Climate Change


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What is climate change? What is causing our climate to change?

Climate change refers to the abnormal changes in earth's climate or weather patterns. A few examples of changes in the earth's pattern changes include amounts of precipitation, average regional temperature, humidity and storm events. Many scientist hypothesize that the changes in the climate have been caused mainly by human-related activities, the most denounced is greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Scientists believe climate change is caused by human activities such as deforestation, mining, and greenhouse gas emissions, especially of carbon dioxide. Although there are some skeptics that human activities cannot alter climate changes scientists warn that if humans don't take action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions humanity would pay high prices. Mel Tyree, author of Winds of Change Newsletter states, "The conclusion of many studies over the past few years is that the longer we delay addressing GHG emission reduction, the more damaging and costly fires, floods, droughts and storms will become. We should pay attention to them."



What is climate change really causing?

Higher temperatures due to climate change are causing the melting of ice caps and glaciers which in turn are causing the sea levels to rise. If sea levels rise low areas such as Florida, Alaska and New York would be in great danger of flooding. Already the the sea ice in the Artic Ocean reaches only half as far as it did 50 years ago (Washington Post). Additionally, "At the South Pole, ancient ice shelves have abruptly crumbled. The air over the western Antarctic peninsula has warmed by nearly 6 degrees since 1950."A warmer atmosphere also means a rise in sea temperatures which affect the patterns of precipitation. As a result climate change poses a great threat to every living thing including animals and plants. Climate change can affect several factors in our society including the economy, geography, health issues, biodiversity issues.

How does climate change affect us?
  • Geographycally and environmentally
If temperatures continue to rise at the rate they are rising nowadays many more and more severe natural disasters will occur and climate patterns will change dramatically. Some of these events have started occuring already which means that we are not reducing but increasing the amount of greenhouse gases.A recent example of this kind of phenomenon occured five years ago in 2005 in the state of Washington, "Washington residents experienced weather extremes in the fall of 2006. First, record rains churned up rivers and caused landslides and floods around Western Washington. Then, as the water began to clear, a record cold with ice and snowfall paralyzed parts of the west side of the state. That was closely followed by record gale force winds, 14 deaths, extensive property damage, and days of power outages for 1 million homes and businesses in Washington." Additionally, with a 3.5 degree increase in temperatures droughts will occur more frequently because what have been historic 50-year droughts will now occur every ten years and what had been historic 10-year droughts will now occur about every two years (Department of Ecology). Therefore, increasing the chances of forest fires.

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  • Economically
With all the droughts, fires, floods and other disasters caused by climate changes in the atmosphere extensive amounts of money will be needed to help the peple relocate and rebuild. "According to Sir Nicholas Sterns //The Economics of Climate Change// (2006), if humanity doesnt stabilize and significantly reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions within the next 10 to 20 years, the economic effects on the worlds economy will be greater than the cost of the 20th centurys world wars and the Great Depression combined."An excellent example of this is the relocation of the Alaskan communities of Shishmaref and Kivalina within the next decade. Otherwise, rising sea levels and coastal erosion caused by climate change will destroy this communities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the cost of the relocation could be up to $200 million (Winds of Change Newsletter).
  • Health Issues
Climate change will definately affect the health of the people in three ways: food, air and water. First of all, a greater use of fossil fuels would cause an increase in respiratory disorders like asthma. Variable precipitation patterns are likely to threaten the supply of freshwater leading to an increase risk of water-borne diseases. According to the World Health Organization, "Many risk factors and illnesses that are currently among the most important contributors to the global burden of disease are sensitive to climate, notably to temperature changes. These include malnutrition (estimated to kill 3.7 million people per year, globally), diarrhoea (1.9 million) and malaria (0.9 million). Warmer temperatures will have adverse effects on food production, water availability and the spread of disease vectors."The people that are most vulnerable to health issues and death are the elderly, children and low-income people, especially those in developing nations.

  • Biodiversityclimate_4.jpg
Humans and the economy are not the only ones being affected by the climate change. Animals are also being hurted by either having to adapt to a new climate or becoming extinct due to the fact thay can't adapt to their new climate. "Animals are on the move. Polar bears, kings of the Arctic, now search for ice on which to hunt and bear young. Seals, walrus and fish adapted to the cold are retreating north. New species -- salmon, crabs, even crows -- are coming from the south. The Inuit, who have lived on the frozen land for millennia, are seeing their houses sink into once-frozen mud, and their hunting trails on the ice are pocked with sinkholes."Scientists have predicted that if warming continues at this rate about 20 percent of the planet's animal and plant species would be in extreme danger of extintion.



The United Nations, the Kyoto Protocol and efforts to stop climate change

The United Nations is an international organization that was created in 1945 to promote peace, security, human rights and promote social progress. "The UN family is in the forefront of the effort to save our planet. In 1992, its “Earth Summit” produced the **//United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change//** (UNFCCC) as a first step in tackling the problem. In 1998, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide an objective source of scientific information."At the United Nations' 1997 Convention the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in the city of Tokyo, Japan. The kyoto Protocol is "a legally binding agreement under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to the year 1990" in order to slow down the process of global warming and climate change. Additionally, members of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) agreed to create a "Green Climate Fund" which would transfer money from rich, industrialized countries to poor, developing ones in order to help them switch to a more environmentally friendly energy source.

Analysis

Climate chanclimate_1.gifged had become a more visible and dangerous people have started to notice and pay more attention to. Scientists have already proven that the main causes for climate change are greenhouse gases emissions and deforestation, which are human activities who's later consequences will hurt us all. There are major environmental, health, ecomonic consequences that threated all of us if something is not done quickly. Like the United Nations, we should take action and try to save our planet and our people while we can and it is not too late. We have to decrease the release of greenhouse gases.


Sources

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/globalwarming/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/science/earth/un-panel-finds-climate-change-behind-some-extreme-weather-events.html?_r=1&scp=9&sq=climate%20change&st=cse
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/16/AR2007091600607.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/science/earth/climate-change-expands-far-beyond-an-environmental-issue.html?_r=1&ref=science
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/19/AR2007081900967.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR2007102100761.html
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/11/AR2010121102308.html
http://www.kyotoprotocol.com/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/delegates-debate-how-to-craft-new-climate-pact-by-2015/2011/12/09/gIQAYV08iO_story.html
http://www.unep.org/climatechange/Introduction.aspx
http://www.ohvec.org/newsletters/woc_2008_09/article_34.html
http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/extremeweather_more.htm
http://www.searo.who.int/en/Section260/Section2468/Section2500_14163.htm
http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/climatechange/