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CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE WAY FORWARD.

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Climate change has been a great environmental concern in recent times. Before the 20th century, it was known to be caused by natural processes such as changes in solar energy densities and volcanic eruptions. However, these days, major causes of climate change are no longer natural processes but human activities. Climate Change and global warming have been used interchangeably. There may be some similarities but there are still some outstanding differences between them. According to the UN, ‘Climate change refers to the long-term shift in temperatures and weather patterns’ while global warming is the gradual increase in the earth’s temperature. It is primarily caused by burning and consistent emission of gases such as carbon dioxide and ozone into the atmosphere. These gases are heat trapping gases which absorb amounts of radiant and reflected heat from the earth’s surface leading to global temperature rise depending on their concentration in the atmosphere.

Causes of Climate Change

Human activities have been the major cause of climate change in recent times. Although there are some natural causes, there are equally natural provisions for resolving the imbalances. But human activities have distorted the balance mechanism by engaging in activities that aggravating the climate issue. It is thus pertinent to uncover the factors that promote climate change so as to determine ways of addressing it.

  1. Burning of fossil fuels: Fossil fuels such as coal and gas are very important. In Nigeria, production, conservation and proper management of these fossil fuels have contributed greatly to the country’s economy. However, continuous burning and emissions of these fossil fuels lead to emissions of greenhouse gases and the greenhouse gas effect. Greenhouse gases are gases that influence and alter the balance of energy in the atmosphere. They absorb radiant energy from the sun and earth and retain them in the troposphere. The accumulation of this energy leads to rise in temperatures and the greenhouse gas effect. Primarily, the greenhouse gases that exist in the atmosphere are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. It has been estimated that over 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere annually through human activities such as human respiration, vehicle emissions and industrial activities.
  2. Consistent aerosol emission into the atmosphere: Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere. These particles may be the consequence of volcanic eruptions or bush fires or other pollutants being released into the atmosphere. When present in large quantities in the atmosphere, they could significantly alter the earth’s energy densities and contribute to climate change. Aerosols can be natural or anthropogenic, that is, it can be influenced or caused by humans or their activities. Examples of natural aerosols are fog or mist, dust, forest exudates, and geyser steam while some examples of anthropogenic aerosols are particulate air pollutants and smoke.
  3. Volcanic Eruptions: According to the Scottish Sensory Centre, Volcanic eruption occurs when magma is released from a volcano. Volcanic eruptions can be quite calm and effusive, or they can be explosive. Effusive eruptions produce lava flows, while explosive eruptions produce ash and pyroclastic density currents. This process leads to the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or environment. The excessive release of this carbon through this process is unhealthy for the environment, thus being a major cause of climate change.
  4. Buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: Carbon dioxide is exhaled from our bodies as a byproduct of respiration. The general formula for aerobic respiration is as follows:
    Glucose + Oxygen → Carbon Dioxide + Water + Energy
    Over 7 billion people on earth exhale carbon dioxide on a daily basis. Imagine the amount of carbon dioxide that is sent into the atmosphere daily. However, the good news is that most of the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans is absorbed by plants through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process in which green plants with chlorophyl and some other organisms absorb carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight to produce oxygen and energy in the form of a carbohydrate. This is almost the reverse for respiration and is nature’s way of balancing carbon dioxide buildup. However, with increasing global population and rapid deforestation the balance could be distorted and there is likely to be more carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere which contributes to the climate change.
  5. Continuous Deforestation: Deforestation is the removal trees and other plants from a parcel of land which is converted for other uses other than creation of forests. Trees help to preserve the environment, prevent erosion and reduce temperature changes amongst others. Also, Trees absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis as stated above. When there are fewer trees to absorb this carbon dioxide, it begins to buildup resulting in increased heat trapping potential and eventual rise in temperatures.
    Consequences of Climate Change
    Climate Change has taken a negative toll on the lives of humans, animals and wildlife. Animals now struggle for survival due to increased temperatures and changes in the weather conditions. There are several other knock-on effects of climate change some of which would be highlighted below.
  6. High rate of Diseases: It has been estimated that there are more heat related deaths and diseases than cold related ones. High temperature conditions are not favourable for certain types of allergies, asthma and infections and aggravate the situation. They prolong the pollen season and worsen air quality; both of which can result in more allergies asthma attacks and other chronic lung diseases.
  7. General discomfort and risk to wildlife: Ideal temperatures where human body functions optimally are estimated to be between 20 oC and 25oC. Anything outside this range introduces discomfort in human activities. Climate change brings about ambient temperatures that are outside the higher end of this range which are unconducive for human activities and reduces his productivity and efficiency at work. Animals equally experience this discomfort and may die off and become extinct when conditions are no longer tolerable.
  8. Increased energy demands: Due to temperature rise and general discomfort from ambient conditions, man would naturally look for ways of attaining his desired comfort zone. This is often at the expense of higher energy consumption which is likely to aggravate the situation if this energy is from non-renewable sources such as coal, fossil fuel or natural gas. Furthermore, the use of air conditioners and fans would rapidly increase in many homes and this would eventually lead to an increase in electricity bills and if the wrong types of refrigerants are used to lower temperatures, they may introduce aerosols and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere thus compounding the already complicated situation.
  9. Food shortages: As temperatures rise and precipitation increases, certain pathogens that destroy plants may thrive and could spread to farmlands casing drop in food supply. Additionally, the heat wave could reduce the mortality rate of some crops causing them to spoil easily thus adding to global food shortages. The end result is that price of affected food items would rise and low-income families would feel the brunt more.
  10. Rising sea levels: The rise in global temperatures warms the polar regions and cause ice caps and glaciers to melt and water bodies to expand. The end result is that sea levels begin to rise which can adversely affect coastal communities by floods, erosion of shorelines and damage to farmlands and nearby infrastructures.
  11. Extreme weather conditions: Higher global temperatures cause changes in weather patterns such as higher heat waves, more intense rainfalls and high-speed hurricanes. These changes could disrupt means of livelihood and cause communities to migrate unexpectedly to more favourable locations. Discomforts associated with these weather patterns could also affect their health and make air and vector-borne diseases the Lyme disease more rampant. Furthermore, high heatwaves could cause drought in some areas and cause famine while intense storms could damage farmlands and also lead to food shortages.
    The Way Forward

It’s one thing to discover a growing menace and another to proffer workable solutions to curbing it. As the menace of climate change has been uncovered in preceding paragraph, here are some suggested ways of addressing it.

  1. Creating the needed awareness: A major cause of climate change has been the combustion of fossil fuels which has led to the excessive emission of carbon. Unfortunately, most rural communities, industries and businesses are oblivious of the consequences of excess emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Thus, for starters, government at all levels and concerned groups and individuals should embark on enlightenment campaigns to educate more people in these areas on the dangers of indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels. As knowledge is power, more people thus become empowered to fight climate change.
  2. More Tree planting and afforestation projects: Nature has provided a means through which green plants absorb carbon dioxide and water in the atmospheres to produce oxygen and energy rich compounds. It is therefore only wise that more of green tress should be planted to increase the capture rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For giant strides in this regard, governments at all levels should embrace tree planting and afforestation projects to which would not only increase carbon dioxide capture rate but also help to conserve wildlife
  3. Switching to renewable energy: Energy demand would continue to skyrocket as nations pursue industrialisation and commerce. This demand for energy translates to more carbon dioxide emissions if efforts are not geared towards the use of renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels. Also, the switch to electric vehicles rather than the conventional fossil fueled ones would help reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and thus help mitigate the climate issue.
  4. Carbon Pricing: A major solution to the climate issue is for Government at all levels to enact policies to address the challenge. These policies must be detailed duly enforced by regulatory agencies. One of such policies should be on carbon pricing which is an amount charged per quantity of carbon pollutant released into the atmosphere by individuals and corporate bodies. If this is properly enacted everyone becomes accountable for contribution to climate change and would indirectly promote the use of renewable energy sources.

In conclusion, “The environment is no one’s property to destroy; it’s everyone’s responsibility to protect’ – Mohith Agadi. It’s time to take responsibility for your environment. Everyone deserves a safe and healthy environment and the first step begins with you deciding to improve your space.

References:

EPA, United States Environmental protection agency, accessed February 2022, https://www.epa.gov/climatechange-science/causes-climate-change

Wikipedia.Org

Merriam Webster Dictionary

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