have played a great role in increasing the rates of global warming. Industrial activities on the other hand, have in the last one and a half decade led to an increase in the levels of atmospheric gas from an estimated 280 parts per million to 379 parts per million (Lockwood, 2009).
5.0.0 Greenhouse Effect
The planet earth receives its heat and warmth from the sun. The energy from the sun travels through the atmosphere to the surface of the earth so as to warm the earth’s water bodies, surface and atmosphere. The concept “Greenhouse Effect” describes a natural system that is tasked with the responsibility of regulating the earth’s temperatures. In similar manner to the glass in greenhouses which keeps heat in the greenhouse, the earth’s atmosphere traps the heat from the sun’s rays on the surface of the earth by use of heat trapping capacities possesses by particular greenhouse gases. In order to ensure consistency and balance in the energy of the atmosphere after it has been warmed the earth also releases heat energy into space through the process of infrared radiation as indicated in the diagram below.
The greenhouse effect occurs when the greenhouse gases responsible for the recycling of energy to and from the earth are absent from the atmosphere and the temperatures on the surface of the earth increase. If greenhouse gases were to completely disappear the average temperature of planet earth would transform from the present +14°C to -19°C or 33°C colder. While for many years since the existence of humans the quantity of greenhouse gases has remained consistent, their concentrations in the atmosphere increased in the last couple of centuries as a consequence of increased energy demands, transformations in the utilization of land, increased human populaces and industrialization. It is currently estimated that the human emissions of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere make up an estimated 28 billion tones every year. It is estimated that in the next 100 years the activities of humans leading to carbon dioxide emissions will increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the current 0.03% to 0.06% or even 0.09%.
It is noteworthy that while some greenhouse gases emanate from human activities, others occur naturally. The most common greenhouse gas is water vapor. The most common greenhouse gas occurring as a consequence of human activities is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is commonly emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and is the chief contributor to the transformations in the earth’s climate as well as global warming. Another major greenhouse gas is methane which is emitted from the combustion of vegetation; methane may also occur as a result of digestion or rotting of vegetation in the absence of oxygen. The most common areas for the generation of methane greenhouse gas are garbage dumps, grazing cattle and rice paddies. Nitrous oxide is another important greenhouse gas. Nitrous oxide is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases that is produced by farm activities particularly the utilization of commercial and organic fertilizers, combustion of biomass and the production of nitric acid.
6.0.0 Impacts of Climate Change and Global Warming
According to KLarl et al (2009) the impacts of climate change and global warming are social, environmental and financial in nature.
The economic or financial effects of climate change and global warming are amongst the gravest of all impacts that the earth is confronted with as a consequence of global warming and climate change. Firstly, the increase in sea levels and the subsequent floods as well as droughts, extreme storms and wildfires have a tendency to cause massive loss of property whenever they occur. Furthermore, Karl et al (2009) claims that both public and private facilities such as airport runways, roads, power lines, homes, bridges and railroad tracks are destroyed. Another important economic impact of climate change and global warming is the fact that it brings about loss of productivity and disruptions in the daily activities that are important in stabilizing a nation’s financial systems for instance education, agriculture, tourism, transportation and many other important economic activities. It is also very expensive to cope or recover from the adverse effects of climate change and global warming. As a matter of fact, it is more expensive to recover from climate change and global warming disasters as opposed to setting up preventive measures (Karl et al, 2009).
The impacts of climate change and global warming are seen in different aspects of human beings’ social lives. Some adverse repercussions of climate change and global warming such as tornadoes and hurricanes lead to the mass migration of people from one region to another (Karl et al, 2009). This in turn leads to increased numbers of climate refugees and an increased rate of insecurity and social unrest which characterizes such large movements of people from one area to another. There are certain aspects of human societies that are very sensitive to global warming and climate change; these include health and recreation (Karl et al, 2009). The changing weather patters as indicated in the wind, rainfall and sea level transformations have a propensity to adversely affect the health of humans. Transformations in the weather aspect already mentioned were in the year 2009 described by the World Health organization as being responsible for 3% of diarrhea, 3.8% dengue fever and 3% malaria in the year 2004. In addition to this, climate change and variability bringing about adverse events such as flooding and drought interferes with food production and leads to malnutrition or starvation.
One of the most urgent impacts of climate change, particularly global warming, is the fact that such transformations in the temperature of the earth will cause subsequent transformations in other facets of the weather for instance the amount and type of rainfall, the patterns of wind as well as the frequency and severity of catastrophic weather occurrences for instance hurricanes and droughts (Karl et al, 2009). In addition to this, global warming has the capacity to increase the world’s sea level as a consequence of melting ice and glaciers as indicated in Figure 4 below. Rises in the global sea level will then result in floods and erosions (Figure 3). The transformations in the earth’s climate in particular regions may also occur too fast for the world’s fauna and flora to adjust. This will lead to a loss of animal and plans species (Karl et al, 2009).
(Readinger, p. 1)
7.0.0 Response to Climate Change and Global Warming
The issues regarding climate change and global warming have attracted great interest and concern all over the world due to the fact that climate change and the earth’s warming or cooling are global phenomena which impact the entire world. As a consequence of the serious and global nature of climate change and global warming, both the developing and developed nations are currently engaged in a collaborative effort aimed at coming up with effective solutions for this predicament. In June the year 1992 154 countries of the world formulated the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). By being members of this body these nations entered a pact and committed themselves to the stabilization of the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to favorable amounts. On the December of the year 1997 the Kyoto Protocol was established when Japan, Canada and another 160 industrialized countries committed themselves to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in their territories.
Despite the fact that certain regions of the earth are already experiencing the effects of climate change and global warming, there are a number of actions that can be carried out to lessen these impacts and impede any further climate change and global warming.
The most important recommendation is for the affected regions of planet earth to adapt to the transformations that have occurred. The current build up of Green House Gases implies that some level of climate change is unavoidable and governments must put in place plans to adapt the financial and social systems to the expected transformations.
It is also very important for every government around the world to collaborate with the relevant policy making agents so as to establish policies and regulations that will bring about a reduction in the emissions currently responsible for climate change and global warming.
In addition to this, governments in different parts of the world need to increase their funding of projects aimed at investigating the concept of climate change and global warming so as to come up with adequate data to inform policies and strategies of climate change and global warming prevention and/or adaptation.
As already indicated in this paper, one of the most urgent issues in the public agenda of different governments in all parts of the world is the issue of climate change and global warming. A majority of the modern day scientists and environmental experts are in consensus that the temperatures of the earth have increased in the last century and that the carbon dioxide gas is one of the major greenhouse gases that has contributed greatly to the issue of global warming. This paper has described in detail the chronological accounts of the phenomena of global warming and climate change as well as the different discoveries and findings that have been made by experts through out the 19th to 21st centuries. In addition to this, this paper has analyzed and clearly described the concepts of climate change and global warming. While climate change is described as the long term transformations that occur in the ambience or weather patterns in particular region or planet global is described as the transformations that occur in the average global temperature of the earth. This research paper has then discussed the different factors that bring about climate change and global warming; these include emission of greenhouse gases by human activities such as farming,
industrialization and deforestation. The concept of “greenhouse effect” has also been deliberated upon. The greenhouse effect occurs when the greenhouse gases responsible for the recycling of energy to and from the earth are absent from the atmosphere and the temperatures on the surface of the earth increase. Different greenhouse gases have been described followed by a detailed description of the impacts of climate change and global warming, global response to climate change and a number of recommendations.
In spite of the fact that climate change and global warming has becoming a very worrying phenomenon in the present day, and is expected to remain so into the future, It is also very important for every government around the world to collaborate with the relevant policy making agents so as to establish policies and regulations that will bring about a reduction in the emissions currently responsible for climate change and global warming.
10.0.0 Work Cited
Cato Institute: Cato Handbook for Policy Makers, (2009), pp. 475- 488
Doney, S.C., K. Lindsay, I. Fung, and J. John: Natural Variability in a Stable, 1000-Yr Global
Coupled Climate–Carbon Cycle Simulation, Journal of Climate, 19, (2006), pp. 3033–3054
Karl, T.R., J.M. Melillo, and T.C. Peterson, eds: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United
States, Cambridge University Press, (2009)
Lockwood, Mike: Solar Change and Climate: An Update in Light of the Current Exceptional
Solar Minimum, Proceedings of the Royal Society A, (2009)
Moser, Susanne, C: Communicating Climate Change: History, Challenges, Process and Future
Directions, John Willey and Sons, (2010), pp. 31-40
Readinger, Christopher: Climate Models and Global Climate Change, Proquest Discovery
Guides, pp. 1-12
Weart, Spencer: The Discovery of Global Warming, Harvard University Press, (2004) 200 p