Global warming and climate change are often referred to interchangeably but there is a clear difference between the two. Global warming refers to increase in the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere due to the increase in fossil fuel emissions. Climate change refers to changing climate trends brought about by global warming. In other words, global warming causes climate change. While global warming describes the increase in the average temperature of the Earth, climate change is measured not only in terms of global changes in temperature, but also pertains to the change in strength and frequency of extreme weather events like wind, rain, weather, as well as droughts and floods. Climate change encompasses changes such as sea level rise; ice melting in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; changing patterns in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather conditions.
Another distinction is that while global warming is a worldwide phenomenon, climate change can be perceived at global, regional or even local level. Global warming refers to the heating that has occurred in recent decades and the continuation of its continuity and its implicit effect on humans. In the framework of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, the term “climate changeability” has been used for “changes made by human”. The word “climate change” assumes that the rising temperatures are not the only effect. The term “anthropogenic global warming” is used several times when the focus is on the human-induced change.
The Causes of Global Warming and Climate Change
The Earth’s natural greenhouse effect is instrumental in supporting life otherwise frozen conditions will develop on it. It is a fact that humans, animals and plants need at least 16 degrees Celsius temperature to survive. The greenhouse effect was discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and it was quantitatively investigated for the first time by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests, have aggravated the natural greenhouse effect, resulting into global warming. The rise in the greenhouse gases (water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone, etc) in the environment has led to the increase in the average temperature of the Earth.
Earth’s climate changes as per the moving of its orbit around the sun. The pressure on the orbit increases due to solar luminosity, volcanic excretion, and the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration. The slow response to the thermal inertia of the oceans and many indirect effects suggest that the current temperature of the Earth is not in balance with the pressure put on it.
Due to the changes in lifestyle and industrialization, the use of coal and petroleum products is increasing. As a result, the amount of carbon dioxide gas increases in the atmosphere. Likewise in the soil of rice fields, the rot born out of oxygen-less atmosphere is excreted in the environment in the form of methane gas. Methane and other gases are produced also due to hard-coal mining, exploration and transport of natural gas, underground disposal of sewage plants and urban waste. Their breeding grounds are organic materials and water structures flowing along the flood and rotting of the vegetation in the oxygen-less environment of the water source’s bottom.
Effects of global warming and climate change
As a result of the increase in temperature of one degree centigrade in the atmosphere, more than 7 percent of evaporation occurs. According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea water is gradually getting acidic due to the effects of greenhouse gases and seasonal imbalances are increasing.
To understand the reality of climate change, the circumstances of the largest reservoirs of ice have to be seen and understood. The world’s largest reserves of ice are in Antarctica and Greenland. Their environment is an indicator of climate change in the world. Statistics show that in recent years Greenland’s average temperature is 5 degrees. More than 30 percent ice melted in 2007 compared to 2006, and in Antarctica, there has been an increase of 75 percent in the incidence of breakdown of ice sheets in the last years. It is estimated that if Greenland’s entire ice melts then sea levels will increase by seven meters. Many cities like Maldives, Mumbai may be inundated. By 2100, the temperature of the ocean water located at 23 degrees axis may increase by 3 degrees centigrade.
Due to the increase in temperature, by the year 2080, the coral reefs of the Western Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and the West Indies Islands, will run the risk of 80 to 100 percent extinction. The impact of acidic water will increase, and the risk of the existence of cold water coral reef and marine organisms will increase too. The number of areas with oxygen deficiency in the sea is increasing. This number has increased from 149 to 200 between 2003 and 2006 and due to this change; the yield of fish has decreased in these areas.
Climate change will have an impact on the world economy. It is estimated that due to climate change the world economy will decrease by about 20 percent. Apart from this, about 100 million people will be displaced due to sea level changes. Drought areas will increase fivefold and millions will become refugees due to drought. Every sixth person will suffer from water distress. There will be a serious danger to the lives of wild animals and it is estimated that about 40 percent of the species will be extinct from the Earth forever.
Due to global warming, there has been an increase in the incidence of lightning. Not only this, the impact of climate change can also be seen in areas of ground water, availability of agriculture, health, drinking water, food security, and energy security.
Impact of Global Warming and Climate Change on India
According to a report published by the University of California, between 1960 and 2009, the average temperature in India has increased by 0.5 degrees in 50 years, which has resulted in a rise of 150 percent in hot weather during this period. In the report, after mentioning the sharp increase in temperature after 2009, it has been reported that in 2010, 1300 people died from hot winds, while in 2013 this figure reached 1,500 and 2,500 in 2015.
Severe floods in different parts of the country have also proved that the danger of climate change is not only visible in the form of increasing temperature, but also in the form of catastrophic floods and bouts of severe cold. They are also going to be common in the coming days.
In order to properly understand the impact of climate change on development and life, the World Bank commissioned the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics at the beginning of this decade. The report of the institute specially outlined climate change’s effect on India.
Some key findings of the report of the institute were:
- The west coast and south India will reach a new high temperature climate, which will have disastrous effects on farming.
- With the temperature of the world rising by two degrees, the monsoon in India will be absolutely unpredictable and with the increase of four degrees, the very heavy rain will come once in 10 years and this situation may start at the end of this century. When the weather turns dry, it will be completely dry and when it rains, it will similarly wreck catastrophe. Droughts will start in many states including north-western India, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh and by 2040 a significant decline in agricultural productivity will start to appear.
- With the rise in temperature of 2.5 degrees, the ice layer will start falling over the Himalayas. There will be water in rivers such as Ganga and Brahmaputra, due to the excessive rainfall, but not the same drift of water throughout the year. This will affect these two rivers in the catchment area and will affect the lives of millions of people.
- Due to being closer to the equator, India will have greater impact due to sea level rise than many other countries in the world. The increase in sea water level and the quality of water available for cultivation in the coastal areas by storms will decrease, the transition to drinking water will increase and the quality of ground water will fall.
- Diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera will spread further. According to a research report, the coastline along the Indian coast will increase by 1.3 mm per year.
- The deadly impact of climate change on food security has already started showing. If it was not for the impact of climate change, then the average rice yield in India would have been about 6% more than that, and we would have been producing more than 75 million tonnes of rice.
- Similarly, in India and Bangladesh, the productivity of wheat has reached its peak. In such a case, if the temperature increases by two degrees by 2050, then India will need to buy double quantity of grains from abroad.
- By 2030 the temperature may increase to two degrees, which will reduce the productivity of corn, rice and apple. There will also be ill-effects on animals in the area.
- Uncertainty will increase in the coming decades due to climate change in the Indian Peninsula. The way floods, droughts and food shortages will arise, it may lead to a major geopolitical crisis and large-scale migration, riots and law and order problems.
The Measures to Prevent Global Warming and Climate Change
The bitter truth is that it is not possible to do much to prevent this situation, because the change in the climate is the result of human activities of more than 100 years and insensitive attitude towards nature.
But there are certain measures, which can slow down the devastation of the catastrophe in the coming decades:
- The biggest change can be in the plans of the cities. We cannot stop the urbanization, so it is necessary that there should be definite rules about the settlement of the cities, the building and the availability of civic facilities and they should be strictly adhered to.
- There should be compulsory provision for rain water harvesting and increased dependency on renewable energy for electrification. By building a building code, the building construction infrastructure should ensure that it can withstand the maximum effect of temperature and rainfall. Better use of ground water should be encouraged.
- The system for weather forecasting needs to be further strengthened so that natural disasters like floods can be detected beforehand and people can be evacuated from the affected areas.
- Research related to agriculture should be emphasized to develop species of crops that can be produced with minimum quantity of water. Multiple crops, drip and sprinkler, better use of water in irrigation, adequate attention to soil conservation etc, are the measures which can reduce the negative effects of global warming on agriculture.
- Investment on water storage should be increased in small quantities rather than large dams so that they can be collected after heavy rainfall and then used in the state of drought. In coastal areas where necessary, attention should be given to build a dam and the rules of the coastal regulated areas should be implemented.
Geological Perspective to Global Warming and Climate Change
However, geologists have tried to provide a different evidence of global warming and climate change. They find evidence of global warming and climate change since the birth of Earth and crores of years before the existence of human beings. So, the global warming and climate change phenomenon is common in the eyes of geologists. According to them, the glacial era (ice age) and the interglacial era (warm time between major glacial advances) keep recurring on the Earth. During the glacial period, the temperature decreases on the ground, ice sheets and glaciers are expanded in cold terrain and the water level of the ocean goes down. In the interglacial era, the temperature of the Earth increases. Due to the increase in temperature, the ice sheets melt, and the water level of the ocean arises. Due to this change of climate, competent organisms and vegetation survive and the incapable organisms are destroyed. According to geologists, celestial forces control global warming and climate change. It is the continuous cycle of nature.
Notwithstanding the above-mentioned geological viewpoint, it is because of human activities that we are facing the threat of global warming and climate change. Most of the rise in the heat can be traced back to the beginning of the industrial era. In fact, the average global temperature may increase further during the 21st century. This increase in the temperature of the entire world can lead to significant changes in the level of sea, increase in extreme weather and the quantity and composition of rainfall. Other effects of global warming may include changes in agricultural produce, modification of trade routes, retreat of glaciers, threat of species extinction, etc. In the background of these fears, we should not just wait like a ‘sitting duck’ till we become victims of the catastrophe.