What is climate change? A really simple guide
Scientists say global warming could have a catastrophic effect on the planet.
Human activities have increased carbon-dioxide emissions, driving up temperatures. Extreme weather and melting polar ice are on the list of possible effects.
What is climate change?
The Earth’s average temperature is approximately 15C but has been much higher and lower in the past.
There are natural fluctuations into the climate but scientists say temperatures are now rising faster than at many other times.
This can be linked to the greenhouse effect, which describes how the Earth’s atmosphere traps some of the Sun’s energy.
Solar energy radiating back once again to space from the Earth’s surface is absorbed by greenhouse gases and re-emitted in all directions.
This heats both the lower atmosphere and the surface of the planet. Without this effect, the Earth would be about 30C colder and hostile to life.
Scientists believe we are adding to the natural greenhouse effect, with gases released from industry and agriculture trapping more energy and increasing the temperature.
This can be known as climate change or global warming.
What are greenhouse gases?
The greenhouse gas with the greatest impact on warming is water vapour. But it remains into the atmosphere for only a few days.
Carbon dioxide (CO2), however, persists for much longer. It could take hundreds of years for a return to pre-industrial levels and only so much can be soaked up by natural reservoirs including the oceans.
Most man-made emissions of CO2 come from burning fossil fuels. When carbon-absorbing forests are cut down and left to rot, or burned, that stored carbon is released, contributing to global warming.
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Since the Industrial Revolution began in about 1750, CO2 levels have risen more than 30%. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years.
Other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide are also released through human activities but they are less abundant than carbon dioxide.
What is the evidence for warming?
The entire world is approximately one degree Celsius warmer than before widespread industrialisation, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says.
The 20 warmest years on record all occurred in the past 22 years, with 2015-18 making up the top four.
Across the globe, the average sea level increased by 3.6mm per year between 2005 and 2015.
Nearly all of this change was because water increases in volume as it heats up.
However, melting ice is currently thought to be the main reason for rising sea levels. Most glaciers in temperate elements of the world are retreating.
And satellite records show a dramatic decline in Arctic sea-ice since 1979. The Greenland Ice Sheet has experienced record melting in modern times.
Satellite data also shows the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is losing mass. A recent study indicated East Antarctica may also have started to lose mass.
The effects of a changing climate can also be noticed in vegetation and land animals. These include earlier flowering and fruiting times for plants and changes in the territories of animals.
Simply how much will temperatures rise in future?
The change into the global surface temperature between 1850 additionally the end of the 21st Century is likely to exceed 1.5C, most simulations suggest.
The WMO says that if the current warming trend continues, temperatures could rise 3-5C by the end with this century.
Temperature rises of 2C had long been considered to be the gateway to dangerous warming. More recently, scientists and policymakers have argued that limiting temperature rises to 1.5C is safer.
Media captionClimate change: How 1.5C could change the entire world
An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2018 suggested that keeping to the 1.5C target would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.
The UN is leading a political effort to stabilise greenhouse-gas emissions. China emits more CO2 than any other country. It is followed by the US and the thesis statement of global warming European Union member states, although emissions per person are much greater there.
But even if we now cut greenhouse-gas emissions dramatically, scientists say the effects will continue. Large bodies of water and ice can take hundreds of years to respond to changes in temperature. Also it takes CO2 decades to be taken from the atmosphere.
How will climate change affect us?
There was uncertainty about how great the impact of a changing climate will be.
It could cause fresh water shortages, dramatically alter our power to produce food, and increase how many deaths from floods, storms and heatwaves. It is because climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events – though linking any single event to global warming is complicated.
Media captionMatt McGrath explains why we should care about climate change
Whilst the world warms, more water evaporates, leading to more moisture in the air. This means many areas will experience more intense rainfall – and in some places snowfall. But the threat of drought in inland areas during hot summers will increase. More flooding is expected from storms and rising sea levels. But there are likely to be very strong regional variations in these patterns.
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Poorer countries, which are least equipped to deal with rapid change, could suffer the absolute most.
Plant and animal extinctions are predicted as habitats change faster than species can adapt. And the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the health of millions could be threatened by increases in malaria, water-borne disease and malnutrition.
Media captionHow temperatures have risen since 1884
As more CO2 is released into the atmosphere, uptake of the gas by the oceans increases, inducing the water to become more acidic. This might pose major problems for coral reefs.
Global warming will cause further changes that are more likely to create further heating. This includes the release of large quantities of methane as permafrost – frozen soil found mainly at high latitudes – melts.
Responding to climate change will be one of the biggest challenges we face this century.
Into the years ahead, climate change will have a significant impact on every aspect of the daily lives of all human beings — possibly greater even than war. Shifting precipitation patterns and ocean currents could change where and how food crops grow. If icecaps melt and low-lying areas are flooded, as is predicted, entire populations could be forced to go on to higher ground. The tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, provided vivid examples of what large-scale climactic catastrophes entail.
And yet climate change remains low regarding the selection of most countries’ foreign policy concerns and contains yet to be treated as a subject for serious, sustained action. Area of the problem is that the threat still feels abstract. Despite accumulating evidence, the full impact of climate change has not yet been felt; for now, it can only be modeled and forecast. Much of the current planning for meeting this challenge has also had a somewhat abstract feeling. The absolute most prominent action plan devised so far is founded on a lot of economic theory and only a bit of empirical evidence, produced from U.S. efforts to deal with acid rain.
Mobilizing public attention around problems that have not fully manifested themselves has historically been difficult. This was true of the threat of terrorism before the attacks of September 11, 2001, and it will likely be even truer of climate change. Most climactic models now predict continued deterioration, but the signs that are currently visible, including the thawing of the permafrost, lack the drama of two airplanes piercing the World Trade Center. Like the frog into the pan of heating water that does not notice the temperature rising until it is too late, human beings have been lulled into believing that they have many years to deal with climate change. When dramatic changes finally do occur, it will be too late for remedial action.
Climate change is one of the most important global issues facing the entire world today and as such is a popular subject for essay writing assignments. Climate change has the potential to drastically impact the future of the human race, and is intrinsically linked to the water supply across the world. If you are enjoying this sample paper on environmental science, consider ordering a sample paper that discusses the relationship between climate change and fresh water supplies. This sample further offers an argument in favor of new, international efforts to combat climate change. When you have never heard of Ultius, read Ultius reviews in order to find out more about how writing and editing services can help you.
Climate change – A complex issue
The entire world now faces one of the most complex and important issues it has ever had to deal with: climate change. Though this was once an issue that would draw much argument and strife about its creditability, most of the world’s nations can no longer deny that it is a real issue. The impact that humans have had regarding the world has literally changed the climate. Higher temperatures are reported yearly, stronger storms are forming, and some of the planet’s critical nonrenewable resources are being depleted. For all of these changes that, into the end, affect everyone, the nations of the world have not all gone concerning this issue in the same way. Currently, the threat of global climate change does not threaten some towards the same extent as others. The shortsightedness of those that are not yet drastically effected is amongst the most serious issues that the entire world deals with now and fundamental changes should be built to advert a global crisis that everyone may face if no actions are taken. The severity of this matter has rightfully inspired many dissertations.
Water and climate change
One of the most basic resources that has been the absolute most afflicted with climate change is water. Water is an essential component to lots of areas of everyday life. From consumption to production, the application of water is indeed essential that without it, the continuation of human life on this planet would be impossible. It is quite worrisome, therefore, to examine the diminishing amount of usable water for humanity is currently facing. In accordance with Lester R Brown, what we are now experiencing can be seen as analogous to being on an edge, so we seriously face falling off. As he notes, the global population increases by 80 million people annually, and this could be disastrous towards the supply and distribution of water. He states, ‘when water-based food bubbles burst in larger countries, like China and India, they will push up food prices worldwide, forcing a reduction in consumption among those who can least afford it: those who are already spending most of the income on food,’ (Brown, 2011).
What is worth noting about Lester’s point is that those that are regarding the bottom rung of society’s wealth may be, and so are already currently, the absolute most vunerable to this problem. Those in poorer nations are often looked at with sympathy for their lack of the basic necessities of life, but in the end of the day, little is done to improve their situations. Take the declaration for declaring water as a basic human right. Under this proposal, water would be declared as a basic human right and the UN would set forth procedures and guidelines to simply help provide it to those countries where scarcity of water is a pending issue (PLoS Medicine, 2009). This resolution was voted down, exploiting one of the largest hindrances to acts to effect and deal with issues such as climate change: big money.
For the water issue, it should be noted any particular one of the largest issues is that the private water distribution sector is dominated by ‘three multinational companies who neither proved their ability to present sufficient or affordable water source, nor effectively served the poor who suffer most from a lack of clean water,’ and this industrial sector ‘entails a US$400-US$500 billion global water industry,’ (PLoS Medicine, 2009). These companies did not desire to start to see the declaration passed and have done all they could to see it fail. This is simply not an uncommon when it comes to getting money at the cost of global health and safety. If the UN attempted to ‘set voting rules to produce decision-making by large band of treaty members more efficient, a number of OPEC nations blocked the effort,’ (Victor, 2011). When it comes to global action against climate change, it seems evident that economic interests of the immediate future have been placed ahead of the planet’s future.
Water crisis in eastern and central Asia
Nations all over the world have taken their own means to secure the longevity of their homeland, even if it at the expense of others. A great exemplory instance of here is the glacial water supply issue that currently faces eastern and central Asia. As global temperatures rise more and more yearly, the size of the glaciers of the area continue to diminish. For many nations that depend regarding the glaciers as a source of fresh water, the decrease in their size is quite alarming. For these nations (like Indonesia), the next available source of water is through rivers that run through their land, though the flow of said rivers can be altered by other nations. China controls the sources of lots of the rivers of the region and they have been damming up those rivers to keep the majority of the water in their nation. One major concern for these actions is with the relations between China and India. ‘If Beijing follows through on tentative plans to divert the Brahmaputra, it could provoke its rival, India, into the very region where the two countries fought a war in 1926,’ (Larmer) https://shmoop.pro. It seems strange that nations would come to open hostilities over an issue that might be solved by simple negotiations, however it is clear that many of the world’s nations are only concerned with their own safety and future.
Barren lands in Ladakh, IndiaSource: Wiki Global warming causes the land to dry up, creating barren landscapes like the one shown in India. These kinds of environments are generally uninhabitable for humans.
What the world needs now is not conflict and strife between nations but a solution to this issue. The entire world must come together to try to address and solve some of the pressing issues of climate change. This could start with developed nations taking initiative, considering that they are historically the absolute most responsible for this matter. The People’s Agreement lays out some steps that can be taken by these nations. Many of these suggestions include: ‘Assume the costs and technology transfer needs of developing countries arising from the loss of development opportunities due to living in a restrictive atmospheric space,’ or ‘assume responsibility for the hundreds of millions of people which will be forced to migrate as a result of climate change caused by these countries,’ (Peoples Agreement, 2011). Though some of the other solutions offered by this agreement are a bit extreme, the message remains clear: the entire world must accept responsibility for its actions, and we all must do our part to take preventative steps before a global disaster arises from unchecked actions (just click here to read more about the evidence for global warming).
What the entire world needs to do is to truly empower a multinational governmental body to combat these changes facing the planet. The UN, though excellent theoretically, is essentially toothless in inflicting punishments against nations that go against its mandates. An order should be established that not only can lay down actions that must be undertaken by nations, but this agency must have the ability to give meaningful punishment to those that go against its mandates and recommendations. As stated by Bill McKibben, ‘We’ve gone too far down the road we’re traveling. The time has come to sear the map, to strike in new directions,’ (McKibben, 2011). Our actions against global climate change to this point have been ineffective. The developed, wealthy nations of the world have not had to suffer the consequences of climate change the same way that poorer nations have had to, however this may change with the way the entire world has been heading. If our actions go unchecked, the entire world will enter an era where wars may no longer be fought for land and oil but are fought for basic resources such as water.
To address and combat these issues, a fresh, multinational agency should be formed in order to fairly address these issues. As efforts like the Paris climate talks have been productive, it’s clearly not enough. The body will have the ability to force the world to adapt climate change legislature that will no longer be ignored. The options of the world are growing thinner. Should the US heartland see an increase in temperatures as Moscow did in its recent summer, the world could see a 160 million ton loss in grain production (Brown, 2011). This matter is of a magnitude that affects the entire planet and population and no expense should be spared studying it or publishing research papers to keep the citizens of the world informed. As our nonrenewable resources are depleted, the entire world grows closer and closer to facing a crisis associated with the likes never seen before by humanity. We truly now stand on an edge; if actions are not taken to step away from this edge, the future of humanity itself will be in serious question.