What is climate change? Can we stop it? How can we stop? What are the effects? Is it real? These questions have confronted human beings ever since the problem of climate change came into the public domain. Climate change is a term used to explain long-term changes in weather patterns (Philander). Climate change is real. It is happening around us. We can easily see its effects. Some of these effects include a rise in sea levels, increased deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, unpredictable rainfall patterns, extreme precipitation, and food shortages.
Climate change is primarily caused by human activities. As a result of these activities, there has been addition of carbon (IV) oxide as well as other gasses to the atmosphere. These gasses trap heat (Toole and Toole). The main human activity that has had a major impact on climate change is burning of fossil fuels. When burnt, fossil fuels release gas emissions. These emissions consist of carbon (IV) oxide, methane, and nitrous oxide gasses (Hales). Among the three gases, carbon (IV) oxide has been identified as the major greenhouse gas. Concentrations of carbon (IV) oxide have risen by over 40 percent since the beginning of industrialization. Moreover, it is estimated that human activities release more than 30 billion tons of carbon (IV) oxide to the atmosphere annually. Elevated levels of carbon (IV) oxide in the atmosphere has led to an increase in earth’s average temperature (Ehrenhaft et al.).
The increased earth’s average temperature, in the past two decades, has had detrimental consequences. First, it has led to a rise in sea levels. The rise in sea levels is caused by melting of ice caps and glaciers (Gray). When sea levels rise, they have devastating effects on our lives. Therefore, we have an obligation to help stop climate change. Some of the consequences of the increase in sea levels include increased erosion near the coastal lines, loss of habitat for fish, destruction of wetlands, and pollution of agricultural soils. Some of these effects e.g. destruction of fish’s habitat have a direct impact on our lives. When the habitat of fish is lost, the supply of fish food decreases. Consequently, our quality of lives is negatively affected.
The effect of the rise in sea level can also be seen through dangerous storms. When sea levels rise, there is the formation of strong storms that are capable of destroying everything in their path. An example of such storms is Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Some of the effects of Hurricane Katrina included displacement of millions of people, destruction of property worth billions of dollars, power outages, and lack of drinkable water. Recently, Hurricane Mathew resulted in torrential rains, flooding, and many casualties in the state of North Carolina. These effects can be avoided in the future if we take up the responsibility of reversing climate change.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that increased temperatures are associated with deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (“WHO | Climate Change and Health”). For instance, extreme temperatures experienced in Europe in 2003 resulted in close to 100,000 deaths. Additionally, extreme temperatures have resulted in elevated ozone levels and increased pollutants in the atmosphere. These changes have been correlated with increased cases heart-related and respiratory diseases. Under extreme temperatures, there is also an accumulation of aeroallergens such as spores and pollen grains. Aeroallergens are the primary causes of asthma. Therefore, continued rise in temperatures is predicted to increase the burden of asthma.
Climate change is also manifested in variable rainfall patterns. What is being witnessed today is extended periods of drought, followed by higher than normal rains. The current weather patterns have become unpredictable. The unpredictability of rainfall has affected the sustainable supply of fresh water. Shortage of fresh water has been associated with increased rates of diarrhoeal disease, which has been estimated to kill approximately 150,000 children aged five and below, annually (“WHO | Climate Change and Health”). In some instances, variable rainfall patterns have resulted in drought and famine. In Africa, droughts and famine have led to armed conflicts. More specifically, scientists have argued there will be continued temperature rise over the next century. As a result, so many parts of the earth will become uninhabitable due to drought and famine. Consequently, there will be human migration out of these areas and increased risk of conflicts and wars (“Scientists Prove Climate Change Increases the Risks of War”).
Apart from causing severe droughts, we can see the effect of climate change in extreme precipitation. Nowadays, extreme drought is followed by excess rainfall. Increased precipitation has resulted in widespread flooding. This trend is predicted to rise throughout the century if concrete measures are not enacted to reverse climate change. Flooding results in contamination of freshwater thus increasing the risks of water-borne diseases and creating a habitat for disease-causing vectors e.g. mosquitoes. It is estimated that climate change has increased malaria cases to about 500 million per year, with more than one million individuals dying as a result. Most of the malaria-related deaths are found in Sub-Saharan Africa (“Climate Change and Vector-Borne Disease | UCAR Center for Science Education”).
The current food shortages being witnessed around the globe is also a product of climate change. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that 800 million people are undernourished as a result of climate change related famine. Climate change has led to increased famine through fluctuating weather patterns. Specifically, climate change has increased the intensities of droughts and floods thus having adverse effects on crop yield and food security. Lower crop yields have decreased food supplies and increased their prices. Consequently, the world’s poor end up not meeting their nutritional requirements.
Climate change is happening around us. We witness its effects on a daily basis as manifested through rising sea levels, increased deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, unpredictable rainfall patterns, extreme precipitation, and food shortages. The only hope is that human beings are capable of stopping these effects as they are the primary contributors to this problem. One of the ways through which humans can halt the trend is through enacting stringent laws capping the use of fossil fuels. Additionally, the governments should increase funding towards the generation of renewable sources of energy. At the individual level, people can stop climate change through energy efficiency, choosing renewable energy, eating organic foods, recycling waste, flying less, and providing financial support to organizations that are trying to give solutions to climate change e.g. David Suzuki Foundation. If these measures are undertaken at individual and government levels, our future will be optimistic. If not, humans should brace themselves for the worst in the near future.
“Climate Change and Vector-Borne Disease | UCAR Center for Science Education.” N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2016.
“Scientists Prove Climate Change Increases the Risks of War.” The Independent. N.p., 25 July 2016. Web. 6 Dec. 2016.
“WHO | Climate Change and Health.” WHO. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2016.
Ehrenhaft, George et al. Pass Key to the ACT. Barron’s Educational Series, 2008.