Climate is a term used to denote the patterns of weather occurring in particular regions of the globe. Climate change denotes the long-term changes in weather patterns over extended time periods. In modern times, the term has been used to describe the rapid climatic changes as a result of global warming.
Climate change thus denotes fluctuations in the statistical properties of weather patterns when considered over periods longer than 10 years. As such, short fluctuations such as El-Nino, cannot be considered as climate change. There is a general consensus amongst the scientific community that the current increase in climate change is mainly due to human factors and the result of this climate change might have catastrophic consequences.
There are mainly two factors that influence climate change: Natural and human factors. First, under natural causes variations in the radiation outputs of the sun has been found to have a considerable effect on the earth’s climatic conditions.
According to scientists, solar output variation of 1% per century would result in a variation of the earth’s average temperature ranging between 0.5 and 1.00 Celsius (USNAS). Solar output causes surface heat fluctuations due to changes in heat absorption and radiation by the earth surface. Secondly, volcanic eruptions have been linked to climate changes. Volcanic eruptions of sufficient magnitude have the ability to alter the climate system of the whole world.
Volcanic ashes, dust and gases released during volcanic eruptions creates a blanket that obstructs solar radiation from the sun thus reducing the earth’s surface temperatures. The last important natural factor is orbital variations. Orbital variations lead to changes in the levels of solar radiation reaching the earth mainly due to the position of the sun and the distance between the earth and the sun during each particular orbital cycle.
During the 19th century, the industrial revolution commenced resulting in the extensive use of fossil fuel for energy purposes. The industrial revolution also resulted in human migration from rural areas to cities with people looking for a better life. Land that was previously filled with vegetation was now cleared to make room for buildings and roads.
Natural resources were extensively consumed for industries, construction and transport. As a result, the levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases increased considerably. Greenhouse gases are an integral part of the earth’s climatic system as they help in warming up the earth’s surface. The increased emission of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) has led to the accelerated warming of the earth’s surface (global warming).
Methane, emitted from oil drilling, waste dumps and landfills, is also another important greenhouse gas whose content has been continually increasing. The extensive use of fertilizer has also led to the rise in nitrous oxide emission, another important greenhouse gas. These are all responsible for global warming and the subsequent climate change.
Scientists from around the world have identified several impacts of climate change. First, climate change has resulted in the gradual increase in ocean levels (Trenberth, 244). This has mainly been attributed to expansion of warmer ocean water and the melting of polar glacier ice. Rising sea waters affects coral reefs, coastal communities and wetlands mainly through flooding and encroachment of the sea into dry land. Changes in climate have also led to changes in weather patterns.
The rise in surface temperatures has resulted into heavy rainfalls that cause flooding in many areas of the world. Increase in surface temperatures has also resulted into severe and prolonged drought in other parts of the world. Climate change has also resulted in the increase of occurrence and magnitude of extreme climatic events such as tsunamis and hurricanes. Changes in climate lead to changes in ocean currents which might result in the occurrence of such events.
Over the course of earth’s history, various instances of climate changes have occurred some more extensive than others e.g. the ice age. However, during the turn of the 20th century, it has been noted that the rate of climate change has been increasing. Many scientists believe that this increase is mainly due to pollution of the air and the environment due to human activities e.g. industrialization and deforestation. Climate change has had several impacts on the earth’s weather system.
The increase in natural disasters such as cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons can be attributed to global warming. In order to mitigate the effects of climate change, it is important for people to realize the part they play in climate change and take effective measures. Various governments and institutions have instituted greenhouse emission restrictions in order to address this issue.
Campaigns aimed at educating individuals on the appropriate strategies in reducing greenhouse emissions have also been instituted. We are all part of the world and it is in our best interest to undertake all necessary measures to curb climate change.
Trenberth, Kevin. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007
United States National Academy of Sciences (USNAS). “Understanding and Responding to Climate Change”. 2008. http://americasclimatechoices.org/climate_change_2008_final.pdf. Retrieved 29 October 2010. “.