You may have heard someone you know talk about how the weather used to be great about a decade ago and how warm or hot it is now. Scientists have long been researching this and have termed this change as 'global warming.'
Scientists are an intelligent lot and do not come to conclusions unless they have all the evidence. They are also vetted by their peers. Here are some of their observations that led them to the finding that human activities have contributed largely to the phenomenon of global warming.
In the 143-year period in which NOAA (National Oceanic and Administrative Association) in United States has recorded the rise in global surface temperature, September 2022 tied with 2021 as the globe’s fifth-warmest. September 2023 has been recorded by NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) of the United States of America as the hottest month since 1880.
Scientists have concluded that greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming. Of the major gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and water vapour), carbon dioxide is the one that affects the temperature rise the most. While we are here, it is time to point out how India is faring in the context of air pollution.
Of the 25 most polluted cities in the world, 9 were located in India, 4 in China, and 2 in Pakistan. I do think this is something that we should be concerned about. Though there have been efforts to curb air pollution in some cities, they have to be extended to other cities as well. A healthy nation is not only made of healthy economics; it is also made of healthy people who can contribute positively.
Guess who else knew about the impending climate disasters? The very companies which were producing the fossil fuels knew through their scientists in the research and development team. They chose to keep quiet since stopping production meant ‘no profits’. It did not concern them that the people would be harmed. See the image below.
The words that are highlighted are – ‘Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical’ - Exxon Scientific Advisor, 1978.
The matter is as follows - The Earth has been warmer in the first five months of this year than any comparable period since measurements began 130 years ago, and the higher temperatures can be attributed to a long-expected global warming trend linked to pollution, a space agency scientist reported today…
Scientists have figured out that temperature increase is an outcome of increased carbon dioxide emissions. The graph here is the direct correlation between the two. Over the years, the two elements have gone up simultaneously.
To comprehend this fully, the carbon cycle must be understood. The figure above shows a simplistic version of what happens around us. The human activity of using fossil fuels (driving, industrial purposes, etc.) is to some extent absorbed by the green cover on earth. The additional water finally ends up in oceans and other water bodies through rain. The numerals indicate the metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere as well as absorbed by natural elements.
Man is heavily dependent on nature for his well-being. Yet, he continues to destroy the very core the ecosystem of which he forms a part. This is akin to cutting the branch one is sitting on. According to scientists, the Earth has reached it tipping point and there is no point in lamenting after disaster strikes. Prevention is better (because it is easier) than cure.
From the above, the significance of greenery (forests, gardens, and agricultural land) is clear. The solution is multi-pronged since there are several factors at play. Our oceans take the brunt of it since they absorb about 93–94% of the carbon dioxide emissions. This is detrimental to marine life, including corals, fish, and other aquatic plants. Not to mention the plankton, which forms the smallest element in the marine ecosystem.
(CO – Carbon dioxide, NO2 – Nitrous oxide, VOC – Volatile Organic Compounds,
SO2 – Sulfur dioxide, Hg – Mercury)
With rain, it is not just the oceans whose basic chemical structure changes for the worse. The soil on land is also badly affected. No wonder the harvest products are decreasing year after year. Even the tiniest chemical composition of soil can disrupt the food ecosystem. Food shortage is one of the major consequences of climate change. One cannot be relaxed and think that this is not going to happen shortly. Several countries are already suffering from drought, acid rain, and at times even floods that destroy the soil
You may have noticed that the graph shows the timeline starting in 1880. Earth existed before that, of course. So, why 1880? The figure below will explain.
The concentration of carbon dioxide has been increasing since the Industrial Revolution in the latter part of the 18th century. The mechanization and rise of factories, the invention of the steam engine, urbanization and migration, mass production, and specialization changed the structure of work. These created a new socio-cultural paradigm that further led to industrial capitalism. The industrialists became the richest in society and could afford new inventions and conveniences including cars, appliances, air-conditioning, and equipment for farming, all of which used fossil fuels. The discovery of electricity with coal also added to the convenience of man.
This image highlights the cause and effect of global warming. Note that all activities of modern man have some effect on the environment. There is no progress without affecting nature in one way or another. That is no reason to be complacent. Although the search is ongoing for a habitable planet for mankind, it is prudent to upkeep what we have before we cross the unchartered territory of the galaxy.
There is no harm in being ambitious. Yet, man, the most intelligent species on Earth, has to find solutions to immediate problems. It surely is not possible for the common person to change the attitude of the leaders of nations who have been elected to take care of members of society. Collectively, some issues can be sorted out. Being the optimist that I am, hope remains, especially when I see the younger generation fighting for their rights to not just survive, but thrive.
Remember Greta Thunberg, the Swedish girl, who brought attention to the issue of climate crisis, when she sat outside her school for days together? There are several others who are deeply involved. Some of the names are - Alexandria Villaseñor (American), Licypriya Kangujam (Indian), Leah Namugerwa (Ugandan), and thousands of others. The protests carried out by the young generation has definitely created awareness. Unless one is living under a rock. It is not possible to say that one does not know about the issue. Every day there is some form of natural disaster happening in one part of the world or another. The recent wildfire in Canada is an incident which grabbed global attention by its severity. The smoke was seen and felt in New York and even in Florida.
What the common person, like you and I, can do is to create awareness on the issue. How does one arrive at a solution(s) if one is unaware of the size and scope of the problem?
My biggest concern is for the future generations. The sort of issues that they will have to face, have been created by us. By remaining silent and complacent, we have hacked their dreams, at times, inadvertently. There are several consequences other than natural disasters due to global warming. But let us leave that for another article.
Ignorance in today's times of easy access to knowledge and communication is not an excuse. The will to live well and leave the Earth in better shape than we found it, is upon us. That should be our legacy.
Are you game?
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