What will I read in this article?
What is climate change?
Climate change is the variation in the state of the climate attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the atmosphere. Mainly caused by global warming, it has as a consequence the melting of the poles and the rise in sea level or the increase in extreme weather events, among many other negative effects. Its consequences are so serious that institutions and companies are taking actions to stop climate change.
Indeed, one of the conclusions of the latest report from the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) is that the impacts of this phenomenon, which are already affecting us all, are accelerating and intensifying. In fact, we are already living with the consequences of this transformation of the climate system.
Who is responsible for climate change?
The answer to this question is another major conclusion from the IPCC. Human beings are to blame for climate change. Human activity has generated greenhouse gases that have heated up the Earth.
Can we stop climate change?
In truth, no. Climate change is now inevitable. Our planet's temperature is already 1.1°C higher than pre-industrial levels. The Earth is being irreversibly changed. All we can do is implement measures that will enable us to curb global warming.
The following video answers this question in more detail:
What can we do to mitigate the worst effects of climate change?
Firstly, we must stop emitting greenhouse gases. The salient initiative aimed at achieving this is the Paris Agreement.
It is a treaty adopted by 196 Parties, after 20 years of negotiation, with a single end goal: to keep global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and make the necessary efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. How? By achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. In other words, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through mitigation, adaptation and resilience.
To give you a clearer idea of what that means, the objectives of the Paris Agreement are as follows:
If we are to tackle the worrisome trends threatening our world, we need to rethink how the world works. The thing is, the current system is failing us and the planet.
We need to replenish and restore what the planet has lost. Offsetting is no longer enough; we must "heal" environmental, economic and social wounds. And this is the promise of sustainable regeneration, a concept that seeks to create economies and communities that thrive so that the planet can too.
What are the causes of climate change?
The Earth's climate has never been static. Over the course of millions of years, the climate has fluctuated between periods of extreme cold (such as the ice ages) and periods of high temperatures. These changes are the result of the energy that the Earth receives from the Sun and the energy exchanges between different parts of the Climate System, which consists of five components:
- The atmosphere: the gaseous layer surrounding the Earth
- The hydrosphere: the fresh and salt water in liquid form
- The cryosphere: the frozen water
- The lithosphere: the land
- The biosphere: all living beings that inhabit the Earth
These five components interact, and the balance between them is what dictates the climate. Why are we experiencing a climate change now? Because human activity has altered the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels has expelled large volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
"Our planet's temperature is already 1.1°C higher than pre-industrial levels"
But before we continue, do you know what the greenhouse effect is? It is when heat from the Sun gets trapped in the Earth's atmosphere by a layer of atmospheric gases. Without these gases, life as we know it would not be possible; the planet would be too cold. These gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, which are released by industry, agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels.
The industrialised world has caused the concentration of these gases to skyrocket, whereas before human activity, nature was in charge of balancing emissions. Now, the planet cannot "digest" the excess gases, and this leads to the greenhouse effect, which in turn causes global warming.
Effects of climate change
Climate change impacts us much more than you may think. The global rise in temperature has terrible consequences that endanger the survival of ecosystems and the planet's living things, including human beings. The most concerning effects include:
🧊 The melting of polar ice caps.
🌊 Rising sea levels
🌪 The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events
🐳 The extinction of animal and plant species
🥵 More frequent heat waves
👥 The emergence of climate refugees
🌽 Agriculture and livestock issues that could exacerbate hunger around the world
💰 The degradation of economic resources
These effects could become extremely serious. The temperature will continue to rise until at least mid-century.
According to IPCC forecasts, global warming will be between 1.5°C and 2°C by 2050. And that's in the event that we stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. If we don't manage this, the increase will be 4.4°C, a rise that is very likely to make life on Earth impossible.
How is climate change affecting our daily lives?
However, we don't have to look decades into the future to see the worst effects of climate change. We are already experiencing some of them right now. Yes, really: We are facing unprecedented changes, and some of them are already irreversible.
For example, we're seeing rising sea levels, which are already having an impact on some island states such as Kiribati. This Pacific island is set to be the first country swallowed up by the ocean as a result of climate change.
We could also mention the terrible floods that have recently hit countries around the world. Experts warn that the water cycle is intensifying as the planet gets warmer. The relationship between climate change and floods is explained by the rise in temperatures, which increases the humidity in the air, in turn leading to a greater chance of more frequent and intense rainfall.
In a study published in the journal Nature, the experts behind the Global Flood Database found that between 2000 and 2015, the population of the world exposed to flooding increased by between 20 % and 24 %.
We are also facing devastating fires. Indeed, desertification and drought, factors closely related to the proliferation of fires, are threatening several regions of the planet.