By definition, climate change is an average long-term shift in weather patterns that is manifested by altering in the contributing factors including precipitation, temperature and pressure among other indicators. Climate change can be a consequence of a modification in variability typified by extreme weather conditions, for example, erratic rainfalls that cause floods.
The earth’s climate is synonymous to this variability, however, its long-term climatic state is harmonized by the energy balance “between the incoming and the outgoing energy” (Ewing, 2012). As such, any external factor (climate forcers) affecting this energy balance may lead to climate changes.
Importantly, these factors occur in different time-periods. Hence, the factors that affected climate change centuries back may not be the ones standing currently.
Climate forcers can be categorized into two groups including human and natural causes. In addition to the duo, there are other changes that happen internally within the climate system, affecting the climate either as short-lived or long-lived. These modifications may be attributed to the atmospheric circulations among others factors.
Human beings contribute to climate change when they engage in burning of fossil fuel, deforestation activities notwithstanding. These effects have been aggravated further since the inception of the era of industrial revolution.
As a consequence, the face of the land has been altered tremendously, and the atmosphere is filled with fumes dominated by carbon dioxide gas, one of the greenhouse gases. These changes constitute what we can consider ourselves ‘climate forcers,’ who are responsible for destabilizing the earth’s energy system. To this end, the overall effect on the earth’s atmosphere has been a warming effect.
The cumulative effect of the gas emissions on the planet is called the greenhouse effect. This is the reason of the global warming, and as such, it is believed that it may lead to erratic weather patterns, consequently affecting both the social and economic activities of man.
Apart from the human activities, natural factors are other elements responsible for climate change. Such activities as volcanicity and the Sun insolation are among the external factors central to climate change. These two basically fall within the timescale of the contemporary causes of climate change.
The duo have a significant effect on the incoming energy, however, volcanicity has a short-lived effect on the climate change. The intensity of the Sun insolation has considerably increased since the inception of the industrial revolution. This has been estimated to have increased by ten folds, consequently affecting climate significantly.
The internal elements within the climate that affect the climate change could be due to the emitted gases that stem from human activities. These gases, for example, CO2, can be classed as long-lived because they take a while before they are eliminated from the atmosphere.
Conversely, the short-lived gases, for instance, methane, clear off the atmosphere very fast. Class aside, if remained unchecked, short-lived gases have a potential of causing adverse climate change. They are responsible for the greenhouse effect.
The history of the climate trend
Climate has been changing to the worst since the era that is called industrial revolution. On analyzing the trend of the world’s mean temperature dating back to the 19th century, one can underscore the fact that, indeed, the Earth is experiencing global warming.
In the 1960s, though, there was a compelling evidence of a shifting trend where experts reported that the planet was cooling. Nevertheless, new findings stipulated that this was a brief interruption and the trend would assume the previous modification process in the 1970s.
These findings elicited a serious debate among climatologists with some predicting a sustained cooling trend over time. To this end, they cited a phase of a sustained natural cycle or perhaps the elements of smog and dust particles that continue to fill the atmosphere due to the human activities.
Those predicting otherwise believed that the effects of the greenhouse gas emissions would surpass those due to the concentration of particles in the atmosphere, and as such, global warming would resume. In a conclusion, the two opposing groups acknowledged the fact that their stands were just mare guesswork.
In the meantime, there were advances in the climatology science. Nonetheless, in 1970s, the view that the warming would resume triumphed highlighting that the cooling was a brief interruption.
With the turn of the century, the warming effect aggravated further as evident by the changing temperatures even at the depth of the ocean base. To scientists, this was a compelling evidence of a gross change in climate that had never been witnessed before.
The specific pattern “of changes, revealed in objects ranging from ship logs to ice caps to tree rings, closely matched the predicted effects of greenhouse gas emissions” (Bredenberg, 2012).
Ideally, one would wonder how meteorologists came up with the conclusion that the world was warming. Indeed, the journey to establishing of this fact was not an easy feat. Scientists had to deal with voluminous and uncertain data collected over a long period of time, and using different methods to come up with the conclusion.
Among the pioneer groups of scientists who tried to establish this fact were the NASA and the Climate Research Unit (CRU), a British based group. In their research, they reached an almost similar answer that the planet’s average temperatures had raised by at least 0.50C in the past century.
In the meantime, several other groups over the world were dedicated to measuring the weather patterns. Vitally, while some were engaging in careful, recording and securing of records in archives, the others were busy standardizing the instruments.
Even with these data, no scientist would stake a claim that the world would warm in the future, especially with the 1940-70 dip as shown in below (fig. 1). With these findings, one is tempted to hold the thought that the current highs could be temporal.
Current geopolitical response to climate change
One may notice the ‘tug of war’ concerning the causes of climate change that continue to illicit mixed reactions among the science and anti-science zealots. On one hand, science holds the thought that the planet is experiencing global warming, and that the anti-science zealots are embedding efforts meant to stem this trend.
On the other hand, the anti-scientists hold the view that global warming is not a consequence of the human activities, and that the scientists’ views are for selfish gains meant to transform the world’s economy. Surprisingly, the skeptics consider that even if the planet is warming, it is not a cause for alarm.
Some critics of the scientific view base their argument on the alleged dishonesty amongst scientists. To this end, they cite the ‘Climategate Scandal’ as one of their evidences of scientists’ dishonesty. The details of the scandal, as revealed later, showed that someone had hacked into the server of the CRU and sent more than 1000 e-mails to people all over the world with a plot to falsify an average global temperature trend.
This allegation was investigated by several agencies from both the US and the UK, revealing that the scientists were genuine in their findings. If not enough, skeptics find dishonesty in an e-mail that was written by Phil Jones to Micheal Mann, both from the CRU, disputing the latter’s chart as a ‘trick’ to mean that he was hiding a temperature decline (Ewing, 2008).
However, in a bid to dilute skeptical views, scientists have a well established database in the blog, DeSmogBlog, of the individuals who are in dissent industry of global warming.
Some critics hold the view that the idea of the man-engineered global warming emanates from neo-colonialism. As such, the idea is meant to shift focus of the development agenda from the developed economies to the third world economies.
The opposing faction, however, believe that the skeptics’ view that global warming is not a man-made effect is a tactic to bar governments from interfering with their businesses (free-market). Free-market fundamentalists feel that governments are threatened by the fact that free-markets can resolve both the social and economic problems if given a freehand.
Moreover, they tend to think that market fundamentalism has been a principal factor in determining the US’s public policy debates in the past three decades.
If not enough, critics argue that most of these scientists holding the consensus view were cold-war research artillery, and that following the crumple of the Soviet Union, they sought solace in another global issue in the name of global warming to seek the world control.
The response to climate change due to global warming is a universal issue defying commitments to the nations where the greenhouse gas emissions are more pronounced. This is owed to the fact that the greenhouse gases defuse rapidly and evenly over the world.
To this end, the UN has been the platform, upon which responses to climate change has been addressed. Global bodies established under the UN umbrella, for instance, the Kyoto Protocol and the UNFCCC (United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change), have made massive steps in trying to reverse this change.
Chiefly, international policies have been adopted globally at a national cum regional level, signaling a consolidated approach aimed at stemming this change. The objective of the UNFCCC (formed in 1990) was to stabilize the greenhouse gases by the turn of the 21st century.
However, subsequent meetings prior to the 21st century led to the establishment of the Kyoto Protocol in the year 1997. Its objective focused on the developed economies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% with their respective 1990 levels as a baseline.
This had to be achieved by the year 2012. This was not an easy feat to achieve, and as such, it took three meetings for the stakeholders to reach the Marrakesh Accord, which outlined the processes that were to be followed to achieve the Kyoto Protocol (Nicole, 2004).
Importantly, in order for the Kyoto Protocol to be a legally binding document, it had to be ratified by more than 55 nations. The Annex 1 nations had to make up the 55 nations ratifying the protocol in order to account for at least 55% of the total emissions of the 1990 levels.
For political and economic reasons, the US chose not to ratify the Protocol even though its emissions accounted for more than 25% of the total greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the developed economies. One political reason that the US chose not to ratify the Protocol is that the treaty was partial.
To this, the US claims that the design of the treaty would leave out some economies known for their massive greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the US has been reluctant to ratify the Protocol for the reason that it would result in job losses by its citizens.
Akin to the US, the Australian government temporarily failed to confirm the Protocol only to ratify it in 2007. Russia validated the Protocol after a while in the year 2004.
The countries that were party to the treaty relied on three flexible means including Emission Trading, Joint Implementation (JI), and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to achieve the Kyoto Protocol. However, many investors hold a negative view over the JI and CDM mechanisms, citing too much bureaucracy involved in getting an approval.
Vital remedies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions
One of the remedies that governments ought to apply is the need to engage in the energy conservation practices. Economical utilization of energy goes all the way to reducing the levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) a great deal. Designs meant for appliances at homes should aim at enhancing energy efficiencies.
The state of California is a typical example of a region in the US that has taken its own initiative to engage in efficient utilization of energy. As such, striking research shows that between 1976 and 2005, this state has maintained its energy requirements at a fairly constant rate.
This is opposed to the rest of the US, where the energy requirements had increased by 60%. Another striking revelation is that the total energy losses by the US economy surpass the total energy requirements of the Japanese economy.
This shows that the Japanese machinery designs are energy-efficient. Economies should adopt sequestration models meant to capture CO2 instead of releasing it to the atmosphere (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2010).
Another remedy that governments should adopt is the use of alternative sources of clean, renewable sources of energy instead of using bio-fuels. Among the major contributors of GHGs is coal. This energy source is far less efficient in its utilization (30% efficient).
Among the clean, renewable energy sources that fit the billing one could name solar and wind energy. These two can play a major role in curbing GHG emissions. Another alternative is the use of nuclear energy. However, it is risky since some nations might use it as an arsenal. Therefore, to use it, all nations should be honest.
Urbanization is one of the ‘enemies’ of the GHG-free atmosphere. It comes with deforestation, a practice that is believed to deny the atmosphere – the ‘lungs’- which is meant to clear the CO2 from it. While urbanization and industrialization change the world’s face in the name of creating wealth, these two practices are suicidal to the atmosphere.
They basically utilize the land, a limited resource, without replacing it, leaving the land bare and depriving it of its ‘lungs’. To curb this trend, afforestation practices ought to be given a global attention and enhance the GHG-free atmosphere.
Transport industry and hence the gasoline industry are the ones that contribute immensely to the GHGs, globally. There is need for engineers to come up with the engine designs that are more sensitive to our environment. The designs should be a hybrid formation of gasoline/electric engines to limit on the gasoline requirements.
This would go all the way to limiting the GHG emissions into the atmosphere. In addition, some economies have adopted safe utilization policies whereby transportation to public destinations/institutions has to be done using a bigger unit (a bus) as opposed to smaller and numerous units (cars). This would curtail the GHG emissions.
Future solutions to climate change
After adopting the energy-efficient designs as well as conservation strategies, the void left to suffice the energy requirements has to be met by the GHG-free renewable energy sources. This has to be provided by the wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal energy.
The use of the wind energy as a ‘green power’ has been among the buzzwords of the greenhouse-free atmosphere advocates. It is a renewable source of energy that can be converted to mechanical energy, and eventually electrical energy before it is utilized.
Ideally, to generate electricity, the site where the plant is mounted should be favorably windy in order to drive the giant turbines for generating electricity. The energy generated from wind can be used in home appliances as well as to drive industrial machines. Engineers have come up with the efficient turbine designs that can achieve maximum output from the wind power.
The solar energy is another source of ‘green power’. This energy is derived from ultraviolet rays that emanate from the Sun. Through different mechanisms, this energy can be converted to electrical energy or can be used directly to serve the people’s needs.
To convert the solar energy to electrical energy, one applies a photovoltaic cell. However, the efficiency of the solar energy is dependent on the insolation received per day. The maximum insolation got in a region is influenced by the latitude and the season of the same.
To this end, the regions falling within the equator zone receive maximum insolation at midday. Moreover, one can use larger panels in regions that experience limited insolation to meet his/her needs. Directly, one may use the solar energy for heating and lighting. This is one of the best alternatives to fossil fuels since it is clean and renewable.
The hydroelectric power is a ‘green power’ that may help in mitigating the greenhouse gas emissions. This energy is derived from water that drives a turbine to generate power. However, this energy is limited to regions that have no waterfalls. Nonetheless, they generate enough electricity that can be supplied to a far place. The energy received from this source can be used domestically as well as for driving industrial machines.
Biomass is another source of energy, an alternative to fossil fuel though it is not a GHG-free source of energy. Recently, in such economies like Brazil, the use of biodiesel is slowly becoming popular. Akin to biomass, we do have fuel cells, which are powered by coal to generate electricity.
Finally, the geothermal power accounts for another source of ‘green power.’ This form of energy is limited to regions that are endowed with hot springs. As such, this form of energy is not common. Nonetheless, the energy derived from this source can be converted to electricity to find application both domestically and in industries.
Bredenberg, A. (2011). The Climate Change Controversy – What’s It Really About? Green and Clean Journal, 2(3), 3-7.
Ewing, R. (2008). Growing Cooler: The Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change. Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute.
Nicole, N. (2004). United States Problems with the Kyoto Treaty. New York, NY: New York University Press.
U.S. Department of Transportation. (2010). Transportation’s Role in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. South Melbourne, Australia: Thomson Learning.