Climate Change: Everything You Don't Want to Know

As Greta Thunberg once said, “The Climate Crisis has already been solved. We already have the facts and solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change.” It is time we realize that we are the last generation that can do something about it. But the species causing it has taken little or no reaction at all to prevent our planet from catching fire. The climate on Earth has been changing since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. Until recently, natural factors have been the cause of these changes. Natural influences on the climate include volcanic eruptions, changes in the orbit of the Earth, and shifts in the Earth's crust (known as plate tectonics). Over the past one million years, the Earth has experienced a series of ice-ages and warmer periods ('interglacial').

Climate change is real, whether or not we choose to believe in it. It is the reason that will drive the human race to its extinction, and it's already to late to stop it, unless we choose to act.

However, since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, the global temperature has increased at a much faster rate. Human emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion, deforestation and agriculture practices have led to Global Warming. We have been adding more and more greenhouse gases into the air, trapping even more heat. Instead of keeping Earth at a warm, stable temperature, the greenhouse effect is heating the planet at a much faster rate. We call this the 'enhanced greenhouse effect' and it's the main cause of climate change. Today, there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there ever has been in at least the past 800,000 years. During the 20th and 21st centuries, the level of carbon dioxide rose by 40%. Fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal contain carbon dioxide that has been 'locked away' in the ground for thousands of years. When we take these out of the land and burn them, we release the stored carbon dioxide into the air. Forests remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Cutting them down means that carbon dioxide builds up quicker since there are no trees to absorb it. Not only that, trees release the carbon they stored when we burn them. Planting crops and rearing animals releases many different types of greenhouse gases into the air. For example, animals produce methane, which is 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The nitrous oxide used for fertilizers is ten times worse and is nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide Producing cement is another contributor to climate change, causing 2% of our entire carbon dioxide emissions. There are also natural factors that force the climate to change, known as 'forcings'. Some of these natural cycles include- Volcanic eruptions, solar irradiance and the El Nino Southern Oscillation (a pattern of changing water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean).

According to the Intergovernmental Panel, taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time. Observed and anticipated changes in the climate include higher temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, frequency and distribution of weather events such as droughts, storms, floods and heat waves, sea-level rise, and consequent impacts on human and natural systems. Climate change draws attention to the relationship between science and society, challenges global governance institutions and triggers new social movements. Engagement with climate change by social scientists is prompting conceptual renewal in areas such as social practice theory, and transition and transformation studies.

If temperatures only rose 2 degrees Celsius, the global gross domestic product would fall 15%. Global GDP would decline by more than 30% from 2010 levels. This is only comparable to the Great Depression where GDP fell to -26.7%. The only difference is that it would be permanent. About 1.2 billion jobs are threatened. The industries most at risk are agriculture, fisheries, and forestry. Natural disasters caused or compounded by humans cost 23 million working-life years annually from 2000 to 2015. On the other hand, efforts to stop climate change would create 24 million new jobs by 2030. Climate change is already challenging and can further challenge our societies. With the increase in temperatures in some countries, especially in Equatorial regions, the flow of climate refugees is changing and increasing, putting pressure on other countries to host them, help them strive and overcome political barriers. The reasons for this move have to do with natural resources, such as drinking water, that are getting more limited and many crops and livestock that are unlikely to survive. This problem could cause as many as 1 billion people to emigrate.

Drought, shifting rain patterns, and extreme weather destroys crops and leads to food insecurity. And as it turns out, studies say that the wealthiest countries of the world will be the ones experiencing fewer changes in their local climate compared to the poorest regions if the global average surface temperatures reach between 1.5º and 2º Celsius. Businesses are also likely to be affected by climate change. Indeed, in a context where the climate is changing, companies need to be aware of the risks that they may face and be prepared to deal with them by developing CSR strategies that evaluate the impacts they may suffer. Events such as damaged crops, the loss of infrastructures, unexpected changes in market stocks, investors that ask for sustainability reports and the growing expectations of society for business to be transparent are variables to keep an eye on.

India has a good story to tell in terms of climate change action. It has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy, and in fact, it is investing more in them than it is in fossil fuels. Having established a goal of generating 40 percent of its power through renewables by 2030, its progress has been so rapid that it could easily reach that target a decade early, so there is every opportunity for India to increase that target. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant social and economic challenges. The economic standstill due to the pandemic is leading to sharp reductions in emissions in the short term, but they will start increasing again at the same rate unless India develops a focused green COVID-19 recovery strategy. Joe Biden is preparing to deal with climate change in a way no U.S. president has done before – by mobilizing his entire administration to take on the challenge from every angle in a strategic, integrated way. The strategy is evident in the people Biden has chosen for his Cabinet and senior leadership roles: Most have track records for incorporating climate change concerns into a wide range of policies, and they have experience partnering across agencies and levels of government.

In conclusion, Climate Change is happening and it is caused largely by Human activity. Its impacts are beginning to be felt and will worsen in the decades ahead unless we take action. The increasing rate of global warming—courtesy of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from human activities—has led to climatic changes and environmental degradation, which in turn have resulted in great challenges in relation to diseases and human health. Many diseases that had been thought extinct are reemerging in areas with altered climatic conditions that favor their comeback. It is therefore important that stakeholders and decision-makers at industrial, government and international policy levels come up with stringent and workable means of cutting down on greenhouse gases emission to combat the spread of global warming effects and the resultant climate change. Further, there should be increased funding of adaptation and coping programs and projects in affected areas to minimize the impacts on human civilization.