“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.” – Greta Thunberg
Climate-related incidents, including discussions, news, and commentary, make the headlines across the globe daily. Young climate activists like Greta Thunberg are standing up for what they believe is right. In summary, they believe that the time for action is now. And, if nothing is done to reduce the world’s fossil fuel emissions, the world will “burn”.
Additionally, the Fiftieth annual meeting of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) at Davos, Switzerland, has just concluded. The WEF was established in 1971 to bring the primary role players, including business leaders, politicians, and cultural leaders together to discuss global concerns that hamper global economic inclusion, climate change, and sustainable development. The goal or aim is the achievement of a cohesive and sustainable world.
According to Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, on its fiftieth birthday, the World Economic Forum is “releasing a new Davos manifesto, which states that companies should pay their fair share of taxes, show zero tolerance for corruption, uphold human rights throughout their global supply chains, and advocate for a competitive level playing field.” It is evident from the above statements that the WEF’s primary focus is economic or business-related. And, the participants gather together annually to discuss “everything economic.”
Climate change and the global economy
Thunberg spoke at the 2020 Davos gathering, highlighting that it is vital for the world to pay attention to the fact that the global climate crisis that the global netizens find themselves in. She continues to insist on a zero-carbon emissions global economy. In her opinion, humankind has passed its cut-off day to lower carbon emissions. She, on behalf of all children, placed a series of demands on the table, including ending all fossil fuel explorations, extractions, and subsidies.
The WEF has also placed its climate change objectives on the table. They have noted that the negative impact of climate change, especially global warming, “poses an urgent threat to economic progress, global food security, our natural systems, and individual livelihoods.“
Currently, nations across the globe are encountering the impact of global warming, especially that of rising ocean temperatures. An excellent example of the effects of increasing sea temperatures is what is known as the Indian Ocean Dipole.
In essence, it is a weather phenomenon that relates to the differences in sea temperatures in opposite parts of the Indian Ocean. Current warmer ocean temperatures next to East Africa have resulted in above-average rainfall, floods, landslides, and agricultural crop and local infrastructures in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, and South Sedan. Consequently, a famine warning has been issued for East Africa because of the severe flooding and above-average rains.
On the other side of the Indian Ocean, Australia has experienced and continues to experience, the worst bush fires in recorded history. The fires are so hot that they caused their own climate ecosystem with Pyrocumulonimbus thunderstorms. These storms are essentially dry thunderstorms with severe lightning strikes that start more fires. The worst fires hit the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
Additionally, these dry cumulonimbus clouds have also permitted the bushfire smoke to reach the stratosphere, which is about 16kms above the earth’s surface. This, in turn, has enabled the smoke to move around the world past New Zealand and South America. Scientists believe that the smoke from these fires will travel right across the globe and end up back in Australia.
Consequently, the WEF’s solution is to promote the private sector and government collaboration to build a global marketplace with the ability to ensure dramatic cuts in global emissions. Finally, the WEF’s global climate initiatives aim to contribute to a platform to help raise the aspiration to and expedite climate change action through “multi-stakeholder partnerships” across the entire globe.
Climate Change: How the Thawing Arctic Permafrost is Driving Climate Change
Permafrost, or permanent frost, is defined as ground that is totally frozen. The ground temperature has to reach 32°F (0°C) or colder for at least two years in a row before it is known as permafrost. Traditionally, these permanently frozen grounds are most common in regions with high mountains as well as near the earth’s North and South Poles. However, climate change is causing this frozen soil to melt, resulting in disastrous consequences as seen below.
“I’ve starred in a lot of science fiction movies and, let me tell you something, climate change is not science fiction. This is a battle in the real world, it is impacting us right now.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Actor & Former Governor of California
Climate Change: What is permafrost?
The soil, rocks, and sand are bonded together by ice which is why it stays frozen all year round. Statistics show that almost 25% of the earth’s surface in the Northern Hemisphere is frozen or has permafrost underneath its top layers.
It’s vital to note that the ground does not have to be covered with snow for it to be frozen. And, the top layer, or the active layer, of soil does not stay frozen twelve months of the year. It’s just the lower layers that remain frozen. The active layer defrosts during the summer months and refreezes again in the autumn or fall when the temperatures start dropping.
Finally, the depth of the active layer versus the permafrost layer is dependent on how warm the summer months are.
Climate change versus Permafrost: The long-term effects on each other
The Arctic permafrost is melting as a consequence of global warming. Well, strictly speaking, it is the ice inside the soil, rocks, and sand that is melting, resulting in wet soil or a combination of water, soil, and rocks. There are several negative consequences of this, namely,
Increase in greenhouse gasses
Renee Cho, in her article titled, “Why Thawing Permafrost Matters,” states that the permafrost can be anything from 3 feet to 4 900 feet thick. “It stores the carbon-based remains of plants and animals that froze before they could decompose.” And, scientists believe that the world’s permafrost “holds 1,500 billion tons of carbon, almost double the amount of carbon that is currently in the atmosphere.”
When the ground is frozen, the organic material in the soil cannot decompose. This is known as organic carbon. And, as the ground defrosts, this material starts breaking down, carbon dioxide and methane are released into the air; thereby, increasing the greenhouse gasses.
Destroys urban settlement areas
A sizeable number of the villages in the Arctic Circle like Bethel, Alaska are built on permafrost. And, the melting permafrost is causing houses and other urban structures like roads and bridges to collapse. In other villages, cemeteries are sinking into a watery quagmire, which are preventing Alaskan residents from burying their dead.
Releases ancient bacteria and viruses
The permafrost contains bacteria and viruses that are mixed in with the organic carbon material that did not decompose before the earth’s far northern surface areas froze. The melting of these areas is releasing these bacteria and viruses; thereby, increasing the chances of making people and animals very sick because they have no immunity against these ancient microbes.
Laura Geggel, from NBC news describes the following scenario:
“For the past 15,000 years, a glacier on the northwestern Tibetan Plateau of China has hosted a party for some unusual guests: an ensemble of frozen viruses, many of them unknown to modern science.”
Scientists studying these viruses took two ice core samples from the glacier and discovered thirty-three groups of virus genera, of which 28 have never been seen before.
This glacier is melting, and, in a worst-case situation, these viruses could be released into the environment, contaminating water sources and food sources; thereby, risking human and animal lives.
The consequences of the loss of the Northern Arctic permafrost are serious. The more the permafrost melts, the more greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere, the more the permafrost melts, and so on. Finally, it is clear that something radical must be done to prevent this cycle from continuing.
Climate Change: The Relationship Between the Earth and the Sun
“Climate change is real. It is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” – Leonardo Di Caprio, Actor & Environmentalist
Have you ever wondered what the relationship between the earth and the sun is? And, has this relationship changed in recent history? And, if this relationship has changed, has it been caused by global warming? And, finally, is the changed relationship between the earth and the sun responsible for climate change?
There are valid questions that demand a considered answer. Thus, let’s look at the following points as a way of answering these questions:
The relationship between the earth and the sun
Nationalgeographic.org states that”it is the earth’s relationship to the sun, and the amount of light it receives, that is responsible for the seasons and biodiversity.”
The tilt of the earth’s axis is responsible for the amount of sun a particular part of the earth receives at any given moment. The distance of the earth from the sun does not make any difference to the earth’s daylight hours.
The earth is also divided into two hemispheres or halves by the equator. The northern hemisphere experiences summer in June, July, and August because it is tilted towards the sun and is exposed to the sun for the majority of the 24-hour period.
Countries on or closest to the equator have circa 12-hours daylight and 12-hours night irrespective of whether they are in the northern or southern hemisphere. And, the further north the countries are, the longer the daylight hours are, and the shorter the night is in the summer months.
The countries north of the Arctic Circle, and within Antarctica, experience a phenomenon known as the Midnight Sun. Essentially, the sun does not set around the Summer Solstice, 21 June in the north and 21 December in the south. Countries south of the equator experience their seasons in juxtaposition to the Northern Hemisphere.
Most countries across the globe, except those on the equator, experience four seasons in a calendar year: spring, summer, autumn or fall, and winter. The countries that straddle the equator have what is known as an equatorial climate and they only experience two seasons: a wet and a dry season.
Can the sun cause global warming?
The global climate change website, climate.nasa.gov states that, while the sun can influence the earth’s climate, it is not responsible for the “warming trend we have seen over the past few decades.” Succinctly stated, “the sun is the giver of life.” And, its main function is to keep the earth warm enough human existence.
Minute changes in the earth’s orbit around the sun are responsible for the historical ice ages that have come and gone. However, “the warming we’ve seen over the last few decades is too rapid to be linked to changes in the earth’s orbit.”
Can climate change affect the natural relationship between the sun and the earth?
We know that global warming is fundamentally caused by the increase of greenhouse gasses, which absorbs heat and traps it in the earth’s atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels primarily produces these greenhouse gasses. Thus, the more fossil fuels that are burned the higher the potential for global warming.
As an aside, it is also important to note that about 30% of the sun’s rays that are directed towards the earth are reflected out towards the sun. The remaining 70% is absorbed by the earth’s surface and the atmosphere. This heat is then released back out through the earth’s atmosphere, thereby keeping the earth’s temperature constant and suitable for human habitation.
However, the increase in greenhouse gasses trap the heat that is supposed to released back out through the earth’s atmosphere; thereby, adding to the increase in the earth’s surface temperature.
Climate Change: What, Why, How?
Much has been written about climate change and its impact on the world as we know it. Some of it is on the side of what is commonly termed “fake news,” while other writings are based on reliable, evidence-based scientific facts.
Therefore, the questions that must be asked and answered are as follows:
- What do scientists say about climate change?
- How is climate change changing the world’s weather systems?
- And, what can we do to mitigate or reduce the negative impact of climate change on the world’s ecosystems?
At this juncture, it is vital to note that many studies published in academic peer-review journals indicate that 97% of all climate scientists agree on the definition of climate change as well as the consequences and causes of climate change.
Thus, by way of answering these questions, let’s consider each of these questions individually.
Climate change: A comprehensive definition
The climate.nasa.gov website notes that the phrases “climate change” and “global warming” are used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences in the meanings.
Global warming is the “long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere.”
Climate change, on the other hand, is the “long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define Earth’s local, regional and global climates.”
Global warming is one of the fundamental causes of climate change. However, climate change is not responsible for global warming.
What is the impact of climate change on the world’s weather systems?
As the definition mentioned above states, climate change is a shift in the world’s current climate or long-term weather patterns. The uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels is a primary causative of global warming.
2019 statistics show that the earth’s surface temperature was the third warmest in history at 0.65 degrees Celsius. The earth’s surface temperature heated up by 0.86 degrees Celsius in 2016, the highest in recorded history.
This increase in the earth’s surface temperate, albeit seemingly small, has had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences including a rise in global air temperatures, which in turn causes severe weather events like heatwaves, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, and tropical storms.
A current example of the rising temperatures is the melting of the sea ice in Nome, Alaska. Dog teams racing in the Iditarod, one of the world’s premier long-distance races, have been stranded for a couple of days about 123 miles from the finish line. This is due to the unseasonably warm weather, heavy snow, and the fact that heavy winds blew waves up onto the sea ice, causing the dangerous overflow. Overflow is where water flows over the frozen ice causing it to crack and melt. When people and animals try and move through the overflow, the underlying ice breaks further, resulting in hazardous conditions.
As an aside, three mushers and dog teams were rescued by the Alaskan National Guard because they ran into deep water on the sea ice just 22 miles from the finish line. The mushers were hypothermic and had crawled into their sleeping bags when they were picked up. The dogs were all healthy and were collected and taken separately to Nome, the town where the finish line is.
What can we do to reduce global warming?
This question has been asked and continues to be asked, and the concise answer is that we need to reduce greenhouse gas levels by preventing the burning of fossil fuels. However, there seems to be a lack of political will by some of the world’s biggest countries, such as the USA and China.
Until the world chooses to pay attention to and work hard at, the reduction of greenhouse gasses, we seem to be set on the current trajectory facing the consequences of rising temperatures and severe weather events that are linked to global warming.
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