THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO HELP PREVENT GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE
As global warming and climate change impact our planet let us look into some of the effects of climate change on our global ecosystems and how they impact our lives and our planet, the only planet we have to live. We will also see how we can mitigate global warming and climate change and the myriad ways in which we can help our planet and thereby make our lives better.
What are the effects of climate change?
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2021, the failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change is “the most impactful” risk facing communities worldwide—ahead of even weapons of mass destruction and water crises. Climate change has a cascading effect. As climate change transforms global ecosystems, it affects everything from the places we live to the water we drink to the air we breathe.
And though climate change affects everyone in some way, it’s indisputable that its most negative impacts are borne disproportionately by indigenous communities and the underprivileged. These groups have contributed the least to climate change but bear the brunt of the effects of climate change.
What are the extreme weather effects of climate change?
As the earth’s atmosphere heats up, it collects, retains, and precipitates more water, it changes weather patterns. The wet areas are rendered wetter and the dry areas are even drier. Higher temperatures worsen and increase the frequency of many types of natural disasters, like storms, floods, heat waves, and droughts. These events can have devastating and costly consequences, jeopardizing access to clean drinking water, fueling out-of-control wildfires, damaging property, creating hazardous-material spills, polluting the air, all of which lead to loss of life and property.
As pointed out earlier, the effects of this climate change are felt disproportionately by the underprivileged communities, the people who have contributed the least to the global warming phenomenon, who have the lowest carbon footprint, yet bear the disproportionate brunt of the cascading effects of climate change.
How are air pollution and climate change linked?
Pollution of the air by greenhouse gas emissions is what is causing global warming and climate change. And this climate change will worsen our already bad air quality. Air pollution and climate change are inextricably linked, with one exacerbating the other. When the earth’s temperatures rise, not only does our air get dirtier, with smog and soot levels rising, but it also becomes filled with more allergenic pollutants, such as circulating mold, which results from the damp conditions arising from extreme weather and more floods; and pollen, which is due to the longer and more intense pollen seasons.
What are the health risks arising out of climate change?
The World Health Organization (WHO) says “climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year” between 2030 and 2050. With rising global temperatures the number of fatalities and illnesses from heat stress, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and kidney disease will invariably rise too. And as air pollution worsens, respiratory health concerns will rise too. This is particularly true for the nearly 300 million people living with asthma worldwide. More airborne pollen and mold will cause more hay fever and pollen allergy cases. Extreme weather events, such as severe storms and flooding, can lead to death, injury, drinking water contamination, and storm damage that may damage basic infrastructure and lead to community displacement. Indeed, historical models suggest the likelihood of being displaced by a disaster is now 60 percent higher than it was four decades ago—and the largest increases in displacement are being driven by weather- and climate-related events. It’s worth noting that displacement comes with its own health threats, such as increases in urban crowding, trauma, social unrest, lack of clean water, and transmission of infectious diseases. A warmer, wetter world is also a boon for insect-borne diseases such as dengue fever, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease.
How is climate change leading to the rising sea levels?
When the ice sheets and the glaciers face increased melting due to global warming all the water is bound to enter the oceans of the world increasing sea levels. The Arctic is heating up twice as fast as any other place on the planet. As its ice sheets melt into the seas, our oceans are on track to rise by anywhere from 0.95 to 3.61 feet by the end of this century, threatening coastal ecosystems and low-lying areas. Island nations face particular risk, as do some of the world’s largest cities, including New York City, Miami, Mumbai and Sydney. The entire archipelago of Maldives is expected to be submerged by the Indian Ocean waters if the climate change concerns are not addressed.
Why is the Arctic region heating up faster than the rest of the earth?
The Arctic is heating up faster than the rest of the Earth due to a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Here are the main factors contributing to this:
- Melting Ice: Ice is more reflective and less absorbent of sunlight than land or the surface of an ocean. When ice melts, it typically reveals darker areas of land or sea, which results in increased sunlight absorption and associated warming.
- Convection: In the Arctic, less sunlight reaches the surface, resulting in the atmosphere being heated primarily by warm, moist air transported from the tropics. This leads to less convection and vertical mixing. The additional warming caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases mainly affects the atmosphere near the surface. In the Arctic, the warming from greenhouse gases is most pronounced near the surface.
- Water Vapor: In a warmer world, there is more water vapor in the atmosphere, and as a result, more moisture in the Arctic atmosphere. This has a threefold impact on Arctic surface temperatures: water vapor itself acts as a greenhouse gas, contributing to additional warming; as the moist air moves toward the poles, it cools, causing the water vapor to condense into liquid water, which releases heat into the atmosphere and further warms the region.
These factors combined result in the Arctic warming at a rate more than twice as fast as the rest of the world.
Why is global warming leading to ocean acidification?
The oceans are becoming more acidic due to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Here’s how it works:
- Absorption of CO2: The oceans absorb about 25% of the CO2 produced by human activities each year. This absorption capacity makes the oceans an important “carbon sink” that helps mitigate climate change.
- Formation of Carbonic Acid: When CO2 is absorbed by seawater, it reacts with water to form carbonic acid, thereby increasing the acidity of the ocean. This process is known as ocean acidification.
- Change in pH Levels: Since the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of the oceans has increased by about 30%, a rate not observed in 300 million years. If we don’t curtail our CO2 emissions soon, our oceans could soon be as acidic as they were 14 million years ago.
- Ocean acidification has serious implications for marine ecosystems, particularly for organisms like corals and shellfish that rely on a delicate pH balance to build their skeletons and shells. It’s often referred to as global warming’s “evil twin” because it’s another major consequence of increased atmospheric CO2.
How does ocean acidification affect the biodiversity of our oceans?
Ocean acidification has serious implications for marine organisms that rely on calcium carbonate to build their shells, such as corals, shellfish, and some plankton species. Here’s why:
- Reduced Calcium Carbonate Availability: As the ocean becomes more acidic, the availability of calcium carbonate — a key building block for shells and skeletons — decreases. This makes it more difficult for these organisms to construct and maintain their shells and skeletons.
- Corrosion of Shells and Skeletons: More acidic waters can corrode the shells and skeletons of these organisms. This is particularly problematic for young marine organisms that are still growing and developing their shells.
- Impaired Growth and Survival: The energy that marine organisms need to combat the impacts of acidification can lead to slower growth rates, decreased reproductive success, and higher mortality rates.
- Ecosystem Disruption: Since many of these organisms are at the base of the food chain, their decline can have ripple effects throughout the entire marine ecosystem.
For example, corals require appropriate amounts of aragonite saturation to grow in a healthy manner, which will decrease globally due to ocean acidification. If coral reefs disappear, it will threaten the survival of many reef-dependent species.
Similarly, changing ocean chemistry could hinder shell-building, affect metabolism, including feeding and respiration rates of shellfish like oysters, surfclams, and scallops. This could radically change conditions for the sea life we know and rely on for sustenance.
Therefore, ocean acidification poses a significant threat to marine biodiversity and the overall health of our oceans.
How does carbonate concentration in seawater decrease at the increased pH of the seawater due to ocean acidification? And how does it affect marine life depending on carbonate in the seawater?
The decrease in calcium carbonate concentration in seawater at increased pH due to ocean acidification is a result of a series of chemical reactions. Here’s how it works:
- Absorption of CO2: Carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere dissolves into seawater.
- Formation of Carbonic Acid: The dissolved CO2 reacts with water to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), which is a weak acid. This acid then dissociates into hydrogen ions (H+) and bicarbonate ions (HCO3–).
- Decrease in Carbonate Ions: As the concentration of hydrogen ions increases (which corresponds to a decrease in pH, i.e., the water becoming more acidic), the carbonate ions (CO32-) in the water bond with these excess hydrogen ions, releasing more bicarbonate ions. Thus the concentration of carbonate in the ocean waters decreases. This results in fewer carbonate ions available for marine organisms to build and maintain their shells, skeletons, and other calcium carbonate structures.
- If the pH gets too low, shells and skeletons can even begin to dissolve. This process is a major concern for marine life, particularly for organisms that rely on calcium carbonate to build their shells and skeletons.
Is climate change a fact?
Yes, climate change is a fact and is widely accepted by the scientific community. Here are some key points:
- Human-Made Climate Change: Climate change is real and human-made. There is overwhelming scientific consensus that this is true. Human-produced pollution, primarily from burning fossil fuels, is the main cause of climate change.
- Evidence of Climate Change: There is unequivocal evidence that Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate. Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the mid-20th century are driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.
- Scientific Consensus: NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, and every major scientific organization recognize that human activity is the principal cause of the current warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states, “Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to fact”.
- Rate of Change: The current warming trend is proceeding at a rate not seen over many recent millennia. Since the pre-industrial period, human activities are estimated to have increased Earth’s global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), a number that is currently increasing by more than 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. Now don’t think that a 1 degree Celsius increase is a small increase. It is a massive increase responsible for all the evils of climate change and global warming seen today.
Despite these facts, there are still some who deny the reality of climate change. However, the overwhelming body of scientific evidence supports the fact that climate change is real and primarily caused by human activities. It’s important to rely on credible scientific sources when seeking information about climate change.
You don't have to be a climate scientist to understand how our world has changed. Is this true?
Yes, this is indeed true. You don’t have to be a climate scientist to understand how our world has changed. The facts are before us and they present the details starkly.
Our last decade—2010 to 2019—was hotter than any other decade in at least the past 1,300 years. Second place goes to the decade before it: 2000 to 2009. And the first year of the new decade, 2020, is tied with 2016 for the hottest individual year ever recorded.
With this increased heat, of course, have come more frequent and more intense weather-related disasters. The first half of 2021 was marked by record heat, drought, and wildfires in the western United States and Canada and by record rainfall and flooding in Europe. And without immediate climate action, these records won’t be records for long: They’ll be broken next year, or shortly thereafter. The science is clear, these dangerous effects of climate change will worsen each year that we fail to curb the emissions that are destabilizing our planet and disturbing our ecosystems.
What can we do to mitigate the effects of climate change and decrease the impact of climate change? What is Petropath Fluids doing in this area?
To mitigate the effects of climate change and prevent further climate change, we can take several steps:
Reduce Emissions: Lower the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This can be achieved by reducing sources of these gases, like burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, or transport.
- Enhance Sinks: Enhance the “sinks” that accumulate and store these gases, such as oceans, forests, and soil.
- Energy Efficiency: Practice energy efficiency in all sectors.
- Renewable Energy: Increase the use of renewable energy.
- Electrification of Industrial Processes: Electrify industrial processes where possible.
- Efficient Transport: Implement efficient means of transport, such as electric public transport, bicycles, and shared cars.
- Spread the Word: Encourage friends, family, and co-workers to reduce their carbon pollution
- Political Pressure: Lobby local politicians and businesses to support efforts to cut emissions and reduce carbon pollution.
- Transform Transport: As transport accounts for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonizing travel is crucial.
- Renewable Energy: Choose a utility company that generates at least half its power from wind or solar.
- Weatherize: Make your space more energy efficient by sealing drafts and ensuring it’s adequately insulated.
- Plant Trees: Avoid deforestation and plant more trees to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
- Public Transport: Avoid using vehicles that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and opt for public transport, bicycles, or walking, if possible.
Remember, every little bit helps. Even small changes in our daily lives can contribute to a larger global impact.
ROLE OF PETROPATH
Petropath is actively engaged in Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage/Sequestering technologies. Carbon dioxide from point sources is captured and sequestered. We will discuss more about this unique technology and Petropath’s role in this endeavor in the future blog articles.