Understanding Climate Change

        Climate change has become a widespread discussion in the recent years with skeptics still debating if its happening for real or not, or if humans are responsible for this change. But lets understand, What is Climate Change? According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) climate change is defined as a change in the state of the climate that can be identified by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.

 

        The climate crisis that we are facing is threatening our very own existence. If we continue on the current path of climate, the consequences will be far devastating, having wide spread implications on food, water, land security and other vital services including our presence. According to temperature records, an increasing rate of warming has particularly taken place over the last 25 Yrs and 11 out of 12 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 12 years.

 

“Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming5 above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate”. – IPCC

        Since the industrial age, the burning of fossil fuels have emitted and continue to emit tons of greenhouses gases into our Earth’s atmosphere. Increasing greenhouse gasses like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) have further warmed up the surface and the lower atmosphere. Over the last century, the concentration of Carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere has dramatically increased from a pre industrialisation value of 278 PPM to about 408 PPM currently.

“Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”. 

                    –  Climate change 2014 Synthesis report, IPCC 

The Effects of Climate Change

Warming Global Trend

The average global temperature has increased by about 0.8 deg C over the past 100 yrs. The warming trend has not been uniform across the planet, however globally average temperature shows that more areas are warming than cooling.

Arctic Sea Ice Decline

The Arctic sea ice has declined more than 30% of its summer ice cover in the last 30yrs, since the start of satellite observations. With increasing temperature over the past several decades have caused decrease in the Arctic sea ice extents in all seasons, particularly in the minimum end-of-summer ice extent.

Thawing Permafrost

Increase in temperature has accelerated the thawing process of the permafrost. Permafrost act as a natural freezer keeping over 1600 gigaton of organic matter and carbon trapped in this frozen soil. The accumulated carbon storage is double the amount of what is  available in the Earth’s atmosphere. Thawing permafrost risks emission of this stored carbon into the atmosphere, accelerating the global warming even further. Degrading permafrost has also has a huge impact on the infrastructure and land use. 

Melting Glaciers

Across the globe, nearly all glaciers are decreasing in area, volume and mass. one of the regions that are going to get effected severally with increasing temperatures are the Himalayan glaciers, which are a source to over 11 major river systems that fede over a billion people living across the banks. A latest report suggests that at least a third of the glaciers would be lost by the year 2100. 

Ocean Acidification

Oceans absorb over 25 % of the carbon dioxide that is produced by anthropogenic activities. With increasing CO2 values, the oceans are absorbing even more, changing the ocean chemistry and making it more acidic, upsetting the delicate pH balance that millions and millions of organisms rely on. This in turn is putting pressure on the human food system and affecting the livelihood of people that depend on these oceans. The ocean acidification is also creating a wide spread devastation on the coral reefs and the calcifiers of the ocean.

Sea Level Rise

Global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches since 1880, with about a third of that coming in just the last two and a half decades. The rising water level is mostly due to a combination of meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets and thermal expansion of seawater as it warms.