Climate change is no longer a far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now.
— Former President of USA Barack Obama.
Climate Change is a change in weather patterns when it lasts for an extended period of time. It is a hot issue of these days as it is affecting the world in several ways. As it can be seen by changing patterns of weather in different regions of world climate is changing drastically.
The main causes of climate change include the emission of greenhouse gases, burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, increasing livestock farming, excessive use of fertilizers, use of aerosol sprays and many more. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and other fluorinated gases. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas which is added to the atmosphere by burning of the fossil. Its concentration is 40% higher than it was when industrialization started. Other greenhouse gases are emitted in smaller quantities, but they trap heat more effectively than carbon dioxide and in some cases thousand times stronger.
The main cause of deforestation is burning of trees for burning purposes. This also leads to carbon dioxide emission and loss of habitat for a large number of plants and animal species. It is estimated that 25% of world’s total greenhouse gas production comes from deforestation.
Almost all the causes of climate change are due to human activities. Humans are cutting down trees, burning fossil fuels at an alarming rate, using a lot of fertilizers and increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Due to these anthropogenic activities, the ozone is also depleting.
Mining, oil spills, drilling for oil and gas etc are also affecting the wild and marine life in the Arctic. The depleting of ozone is leading to melting of glaciers in Antarctica and Arctic regions. This, in turn, is responsible for rising of sea levels in different continents of the world. This increasing of sea level is a major threat to island countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, and other Marshall islands.
Effects of Climate Change
The major effects of climate change are global warming, ozone layer depletion, a rise of sea levels, melting of glaciers and destruction of habitats for many living organisms and cause of many diseases. According to recent studies, the melting of glaciers is leading to the extinction of animals. The ozone layer depletion is resulting in many skins and breathing diseases.
Globally, power generation is responsible for about 23 billion tones of carbon emissions per year which is a direct cause of global warming. The intensity of summer and winter seasons have become more intense than past. The frequency of floods has also increased drastically. The patterns of rain are also disturbed by climate change. Now, the number of rains per season is also decreasing due to the cutting of forests and many other environmental factors.
The climate change is also responsible for soil and water erosion which directly affects agriculture. The biggest effect of climate change is global warming, increase in earth’s temperature, which is the main cause of acute drought conditions. The availability of water for domestic and agricultural uses is badly affected by it.
According Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) temperature of the earth may rise 1.4 to 5.8 Celsius before the end of this century. Air pollution, already a silent and serial killer, is set to become worse under climate change.
Impact of Climate Change in Pakistan
Social, environmental and economic impacts caused by climate change are of great concern in developing countries like Pakistan. Pakistan is frequently facing natural hazards like floods, droughts, and cyclones. These hazards, when combined with susceptibilities like poverty and wrong political decisions, make people more vulnerable to effects of these hazards.
Pakistan’s greenhouse gases emissions have doubled in last 2 decades. On a global scale, Pakistan ranks 135th in per capita GHG emissions in the world. The agriculture sector is the victim of abrupt climate change in a country. 65-70% of country’s population is directly or indirectly related to agriculture.
The availability of fresh water is mostly affected by a change in climate. The water resources of Pakistan are scarce which directly relates to food insecurity, especially in rural areas. The arid and semi-arid zones are the most vulnerable to climate change as these regions are already facing water shortage and high temperature.
The seasonal changes are changing sowing time for crops which consequently changes irrigation requirements which modify the properties of soil and increase the risk of pest and disease attack, negatively altering agricultural productivity.
The recent studies indicate that Pakistan’s 22.8% land and 49.6% population is at risk due to impacts of climate change. The diseases which are transmitted by vectors for example malaria, dengue cholera etc that are already cause of low mortality rate in Pakistan are climate sensitive.
Climate change scenarios have resulted in an increase in the epidemic potential for 12-27 percent for malaria and 31-47 percent of dengue.
The signatories of UNFCCC agreed to reduce carbon emissions in mid-1990’s which is known as Kyoto Protocol. The developing countries were made bound to reduce 18% of total emissions. On December 2015, governments reached a new agreement Paris agreement. This agreement presents a balanced outcome with an action plan to limit global warming below 2°celcius.
Possible Solutions to Climate Change
There are many solutions to climate change which involve community, individuals, governments and other agencies of the world.
- More and more trees should be planted.
- Energy should be used efficiently.
- Renewable power sources should be adopted.
- The garbage should not be burned or burry in landfills. It may be made composts for kitchen gardens.
- The loss of water in any form should be checked.
- Electric automobiles should be preferred.
- Recycling is one of the most effective ways to check carbon emissions.
- Media should spread awareness regarding the effects of climate change.
- Use eco-friendly appliances.
- The treatment of industrial waste should be made mandatory all over the world.
- Governments should start taking this problem seriously.
- They should implement Paris agreement in their countries.
- They should start investing in projects which can try to minimize climate change.
- Plastic should not be used. Environment-friendly shopper bags should be used.
- Use of aerosol sprays should be minimized.
- The misuse of fertilizers should be avoided.
- Water should be used wisely.
- The power generation should be done by environmental friendly means.
- Conservation practices should be adopted regarding agriculture.
This article is jointly written by Faizan Rafi and Dr Umair Riaz