Climate is subject to change, but the rate of change currently is worrying and needs to be addressed. The ozone layer which protects the earth from harmful rays from the sun has continued to be depleted leading to rise in global temperatures and thus global warming. These changes have been brought about by man’s influences on the atmosphere. Greenhouse gasses emissions have increased in the atmosphere leading to more global warming which influences the unusual climatic changes. The effects of industrialization, burning of fossil fuel, deforestation, and adverse pollution have all led to the climate change. The aftermath of it has been destruction of ecosystems and loss of habitats.
With time and given the rates of ecosystem destruction, then human beings will start battles and wars as they compete for natural resources such as water. This paper introduces the understanding of global climatic change and relates it to the global warming and the trends witnessed in of global warming. It gives the fact that climate is subject to change but the rate of change currently raises concerns. It is a discussion of the earth’s climate and outlines major issues and trends on the way climate is recently changing. The greenhouse effect is explained in details. The paper further explains the role of human activities in the climatic change and describes the major impacts that are caused by climatic change. The effects of the climate change on plants and animals are clearly identified since the major impacts are on ecosystems.
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Global warming and climate change
Weather is the atmospheric condition at a specific place and time. It is measured in different parameters such as; wind, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, cloudiness, and precipitation (rain, or snow). Climate is the average pattern of weather in a region. Global climatic change is the change of weather patterns which are in regions and these changes occur in the long run. The earth has in the recent past had major increases in temperatures. As cited in overview of climatic change (para.1) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the average earth’s surface temperatures has increased in the 20th century by a range of 0.6 and this range is varied from 0.8-0.4. Although it may seem as a small shift, the range is too high and the highest over the last 1000 years.
Human activities which promote greenhouse gasses have been on the rise hence the greenhouse gasses trap the heat near the earth’s surface. The greenhouse effect is a process that is responsible for cooling the earth. The suns rays pass through the atmosphere as short wave radiations which are absorbed by the earth’s surface resulting to warming of the earth. The earth’s heated surface emits long wave radiations which move to the atmosphere; these long waves are then absorbed in the atmosphere by the greenhouse gases, which are; carbon dioxide CO2, methane CH4, nitrous oxide N2O, water vapor, tropospheric ozone O3, and chlorofluorocarbons (Edwards, Geoffrey & Clark, 2001 p.14).
The molecules are activated by the long wave radiations which in turn emit heat. This increases the earth’s temperature. This greenhouse effect is responsible for maintaining the average temperature at 600 Fahrenheit and it occurs naturally. It effect is necessary to keep the earth at stable temperatures otherwise the earth would be very cold and inhabitable. The increases of these greenhouse gases however have continued to increase the effect leading to very high temperatures. This has resulted to an increase in average temperatures of the earth and also to changes in weather patterns (Ruddiman, 2001 p.263).
Change in the weather patterns of a region over a long time leads to change in climate of the region although this takes time and can even not be noticed when it occurs naturally. When the climate is stable, then plants, animals and micro-organisms are able to adapt to the climate as it changes naturally. The bad effects of climate change occur when the changes in precipitation and temperatures (weather) occur rapidly over a short period. According to Kreger (2004 para.8), for the last 130 years, the average global temperature have risen from 0.6-1.20 Fahrenheit.
The earth’s history has seen changes in the global temperatures but the current high rapid change has causes of alarm which means that weather patterns are changing leaving organisms extinct, as they do not have enough time to adapt to the new weather changes. The current evidence of the extent of global warming is the East Antarctic ice sheet which accounts for about 90% of the Earth's ice which was considered to be stable evidence shows of its signs of loosing ice at a rate of approximately 57 gigatonnes annually which equates to 57 billion metric tons. This is hypothesized to have begun in 2006 while the western Antarctica losses an estimated 132 gigatonnes translating to 132 billion metric tons of ice annually (NASA, 2009 para.2).
Other changes that have indicated climate change are the vegetation change patterns and sea level changes where it has been proved that the sea levels have risen by 10 to 15 cm over the last one hundred years. If there is continued rise in the sea levels, then there will be adverse effects on the islands which are present for living space at few meters above sea level.
Human activities involved
Acts of man in the influence of global climatic change is very significant. Man has continued to negatively affect the climate and weather patterns through his daily activities. The use of fossil fuel such as coal, oil, and natural gas has increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaching destructive levels this causes global warming through the greenhouse effect. Other activities of man that cause the increase of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere are gas pipelines, rice fields, coal mines, rice paddies, and land fills which increase methane.
Man has also been involved in deforestation. Trees are responsible for balancing the amounts of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. While man claims that the clearing of forest cover is for settlements and making products such as paper from trees the major effects that are hidden in global climatic change which negatively affects his future. The Amazon basin forest is a major example of this deforestation and exploitation which researchers say that it is loosing forty species annually. Industrialization has also had its effects on global warming. It has led to increased gasses in the atmosphere which are harmful to the environment. Gases such as sulphur cause acid rain which makes the land loose vegetation since the acid rain burns the vegetation.
According to Shah (2009, para.27), historically, industrialized countries emits approximately 80% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The US, China, and India have been responsible for most of it, the US accounts for approximately 50.7 billion tons, China 15.7 billion tons and India accounts for 4.2 billion tons. Pollution from the effluents from industries also adversely affects the environment. Despite the intensive campaigns by the environmental activists and the affected nations in the world on the need to protect the environment, these developed and rapidly developing countries have been actively accelerating the emissions to the atmosphere with impunity. For instance, the initial refusal by the US to sign the Kyoto Protocol is one clear example of the insensitivity of the developed countries to protect the environment and thus the climate and human welfare.
Impacts of climatic change
While nature has its own way of balancing the environment, man has always been creating an imbalance through his actions. These actions have led to several impacts that have continued to haunt him. Climate generally affects the plants and animals adversely when it changes abruptly. They are not able to survive and hence they will have to either transform or die. Global climatic change generally impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, forests, sea level, regional weather, human activities, and human economics (Karling, 2001 para.3).
In agriculture, although the increased presence of CO2 increases the rate of growth of plants it adversely affects the change in weather patterns which translate affects to the length of the growing season and also the rate of photosynthesis by plants this changes actually lead to unpredictable seasons of planting crops and also crops decrease yield (Black, 2007 para.6).
In reference to the ecosystem; species are very sensitive to changes in the ecological niches, hence any changes in temperature or precipitation could adversely affect their ability to survive in the ecosystem. Plants and animal species that are affected by the change in global climate change in a region actually change, it can lead to forests regions to warm and cause deserts. When the ecosystem changes rapidly the animals and plants will no longer be able to survive. This will lead to disappearance of species and ecosystems. The perfect example given by the loss of an ecosystem is the Eater Island which lost its entire ecosystem due to human activities.
Coastal flooding will occur in areas near the oceans since there will be rise in sea level. When the temperatures are high there is a decreased precipitation this translates to low rains, the rains feed the earth with water, this water if reduced then it will lead to shortages for the water for the many uses by man that include; personal, agricultural, and industrial. Many impacts of climatic change are well seen in the future and hence the current generation will continue unconsciously degrading the ecosystems.
Global climatic change is the responsibility of everyone living on the earth. Depletion of the present ecosystem has occurred without the aspects of the future in mind. Future generations are at risk of not experiencing the present diversity if the environment is not preserved.
There are very many complex interrelations between man’s activity and natural forces which are winds, ocean currents, evaporation, and precipitation (rains). The researchers try to understand how climate reacts to these changes. This helps in predicting the future of the environment in many years to come following the trends seen. It has been hypothesized that in the next hundred years the lands close to the oceans and seas will be covered by the rising waters melting from the glaciers of East Antarctic and western Antarctica.
Man has continued to exploit the environment without minding the adverse effects of the future and much loss of habitats. This trend should be changed without delay if we aim to sustain the environment for future generations. With several measures being taken today like the Kyoto protocol which aims to reduce the effects of greenhouse gasses then the future may be bright for everyone. Given the facts on global warming and global climatic change environmentalist require major research to help deliver the points to those who pollute the environment and give warnings to major contributors of h the high rate of global climatic change.
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