What is Climate Change, Meaning, Definition, Effects of Climate Change, Causes of Climate Change

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Global climate change is the long-term shift in weather patterns globally. It is a holistic concept which refers to the changes in a region’s overall weather patterns including precipitation, temperature, cloud cover and other such conditions which prevail for a longer period of time.

The concept emphasises on the change in Earth’s average temperature. Weather includes the short-term changes witnessed in a region’s temperature, humidity, clouds and precipitation etc. The weather may vary froin one day to another and morning to evening. However, the climate is the weather condition prevailing over an area for a longer period of time.

Evidences of Climate Change

There are several indicators to show that climate is changing. Some of them are mentioned below :

•According to the scientists the accumulation of heat in the oceans is the strongest evidence of how fast Earth is warming. In recent years, oceans have absorbed 90% of the extra heat trapped by increasing greenhouse gases.

• Lower troposphere temperature as measured by satellites showed that 2010 was the warmest decade. The specific humidity has risen with change in temperature which indicates that the climate is changing.

• Sea level has risen at an accelerating rate. There have been net loss of ice from glaciers worldwide. Northern Hemisphere snow cover has also decreased in recent decades.

•Changes in rainfall and weather patterns also indicate towards the climate change. .

• The climate change phenomena made favourable conditions for desert locusts to breed consists of moist sand and green vegetation in the desert region of Africa and Arabian Peninsula.

• Other factors like earlier unfolding of new leaves in spring, changes in bird migration patterns etc also show that climate is changing,

Factors Responsible for Climate Change

The Earth’s climate is dynamic and always changing through a natural cycle but the climate changes that are occuring today have been speeded up because of man’s activities. The causes of climate change can be divided into two categories-Natural and Man-made.

Natural Causes

There are a number of natural factors responsible for climate change. Some of them are as follows

•Continental Drift

The continents that we are familiar today are parts of large landmass that began gradually drifting apart, millions of years back. This drift of continents continue even today and has an impact on climate because it changed the physical features of the landmass, their position and the position of water bodies. For instance, the Himalayan range is rising by about 1 mm every year because the Indian landmass is moving towards the Asian landmass, slowly but steadily.

• Volcanoes

When a volcano erupts, it throws cut large volume of SO 2, water vapour, dust and ash into the atmosphere. These gases and ash can influence climate patterns for years.

• Ocean Currents and La Nina and El Nino Effects

Ocean currents have been known to change direction or slow down and hence have an impact on the climate. The fluctuations in El Nino and La Nina lead to the interaction between the oceans and the atmosphere resulting in the variaton of global temperature. Such variations last for several days and hence impact the climate.

• Geothermal Energy

The geothermal energy produced due to the heat and decay of radioactive compounds below the surface of the earth is one of the contributing factors to the rising temperatures.

Human Causes

There are several human factors which lead to climate change. Some of them are as follows

• Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution in the 19th century saw the large-scale use of fossil fuels for industrial activities. The burning of fossil fuel is the largest source of greenhouse gases. It was responsible for rise in global temperature.

• Deforestation

More and more land that was covered with vegetation has been cleared to make way for houses. Natural resources are being used extensively for construction, industries, transport and consumption. These are the factors responsible for global warming.

• Greenhouse Gases Effect

Anything that has an impact on the amount of energy being absorbed and radiated from the sun is a contributor to the global climate change. One such process is the greenhouse gas effect which leads to the global warming. The human activities have led to the rise in greenhouse gases which have resulted in global warming. The GHGs have the potential to trap the heat from the atmosphere and keep the earth warm. Besides deforestation, emissions from the vehicles and industrial effluents are some of the causes of the rising of GHGs in the atmosphere.

Effects of Climate Change

Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.

Climate change has resulted in more heat waves, droughts, floods or intense rain. The rising ocean temperature and acidity seriously impacts the existence of flora and fauna in marine ecosphere. Due to melting of glaciers and subsequent rise in sea level the future of port cities looks grim which can impact millions worldwide.

Climate change is likely to contribute substantially to food insecurity in the future by increasing food prices and reducing food production. Due to increase in extreme weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, heavy rainfall and heat waves, the extent and frequency of vector borne diseases may increase.

Climate change also result in enhanced land degradation and expansion of sub-tropical deserts. Ocean acidification due to climate change also poses a serious threat to underwater life, particularly creatures with calcified shells or skeletons like oysters, clams and corals.

Climate change create an imbalance in the natural ecosystem by disruption in timing of seasonal life cycle events, range shifts and food web of many species. There will be an affect on the basis necessities such as water supplies, air quality and supply of electricity.

Suggestions and Initiatives

All these hint towards a dire need of the urgent steps to be taken in order to reduce the greenhouse effect. People can make a difference by changing their everyday habits and lifestyle. The problem of global warming can be controlled by minimising the emission of greenhouse gases into the environment.

To secure water supplies, societies have traditionally used ‘grey infrastructure such as pipelines, dams and man-made reservoirs. However, ‘green infrastructure’ uses natural or semi-natural systems to provide similar benefits with positive long-term environmental consequences.

First the Amazon, then California, then Australia-wildfires were catastrophic in 2019. Our preventive efforts to reduce the spread of wildfires often involve the removal of forests to create a firebreak (a strip of land devoid of flora). It can be reduced if we promote and work for reforestation.

Cities are significantly warmer than the surrounding countryside. This ‘urban heat island effect has many causes. Urban tree cover is a win-win solution for our cities. Trees cool the surrounding air by releasing water through their leaves.

By 2050 sea levels could be so high that 300 million people in coastal communities will face severe floods every year. There are some coastal ecosystems that can act as cost-effective seawalls. Mangrooves and coral reefs, for instance, cause waves to break before they hit the shore. With this, there would be minimal destruction of lives and properties.

Steps Taken by Government of India

In the recent past the Government has taken number of initiatives to combat the challenge of climate change. Some of the key initiatives of Government of India include the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), National Adaptation Fund on Climate Change (NAFCC), Climate Change Action Programme (CCAP) and State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC).

Further, the ambitious goal of generating 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, smart cities, electric vehicles, energy efficiency initiatives, leapfrogged from Bharat Stage-IV to Bharat Stage-VI emission norms by April 2020 etc., have been undertaken proactively to minimise the impact of climate change.

UN Initiative in Fight Against Climate Change

At global stage, IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was founded in 1988 by the World Meterological Organisation (WMO) and UNEP jointly as a place to study global warming problems at a governmental level. In 1994, UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) came into force and is considered as the Parent Treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Their objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. Later initiatives include REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). REDD+, establishment of Green Climate Fund, etc.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement came up in 2015 within the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a giant leap in this direction. Under the agreement, the countries are expected to set their own target for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Here the target is not to give legal binding commitment, but the countries need to update them every five years. The agreement is scheduled to go into effect from 2020. More than 60 countries at UN Action Summit 2019 on 21st September, 2019 agreed to revise contributions to fight against greenhouse gas emissions.

Conclusion

Restoring and protecting nature is one of the greatest strategies for tackling climate change. It not only sucks carbon dioxide out the air but forests, wetlands and other ecosystems act as buffers against extreme weather, protecting crops, water resources and vital infrastructures. Thus, there is a need to put check on and contain the rising menace of climate change with the joint efforts of the people, countries and the global environment regulators so that the problem of global climate change can be reversed.

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