Climate change challenge

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Do you believe that the global climate change is caused by humans? It is really annoying to convince people about that. Especially those who are somehow interested in this problematic issue (although by reading nonscientific researches or theories) and it is difficult battle of opinions for me too. So I decided to ask you this question again and briefly present some data I have read. Please consider that I am not a professional in this area. I do not have so much in common with physics as I am studying international affairs/relations in a field of economics and politics. But that is not a reason to not be worried by the global climate problems and write about them in a connection with these fields.

At the beginning it is important to understand a difference between climate change and global warming in order to avoid confusion. Climate change refers to global warming as well as everything else. Just simply, climate change is about the change over a long time period of temperature, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, winds and so on. On the other hand, global warming, which is not a scientifically completely accurate term, deals only with the increase of average surface temperatures on a global scale. Scientists from the Yale University even found that the term global warming is associated more with emotional engagement, greater public understanding and support for personal and national action than the term climate change.

Global climate was always changing. In the past, Earth has gone through warmer and cooler periods, each lasting thousands of years. Observations show that Earth’s climate has been warming last century and today it continues in this trend. Certainly you have heard of the recent ban of using the mentioned terms by state Florida. Now the employees in Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is similar to our Ministry of Environment, are prohibited to use words like climate change, global warming and also sustainability. Maybe the governor of the state just wants to point out other important issues to solve but it is sad when a danger of raising sea levels due to the climate change has to be simply called a danger of flood, especially here. On the other side of continent we can find the other American state fighting with extremely dry and hot weather. California, the largest agriculture producer in US is running out of water. The heat is like nothing ever seen in temperature records since 1895. Although the officials can reduce the use of water, for example by setting how many times you can water your lawn weekly, we have to realize that 80% of water is used in agriculture.

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According to the study of National Academy of Sciences in US for every two degrees Celsius increased the global temperature the seas will rise about 21 meters. That is because of the melting ice but also warming the oceans which due to its dark color absorbs more heat than land. Warm things expand and that includes also water. You have probably heard about Maldives but what about places like Kiribati, other island nation in Pacific which is affected right now. About 30 years from now their country will become inhabitable. The next is Tuvalu which blame for the impacts two western carbon producers US and Australia and even threatened to sue them in International Court of Justice in Haag. Sea level rise is happening not only in distant pacific islands. Other examples are Netherlands and cities like Venice or Sydney. The list is very long and we will need to invest a lot of money to prevent catastrophic scenarios.

Many people claim that these changes are caused naturally by the changes in the Earth´s orbit and thus change in amount of energy coming from the sun. And of course there are eruptions of volcanos, change in solar activity and ocean streams too. The whole Earth is dynamic so those opinions are right. But…

Today many scientists think that recent warming cannot be explained by nature alone. We have to realize the amount of carbon we dug up and burned to get the energy to run the humankind. For millions of years green plant and algae life forms were using that carbon for energy creating the oxygen and thereby a new composition and temperature of atmosphere inevitable for other life forms. Burning those “plants” in form of oil, coal and gas causes the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases what is certainly helping to accelerate the global climate change. The ten hottest years ever recorded they all happened since 1998 and the warmest one of all was year 2014. Also NASA declares that fluctuations in solar activity do not correlate with the rapid increase in global temperatures over the last few decades. A report from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) in 2007, which was based on the work of 2500 scientists from more than 130 countries, concluded that humans have caused most if not all of the current global warming.

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What can we do with that?

Sure, you are expecting answers like the need to begin from ourselves, drive more cycles and less car, do not use plastic bags, need of political will to ratify international agreements and to change the system driven by profit and oil etc. Sure, these are the most important things we need to do – simply a change of our mind and action. To be realistic this is a long-distance race. But can we do something important right now? Let’s have a look on two “big” deals I have recently heard about.

One of them is a new campaign of the British journal Guardian called “Keep it in the ground”. It is specifically aimed to the world’s two largest philanthropic organizations: the Welcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Guardian campaign asks them to move their investments away from fossil fuels companies. The website subsection features video, text-based stories, updates on the campaign’s progress, and a charming podcast series. It is bit sad story if we realize that we have something like “carbon budget”, the amount of carbon dioxide to be safely emitted and not pass the 2 degrees Celsius limit (around 565 Gigatons) and then we have a quantity of the fossil fuels reserves we know about already which is more than 5 times larger (2795 Gigatons). The other fact is that companies spent 700 billion USD in 2014 to discover more reserves. So it is very simple slogan and very complex realization. I appreciate the idea of putting pressure on the rich entrepreneurs. Even the world largest fund – Norway´s state pension fund (about 1.18 trillion USD) will have to sell its stakes in the largest companies in coal sector (I am aware that the fund is filled with oil profits but it is a small victory anyway).

Other exapmle of their work – “Coal boom choking China”

The second one is the recent activity of well-known Greenpeace organization. The activists occupied the Russian oil rig in the Arctic Pechersky Sea protesting against mining activities in the Arctic. They wanted to achieve their absolute prohibition. The action was very direct and dramatic when they climbed up and stayed a few days. Although this is according to Reuters a crucial rig to maintain Russia as one of the largest oil producers, environmentalists argue by the danger of slow rescue due to the inaccessibility of the area in case of disaster. The Arctic region has at least 32 percent reserves of oil and gas deposits and it is more and more accessible because of global warming. I say thanks God for that kind of crazy people. We need to take real actions a this NGO has already done plenty of important things worth to follow.

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To be continued…

Blogger: Tomáš Kolenčík

Please do not leave without comments 🙂

Sources:

http://environment.yale.edu/climate-communication/article/global-warming-vs-climate-change/

http://www.themercury.com.au/norway-to-divest-coal-holdings/story-fnj3twbb-1227373041209

http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/climate/?_ga=1.125964174.2029207987.1433577367

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/series/keep-it-in-the-groun

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-newton/florida-bans-the-term-cli_b_6882110.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-10/california-s-new-era-of-heat-destroys-all-previous-records

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