Tag Archives: Climate Change

Climate Change: Transiting to a Sustainable Future

Author – Babajide Oluwase Submitted for Write for Change
Climate change is becoming an issue of rising importance around the world, and Africa is not left out in this. However, it seems many still do not understand the insidious nature of this phenomenon. One observable fact is that, many people won’t act on an issue unless they realise it has a direct impact on their lives and/or their communities. A recent prove of this is the case of Ebola outbreak.
Why are some people still sceptical about the reality of climate change, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence available today? It is natural to assume that many people do not accept the science of climate change, because they do not understand it, or perhaps need to know about it. Certainly, someone who knows very little or nothing about climate change is unlikely to care a great deal about its consequences. It is then important that facts about climate change should be widely circulated and well communicated to all and sundry.
Climate change is a long-term shift in weather pattern, especially a change due to increase in the average atmospheric temperature that is affecting the wellbeing of human and the environment. Several studies has shown that the burning of coal, oil, and greenhouse gases has led to warming up of the global environment, and it has even been projected to get worse in the coming years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
When we look around us today, apparently, our climate is changing, and attached to it are various environmental challenges you can think of right now. As opined by the popular Stem Review on the Economics of Climate Change, “climate change is liable to affect the basic elements of life of people around the world – access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages, and coastal flooding as the earth increasingly warms.”
Just imagine what we have done in the little time spent on the planet earth. I can confidently say the real crisis is not global warming, environmental destruction, or animal extinction, it is us. These problems are as a result of our unsustainable action overtime. Many of us might call this mistake, but future right does not accept it because an error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it. Simply put, human activity is causing the environment to get hotter than one can ever imagine.
In Nigeria for example, oil companies prefer to flare the associated gas due to cost. Nigeria flares more natural gas with oil extraction than any other country, with estimates suggesting that of the 100 million cubic metre of associated gas produced annually, about 70% is wasted via flaring. (Wikipedia, 2006) This equals about 25% of the UK’s total natural gas consumption, and is the equivalent to 40% of the entire African continent’s gas consumption in 2001.
Noticeably, the ripple down effect of this is evident in polluted water bodies, unclean air, and poor soil capacity due to soil acidification by various pollutants associated with gas flaring in affected communities across Nigeria. While air pollution in China, India, and other emerging economies has become a major area of concern for scientists and policy makers, it has gained little traction in Nigeria and even in Africa where it is a growing problem to sustainable living.
Fortunately, never in human history has there been a summit to negotiate and support a treaty as ambitious as the recent Paris climate deal. A summit that brought exactly 195 governments together. As listed by some agencies, that is the total number of independent nations on the planet. The scope of the treaty involves a total system overhaul to the lifeblood of the global economy: decarbonisation of energy. The best way to go is to significantly transit to renewable energy sources, and let it play a larger role in the supply of energy.
Regardless of whether the transition to renewable forms of energy will be easy or extremely difficult, sooner or later, we all have to face some major changes different from our current way of life. The challenge to adopting sustainable measures is not as a result of lack of knowledge, but because we are simply resisting such constraints, as many would call them. From a social perspective, the oil producing communities in Nigeria have experienced severe marginalization and neglect from concerned stakeholders (government and private oil companies).
A typical example of this scenario is the massive oil exploration in the Niger Delta, which has posed and still posing serious threats to human health, indigenous culture, and the environment. Whereas, the economic and political benefits are given more attention by the government rather than the resulting damage to our ecological balance. Sadly, this is the reality people in oil producing communities of a developing country like Nigeria have to deal with on daily basis.
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and stroke”, said Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Few risks have greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”
What then is the way forward? The solution is simply living the ‘green’ life. This can be achieved by reducing our dependence on fossil fuel products as well as decisively cut down environmental pollution in the society. Converting earth’s heat, sunlight, nuclear power, and wind could in the next century, meet most of our energy needs. Wind and solar do not create dangerous waste products and are secure, indigenous, and freely available in abundance.
Conclusively, we must realize that we are not apart from nature, we are a part of nature. To betray nature is to betray humanity, to save nature is to save humanity because whatever you are fighting for, be it racism, poverty, feminism, or any kind of equality, they won’t really matter because if we don’t work together to save the environment, we would be equally extinct someday. We all deserve air that is clean, water that is drinkable, and land that is free from contamination. Achieving this is not rocket science, but simply by commitment, political will, and collective action, it can be accomplished.

Conserving Biodiversity; Why is This Important?

endangeredspeciesBiodiversity means diversity in life. In simpler terms it means the total varieties of animals, plants and birds on planet Earth. Wider the diversity means perfect our eco system. Our ecosystem makes life on earth easier and healthier. It is a balance of all natural resources and their proportion with respect to each other. It keeps all natural resources including mountains, glaciers, rivers, seas, volcanoes, soil, deserts, plains and other types in their limit. Otherwise they all might have mixed with each other making this world a piece of disaster. So our concern is; if a true biodiversity conservation a real goal. It means can we conserve biodiversity.

How to conserve biodiversity?

We can conserve biodiversity by avoiding every step that may kill a living being including plants, animals and birds. It does not mean we let every living being go even if it harms us like snake, scorpion or lizard. First we have to check which animals, birds and plants population is a minimum in number. They are called endangered species. They are those living beings for whom this planet has not remained congenial for living. biodiversity conservation There is wildlife conservation service in every country. Both governments and conservation groups try hard to retain biodiversity. But environmental degradation makes it difficult for many endangered species to increase their population.

Environmental degradation the main hurdle

What is environmental degradation? It is a state in water, land or air where natural features of each are reduced by external encroachments of various elements not good for them.
 They may be in air, land or water. If something disturbs the natural features of land we say it a land pollutant. If it hits air we say it air pollutant like poisonous gases that come from vehicles and factories. If something harms the water we call it water pollutant like various chemicals that come with effluent of factories.
So, environmental degradation makes life difficult to survive on Earth.  Living beings don’t have clean air to breathe, pure water to drink and safe land to live on it. As a result various living species get weaker and sick. Most of them die earlier than their natural death. While many species with small population go to the brink of extinction. Then wildlife conservation groups and activists declare such species endangered and take extra efforts to conserve them. So to make biodiversity conservation a real goal we need to control environmental degradation that is main cause of concern.

Blind development another bottleneck

Development means make life easier. Life is made easier by facilities. They may be transport, buildings, gadgets, machines, equipment or anything that makes life happier. For building industries, energy generation units, hotels, resorts, homes and offices we need to construct buildings and install machineries. Here biodiversity gets big hit during the process of digging, construction and installation of machinery. While digging many living beings inside the soil may be crushed. So developers need to do thorough review of impact assessment on biodiversity before starting a project. Collectively it is called environmental impact assessment that is mandatory in all the countries of the world by green laws. But owing to poor enforcement mechanism of green laws in many countries many developers do their development projects without any environmental impact assessment and nobody notice their violation. In short we need to control environmental degradation and make our development sustainable in order to make biodiversity conservation a real goal.

Fossil Fuels.., CO2, Carbon Cycle, Glaciers…etc What do they really mean?

images-3 In this quest to make the knowledge of Climate Change easier, it’s important to understand the meaning of the following terms. Definition of Terms Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth’s surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change. However, global warming itself represents only one aspect of climate change. Adaptation – Adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment that exploits beneficial opportunities or moderates negative effects. Resilience – A capability to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant multi hazard threats with minimum damage to social well-being, the economy, and the environment. Vulnerability to climate change is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, the adverse effects of climate change. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity and its adaptive capacity. Adaptive capacity is the ability of communities and individuals to adjust to climate change, to moderate potential changes, to take advantage of opportunities or to cope with the consequences. The adaptive capacity of individuals or social groups varies, and is dependent upon their access to and control over resources. The poor have particularly limited access to such resources, and as such are most vulnerable to climate change and least able to develop viable adaptation strategies. Adaptation to climate change refers to longer-term strategies, which deal with climate change (in contrast to short term coping strategies). Adaptation is adjustment in natural or human systems, which moderates the harm or exploits beneficial opportunities associated with climate change. Adaptation is usually a longer-term livelihood activity and is a continuous process where results are sustained. It uses resources efficiently and sustainably, involves planning, combining new and old strategies and knowledge, and is focused on finding alternatives. Weather is a specific event or condition that happens over a period of hours or days. For example, a thunderstorm, a snowstorm, and today’s temperature all describe the weather. Climate refers to the average weather conditions in a place over many years (usually at least 30 years). For example, the climate in Minneapolis is cold and snowy in the winter, while Miami’s climate is hot and humid. The average climate around the world is called global climate. Weather conditions can change from one year to the next. For example, Minneapolis might have a warm winter one year and a much colder winter the next. This kind of change is normal. But when the average pattern over many years changes, it could be a sign of climate change. Carbon: A chemical element that is essential to all living things. Carbon combines with other elements to form a variety of different compounds. Plants and animals are made up of carbon compounds, and so are certain minerals. Carbon combines with oxygen to make a gas called carbon dioxide. Carbon cycle: The movement and exchange of carbon through living organisms, the ocean, the atmosphere, rocks and minerals, and other parts of the Earth. Carbon moves from one place to another through various chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes. Carbon dioxide (CO2): A colorless, odorless greenhouse gas. It is produced naturally when dead animals or plants decay, and it is used by plants during photosynthesis. People are adding carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, mostly by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. This extra CO2 is the main cause of climate change. Fossil fuel: A type of fuel that forms deep within the Earth. Examples of fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil fuels are created over millions of years as dead plant and animal material becomes trapped and buried in layers of rock, and heat and pressure transform this material into a fuel. All fossil fuels contain carbon, and when people burn these fuels to produce energy, they create carbon dioxide. Greenhouse effect: Some of the energy radiated by the sun is converted to heat when it reaches the Earth. Some heat travels through the atmosphere and back out to space, while some is absorbed by atmospheric gases and radiated back to the Earth. The trapping and buildup of heat in the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface is known as the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gas: Also sometimes known as “heat-trapping gases,” greenhouse gases are natural or manmade gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Glaciers: Glaciers are large sheets of snow and ice that are found on land all year long. They are found in the western United States, Alaska, the mountains of Europe and Asia, and many other parts of the world. The giant ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are also considered glaciers. Warmer temperatures cause glaciers to melt faster than they can accumulate new snow. As giant ice sheets and smaller glaciers melt, they add more water into the ocean, which causes sea level to rise. Geothermal Energy – heat derived from below the surface of the Earth Deforestation – the permanent destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses. Renewable energy – refers to resources that rely on fuel sources that restore themselves over short periods of time and do not diminish. Such fuel sources include the sun, wind, moving water, some organic plant and waste material, and the earth’s heat (geothermal) Solar-thermal technology – involves generating electricity by concentrating solar energy to heat a fluid and produce steam that is then used to power a generator; solar energy systems do not produce air pollutants or carbon dioxide Wind turbines – wind turbines use wind to make electricity; the wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity Source: EPA’s Climate Change Indicators (2014) The concept and science of Climate change by Glory Oguegbu www.study.com Epa.col

About Global Warming

2016-05-30-16-46-02-480948140These greenhouse gases act like a giant blanket for the Earth, helping it to retain heat. And when the concentration of greenhouse gases goes up, it’s like adding another layer of blankets. When this happens, then global warming, or an increase in the average worldwide temperature caused by higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is the logical result.
Now, this may sound theoretical, like I’m guessing that if CO2 levels rise, then we expect the Earth to get warmer. However, the fact is we have actual scientific evidence that when CO2 levels rise, so does the average temperature of the Earth.
This is one of the closest correlations that you will ever find in the natural world. The history is clear. In the past 800,000 years, whenever CO2 levels rise significantly, the temperature rises too. There’s one other interesting thing to point out about past CO2 levels. In the past 800,000 years, the concentration of CO2 never rose much above 300 parts per million – that is, until about a hundred years ago, when we hit right through the 300 mark on the way to our present level in 2012 of a little over 390 parts per million.
So what will happen now? There are lots of different estimates and claims that many people make, but in the past century the global temperature has risen 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. That may not seem like a lot, but the temperature has been rising at a faster rate in the last few decades. In addition, we have 800,000 years of history that show that temperature is highly correlated to atmospheric CO2 levels. We are continuing to burn fossil fuels, and the atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise at a steady, predictable rate.
All of the scientific data says that the Earth is getting warmer and will continue to warm up for some time. The polar ice caps are melting, and glaciers around the world are receding. The estimates for how high and how fast the sea level can rise if or when these sheets of ice melt are all over the board and depend on many factors that may come into play. If the oceans warm up, then there will be an increase in water vapor in the atmosphere. In addition, some scientists warn that there are massive stores of methane in the oceans that may be liberated into the atmosphere if the oceans warm up.
Since methane and water vapor are greenhouse gases, adding more of them to the atmosphere could further accelerate global warming.
Earth’s Changing Climate Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, Extreme droughts in Northern Nigeria Dangerous flooding that occurred in Nigeria displacing more than 250,000 families, dangerous blizzards on both the east and west coasts. Mile-wide tornadoes in Oklahoma, and the recent wildfires in Colorado and the Southwest United States. All of these examples are the direct result of an unprecedented increase in greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere – a problem that is rooted in human activity.
As explained in our previous blog, Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that allow sunlight to pass through and reach the earth’s surface. Some of this sunlight is captured as heat on Earth, and some of it is radiated back towards space. Without greenhouse gases the temperature on Earth would be well below freezing. This trapping of heat under the atmosphere is called the greenhouse effect, and it is both natural and beneficial to life on Earth. So, if greenhouse gases are so good for us, why do they get such a bad reputation? The problem with greenhouse gases is that they need to be present in specific amounts.
When too little gas is present, not enough heat is trapped under the atmosphere to keep the earth warm. When too much gas is present, too much heat gets trapped, which warms the earth more than usual. The types and amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are only beneficial when they are present in just the right balance.
The Enhanced Greenhouse Effect
You now know that the greenhouse effect is both natural and necessary for our survival because it keeps Earth warm and hospitable. However, the rapid increase in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere has led to the enhanced greenhouse effect, which is when too much heat is trapped on Earth, resulting in an overall increase in global temperatures.
While we do not know exactly how much damage such high concentrations of greenhouse gas can do, we have already seen some of the effects. Rising temperatures on Earth have produced severe changes in weather patterns, such as hotter summers, colder winters and stronger storms, like hurricanes and tornadoes.
Increasing global temperature will also lead to a rise in sea levels as the glaciers and polar ice caps melt. As sea levels rise, many organisms, such as polar bears, birds, fish and plants, will lose valuable habitat, and people will be forced to move farther inland. Industries, such as agriculture and forestry, will also be negatively affected by temperature changes, which could have worldwide consequences, such as food shortages and extreme land erosion.
EPA’s Climate Change Indicators (2014)
The concept and science of Climate change by Glory Oguegbu

Examining the Greenhouse Gases

So, what are the greenhouse gases that are enhancing the greenhouse effect? As mentioned before, greenhouse gases naturally occur in the atmosphere, but human production has been increasing the concentration of certain ones faster than they can break down. This increase is mainly due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil and natural gas) and excess methane production from livestock and landfills.
The most important greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and fluorinated gases.
Water vapor is the most abundant and possibly the most important greenhouse gas. Water vapor is not only very good at trapping heat on Earth but also amplifying the effects of other greenhouse gases. Water vapor does this through a vicious cycle: as the amount of water vapor increases in the atmosphere, the temperature on Earth increases as well, which then causes more water vapor absorption in the air, which again increases the warming of the earth…you can see how this is an issue!
Carbon dioxide (CO2) comes from the burning of fossil fuels and is important because even though it’s not the most potent greenhouse gas, it is one of the most abundant. CO2 concentrations naturally fluctuate over time, but recently reached a milestone concentration of 400 parts per million. To put this in perspective, in the past 800,000 years it has not been over 300 parts per million. The real worry though is how quickly CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (about 1750), human activity has continually increased atmospheric CO2 levels from 280 parts per million to the current high. There is no other period in the history of Earth where CO2 levels have increased so quickly.
Methane (CH4)is also rapidly increasing in the atmosphere. Methane is released into the air from fossil fuels and livestock. Atmospheric methane has increased 151% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and is currently at its highest concentration in at least 650,000 years.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) : Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste. Fluorinated gases : Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes. Fluorinated gases are sometimes used as substitutes for stratospheric ozone-depleting substances (e.g., chlorofluorocarbons, hydro chlorofluorocarbons, and halons). These gases are typically emitted in smaller quantities, but because they are potent greenhouse gases, they are sometimes referred to as High Global Warming Potential gases (“High GWP gases”).
Each gas’s effect on climate change depends on three main factors: How much of these gases are in the atmosphere?
Concentration, or abundance, is the amount of a particular gas in the air. Larger emissions of greenhouse gases lead to higher concentrations in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas concentrations are measured in parts per million, parts per billion, and even parts per trillion. One part per million is equivalent to one drop of water diluted into about 13 gallons of liquid (roughly the fuel tank of a compact car). How long do they stay in the atmosphere?
Each of these gases can remain in the atmosphere for different amounts of time, ranging from a few years to thousands of years. All of these gases remain in the atmosphere long enough to become well mixed, meaning that the amount that is measured in the atmosphere is roughly the same all over the world, regardless of the source of the emissions.
How strongly do they impact global temperatures? Some gases are more effective than others at making the planet warmer and “thickening the Earth’s blanket.”
Source: EPA’s Climate Change Indicators (2014) The concept and science of Climate change by Glory Oguegbu www.study.com Epa.com