By Samuel Obedgiu
Since the 1800s the earth has been gradually experiencing shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. There are many natural and anthropogenic factors that could have contributed to these changes.
The rapid rate and the magnitude of changes occurring to the climate now is of great concern worldwide. The average concentration of CO2 measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has risen from 316ppm in 1959 to more than 411ppm in 2020.
Similar rates of increase have since been recorded at many other stations globally.
Since pre-industrial era, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased by over 40%, methane has increased by more than 150%, and nitrous oxide has increased by roughly 20%.
More than half of the increase in CO2 has occurred since 1970. Increases in all three gases contribute to warming of Earth, with the increase in CO2 playing the largest role (IPCC 2021, Climate Change 2021).
Greenhouse gases are altering the Earth’s energy balance and thus its climate. Human activities have greatly increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the past decades, leading to more heat retention and steady increase in surface temperatures.
The atmospheric aerosols alter the climate by scattering and absorbing solar and infrared radiation and they may also change the micro physical and chemical components of clouds.
Human activities are already having widespread effects on the environment: glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking, river and lake ice is breaking up earlier, plant and animal geographic ranges are shifting, and plants and trees are blooming sooner.
Some effects that scientists had long predicted would result from global climate change are now occurring, such as sea ice loss, accelerated sea level rise, and longer, more intense heat waves as recorded throughout Europe during this years’ summer . Some of these changes are irreversible at least over the next few decades.
The drought that has crippled economic activities in southwestern China this year, illustrates the kind of disruption that climate change could wreak on global supply chains.
Chinese factories were shuttered again in late August, thereby freezing the international supply chains for automobiles, electronics and other goods that have been routinely disrupted over the past years.
According to experts, the global temperatures will continue to rise for many decades, mainly due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities.The severity of the effects from climate change will depend on the path of future human activities.
More greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more climate extreme and widespread damaging effects across the planet. However, those future effects depend on the total amount of carbon dioxide we emit. So, if we can reduce emissions, we may avoid some of the worst effects.
Globally, climate change has already triggered displacements and worsened living conditions of many global citizens. The most recent examples include the landslides and flooding at the Mount Elgon region in Eastern part of Uganda, the flooding at Karachi province in Pakistan, the droughts in karamoja region in north-eastern Uganda and in southern part of Ethiopia, etc these have already wreaked serious havoc and claimed many innocent lives.
Limited natural resources like fresh water are becoming even more scarce in many parts of the world. Crops and livestock are struggling to survive in areas where conditions have become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet, hence threatening livelihoods.
Climate change is posing a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing tensions and adding to the potential for conflicts in many areas.
Climate change is already here, we can only limit further warming and the dangers it poses to the inhabitants of this planet if we ACT NOW.
Our actions between 2022 and 2035 shall determine if we can slow the warming enough to avoid climate change’s worst impacts. We should drastically cut down emissions to remove some carbon from the atmosphere.
Fortunately, plants naturally absorb and store carbon. By protecting natural habitats and carefully managing farmland and forests, we can store million of tons of this living carbon.
Little is known about how the current world’s rapid warming will affect agriculture, economic activities and trade in the years to come. But one clear trend is that natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes, floods and wildfires are becoming more frequent and are unfolding in more locations across the planet.
The author is an agricultural scientist and environmental activist