Earth’s climate is well known to be dynamic by scientists since centuries ago. Historically the earth’s climate has been rising and falling irregularly between warm periods (glacial state) and cold periods (interglacial state). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global climate change models projections shows that from late 1970s the time series of global temperatures and carbon dioxide increased drastically. Figure 1 below shows the variation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and temperature before and after industrialization.
There is a rapid increase in CO2 concentration and temperature from 1946 to 2000. Climate scientists reached general agreement with the IPCC Third Assessment report that the averaged global temperatures increased by 0.6℃(IPCC, 2001). However the theory of the cause of temperature rise during the first part of 20th century, the decrease between 1940 and also the rapid increase from 1970 till today evoked chaotic argument among climate scientists. Some scientists believed that the rapid warming of the atmosphere is the results of anthropogenic greenhouse gases concentrations while others suggests that global warming is part of natural cycle. It is quite clear from the graph that the time series increase in temperature merges the CO2 plot. The rapid increase in CO2 concentration from 1946 to 2000 is followed by increase in global temperature; this increase is attributed to the anthropogenic components. The global temperature increase is due to human caused greenhouse gases. Although skeptics awaken suspicions in the society I think the superlative obvious opponent of advancement towards the mitigation of global climate change are not skeptical scientists or industries that are well funded, but the common failure to understand the issue of climate change and the lack of interest on taking efforts to mitigate the impeding peril of global rise in temperature by the society. The lack of understanding is primary obstacle, even thou is difficult to quantify the people‘s opinion and involvement on the issue of climate change encouraging people to participate in environmental groups that modulate the emissions of greenhouse gases and also encouraging the change in attitude among the non-environmental organizations can ameliorate the mitigation process. The potential long term effects of climate change must be addressed and the strong public education on the connection between extreme events and climate change should be made part of societal relief. Heat waves, severe weather storms, flooding etc are the slight indication of what the coming generation may suffer if there is no action taken now. Government should synthesis feasible implications of climate change and also strategies scheme concerning food supplies and agricultural production.
Reference: IPCC, 2001. Working Group I Third Assessment Report., UK: THE PRESS SYNDICATE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE.
I think by now it is quite obvious that we as humans have a large effect on the earth and its systems, in particular climate. As Thabo points out a challenge is getting both lay people and the so-called ‘important’ decision making people to recognise and understand this unequivocal effect we induce through our practices. One proposed way to do this is by demonstrating the forcing mechanism we humans have become should be recognised on a geologic scale. Crutzen and Stroemer argue that this geologic force that we as humans have become is in need of recognition and they propose that we rename the geologic epoch from the industrial revolution to the present: the Anthropocene. This proposition promotes a shift in conciousness and acceptance that we have drastically altered our environment and need to make concious decisions to mitigate our effects. This well written article concisely demonstrates their argument. It’s a quick and easy read (only a page long) – http://www.igbp.net/news/opinion/opinion/haveweenteredtheanthropocene.5.d8b4c3c12bf3be638a8000578.html
In line with gemma’s comment, climate change itself is not necessarily a bad thing thing. The problem with the current climate change we are facing is that the accelerated rate of change that can is unequivocally attributed to anthropogenic influences is not giving species (including humans) sufficient time to adapt/migrate.
I still maintain that sustainable development is an unrealistic and unobtainable outcome. This does not mean that we should not act or should not strive to achieve it as close as possible. Change is vital but I believe it is irrationally optimistic to believe that we will be able to reverse climate change and develop sustainably. I believe with the required action, we can reduce the rate of climate change and uses our resources more efficiently and effectively to ensure a better future than the one future generations are currently facing. BUT make no mistake…. There is no going back!!!
This is an important subject you raised Thabo. I think there is need for continuous enlightenment on the issue of global warming and its cause- which is principally anthropogenic. The concept of sustainable development raised by Gemma may at the moment, remains UTOPIA. However, if we all agree to change our current pattern development, i believe it is achievable.
Thabo, you tackle a very important topic. Yes climate change is a natural phenomenon that occurs throughout the life-cycle of planet Earth. The tragedy is that anthropogenic influences, clearly indicative of the start of the Industrial Revolution, has made it impossible for those species – otherwise capable of adapting and surviving – to become endangered and go extinct. The hard truth of the matter is that without anthropogenic impacts, those species may very well have been able to adapt to NATURAL global warming; causing “heat waves, severe weather storms, [and] flooding” that you mention. The fact that there are still skeptical scientists and academics (and those within the general society) is very sad, and makes the task of sustainable development even harder to achieve. The debate brought up by Dean as to whether this is even feasible is also an important one. And there will always be those that argue that change must happen, and those that argue that change is too late. I think of myself as an optimist when it comes to saving our planet and saving the species that belong to it. And still believe that some change, however small, is vital.