In this year alone, we have seen the pandemic, storms, floods, earthquakes and many other natural disasters that have enthralled the world with experts suggesting that these are the consequences of global warming that we have been accountable for the last 50 years.
Global Warming is undeniably the single greatest environmental challenge that the planet earth is facing at present. It is crucial that we understand the gravity of the situation as we are recording the hottest days and decades ever.
What is global warming?
Global warming is the term used to define a gradual increase in the typical temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and its oceans, a change that is believed to be permanently altering the Earth’s climate. Climate scientists have, since the mid-20th century, gathered detailed observations on various weather phenomena such as temperatures, precipitation, storms, and of related effects on climate; for instance, ocean currents and atmospheric chemical composition. These data point out that Earth’s climate has changed over almost every plausible timescale since the beginning of the geologic period and that the impact of human activities, since at least the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, such as the carbon pollution we cause by burning fossil fuels and the pollution-capturing we inhibit by destroying forests has been profoundly intertwined into the very fabric of change. The carbon dioxide, methane, soot, and other pollutants we release into the atmosphere act like a blanket, ensnaring the sun's heat and causing the planet to warm.
(Map of annual carbon dioxide emissions by country in 2014)
What if global warming continues?
A warmer climate creates an atmosphere that can collect, retain, and drop more water, changing weather patterns in such a way that wet areas become wetter and dry areas drier.
Prolonged dry spells mean more than just scorched lawns. Drought conditions endanger access to clean drinking water, fuel out-of-control wildfires, and result in dust storms and extreme heat events. Around the world, lack of water is a leading cause of demise and severe diseases. At the other end of the world, heavier rains cause streams, rivers, and lakes to overflow, which damages life and property, contaminates drinking water and promotes fungus infestation and unhealthy air.
Rising temperatures also worsen air pollution by aggregating ground level ozone, which is created when pollution from cars, factories, and other sources react to sunlight and heat. Ground-level ozone is the main element of smog. And the hotter things get, the more of it we have. Dirtier air is also linked to higher hospital admission rates and higher death rates for asthmatics.
As humans, we face a host of challenges, but we indeed are not the only ones catching heat. As land and sea undergo rapid changes, the animals that inhabit them are condemned to vanish if they don't adapt quickly enough. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2014 assessment, many land, freshwater, and ocean species are shifting their geographic ranges to cooler climes or higher altitudes, in an attempt to escape warming. The earth's marine ecosystems are under pressure as a result of climate change. Oceans are turning more acidic, due in large part to their absorption of some of our excess emissions. As this acidification accelerates, it poses a serious threat to underwater life, mainly creatures with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons, including mollusks, crabs, and corals. The polar regions are particularly vulnerable to a warming atmosphere. Average temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere on earth, and the world's ice sheets are melting rapidly. It’s most serious impact may be on rising sea levels.
If this is as harmful as it is, how do we stop matters getting worse?
Numerous research studies have substantiated that burning fossils fuels like oil, coal and natural gas cranks up the level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane are the greatest contributors to global warming and greenhouse effect. A swing to renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydropower will help topple demand for fossil fuels and ultimately lower the level of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
You can help by lessening cutting down of trees that help to balance the amount of greenhouse gasses, less trees means less absorption of greenhouse gases which are in itself responsible for more global warming. Also reducing the usage of items that use fossil energy as well as electricity can also provide grounds to reduce the harmful gas emission to the atmosphere and thereby contributing to the reducing of the impacts of Global warming.
What has the world has done in policy making aspects to prevent a global catastrophe?
Based on climate scientists’ consensus and projections of the likely impacts of climate change, world leaders at the 2009 Copenhagen Accord decided to work to limit warming to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. It was agreed that this two-degree target required mandatory substantial emissions reduction commitments.
The carbon budget perception has been a significant influence on the climate change science and policy discourse in recent years. This influence has demonstrated itself in a great and still escalating scientific literature, as well as in climate policy proposals, campaigns and goals-if not yet in action.
What exactly is the carbon budget?
A carbon budget is a sole number that sums up the predetermined limits of our planet’s physical system and highlights the need to reach net zero – if we keep on releasing emissions on a net basis, the budget is breached and the temperature keeps rising. This abstract simplicity makes carbon budgets an attractive analytical tool for an extensive range of climate change analysis.
While the notion of a carbon budget might sound as dry and straightforward as a financial planning statement that lays out how much a person can use each month, it’s essentially intricate and freighted with the complexities of geopolitics.
This bond amid total emissions and warming is not perfect, as it will alter based on what happens to non-CO2 greenhouse gases, like methane and nitrous oxide, as well as how swiftly climate-cooling aerosols are lessened. It also does not quite portray the picture when there are “net-negative” emissions i.e. when further emissions are being removed from the atmosphere rather than being added.
With every carbon budget calculated, one must also assume a level of warming originating from these non-CO2 Greenhouse gases. If one assumes a higher level of success in alleviating non-CO2 Greenhouse gases, then this leaves space for a greater carbon budget, and vice versa.
However, the difference between the high- and low-end carbon budgets is mostly because of changing conventions about justification of non-CO2 compelling on climate change. For carbon budgets transferring a 66% chance of retaining to 2°C, for instance, this upshots in a large range from 750-1400GtCO2. For another case, one could look to the notoriety paper by Prof. Richard Miller and his paper on 1.5C paths.
How do we do this?
The lone way to stay inside the carbon budget is to reach “crowning emissions” within the following few years and then diminish them as fast as possible to zero.
Greenhouse gas releases like carbon dioxide don’t have an abrupt result on the climate. They accumulate in the atmosphere for years and even decades, so the gases entering the atmosphere today will have a warming effect later on.
We need to understand how essential it is that we don't breach the given carbon budget so that we don’t worsen the current situation regarding climate change which results in extreme weather conditions, so that all the technological and scientific advancements won’t go for naught just by making all future humans loose a habitable planet to live which extensively might as well be the end of all mankind.
It’s time to act up!
Do your part. Calculate your own carbon footprint. Lessen your greenhouse gas emission rate.
Little footsteps always mean much in a great cause. Let us not sit by idly saying we only have so few years and pointing fingers at each other, as the rest of the carbon budget wastes away.