You’ve heard this often in the past and more so even now. So what is climate change, really? Some of you may say that the change in the Earth’s climate is nothing new and has been happening since time immemorial.
It was in fact, climate change that ended the Ice Age and gave birth to human civilization. So why is it such a big deal now?
If COVID-19 does not kill us, climate change will, world leaders at this year’s United Nations have acknowledged that the bane of climate change is for real.
Climate change is basically the alteration in the Earth’s climate due to atmospheric changes and the interconnection between the atmosphere and various factors of the Earth’s ecosystem that is affected by humans.
Say, for instance, Siberia recording the warmest temperature on record this year, major chunks of ice sliding into the sea, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forestlands burnt to ashes from forest fires are among the aftereffects of our lifestyle that is equal to digging our own graves.
So, standing at this age and time, what are we supposed to keep in mind about climate change? There’s so much to it, that oftentimes it is beyond the comprehension of an average educated person to grasp all aspects of climate change.
Here are seven principal factors of climate change that are minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day inching the world closer to a cliff, a fall from where would be every-bit macabre.
Global Industrialization –
– has increased the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels significantly for the past 150 years. To be specific, from around 288 parts per million in 1870, the atmospheric CO2 levels have increased to 412 parts per million in 2020, which is a massive gain.
There is also significant evidence to prove that various greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and others, produced as a result of human activities have played a major role in global warming which means rising the sensitive mean average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere that sustains life.
This means while we continue to increase pollution levels through increased use of fossil fuels, our Earth gets warmer and even a degree more or a degree less (which is not the case) could spell disaster beyond comprehension.
Infrastructure Projects –
– are yet another factor to be considered. While development and advancement in public infrastructures are imperative, there needs to be a check on such projects so that they don’t disturb the ecological balance.
The Aarey Colony dispute in Mumbai is a strong case in point. The MMRCL (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited) has been keen on chopping down the Aarey forest and building a metro car shed in its place. Allegedly, 2141 trees have been felled to pave way for this prestigious project.
But at what cost? The Aarey forest, a breath of fresh air in the concrete jungle of Mumbai, is home to 86 species of butterfly, 90 species of spider, 46 species of reptiles, 34 species of wildflower, and nine leopards.
Any construction project here, according to environmentalists endangers the city’s green cover and would severely damage the rich biodiversity.
Another deadly man-made contributor to climate change and global warming is Plastic. While an integral part of modern life, this human invention is no-way environmental friendly, at least not in numbers used in present times.
Plastic not only chokes water bodies and degrades the soil quality, but also contributes to global warming. Strikingly, research has found plastics emit CO2 as a result of baking under the sun from being strewn around, which is a very common occurrence.
Research also suggests that Nuclear Testing may have impacted rainfall and led to climate change and global warming.
The evidence for climate change and global warming is plenty. It isn’t a myth. We have set the earth on a dangerous path and if left uncontrolled, we are on our way to mass extinction.
Greta Thunberg’s hard-hitting speech and activism have finally got the entire world talking about and acknowledging this impending danger.
The rise in Global Temperatures
Since the 19th century, the earth’s average surface temperature has increased significantly by 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit. The major contributor driving this change is the increase in carbon dioxide and other emissions that are caused due to various human activities.
In 2015, the historic Paris Climate agreement was signed by all countries of the world, with a goal to limit the global rise of temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial times. But unfortunately, the present scene of the world shows it will surpass that mark, scientists believe.
What is more worrying, the US is set to ditch the agreement on November 4, a move hugely criticized by environmentalists and influential media around the world. The US is the leader emitter of CO2 in the developed world.
While this year’s pandemic has recoded a drastic drop in global CO2 emissions, but that is momentary compared to the time it has been increasing beyond the suggested levels, since IR.
Ice Sheets are Shrinking, Glaciers Melting
The mass of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have shown a significant decline. The damage is so bad that even if global warming was to stop, the ice sheet in Greenland would continue to shrink. It has reached a point of no return.
The rate of ice sheet melting in Antarctica has been thrice than what it was in 2000. Glaciers in mount Kilimanjaro have melted almost 80% since 1912.
The Garhwal Himalaya glaciers are melting at an alarming rate and may be gone by 2035. All across the globe, glaciers and ice sheets continue to melt and disappear.
This only means sea levels will continue to rise alarmingly, submerging the earth under water.
The rise in Global Sea Levels
Melting ice and snow cover eventually has resulted in the rise in global sea levels. The rate at which sea levels rose in the last two decades, is almost twice that of the last century and continues at an accelerating rate every year.
Over the course of the years, we have only experienced an increase in floods, cyclones, typhoons, and other natural disasters. The wildfires in Siberia, Alaska, Canary Islands, Australia, and the Amazon rainforest were a result of extreme heat.
Why go far? Where I live, in Goa, we enjoy a tropical climate with the summers being breezy and sunny and monsoons bringing in relief from the sweltering heat of the summers.
However, over the past few years, we’ve seen the summers becoming unbearable. A heatwave, something that was unheard of in a place like Goa, was predicted in the month of May 2020.
Monsoons, quite often than not, are now characterized by cyclone warnings and thunderstorms.
Acidification of Ocean Waters
The acidic content of ocean waters has increased by around 30% since the Industrial Revolution. This has been due to us, humans, emitting more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
In our quest for development and modernization, we have destroyed our planet, rather than protecting it and making it worth living. Some of the damage done is irrevocable and cannot be reversed.
Yet, there may be a chance at saving Mother Earth. What we need to do is make small yet calculated and educated efforts in righting the wrongs we have done.
Avoiding the use of fossil fuels, recycling, or refusing to use plastic, driving fuel-efficient cars and vehicles could help us achieve the much needed balance.
Industrialists and world leaders need to come together and work on reducing the emission levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Policies for environment protection are equally important and the need of the hour.
With each and everyone doing our bit, we can slow down or limit some of the adverse effects of this global apocalypse that we have set in motion.