Realising the significance of the environment to survival of man, environmental experts have argued vociferously that without the environment man cannot exist since human activities are made possible by the existence of his environment.
Before going into the discussion of climate change and global warming, let’s first distinguish between weather and climate because a lot of people tend to confuse these two atmospheric conditions.
Weather is the temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness and wind that we experience in the atmosphere at a given time in a specific location WHILE
Climate is the average weather over a long time period (30 – 50 years) in a region.
Ordinarily, change in climate refers to some observable variations in the climatic system that is attributable to anthropogenic activities, especially those activities that alter the atmospheric compositions of earth..
In other words, climate change is the alteration that occurs in the climatic conditions of an environment due to certain human activities
Understanding climate change and how humans contribute to it
Climate change is caused by a lot of factors but chief amongst these factors is the change in the earth’s energy balance.
Normally, there ought to be a balance between the energy that the sun radiates to earth and the energy which the earth sends back out into space. However, due to a depletion in the ozone layer, the energy radiated by the sun passes through more easily into the earth and it’s atmosphere and get trapped by Greenhouse Gases (GhG) thus making the earth have a higher accumulation of solar radiation — It can simply be likened to when people gain weight if there is an imbalance between calories they take in and calories they release out.
I mentioned earlier that certain gases trap the solar radiation within the earth’s atmosphere and prevent them from going back into space; these gases are called greenhouse gases (GHG).
Greenhouse gases (GHG) and their relationship to climate change
Greenhouse Gases are those gases that act like a blanket to trap the sun’s energy and heat, rather than letting it reflect back into space. When the concentration of GHG is too high, too much heat is trapped, and the earth’s temperature rises outside the range of natural variability. Examples of such gases include: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and various fluorinated gases. CO2 currently contributes the highest rate of the greenhouse gases followed by methane (CH4), chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), nitrous oxide (N2O) followed by the others. It will interest you to know that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 315 parts per million (ppm) in 1960 to 405.1 ppm in 2016.
Anthropogenic sources of Greenhouse Gases
Various human activities have added very large quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) into Earth’s atmosphere!
Carbon dioxide– burning of waste and refuses indiscriminately, deforestation, industrialization, burning of fossil fuels (e.g. coal, oil and natural gas), etc.
Methane– Improper disposal of livestock manures, biomass burning (such as charcoal and firewood burning), decay of organic waste in municipal landfills
Nitrous oxide– they are emitted during industrial and agricultural activities as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste.
Fluorinated gases– Hydro-chlorofluorocarbons, Chlorofluorocarbons and some other fluorine containing substances emitted from a variety of industrial processes.
Now that we understand climate change, what is GLOBAL WARMING and how does it affect us?
Climate change is a major cause of global warming – global warming is simply an increase in the earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures.
Climate change & Global warming have been linked to various environmental, economic and health consequence.
Environmental consequences– hotter hot, wetter wet and drier dries; this means that we will experience hotter temperatures, heavier rainfalls and an increase in drought conditions just like we have been experiencing in recent times for instance in the southern Nigeria, climate change is reflected in the massive flood experienced in 2012; houses, farms, farm products, properties and even human beings were swept away. The statistics released by the southwest zonal office of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) about 2 years ago show that no fewer than 5000 persons were affected and 60 houses destroyed in a windstorm which occurred in four states in the south -west region. Also, about four decades ago, the lake chad covered an area of about 40,000 sq km whereas it now encompasses a mere 1,300 sq km.
Economic consequences– agricultural farms will face troublesome new pests (as seen in the prevalence of army worm in maize farms in the past years) as the old pests will evolve in an attempt to adapt to the new environmental conditions.
Health consequences– heat-related mortality, dehydration, spread of infectious diseases, malnutrition, allergies, asthma, in some literatures global warming has been linked to some cases of skin cancer!
Prospective solutions to these environmental anomalies
There are honestly no perfect solutions to the issue of climate change. However, responding to climate change involves a two-pronged approach:
Mitigation (reducing emissions of and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) through:
- Practicing organic farming — Organic farming is a method of crop and livestock production that involves choosing NOT to use pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormones in the course of farming activities, instead organic manure are used as fertilizer. What organic farming will do is to convert the environment from a carbon source to a carbon sink (carbon storage system)
- Carbon sequestration– this is a process involved in carbon capture and long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to mitigate global warming. Ways of sequestering carbon include :
Afforestation- this is a deliberate act of establishing forests. The idea behind this is that the newly planted trees will help in sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby acting as a carbon sink or store.
Some mushrooms have been noted to be very good absorbers of carbon from the atmosphere and they might be key to natural carbon sequestration
- There should be a shift from the use of fossil fuel to bio-fuel
- Regulatory bodies should be put in place to check the annual carbon emission of industrial companies in the country in accordance with the carbon emission budget of the Paris Climate Change Agreement of 2016
Adaptation (“what can be done with the excessive radiation we already have in the atmosphere”)
- Solar panels can be used for generation of electricity which will lead to a reduction in fossil fuel burning.
- Every individual should be charged with reducing their carbon footprint as much as possible.
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