There has been a consensus among the scientific community after decades of research that human activity is responsible for the rapid rise in global temperature due to the industrial and technological revolution which brought about the discovery of fossil fuels. By burning these fossil fuels, an increase in Greenhouse Gas Emissions has taken place (DiMento and Doughman). There has been much debate regarding the reality and legitimacy of climate change but the sheer fact that climate change has become more apparent since the industrial revolution indicates that over 90 percent of the said changes hold human beings and their activities responsible for upsetting of a balance which has culminated in extreme weather conditions and food and water shortages.
This essay will discuss the meaning of climate and climate change, explanations for climate change, consequences of climate change and will enlist the reasons that people still debate about the legitimacy of such a change. It will discuss all these factors in detail and will argue that climate change is very much real and due to human activity, it is increasing rapidly, leading to many risks and dangers being posed for life on Earth.
Some prospects and solutions for the future will also be discussed.
Climate is not just one specific entity, rather it is a combination of several different systems coming together to form one, balanced whole. The Climate system comprises of oceans, land, trees, and atmosphere (DiMento and Doughman). All these work together to maintain a balance in the environment that, in turn, facilitates life.
Nature has provided well for Earth. These systems have always complemented each other and made the task of maintaining a stable temperature of Earth look easy and effortless (DiMento and Doughman). All that has been changed since mankind has learned to use fossil fuels. Studies that have been conducted since decades have found a very disturbing pattern: since the industrial revolution, there has been a very rapid increase in the Earth’s climate owing to the burning of fossil fuels and Green House Gas emissions (DiMento and Doughman). This essay will discuss all the reasons and explanations of climate change along with the consequences that it may bring. Solutions and prospects will be discussed. It will be argued that climate change is not debatable, it is real.
At the head of the industrial revolution, the discovery of fossil fuels meant that humans found an inexhaustible treasure trove of resources that were born out of life that had been trapped inside the ground for countless centuries. The use of fossil fuels resulted in the emission of greenhouse gases (DiMento and Doughman). Greenhouse gas emissions have one very important gas that is implicated in the rapidly escalating climate change i.e. carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide was meant by nature to keep the Earth’s temperature warm enough to not be frigid. Recent human activity has increased the carbon levels in the atmosphere. These gases trap the heat that is supposed to be reflected from the atmosphere after a part of it has been absorbed by the atmosphere, land, and oceans (DiMento and Doughman). Climate change is mainly a change in the way heat is distributed and redistributed throughout the planet. As solar radiations fall upon the Earth, some of the heat energy is absorbed by the atmosphere, land, and oceans while the rest of it is reflected back. This is nature's way of maintaining an optimal temperature (DiMento and Doughman). But this balance has been skewed since the industrial revolution and uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases. As they trap the heat, the temperature of the planet rises.
This increased temperature disturbs many cycles. Oceans absorb 50 percent more heat than land, leading to thermal expansion and rising sea levels. Massive floods are a result of rising sea levels. Moreover, on land, there is a different story (Richardson). The delicate natural balance in heat distribution is maintained because different regions of land absorb different amounts of heat. This gives rise to winds and rainfall. What global warming does is that it disturbs this meticulously planned balance so that certain chains of the events are triggered that result in extreme weather patterns, food, and water shortages (Richardson). Nature has been thrown out of balance and research clearly shows that the effect has been marked since industrial activity has increased on the planet and the world has started to burn fossil fuels to obtain energy.
Emission of greenhouse gases is not the only cause of global warming. Trees are a very important part of the biosphere and are responsible for maintaining a stable water cycle by preserving moisture in the environment. Trees are responsible for the majority of transpiration of water from the ground into the atmosphere (Richardson). This results in the maintenance of moisture in the atmosphere and also results in changes in air pressure which cause clouds to be formed and transported to lands. This rainfall replenishes the soil. Trees are the reason that life can be sustained on Earth. But the recent increase in deforestation has highlighted the disturbances in the climate system that this dwindling number of trees has caused (Richardson). As trees are cut, the soil loses its anchor, and sooner or later, a deforested area turns into a barren desert due to a mixture of dry seasons, excessive flooding, and the washing away of soil.
There are many consequences of climate change that differ from region to region. Many different implications of climate change may look random but they are not, if properly understood. As it has been mentioned earlier, climate change is brought about by a change in the way that heat gets distributed and redistributed in oceans, on land and in the atmosphere (Richardson). Because different regions absorb different amounts of heat, wind patterns, moisture levels, and warming may increase or decrease. There may be excessive rainfall, flooding, or persistent dry seasons or drought. The most important thing to remember is that the climate is thrown out of balance so that extreme weather conditions become common. Floods, hurricanes, and natural disasters become more frequent as do the droughts and desertification (Richardson). There is no respite for any region though. In the presence of global warming, every region is at risk, whether from excessive rains or absence of these rains.
Both excessive and inadequate moisture proves to be fatal for agriculture. This, coupled with the fact that deforestation is on the rise, contributes to the evermore absence of trees and subsequent infertility of previously fertile land. It is not as if climate change is random, it just comes at the biosphere from all different aspects (Richardson). Food shortage due to extreme weather and water shortage due to dry conditions both can rise to alarming levels. Climate change does not only result in anomalous weather patterns but also disease and sickness.
As deforestation grows, natural habitats of various wildlife animals get disturbed so much that these species are forced to come in contact with other wildlife species and with humans. This contact is the ideal environment for birth and transfer of various novel viruses that threaten to plague the animal kingdom, including human beings (Tomkiewicz). These viruses spread at an alarming rate, leaving disaster and death in their wake. The most recent example is that of the COVID-19 crisis. A world where climate change has been blown so out of proportion is a world fighting desperately for survival at every front, be it food, water, civilization, or disease (Tomkiewicz). One very important outcome of all this disturbance is an economic upheaval that ripples all through the globalized world as a result of natural catastrophes or diseases. It has been predicted that climate change has the potential to seriously threaten the world’s economy.
Fossil fuels, when burnt, cause an increase in the Carbon footprint of the region. The reason is that, it is extremely hard to find and switch to alternative sources as the entire human life has become dependent on fossil fuels. Even from a sustainability point of view, fossil fuels are finite and will, one day, end. Their combustion is also threatening the environment while they are being used (Tomkiewicz). To find alternative sources, the entire fabric of the world will have to be shifted to clean, green, and renewable energy alternatives such as solar energy. The amount of time that the shift may need is being prolonged due to political interests and problems. It is quite difficult to find a way around such issues because they are multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. For example, if solar energy is to be harnessed, resources have to be invested in the equipment needed and the skills required for effectively doing it (Tomkiewicz). Also, nothing is possible without policies to back these efforts upon a large scale. Policies tend to become self-serving for the elite and the powerful.
Poverty and politics are the two main causes of deforestation. Poor people use the woodcut from trees to sell or to burn as fuel source. Trees are also cut to gain more land for agriculture by those whose livelihood depends on agriculture. This is rather ironic because it is counterproductive (Tomkiewicz). Agriculture cannot survive in the absence of trees. Once trees are cut, they take the rich nutrients away with them and the soil is left barren. Any agricultural venture will prove to be unsustainable on such a piece of land as crops will not be able to grow after the first few cycles (Tomkiewicz). On the political front, many governments themselves are directly or indirectly involved in the clearing of tropical rainforests to increase urbanization and invest in housing.
This is a complicated web of motives that range from helplessness to exploitation. National economies of various countries are engaged in large scale production of products that are made from cutting of trees (Tomkiewicz). There are corporate organizations at the helm of these initiatives and they are more often than not backed by political funding. Palm oil and wood are the biggest exports for which forests are being eliminated forever (Tomkiewicz). There is an entire market for these products that is very hard to target because it is largely based on exploitation and self-interest.
There is still a lot of public debate surrounding climate change even though the scientific community has come together countless times to categorically state that climate change is happening more rapidly than it was supposed to and it is causing damage as we speak. There could be many reasons for this cynical behavior (Tomkiewicz). Firstly, climate change is hard to understand. There is an immense volume of jargon and technical language involved, not to mention the hardcore science that few among the laymen understand. These are complex concepts shrouded in even more complicated statistics. It is hard to grasp them and make them seem relevant to everyday life. Secondly, climate change is not uniform. There is no one fixed way that climate change can affect the environment. In fact, at various places, the manifestations seem contradictory at best and random at worst. They are very hard to connect to climate change by the non-scientific community (Tomkiewicz). Thirdly, due to a large body of literature and its tendency to sound cumbersome and contradictory, people tend to think that climate change is something that even the scientific community has no consensus on.
Reducing carbon emissions has become a monologue. Also, decreased forestation has been shown to help with climate change reversal in several regions. Efforts can be made to invest in the equipment and skills needed to start using alternative sources of energy. When resources are talked about, one recent concept sums it all up: sustainability. Sustainability represents a lot of solutions to the world’s problems by proposing that all resources need to be replenished as they are used (Tomkiewicz). There is a level of respect and care that nature requires from life on Earth. This respect demands that nature has to be replenished regularly so it does not run out of all that it has to offer to the biosphere. Indeed, sustainability has found its applications in every avenue of life. Sustainability has demanded that alternative sources of energy be used so that no finite resources are utilized (Tomkiewicz). Moreover, it discourages deforestation by teaching to live in harmony with nature.
Sustainability is a change in attitudes at both micro and macro levels. This change entails making smart entrepreneurship choices that invest in renewable resources and biodegradable alternatives. It is the only concept that understands that climate change is a chain of events and it has to be approached from many different angles if the world hopes to emerge victorious in a war with the threat that it has posed to itself (Tomkiewicz). Making sustainable choices can also be at an individual level where people can choose to limit their carbon footprint, invest in reforestation and local, small scale businesses so that resources do not have to be exploited by international outsourcing and whatever revenues are generated can be reinvested locally. There is a concept of living as simply and as close to nature as possible (Tomkiewicz). Although sustainability has become a litany in recent times, there is still a long way to go because most of the people globally tend to live the same industrialized life with everyday carbon emissions and an abundance of possessions that no one cares if they were manufactured at a cost of the environment.
Largely, climate change policies encourage businesses to be environment friendly and invest in renewable resources at a larger scale, which is what the world needs right now (Sending et al.). The Paris agreement is an optimistic step in the right direction but most of the countries are falling short of their goals of reduced carbon emissions and sustainability. This is a result of the fact that the world has come to run on fossil fuels (Sending et al.). Most of the world's economy runs on oil which is fossil fuel. To break free, sincere efforts are needed which are devoid of any hypocrisy and are purely based on good intentions towards the environment.
Climate change is rapid, persistent, and very real. It is something that will and is intimately impacting every individual's life at present. It is masked because people tend to care more about the most immediate problems. This is insidious but that does not make it any less harmful for the environment (Sending et al.). It has affected the environment in grave ways. The number of hurricanes that the world saw in the last few years is one stark example. Drought in areas where there is a shortage of water, thirst and hunger are other predicaments that the world faces. There is no reason to not believe in climate change. The question is that even if it is assumed that nature itself balances everything out (Le Chantelier’s law), there is no assurance of which method it will adopt to do so. There could be a mass extinction of the human species on the horizon (Sending et al.). No one is ready to face the dangers of climate change as they get more serious by the hour. No one can sustain the harsh realities that will hit if the situation remains the way it is. The few initiatives that are being taken are not enough in the face of the damage that has been and is still being done. Collective action by international cooperation and a lifestyle change at the micro-level can change prospects for the better (Sending et al.). For this, awareness and education on the matter of environmental sustainability is required.