Current Climate Change and the Future of Life on our Planet
Since the Industrial Revolution, the Earth’s climate has been changing rapidly. Extensive human interference is a major catalyst in the substantial amount of greenhouse emissions produced every year. So far, climate change has not affected life on Earth too much. However, if we continue producing greenhouse gases to satisfy our hunger for progress and monetary gain, it is expected that the global temperature will continue to steadily increase in the decades to come. This will lead to extreme and unpredictable weather events which will have a devastating impact on the existence of life on Earth.
The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of greenhouse gases, primarily consisting of water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Some of these greenhouse gases occur naturally in our atmosphere, allowing sunlight to penetrate the atmosphere from the outside. As part of this process, they partly trap and radiate some of the heat generated by the sunlight, keeping the Earth a relatively constant temperature. However, over the last 100 years, primary industrial activities have caused a rapid increase in the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted which has made it more difficult for the solar radiation to escape. This has led to the steady rise in temperature. The extensive burning of fossil fuel such as coal, oil and natural gas releases an immense amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Over time, this concentrates and becomes a major contributor to climate change. The clearing of forests for the purpose of agriculture, industry, and other human activities also means for an increase in the concentrations of greenhouse gases. When trees are cut down and burned during deforestation, their stored carbon is released into the air and becomes carbon dioxide, promoting the resultant effect of global warming.
Since the late 19th century, the global average temperature has escalated from 0.2oC to 0.6oC. While this may seem insignificant, the effects of this small change have resulted in the rise in air and ocean temperatures, rapidly melting glaciers, and an increase in evaporation and precipitation. Worse, there will be more extreme weather events such as droughts, coastal and inland flooding, heatwaves, and bushfires. Further increases in global temperature and sea levels will also lead to the displacement of many island nations and coastal communities. This will also pose new risks for food security, human health and threaten the livelihood of delicate ecosystems on Earth. Many developing nations have already been dramatically affected by the earliest impacts of climate change. Recently, those countries’ citizens have been largely suffering from vast food shortages and famine as a result of the degradation in vegetation, crop failures, heavy flooding and long droughts. These developing nations have a longer recovery period after such natural disasters due to the lack of resources and funding to rebuild. Likewise, despite of having a greater financial capability, climate change has the potential to reverse significant development gains made in developed countries. Some countries with advanced economies will face an increased strain on domestic budgets and business failure.
As a result, society as a whole must be aware of the potential consequences which climate change poses in order to reduce risks and secure a future for later generations.