Climate change poses an absolute threat to places, species, and people’s livelihoods. It destabilizes the Earth’s temperature equilibrium and has far-reaching impacts on human beings and the environment. Recurring wildfires, longer periods of drought in some areas, and an upsurge in the number, duration, and intensity of tropical storms are some of the adverse effects of climate change.
What is climate change?
Throughout millions of years, the global climate has undergone fluctuations. Since the advent of industrialization, however, the composition of the atmosphere has changed as an outcome of greenhouse gas emissions. This global warming caused by human beings amplifies the natural greenhouse effect and is leading to noticeable changes to the climate.
The average global surface temperature has already risen by 1.04°C in the last 130 years. According to the scientific reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the substantial boost in global warming since 1950 can no longer be justified by natural climate fluctuations. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO₂) are accountable for this. It penetrates the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, crude oil, and natural gas. Large-scale land use such as the deforestation of tropical rainforests can significantly increase the greenhouse effect as well.
Global Warming Chain Reaction
Rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere can increase air and sea temperatures. It can also decrease the total global snow and ice mass. As an upshot of this, but also due to the increase in the volume of water with rising temperatures, the sea level rises.
As the oceans warm due to an increasing global temperature, seawater expands—taking up more space in the ocean basin and causing a rise in water level. Glaciers and ice sheets will melt over lands which then adds water to the ocean.
Natural cycles in the global climate
Apart from the anthropogenic causes, like those resulting from human activity, the global climate reveals more or less strong fluctuations caused by various natural processes. In general, four different parameters can be named that cause the global climate to fluctuate:
- Changes in incident solar radiation
- Changes in reflected solar radiation
- Changes in thermal radiation emitted into space
- Internal fluctuations of the climate system
Recurrent shifts in the earth’s orbit can occur regularly, at very large intervals of several tens of thousands of years, and high correlations with the climatic changes on earth have been documented. The activity and consequently, the radiation of the sun arriving on earth also vary.
Direct consequences of man-made climate change include:
- increasing maximum temperatures
- ascending minimum temperatures
- rising sea levels
- higher ocean temperatures
- an increase in heavy precipitation (heavy rain and hail)
- shrinking glaciers
- thawing permafrost
Indirect consequences of climate change include:
- an upsurge in hunger and water crises, especially in developing countries
- health hazards through increasing air temperatures and heatwaves
- the economic insinuation of dealing with secondary damage linked to climate change
- the increasing spread of pests and pathogens
- loss of biodiversity due to limited adaptability and adaptability rate of flora and fauna
- ocean acidification due to excessive HCO3 concentrations in the water as a consequence of increased CO₂ concentrations
- the need for transformation in all areas (e.g. agriculture, forestry, energy, infrastructure, tourism, etc.)
The consequences of human-caused global warming are transpiring now. It’s irreversible on the timescale of people living today, and will aggravate in the decades to come. Climate change will greatly affect our health, our safety, and our lives. Many people are already feeling these impacts. And while there are ways to adapt on a personal level, some of these changes are going to become more unbearable and inevitable over time. The soundest way to protect ourselves for the future is to advocate policies and initiatives that cut carbon emissions and improve climate resilience. Don’t be the victim, instead be the victor. This is our planet, this is our home, with our collective efforts, we can save mother earth.