Introduction corresponding changes in climate and that may

Introduction

“Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is
happening here, it is happening now.” —President Barack Obama (Davis & Myers, 2015)

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I read this quote a while ago and it really got me thinking.
I always considered global warming and climate change a problem for in the
future, not for in the now. A lot of people in our society our not really aware
of the problems regarding this issue. That’s why it is important to make more
people aware of the consequences of global warming and climate change.

We do see the words global warming thrown a lot everywhere.
It is covered in the media, politicians talk about it and everyone seems to
have an opinion on it. Thus, it is important to get an definition on this two
words. What does global warming actually mean? The definition according to
dictionary.com is:

”An increase in the earth’s average atmospheric temperature thatcauses corresponding changes in climate and that may result from the greenhouse effect.” (Dictionary.com)

The same problem we encounter with climate change. What does
it actually mean? According to dictionary.com the definition of climate change
is as following:

”A
long-term change in the earth’s climate, especially a change due to an increase
in the average atmospheric temperature.” (Dictionary.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science behind Global warming & Climate change

Most of the global leading climate scientists
agree that the main cause of the current global warming can be contributed to
the so-called ”Greenhouse Effect”. This leads to the question what this
greenhouse effects means. According to The Free Dictionary the definition of
greenhouse effect is as following:

”A phenomenon in which the
atmosphere of a planet traps radition emitted by its sun, caused by gases such
as carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane that allow incoming sunlight to pass
through but retain heat radiated back from the planet’s surface”
(The Free Dictionary)

Figure
1 (NASA)

So now we understand that some long-lived gases block heat
from escaping. The 4 most important gases that contribute to the greenhouse
effect are the following:

Figure
2 (NASA)

Since the industrial revolution began around 1750, you can
see that human activities have contributed very substantially the increased
amount of Carbon dioxide, Methane and Nitrous oxide.

Figure 3 (EPA)

·        
Water
vapor (H2O) is the most abundant greenhouse out there in the
atmosphere. Out of these four water vapor concentration is the least affected
by emissions through human activity. Water vapor will increase when the earth’s
atmosphere warms up. What is interesting is that when earth’s atmosphere warms
up the possibility of clouds and rain will also increase. This makes it an
important tracking and feedback tool to the consequences of the greenhouse
effect.

·        
Carbon
dioxide (CO2) is a small but very important greenhouse in the atmosphere.
CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas that contributes to climate
change. It is released through several natural processes such as volcano
eruptions and breathing. Human activity have also been a huge contributor to
the raise in CO2. Human activities have released CO2 through
activities such as burning fossil fuels, farming and deforestation. In a
further chapter we will go more in-depth on those activities. CO2 is
the most important factor behind driving human made climate change.

·        
Methane
(CH4) is a hydrocarbon gas that is produced through natural
processes from wetlands, termites and oceans. Wetlands is by far the biggest
emitter of these 3. Methane is also released in huge quantities through human
activities.  Examples and the most
important ones of human activities that release methane are the production,
distribution and use of fossil fuels, livestock farming and biomass burning. (What’s
Your Impact?)

·        
Nitrous
oxide (N2O) is more commonly known as laughing gas. But trust me,
there is nothing to laugh about here. Nitrious oxide is a very poweful
greenhouse gas that should been taking seriously. One ton of N2O
emitted is equal to 298 ton of CO2 emitted in terms of climate change.
(Grace & Barton, 2014) Human activities
such as the use of fertilizers, fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning
contribute to the production of Nitrous oxide. (NASA)

 

Human activities that cause global warming

Fossil fuels

When
humans burn or use fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to use their products,
we release greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. This is by far the
largest contributor in the world of greenhouse gases. In 2013 the energy
industry is the source of 72% of the greenhouse gases emissions. (Friedrich, Ge, & Pickens, 2017)

Figure
4

The point of burning of all these
fuels is to release energy that can be used for lots and lots of different
uses. Think about heat, electricity and gasoline. These products can for
example be used for powering power plants, cars and planes. There are 3 types
of fossil fuels that are used the most for this purpose. These are coal,
natural gas and oil. In 2015 coal accounted for 28,1% for the world’s total
primary energy supply. Oil accounted for 31,7% in 2015 and gas for 21,6%. (International
Energy Agency, 2017)

From
these coal is the biggest polluter being responsible for 43% of CO2
emissions from fossil fuels. Second comes oil with a 36% share in CO2 emissions
from fossil fuels. Third comes natural gas with a 20% share in CO2 emissions
from fossil fuels. Coal is not only the widest-used fossil fuel, but also the
most carbon intensive fossil fuel. This mean that it produces the most carbon
dioxide when compared to oil and gas in the same quantities. (What’s Your Impact?)

Deforestation

Deforestation
might not be the first problem you think of when you think about the topic of
global warming. It is an often-overlooked subject in the discussion of global
warming. What is forgotten is that trees play a huge role in carbon cycle. The
carry out the task of converting carbon dioxide in the air to oxygen that
humans can use for breathing. The trees do this through process of
photosynthesis. In an simple explanation this process can be described in an
equation: carbon dioxide + water with enough sunlight = sugar + oxygen. This
means that trees can be viewed as the regulator of our carbon dioxide. Knowing
this information, we can conclude that trees are the an very important aspect
of our eco-system. It means the more trees we have on this planet, the less CO2
we will have in our atmosphere and more oxygen we need to breath. This
makes it important to combat the important and widespread issue of
deforestation.

We
live in an age where CO2 plentiful in the atmosphere. A lot of this
CO2 is released through human activities such as cars, planes,
electricity and factors. It was never so important before that trees can
fulfill their task of converting carbon dioxide into oxygen and take it out of
our air. Sadly, due to deforestation this task of the trees is hard to fulfill.
It is estimated by that we are losing 18.7 million acres of forest per year. To
put this into perspective, this is the equivalent of 27 soccer fields every
minute. (World Wild Life) How more CO2 there is in our atmosphere,
the more of the sun’s radiation is being reflected back to earth instead of to
space. This causes the average temperature of earth to rise. With this
information in mind we can conclude that deforestation is a major issue related
to global warming.

 

 

 

 

Agriculture

Agriculture contributes to climate change, but is also
affected by it. Agriculture contributes to about 10,5% of greenhouse gas
emissions worldwide. (World
Resources Institute) This makes it important for the world
to reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions that comes from agriculture. It also
needs to change its food-production systems in order to cope with global
warming and climate change.

Before the
food we consume reaches us it goes through a process with several stages. The
food we consume needs to be produced, stored, processed, packaged, transported,
prepared and in the end eaten. With every stage of this process there are
greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. A huge amount of
greenhouse gases that is being produced during this process come from the
farming aspect. Farming releases significant amounts of methane (CH4)
and nitrous oxide (N2O). These are two of the four most important
greenhouse gases that we recognized earlier in this essay.

Methane
from human activity is released in our atmosphere through several ways. A big
source of these emissions comes from enteric fermentation in farm animals. The United States Environmental Protection Agency
describes enteric fermentation in the following way:

” Enteric fermentation is fermentation that takes
place in the digestive systems of animals. In particular, ruminant animals (cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and
camels) have a large “fore-stomach,” or rumen, within which microbial
fermentation breaks down food into soluble products that can be utilized by the
animal.” (Gibbs & Leng)

This
process of enteric fermentation a huge amount of human methane emissions. In
fact, it contributes to around 27% of human methane emissions. Which means that
livestock farming creates around 90 million ton of methane each year. (What’s
Your Impact?) Though this is not directly happening by human hands, livestock
farming is happening because we raise these animals to consume them. Thus,
their emissions can be considered a human activity.

Another
big contributor of methane emissions in the agriculture is the production of
rice. The contribution of rice agriculture to greenhouse gases can be considered
substantial. It is believed that 9% of human methane emissions can be
contributed to rice agriculture. This comes down to emitting around 31 million
ton of methane every year. (What’s Your Impact?) Rice agriculture happens
mostly in flooded fields that are called rice paddies. The water in these rice
paddies blocks oxygen from entering the soil. This happens to be the best
conditions for creating bacteria that emit methane. And how longer a part of a
land is flooded, the more bacteria can be build up in that area. (Searchinger & Waite, 2014)

Nitrios
oxide from human activities is released in several ways through agriculture.
Agriculture is the main producing factor in human emission of nitrous oxides.
No less than 67% of nitrios oxides gas emission from human actitives can be
contributed to agriculture. Agriculture has this effect trough both direct and
indirect forms of emission. This nitrous oxide gas emission can be divided into
respectivle 42% for direct emissions and 25% for indirect emissions. The agriculture
sector is responsible for creating 4.5 million ton of nitrous oxide every year.

A
major source of nitrous oxide emissions comes from the use of synthetic fertilizers.
These are human-made non organic fertilizers. The use of these fertilizers are
to help feeding plants by adding nitrogen to the soils that they are growning
in. But the problem is that bacteria in the soil also takes advantages of this
extra nitrogen  being added. The bacteria
in the soil then uses it to produce energy they need to grow and live. Then
through a process they release this nitrogen in to the atmosphere and cause
greenhouse gases in this way. Also large amounts of natural gas are needed to produce
these synthetic fertilizers as it is the main component.