Climate Change, is there anything we can we do?

Eng. Maritza VARGAS
Independent Environmental and Sustainability Consultant
The climate has always been changing

Who hasn't heard about the last large Ice Age, the most recent glacial period that ended about 11,700 years ago? During that time our ancestors Homo Sapiens had a negligible carbon footprint, just a few bonfires to warm up their caves and cook their meals, that makes it impossible to adjudicate the increment of almost 8 Centigrade degrees to human intervention.

After that “large scale Ice Age” there have been at least four other considerable warming periods in our planet, followed by cooling periods. There is scientific evidence that in the medieval times a warming period in Europe allowed Mediterranean climate crops to grow on higher latitudes, followed by the little Ice Age that lasted 70 years from 1645 to 1715. We, the human race, cannot be blamed for that either.

The causes of climate change in our home planet Earth are not yet fully understood. What we do really know is that there are several factors contributing independently to those changes. All of them work on their own timespan, crossing and influencing each other with their contribution for increasing or diminishing the global temperature. Our current knowledge of global climate change classifies those causes into External and Internal factors.

External factors are (for example): Fluctuations on the gravitational field of the solar system, Earth orbit around the sun, rotation and titling (eccentricity, precession and obliquity of the Earth), Sun radiation, sunspots and Sun cycle. All of them vary in cycles with different timing and intensity.

The same happens with the Internal factors, contributors to climate change, such as: volcanoes eruptions, shifting plate tectonics, ocean currents, albedo effect produced by clouds and iced sheets, changes in atmospheric composition, CO2 ocean absorption, Nitrogen and Carbon natural cycles, wild fires, and the anthropogenic contribution to climate change - human activities that release high amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and land use change.

The anthropogenic activities are diverse. They range from fossil fuel combustion gases, emissions from industrial processes, production of hydrocarbon and its derivatives, energy and heat generation, chemical releases, such as, refrigerants, methane from agriculture and cattle raising, as well as land use and land use change such as deforestation, built environment, mining, etc.

What’s the difference now?
Human Contribution, our Responsibility

Climate Change is a very complex problem. We, the human race, are not responsible for the external factors, nor for the internal natural contributors to climate change. We have no technology to control or minimize those effects. However, we are fully accountable and the only ones to blame for our own impact to Climate Change in the planet.

Our generation is more responsible than ever, because we are aware of the damage we are causing, its domino effect on the planet and the devastating impact on the rest of the living organisms. We know and understand the processes involved in Climate Change and its dreadful consequences.

The following diagram from GRID Arendal UNEP shows clearly the interactions between human activities, climate change processes, its consequences over the planet and the major threats on humans and biodiversity.

Climate Change is undeniable. We could debate about its origin whether it is natural or human induced to some extent, but the consequences of climate change are evident to all. Extreme weather events are more frequent and natural disasters such as floods, droughts (famines), tsunamis, epidemics, storms and heat waves take hundred of thousand lives every year.

What can be done?

We cannot interfere with external factors and natural processes that lead to Climate Change, but we can certainly minimize our contribution and impacts. In addition, we have the responsibility to assist the least developed countries that are mainly the ones that suffer the most from natural disasters due to the lack of infrastructure, emergency response services and health care.

Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change is the key to overcome its dreadful consequences.

One example of global efforts are the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change “The Adaptation Fund”, Mobilizing resources to build climate resilience, financed in part by government and private donors and 2% from Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs) issued under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism projects, to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Also the Sustainable Development Goals released on September 2015 has a goal specifically for climate action targets, the SDG 13:

Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries.

Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.

Implement the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the UNFCCC to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible.

Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.

We can definitively react proactively to mitigate and adapt to climate change; minimizing our environmental impacts, reducing atmospheric emissions, water pollution and soil degradation. Additionally, educating and raising awareness about our responsibility and its consequences, as well as implementing policies, strategies and plans to reduce the risk on human lives and biodiversity. And doing so will help us to develop a new human kind, a society of the future, which consciously lives protecting the only planet we have.

Source photos:

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