Causes and Effects of Climate Change.
Causes and Effects of Climate Change
Climate change is the change in weather conditions over time. It is indicated by changes in rainfall, winds, temperature, and other indicators (Canada 1). It involves both shifts in the normal conditions and shifts in the extreme conditions like hurricanes (Canada 1). The earth’s energy balance (balance between incoming and outgoing energy) regulates the long-term state and temperatures of the earth and this makes the earth’s climate vary on all time scales (Canada 1).
Therefore, anything that causes a substantial and sustained change to the energy balance can cause climate change. These factors are called climate forcers because they create the idea that they push or force the climate into a new extended state, which can be cooler or warmer (Canada 1). Factors that have caused climate change in the past are not necessarily relevant in the modern day climate change. This is because the various factors operate differently. Climate change is mainly caused by two categories of factors; natural causes and human activity. Further, changes internal to the climate system can also affect the climate for a short period leading to a long-term change in the climate (Canada 1). The effects of climate change vary from rising seas, severe droughts to searing heat that all have a social and economic impact on the populous (Desonie 1).
Natural factors, which are factors outside of the climate system such as volcanic activity and solar output, have been known to affect the earth’s climate. Volcanic activity and solar radiation are the key natural factors that have caused modern day climate change. These factors help determine the amount of incoming energy that in turn affects the earth’s energy balance. Volcanic activity is episodic and its impacts on the climate are relatively short term. The changes in solar radiation have contributed to the climate shifts over the years but since the Industrial Revolution, the changes in the sun’s output has been overwhelmed by the emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere (“Causes of Climate Change” 1). The addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere has been over 50 times that of changes in the Sun’s output (“Causes of Climate Change” 1).
Human activities include burning of fossil fuels and converting land for forestry and agriculture. These activities and their impact on climate systems began during the Industrial Revolution and they have increased exponentially over the years (“Causes of Climate Change” 1). Human activities change the land surface and introduce various substances into the atmosphere which in turn affect the amount of incoming and outgoing energy. When the earth’s energy balance is influenced, it can lead to both cooling and warming effects on the climate.
Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is the main product of burning fossil fuels. The emission of gas such as carbon dioxide, methane and other green house gases results in the absorption of energy and slows heat loss from the Earth’s surface to the atmosphere (Desonie 1). This has had an overall warming effect on the Earth.
Continued emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has led to the continuation of the natural greenhouse effect (Ebadi 1). The human driven greenhouse effect is of concern as the ongoing greenhouse gases emissions can potentially warm the earth to unprecedented levels. These changes have far reaching effects and consequences that can span generations.
Short-Lived and Long-Lived Climate Forcers
Short-lived and long-lived climate forcers refer to those factors that have a long or short atmospheric life (“Causes of Climate Change” 1). For example carbon dioxide is a very long-lived gas. This means that it continues to influence climate change because it stays a long time in the atmosphere. Human activities like industrial processes however, emit other substances like nitrous oxide that act as climate forcers.
Short-lived climate forcers have a shorter atmospheric time because they do not stay long in the atmosphere. Their effect on the climate is therefore short-lived. Continued emissions of short-lived climate forcers leads to continued climate forcing (“Causes of Climate Change” 1). Reduced emissions however will lead to their reduced level in the atmosphere. Short-lived climate forcers have warming effects when they’re put together and they’re the most important contributors to the human driven greenhouse effect after carbon dioxide. The most notable short-lived climate forcers that have a cooling effect are sulphate aerosols (“Causes of Climate Change” 1). The cooling effect created by sulphate aerosols has negated some of the warming effects caused by other substances.
Effects of Climate Change
Climate change affects all facets of life from health, environment to the economic structure of the world (Ebadi 1). Climate change leads to flooding and severe droughts that in turn affect the supply of water for farming and industry (Desonie 1). Oceans play a major role in maintaining the balance of the earth’s climates. The ocean conveyor belt (collective ocean currents and circulations) distributes heat throughout earth making it a corresponding factor to atmospheric influences on earth’s climate system, which directly influences precipitation patterns (Ebadi 1). Altered precipitation patterns cause flooding in some areas and droughts in others. This affects the agricultural yields, which in turn contribute to world hunger challenges.
Climate change is responsible for searing heat, rising seas, and ferocious fires, that have detrimental social and economic effects (Desonie 1). Droughts have been known to increase wild fires which end up having a negative financial impact on many economies. Some cities have been developed on lowlands and the increasing sea levels due to rapidly melting glaciers and increased water temperatures have increased the risks of flooding and erosion (Ebadi 1). These cities are vulnerable to sinking below sea level.
Fluctuating precipitation patterns have an impact on the fresh water supply therefore affecting the social determinants of health such as safe drinking water and clean air (Desonie 1). Filling the atmosphere with pollutants has given rise to increased respiratory illnesses (Ebadi 1). This directly strains the health systems. Climate change has also interfered with the theory of natural selection (Ebadi 1). So many species especially of birds are at risk of extinction thanks to the changing rate of extreme weather conditions, which affects their migration patterns, their mating seasons and their food resources (Ebadi 1). Continued climate change will lead to an inevitable marine extinction event as evidenced by research done by marine scientists in June 2011 (Ebadi 1). In conclusion, we can slow down climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by adapting better ethical practices daily. Conscious decisions made can reduce carbon emissions from reaching the atmosphere and reduce the amount of fresh water being wasted.