“Go softly in the world; if it is harmed, it cannot return” – Nigerian Proverb
WHAT IS GLOBAL WARMING?
Global Warming, also known as climate change, is a rise in the average temperature of the atmosphere and oceans worldwide. In turn, this causes ice caps on the North Pole to melt and sea levels to rise. Globally, the amount of rainfall and the timings of seasons are also changing. This increases the chance of flooding and changes the lengths of growing seasons for crops. In general, the changes felt worldwide show that dry regions are expected to get drier whilst wet areas will get wetter in the future, providing significant impacts on the population and agricultural systems.
The cause for this warming is the release of certain gases into the atmosphere which trap heat and prevent it from escaping. The two main gases culpable for this are carbon dioxide and methane. This is a natural process that allows the Earth to have a habitable temperature for humans, plants, and animals. However, recent Global Warming and climate change is causing the planet to warm too much, posing problems for humans worldwide.
WHY ARE GAS EMISSIONS INCREASING?
The reason behind the planet warming is mostly due to human influences, particularly our excessive emissions of gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. This occurs when fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal are burned to produce energy for us to use.
Power stations, transport, and industry need energy from fossil fuels to function so we combust these fuels for economic development and our own benefit. For example, these gases come from cars, smoke from factories, and waste materials. However, the need for development often overcomes the care for the environment, resulting in us releasing too much gas into the atmosphere which produces environmental damage.
Also, we emit a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere whenever we cut down trees and deforest large areas. Trees and vegetation survive by photosynthesis; a process which takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. By removing trees, less gas is removed from the atmosphere so the Earth gets warmer. Also, a warmer planet is unfavourable for some plants and may cause species to become extinct, so the problem simply worsens.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE?
Since the gases that are produced can move and mix in the atmosphere, they can spread globally. Therefore, the issues caused by gases are experienced worldwide, such as agricultural problems. For example, crop yields could decrease because of the following:
- Longer periods of drought
- Higher temperatures
- Flash flooding
Also, these problems are more pronounced in Africa given that deserts are set to expand, and the continent is expected to become drier in general. Crops and agricultural systems could suffer in future if warming continues, especially as rising sea levels may cause crops to flood in coastal and low-lying regions. Also the longer droughts in the future will be dangerous to human health because there will be less water for people to drink, and fewer crops available for people to consume or sell.
CLIMATE IN THE FUTURE
Global Warming is already altering the environment, the economy, and livelihoods worldwide, but the future impacts rely on the extent of action that we take now. We ought to appreciate that our planet is precious and if we harm it enough, it may never return back to what it once was. So, we must try to change our actions the preserve nature. For example, instead of burning fossil fuels for economic development, we can invest in renewable energy sources (which do not produce greenhouse gases). Also, we can replant trees and reforest the landscape. This has already proven to be successful in Mau, Kenya, where over half a million trees had been planted in the region (as of 2013), and 200 million tress have been introduced into Niger since 1980.
Although climate change and Global Warming appears to be a serious problem, it is clear to see that we can change our lifestyles and introduce initiatives that can help us deal with the negative impacts of climate change.