Climate Change: Some Divergent Views
Climate Change Activists have been protesting for quite some time against the human inflicted climatic abuses. The concerns by various smaller groups had started in late 1980s but the first global effort was through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that made an international environmental treaty to combat "dangerous human interference with the climate system" in 1992. In the initial stages it was the concern for the environment but later “Climatic Changes” started getting prominence with the extremes of climate observed in different parts of planet Earth. In recent decades, strange climatic patterns have been observed that include extremes of temperatures (both high and low), extremes of weather patterns of rainfall, cloudburst, floods and droughts, extremes of cyclones and tornados and uncontrolled wildfires among other phenomena.
In these climatic changes, many believe that greenhouse gas effects by excessive carbon loads due to extensive use of fossil fuels is among the leading causes. Deforestation, methane and to some extent N2O, Halogenated gases and Volatile compounds emissions among others, are also believed to be contributory factors. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report mentions that in the last ~2000 yrs, CO2 has increased 47%, Methane 156% and N2O 23%. In a NASA report (graph shown below), global average temperature shows 1 deg C rise in the last 140 yrs which although not frightening, has huge impacts. There are several degradations taking place covertly too. A genuine question arises whether all the recent climatic extremes and phenomena that we are observing, is due to temperature rise alone.
The Greenhouse effects.
The major contributors of Greenhouse effects are the burning of Fossil Fuels and other sources of Carbon. These are non-renewable energy sources such as wood, coal & its products, natural gas, derived gas, crude oil, petroleum products and the non-renewable wastes. These fuels are used essentially for producing electricity, heat, farming related activities, Industries, transportation, buildings and some other purposes. Some of the coal mines have caught fire accidentally and are burning 24x7 for several decades emitting greenhouse and other polluting gasses. Similar are events with forest fires too. These greenhouse gasses include Carbon dioxide (CO2), Nitrous oxide (N2O), Methane (CH4), Ozone (O3), Fluorinated gases (Hydrofluorocarbons, Perfluorocarbons, Sulfur hexafluoride SF6, and Nitrogen trifluoride NF3), water vapour and some other trace gasses. Some of these gasses do enter the regeneration cycle (like photosynthesis, N2 cycle, rains etc) but some others may remain in the atmosphere for decades or even over a century.
In spite of being major source of atmospheric pollution and greenhouse effects, the fossil fuel remained off the Radars of the world policy makers till 2021 Glasgow climate convention. Burning of Coal has been the second worst polluter in China, Australia, US and to very smaller extent India. These nations have a fairly large natural resource of coal used for energy production. Clean and renewable energy production may be the answer for the globe. Besides, some literature also suggests of about million-year cycle of global temperatures changing from ice-age to oven-experience, unsubstantiated though.
In brief the effects of temperature changes due to the Greenhouse Effects are/will be as follows: Climate changes (of season change, temp rise, more draught and heat waves, increase in unpredictable precipitations), ice/glacier melting, rise in river/Sea level, submersion of the low-lying coastal lands, unexpected flooding, frequent and extensive wildfires, increase in the arid lands, loss of vulnerable flora and fauna etc. If Greenhouse effects of warming the Earth continues unabated without adequately cutting off the incoming infrared contents of the Sun, the temperature will keep rising to the extent that sustaining human lives will need extensive heat adaptation and living without life support will get extremely difficult. Most of the temperate and cold vegetation will gradually disappear. Such temp rise will also expand all fluids (both water and air), air density and atmospheric pressure will fall (along with fall in the partial pressure of Oxygen), lapse rate of fall in temp with altitudes will diminish, lives at higher altitudes will be at perils.
Multiple factors of Environmental Erosion
Temperature related climate changes are one thing but there are many other factors too that are involved in the Earth and its Environmental decays. These include damages to the atmospheric blanket, over-exploitation of Earth’s crusts, Earthquakes, massive mud-slides on mountains, volcanic activities and so on. Conflagration and contaminations following nuclear accidents/attacks could become the single man-made destructive device. Mushroom clouds following a few explosions can stretch for hundreds of kilometers, preventing Sunlight from reaching the Earth’s surface. Besides, massive radiation could kill all live-beings and contaminated dust will make breathing air toxic. Radioactive contamination of food, water and habitat will make them unusable. All together could make the entire Earths environment uninhabitable..
We know deforestation is adding up to the atmospheric carbon load but we tend to miss out on other implications of deforestation…that loss of plantation will lead to impeded natural oxygen generation and will increase the solar heating of the crusts of Earth causing regional heat-waves, wildfires etc. Extensive wildfire also has a vicious cycle with greenhouse effects, loss of green vegetation, drying of Earth’s crust, depleted environmental regeneration and climate changes. Year 2020 and 2021 witnessed unprecedented wildfires in America (Arizona, California, Colorado), Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Greece to mention a few. This will cause massive soil erosion and also reduce the capability of Earth’s surface to hold water thus resulting in floods/flash floods. Thus it is increasingly being felt that far too many variables may be at play simultaneously in the degradation of Earth’s Environment, of which Climate Changes could be one of the groups of manifestations.
There is another important factor that some scientific reports suggest…that even a small scale climatic warming may be causing more volcanic activity (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/get-ready-for-more-volcanic-eruptions-as-the-planet-warms/). They tried to link it to the size of Earth’s ice cover with frequent volcanic eruptions. However, there are many unanswered questions in this theory. Volcanic eruptions may have a vicious cycle with climate warming. It is a significant factor.
From Indian point of views, thanks to PM Narendra Modi who made it crystal clear at the Glasgow convention that India contributed <5% to the global carbon emission. Till now, every agency had tried to unnecessarily compare India with China & US as polluters.
In a study of climatic changes of increased rains and floods that are Human induced (https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-climate-change-affects-extreme-weather-around-the-world/), it can be observed that Indo-pacific, Eastern & southern Australia, southern America and western Europe are especially affected. A glaring escape of longitudes beyond 40 deg N or S is remarkable. It is also worth noting that maximum instances involve those parts of North American (USA), European (UK, France, Italy) and Indian continents (peninsular India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand-Vietnam, southern & eastern China, Philippines) that lay between 15-40 deg N.Further 20-30 deg S seems another zone more prone to rains & floods (shown in the figure below). There have to be few factors common in these areas like human density, human activities degrading environment, temperature rise, vicinity of oceans, wind patterns that carry the precipitation clouds to those geographical areas and so on. These are also the zones where ‘undue heat wave’ phenomena are taking place. Arabian Peninsula & north African states (except those adjoining Gulf of Guinea) in general are spared from these unusual phenomena. There are some other areas too where such climate related phenomena are taking place as occasional exceptions.
In the name of development, the rise in the CO2 emission in the world has gone berserk. The figure shown below are only of fossil fuel & Industrial causes of carbon emissions. While the average annual rise in Carbon emission have been increasing rapidly in the 20th century from 79.6 Mn tons per year in the first to 381.4 Mn tons in the second half, that jumped to 769 Mn tons per year in the first decade of the 21st century. A drop in the annual emission rates in the 2nd decade of this century is possibly a welcome sign of the various preventive and promotive efforts by the member nations esp the ones among the top polluters.A drastic drop after 2019 shows the effects of various lockdowns of Covid19 pandemic that included surface & air transport, manufacturing sectors and so on.
Preserving the Climate on planet Earth is the joint responsibility of all nations. There is no doubt that our planet has been exploited badly till now, in unplanned ways in the name of development. These activities have already induced Climate changes that may soon become irreversible. If proactive measures are not adopted now, it may become too late. Any further irrational exploitation could spell doom. There is an urgent need to fine tune any future developmental works with least Carbon emission. Hence, all developing nations have to be encouraged to adopt technologies at an affordable cost that are green-compatible. The recent decadal drop in carbon emissions is a healthy sign. There is a need to do more to prevent irreversible climate phenomena on Earth.