- By Khin Maung Myint
Of course it is! The climate change is really happening and causing havocs all over the Earth. However, most are oblivious to that. It is very regrettable that some people are even denying it is taking place. The numbers of those deniers are quite small, but the problem is: they include people who can wield power, legislators and authoritative policy-makers from some powerful nations. Though the United Nations is endeavoring to control the advance of the climate change, such oppositions are hindering their progress.
What is climate change
Our planet Earth is gradually getting warmer without any relent. Since the Industrial Revolution period (1760 to sometime between 1820 – 1840), the temperatures had been gradually rising. Here, we should be aware that a temperature rise of 2°Celsius above the average temperature of the pre-industrual age could have much devastating impacts on the climatic conditions.
It would be necessary to know why the temperatures are rising. The advent of the industrial revolution came with the invention of the coal-fired engines. As coals are fossilized fuels that are very rich in carbon they produce Carbon Dioxide (C02) gases, and other gases that constitute, what are known as the greenhouse gases. That term came into being as the CO2 and other gases that are emitted from the fossil fuel engines, plus CO2 exhaled by humans and animals engulf the Earth and trap the heat of the sun reflected by the Earth from escaping back into space causing the temperatures to rise, giving way to global warming. That resembles the effect of a manmade greenhouse used to grow plants in the cold climes. As more and more CO2 enter the atmosphere, the higher the temperature rises are. The Paris Agreements reached at the UN sponsored climate conference in 2015 at Paris (COP21) required that every signatory to that agreement should contribute towards the control of the temperature rise below 2°Celsius and maintain it at 1•5°Celsius or lower, above the average temperatures of the pre-industrialization age.
Today, we are witnessing the world getting hotter year after year. This June is the hottest ever and the consequences of that are the devastating wildfires burning around the world — in the Arctic regions of Russia, Alaska and Greenland; in the world’s largest rainforest of the Amazon in Brazil and Bolivia; and some countries in Africa. Other smaller wildfires are also burning elsewhere. Wildfires produce much CO2 gases and other gases that constitute the greenhouse gases that cause the global warming.
These wildfires are contributing to the worsening of the climate change. Due to those intensive wildfires, the existing carbon sinks that absorb the CO2 and reproduce the useful Oxygen that are fed back into the atmosphere are decreasing at alarming rates. If CO2 absorption decreases, the greenhouse effects will become more pronounced, leading to high global warming that will raise the temperatures further, and high temperatures would cause more wildfires, which in turn produce more CO2. Thus a vicious cycle will be put into motion and will gain momentum.
While the skeptics of the climate change are stubbornly denying it, a sixteen year old Swedish girl sailed solo for two weeks across the Atlantic and reached New York a few days ago to attend the UN Climate Action Summit. She is a climate activist and refused to fly there, but instead sailed a zero-emission boat by herself to make a stand for the world that is facing the devastating climatic and ecological crises.
Impacts of the climate change
The climate change has great effects on the environments, the ecosystems and of course on the weather system too. Today, desertification due to droughts had depleted many arable lands, pastures, grazing grounds for breeding animals for consumptions; this could lead to shortage of foods. The icebergs all over the world are breaking away and melting profusely; causing sea level rises that could bring about the shrinkage of land masses; depriving humans of habitable space, arable lands, breeding grounds and pastures to raise animals that in turn could lead to famine. These situations could eventually lead to conflicts and even to wars. Some scholars are of the opinion that the downfall of Maya Empire and civilization in South America was brought about by the climate change.
The corals, which are the most awesome living organisms in the ecosystems are being bleached and dying due to high sea water temperatures. Bats and flying foxes, thought to be adaptable to hot climates are dropping dead, en-masse, due to intense temperatures in Australia. Lately, some 200 reindeers were found dead in Norway and experts came to the conclusion, after thorough investigations, that they died of hunger due to scarcity of food the previous winter. Domestic animals like sheep, goats, cattle and horses are dying of hunger due to severe droughts that deprived the animals of their feeds in many African, Asian and Latin American nations.
Many species of wildlife — animals, birds, fishes and insects — had already become extinct and many more are on the verge of extinction. In the Amazon rainforests, being home to more that 10% of the world’s wildlife species, including very rare and unique ones, more species are headed for extinction with the wildfires still raging on there.
Effects on the weather system are quite evident from the increase in frequencies and intensities of the storms everywhere. Unprecedented rainfalls, snowstorms, and snowing in the deserts where there never was snowfall in the past are all to be blamed on the climate change. Increase in wildfires is widespread due to extreme heatwave. Almost all these disastrous incidents can be attributed to the climate change.
Half a degree Celsius rise matters
Most are not aware that half a degree Celsius rise could have catastrophic consequences. Here, half a degree rise is not calculated based on yesterday’s or last month’s average or last year’s average temperatures, but based on the 1•5°Celsius above the average temperature of the pre-industrial age, a parameter set by the Paris Agreements. Scientists have concrete proofs that half a degree rise in temperature, or 2°Celsius above the average pre-industrual period level can cause ice bergs breaking up in the Arctic and the Antarctic regions.
Today the ice covered areas in Greenland and the ice caps on the alps and mountains around the world had receded significantly. The melting ice will lead to the sea level rises and more cities around the world will face the risk of sinking. Right now Indonesia is planning to relocate their fast sinking capital from Jakarta to higher grounds in East Kalimantan province of Borneo Island. Many tiny Pacific islands had already disappeared and their inhabitants displaced. People living on or near the ocean and sea coasts had been driven further inland because of the receding coastlines caused by sea level rises. Thus half a degree temperature rise shouldn’t be ignored.
By now, with all the disastrous incidents taking place, the climate change deniers should come to their senses and join hands with others who are desperately trying to curb the climate change from getting worse. Regretfully some obstinate persons are claiming that even if the whole Amazon rainforest is wiped out by the current wildfires it wouldn’t affect the Oxygen supply. It is common knowledge that trees absorb CO2 and emit Oxygen back into the atmosphere and thus forests are considered as carbon sinks.
The numerous wildfires that are burning in the Arctic, Africa, Amazon and elsewhere had already produced enormous amount of CO2, which would impact on the climate change greatly. As I write this article some scientists are expressing their concerns that the wildfires are turning existing carbon sinks into carbon emitters, which is a great concern for the future of the Earth. However, it is not too late as yet, if we act together we should be able to save it. So let us reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the global temperature increase to below 2°Celsius. Preferably at 1•5° Celsius or less above the average pre-industrial level.