Global Climate Change: Greenhouse Gases

Introduction

Overwhelming evidence suggests that recent climate change is a result of human activities. “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal; as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level (L9).” The greenhouse effect, caused by excessive greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is a driver of global warming, and by extension, climate change. The most active gas is carbon dioxide, CO2, released by combusting fossil fuels. Explosive population growth coupled with industrialization has dramatically raised the demand for consumer goods.

Consequently, demand for fossil fuels has risen proportionately. These same factors have also led to deforestation, which reduces the globe’s ability to convert CO2 to oxygen. This conversion happens through the natural process of photosynthesis. “The Greenhouse Effect is a natural and valuable phenomenon, without which, the planet would be uninhabitable (L11).” Logic dictates that a surplus of these same gases would result in deleterious global temperature rise and climate change. The CO2 emissions are primarily from transport fuels, coal for power generation, and water and space heating. Records covering the past 100 years indicate an increase in the level of atmospheric greenhouse gases and global temperature corresponding with human development. “Carbon dioxide has increased by 40 % since the beginning of the industrial revolution (L2).”

Global change effects

“Global change affects terrestrial organisms and ecosystems (L13).” It results in extreme weather patterns witnessed globally. Heatwaves, hurricanes, floods, and droughts, are occurring with increasing intensity and frequency. According to Houghton, the last two decades have been “remarkable for the frequency and intensity of extremes of weather and climate” (2). The global temperature has wreaked destruction on the polar ice caps, icebergs, and glaciers. The resulting meltwaters introduce a tremendous amount of freshwater into the oceans. Consequently, the ocean levels elevate with attendant flooding of low-lying settlements, leading to the displacement of coastal communities. Ocean salinity will also drop significantly.

“Terrestrial systems and organisms are responding to recent changes in climate (L14).” Human health across the globe suffers significantly from climate change. A global temperature rise increases the range of disease vectors like mosquitoes, ticks, and flies, aiding the spread of Malaria and Dengue, and other vector bore diseases. Extreme weather is also certain to negatively impact the affected communities. Nutrition-related maladies will increase due to a decrease in food supplies due to the vagaries of climate change. Higher temperature and altered rainfall regimes are already disrupting agricultural production systems across the world and affecting food security. Climate change has also led to conflict between communities fighting over access to resources and migrating.

Conclusion

Preventative or mitigation campaigns will have to tackle climate change by providing alternative energy sources aimed at reducing emissions to a sustainable level. The renewable energy alternatives include wind power, solar power, biofuels, and hydroelectric power. Considerable savings can be realized from implementing energy-saving solutions. These two approaches are economically feasible because they offer an alternate energy source. Reforestation is also a key mitigating measure. Forests are capable of cleansing the atmosphere of CO2. “Land-use conversions from forests generally cause a loss of carbon to the atmosphere (L4).”