Climate change Essay Example

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10Climate Change

Climate Change

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Executive summary

This report looks into the natural and human causes of climate change. Humans cause climate change through release of green house gases (GHG) and the Milankovitch theory helps explain the natural causes. The report also describes the health effects on humans, the damaging effects on the environment through floods and drought and the resulting economic disruption. It will also explore the government and individual responsibilities in curbing climate change.

Table of contents

2Executive summary

4Introduction

4Topic 1: Causes of climate change

5Topic 2: Effect of climate change

5Effect on the environment

5Fig. 1 Consistency of future rainfall estimates

6Effect on humans

6Fig. 2 Effects of climate change on human health

6Effect on the economy

7Fig. 3 Climate change impact on infrastructure and maintenance costs

7Topic 3: What are the methods we can slow down climate change

8Recommendations

8Conclusion

9Bibliography

Introduction

Climate change is the long-term change in the variables of weather such as temperatures, wind, rainfall mitigated by natural and environmental factors (Stern, 2007, p. 26). Climate change has adverse effects on human health, creates uncertainties in state economies and catastrophic environmental changes. This paper will explore the causes of climate change, the effects of climate change on humans, environment and the economy and the methods that can help slow down the climate change.

Topic 1: Causes of climate change

Natural causes or human causes can cause climate change. The Milankovitch theory explains three natural causes. Firstly, the earth’s orbit around the earth takes a circular or elliptical path. During a circular path, the earth receives about 6% variation in solar radiation per year. During the elliptical path, the solar radiation varies by about 20-30%. Such variations are a cause of climate change. Secondly, the earth wobbles in its axis of rotation over the years. Currently the axis points towards Polaris that is the North Star but in about 12,000 years, it will point towards Vega the new North Star. Summers will be hotter and winters colder compared to current times. Thirdly, the earth changes its tilt angle in 41,000 years between 22.1-24.5 degrees. Minimal change in the tilt angle causes less variation between summer and winter temperatures and vice-versa (Desonie, 2008, p. 26). In addition, plate tectonic movements cause geologic activity such as volcanic eruptions. The eruptions release high amounts of CO2 gas that causes global warming. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo for example reduced global temperatures by about 0.5% (Desonie, 2008, p. 28). Human activities such as deforestation and pollution on the other hand cause climate change over a long period. Rapid urbanisation has prompted people to cut down trees that absorb the atmospheric CO2. The accumulative CO2 and the industrial release of green house gases such as hydrogen carbons and nitrogen oxide creates a blanket like cover over the earth’s surface that inhibits the release of harmful gases and high temperatures from the earth resulting in global warming. In addition, the release of chlorofluorocarbons creates a hole in the ozone layer that consequently results in global warming (Letcher, 2009, p. 9; Lever-Tracy, 2011, p. 12).

Topic 2: Effect of climate change

Effect on the environment

Global warming can cause the oceanic currents such as the Indian Ocean monsoon to dry up resulting to a significant drop in rainfall levels and increased risk of droughts. It is estimated that the area at risk of moderate drought will increase from 25%-50% by 2090 and areas at risk of extreme drought from 3%-30%. The adverse effects of hurricanes and storms will also intensify due to rising sea surface temperatures. The sea levels will rise by an estimated 9-88 cm by the year 2100, which implies more floods that are devastating (Stern, 2007, p. 19).

ig. 1 Consistency of future rainfall estimatesclimate changeF

Consistency of future rainfall estimates (Stern, 2007, p.18)

The figure above shows the future rainfall estimates. The red shadings show the areas at risk of low rainfall estimates.

Effect on humans

Humans are more likely to suffer the effects of extreme temperatures such as the 2003 heat wave that claimed lives in Europe. Extreme floods may cause water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and reduce agricultural land thus causing low food shortages. Extreme drought will cause a significant decline in food production. Vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever are also likely to increase due to elevated global temperatures. Extreme high temperatures may cause skin ulcerations. The green house gases also contribute to nasal congestions and the chemical reactions with the body believed to increase cancer risk (McMichael, 2003, p. 11).

ig. 2 Effects of climate change on human healthclimate change 1F

Effects of climate change on human health (McMichael, 2003, p. 10)

Effect on the economy

The reduction in fertile agricultural land due to desertification or flooding means that farmers will lose their source of income. Consumers will also have to pay higher food prices due to low supply that cannot meet demand. It also means that governments will spend more on importing food commodities. There will also be a strain on economic resources to curb the increased number of life-threatening diseases such as cancer. The extreme temperature conditions means that there will be more expenditure spent on either cooling houses during summer or heating during winter (Mendelsohn & Neumann, 2004, p. 209). The costs of maintaining infrastructure in the long-term will also increase significantly as shown in the figure below.

ig. 3 Climate change impact on infrastructure and maintenance costsclimate change 2F

Climate change impact on infrastructure and maintenance costs (OECD, 2005, p. 29).

Topic 3: What are the methods we can slow down climate change

The best way to curb climate change is through Joint implementation whereby various stakeholders are involved. It is the joint responsibility of the government, the public, private sector and other countries. The government has a mandate to formulate and implement guidelines and laws on reduction of climate change such as green house gas measurements, reporting and reduction (Australian government, 2013). The private sector on the other hand should adhere to the guidelines and laws set up. The government and the private sector should collaborate in research and development of alternative manufacturing processes that have low carbon emissions. The public should also be educated on the effects of climate change and ways to reduce or prevent climate change for example by planting more trees instead of cutting. In addition, The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change requires countries to implement measures in collaboration with other countries. Countries that emit high green house gases such as the USA are required to not only reduce their emissions but also help the developing countries on the same. In effect, there is an overall global reduction in green house gases and less threatening climate change (Bjork et al, 1995, p. 8).

Recommendations

It is the responsibility of an individual, private sector, and government to curb the effects of climate change. Industries should reduce the amount of carbon emissions and possibly find alternative manufacturing methods with minimal GHG emissions. The framework convention on climate change should introduce consequences of failure to adhere to the set guidelines. The current guidelines are a mere plea to governments but if some countries fail to implement them, no action against them. The guidelines should also be accepted and implemented by all countries. The guidelines should be more specific for developing countries.

Conclusion

The green house gas emissions due to human activity are the main causes of climate change. The effects of climate change may be gradual over the years but with devastating effects for humans, the economy and the economy. All stakeholders however bear the responsibility for slowing down the effects of climate change. The United Nations has formulated guidelines for countries on the same, which is a move towards the right direction.

Bibliography

Australian Government 2013, Green house gas measurement, Department of Industry,

Innovation, Climate Change, Science Research and Tertiary Education, viewed 15 June 2013, < http://www.climatechange.gov.au/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-measurement>.

Bjork, O, Abildgard, J, Ojala, J, Ingimarsson, J, Engebretsen, J, Edna, O, & Lunde, L 1995,

Joint implementation as a measure to curb climate change: Nordic perspectives and priorities, Nordic Council of Ministers, Stockholm.

Desonie, D 2008, Climate: Causes and effects of climate change, Infobase Publishing, New

Letcher, T 2009, Climate change: Observed impacts on planet earth, Elsevier Inc.,

Amsterdam.

Lever-Tracy 2011, Confronting climate change, Routledge, New York.

Mendelsohn, R, & Neumann, JE 2004, The impact of climate change on the United States

economy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

McMichael, AJ 2003, Climate change and human health: Risks and responses, World Health

Organization, Malta.

OECD, Bridge over troubled waters: Linking climate change and development, OECD

Publishing,

Stern, NNH 2007, The economics of climate change: The Stern review, Cambridge University

Press, Cambridge.