Causes and effects of climate change
Climate change is the shift of the weather pattern of a certain area from the known conditions to completely new weather patterns. Though many factors have contributed to continued climate change over the years, human activities are the main contributors. Human activities, such as industrialization, have led to imbalance of the greenhouse gases in the carbon cycle (NOAA 2007). As a result of these changes, several negative effects, such as drought and water shortages, have been experienced. Humans are the most affected group by climate change. Therefore, despite humans being the main cause of climate change, they are affected negatively by the change.
The energy balance, the carbon cycle, and the greenhouse effect help maintain constant climatic conditions. However, certain human activities have corrupted this mechanism and caused climate change. The major human activity causing climate change is the burning of fossil fuels. Examples of fossil fuels include natural gas, coal, and oil. Fossil fuels produce energy when burned, which makes them very important and valuable to all. However, when burning, they produce carbon dioxide (Downie, Brash and Vaughan 2009). The carbon dioxide and else produced by other activities lead to imbalance in the carbon cycle. Due to the amount of carbon dioxide already produced, stopping carbon dioxide emission will have no effect on climate change for about a hundred years or more (Downie, Brash, and Vaughan 2009).
Another human activity contributing to climate change is deforestation. Deforestation is the cutting down of trees. Trees emit carbon dioxide when they decompose organically or when burned to produce energy. According to Downie, Brash and Vaughan (2009), deforestation accounts for about 20% of the annual carbon dioxide emission. In addition, trees use up carbon dioxide to make their food, and, as a result, they use up a certain percentage of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Increase in cutting down of trees is, therefore, enlarging the amount of carbon dioxide in the carbon cycle.
Deforested lands are often used for agriculture. Some agricultural activities have been found to contribute to increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases. Downie, Brash and Vaughan (2009) noted that digestion process of corn-fed cattle produces methane, a gas known to increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In fact, they suggested that methane is 25 times more powerful. Other agricultural activities contributing to climate change include production of nitrous oxide from soils during cultivation and introduction of nitrous fertilizers, production of carbon dioxide from the farm machinery, and production of carbon as due to depletion of organic matter from the over cultivated piece of land. Deforestation is more inherent in developing countries than in developed ones. This is because to these countries forests are less economically important than cultivated lands.
Lastly, industrial development has contributed and increased the rate of climate changes. Before the industrial revolution, people used manual labor in production of the required goods. However, the industrial revolution caused a shift from manual to mechanical labor. Almost every industry was run through steam engines powered by coal energy. Therefore, of all other human activities that cause climate change, industrial revolution is the main contributor because it encouraged the dependence on the use of fossil fuels as a source of energy (Downie, Brash and Vaughan 2009). In addition, industrial development led to increase in global population. This boosted demand for energy and agricultural lands, which resulted in deforestation. Population growth is expected to increase climate change in the future (IPCC 2007).
Many effects of climate changes affect people. Some of these effects may not be felt directly, while others affect people directly. To begin with, short changes in climatic conditions change the body’s adaptability to certain diseases. As a result people become more vulnerable to infectious diseases (McMichael). In addition, climate change leads to increased risks of heat related diseases and food and water borne diseases.
Secondly, climate change is affecting the agriculture industry negatively. The normal rain patterns are changing. As a result, farmers are no longer aware on when to prepare their land for planting. Further, when it does rain, the continuation of rainfall is not guaranteed. This causes massive losses to the farmers. In addition, lack of harvest poses a serious threat to food security. According to Doering (2002), effects of climate change brings about floods, drought, frost, and hot environment. All these conditions are harsh for food production. He notes that the increased global population is suffering as a result of crop fail due to climate change. In fact, IPCC (2007) suggested that the global areas affected by drought have increased due to climate change.
Climate Change and Its Danger
There are some occurrences resulting from climate change that are extremely dangerous to human life. For instance, some areas that used to receive low rainfall now receive excessive rainfall. As a result, floods occur frequently, and lack of preparedness to them causes destructions and sometimes even results in deaths. Further, properties and livelihood of the affected people are lost.
Areas originally productive in agriculture and other economic activities have been covered with snow or swamps or dried up. As a result, many have lost their source of income. The governments have lost earnings in terms of minerals exploitation and revenue from these activities.
Climate change is affecting not only humans; other animals, such as birds and aquatic animals, have had adverse effects as well. Increase in global temperature is presenting harsh conditions for animals. The number of birds has been significantly reduced. According to Moller, Fiedler and Berthold (2010), extreme temperatures have led to mass migration of birds to areas with favorable conditions. The continued exploitation of the ecosystem will lead to extinction of up to 30% of species. There are other situations that affect wild animals, such as wildfires (IPCC 2007).
Water is an essential product for both, human consumption and industrial use. However, IPCC (2007) suggests that though water availability has been increased in moist tropics and high latitudes, availability of this essential commodity continues to decrease in mid-latitudes and semi-arid low latitudes. IPCC (2007) estimated that if the climate change continues at the same rate, hundreds of millions of the population will be exposed to water shortage. IPCC (2007) points out that salt water is intruding the production of fresh water due to increased temperature in some areas.
Finally, climate change increased tropical cyclone activities. In areas where these activities are prone, many negative effects are felt. Some of these effects, such as damage to trees and coral reefs, are critical as they lead to further change in climatic conditions. The powerful cyclones might cause disruption of major systems leaving those living in the area vulnerable to many diseases. For instance, the public water supply may be disrupted causing water shortages and, in some instances, water contamination. In addition, the cyclones cause deaths, injuries, and other diseases. The private insurance provider might withdraw from such an area, and the people might have to migrate from the area too (IPCC 2007).
Humans are the main contributors to the climate change. Given the various human causes listed above, it is clear they have out-weighed natural causes of climate change. Despite the economic importance of the activities that cause climate change, some effects of the change are not worth the risk. Some of these effects may not be felt in the short-term, however, the effects are critical in the long-term ranging from injuries to deaths.
It has been observed that some of the effects of climate change may be avoided. For instance, Downie, Brash and Vaughan (2009) noted that though there exist some known techniques that can be employed to reduce the effects of climate change on agriculture; those techniques remain unused because they are expensive. Generally, despite human causes being the leading ones, the change mainly affects people. In addition, though some causes of climate change are preventable, people opt for financial gains at the expense of climate protection.