What is climate change(1)?

Climate Change has become a buzzword, particularly, in the 21st century. The issue has gained importance at the global level, as evident from the frequent negotiations and discussions taking place on the same.

In this article, we will be explaining the various dimensions and aspects related to the climate change.

  • What is climate change?
    • According to United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change(UNFCCC) , “climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to the human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable period of times”.
    • Breaking the definition:
      • Change of climate attributed to human activity–> thus mainly anthropogenic.
      • Alters the composition of the global atmosphere.
      • This alteration is more than the changes so observed over similar time periods earlier.
  • Is there any difference between global warming and climate change or both are same?:
    • Global warming can be considered as one of the components of climate change.
    • While Global warming accounts for only temperature changes, Climate change is a broader concept which accounts not only for temperature but also for changes in precipitation, winds, length of seasons, drought, floods etc.
  • What are the causes of climate change?:
    • Major cause : Emissions of the Green House Gases(GHGs).
      • Brief of GHG: These are the gases which trap the outgoing radiations from the earth, thus adding to the overall temperatures of the global atmosphere. The effect of trapping the heat is called Green House Effect, thus ,the name Green House Gas(GHG)
    • Which gases are accepted as GHGs?:
      •  According to Kyoto Protocol(discussed later), following are the gases considered to be contributing the most to the climate change:
        • Carbon Dioxide(CO2).
        • Methane(CH4)
        • Nitrous Oxide(NOx).
        • Sulphur Hexafluoride(SF6).
        • Hydrofluorocarbons(HFCs).
        • Perfluorocarbons(PFCs).
      • However, apart from these, water vapor and ozone are also considered as GHGs.
  • What are the sources of these emissions?:
    • Natural:
      • Volcanic eruption: Carbon dioxide(CO2), Water Vapor and Sulphur Dioxide.
      • Respiration by plants and animals: add Carbon Dioxide.
      • Decomposition of plants and animals: release methane.
      • Oceanic release: Oceans have phytoplanktons and algae which perform photosynthesis to release CO2. Apart from this respiration of animals and decomposition of plants and animals add to the GHGs.
    •  Anthropogenic:
      • Industrial emissions:
        • Combustion of fossil fuels like coal : Carbon Dioxide and also a small amount of methane, sulphur dioxide, and nitrous oxide.
        • Overall, the industrial sector emits Carbon dioxide, methane ,and nitrogen oxides.
      • Vehicular emissions: Mainly Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxide and Hydrocarbons.
      • Agriculture:
        • Use of Nitrogenous fertilizers emits Nitrogen Oxide.
        • Rice cultivation emits methane.
        • Livestock farming: Cow dung adds a considerable amount of methane to the atmosphere.
      • Deforestation : This is because the trees and plants act as sequestration grounds for the GHGs like carbon dioxide.
  • Why so much buzz around climate change? How is it affecting us?:
    • Ecological:
      • Rise in sea level due to melting of glaciers leading to floods.
      • Increased Sea Surface Temperatures would lead to increased frequency of extreme events like cyclones , El Nino(an event leading to changing patterns of oceanic currents near S.American coast having a drastic impact on rainfall patterns).
    • Wildlife:
      • It leads to habitat alterations of various species.
      • Also, there is an impact on biodiversity as there might be many species which could not adapt to the changing climates.
    • Socio-Economic impact: 
      • It affects rainfall patterns . This in turn deeply impacts the rainfall-dependent agriculture sector of countries like India.
      • Agriculture will also be affected due to prolonged seasons which may affect the required temperature conditions for the crop.
      • Food security of a country is affected with lesser output.
      • Brings frequent floods .Many coastal communities will be at risk. This may also increase inward migration(to the mainlands) which may lead to increased pressure of land and resources.
      • Health issues like cardiovascular diseases among others. This impacts the demography . This also has a grave impact on the poor households due to increased out-of-pocket health expenditure.
      • Fisheries sector which generates huge employment and also plays a major role in an economy will be affected. This is due to widespread destruction of phytoplanktons(oceanic plants) which affects the aquatic life on a whole.
      • People from the island nations like Maldives, Seychelles etc. will have to migrate to other places. This also will exert pressure on the countries like India which could be a preferable place for immigration.

 

P.S :As the topic is long enough, the rest of the portion of this will be covered in the next article.

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