• Guitta

Climate change: Definition, effects, drivers and solutions

Updated: Mar 3

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published the report resulting from the contribution of working group II on February 27th 2022. It assesses the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities. It also reviews vulnerabilities and the capacities of the natural world and human societies to adapt to climate change.


a. Definition:

Climate change is the worldwide environment change altering the normal climate designs. It is translated by the progressions in the typical environment of the planet (in relation to temperature, precipitation, and wind). Climate change is mainly happening because of human actions especially in the petroleum sector, resulting in ozone depletion and Earth's normal surface temperature increase. These human-created temperature increments – global warming – are regularly alluded to as unnatural weather changes.

b. Effects:

The rise in temperature (global warming) due to climate change has a serious effect on earth, its habitants and the environment in general:

  • Direct effect on the heat and its intensity perceived by humans.

  • Melting of glacier ice.

  • Perturbation of the entire ecological and ecosystem of the earth.

  • Oceans’ temperatures increase.

Besides, environmental changes have high social impacts. For example, in tropical, humid and hot areas, it can touch directly the basic life needs such as drinking water. Furthermore, businesses depending on natural substances such as agriculture and animal breeding are also impacted by climate change and water levels decrease. Indeed, climate change and global warming have direct negative impacts on:

  • Water shortage and food production:

o Agriculture and vegetable production.

o The health and productivity of animals and livestock.

o Fishery yield and aquaculture production

  • Human health and wellbeing:

o Infectious diseases increase.

o Heat and malnutrition.

o Mental health effects.

o Population migration due to the non-possibility of adaption to climate change.

  • Cities, organizations, and infrastructures:

o Inland flooding and associated damages.

o Damages induced by storms.

o Damages harming infrastructures.

o Damages of key economic sectors.

Climate change is likely to have an impact on businesses as well. Indeed, in a changing climate, businesses must be aware of the risks they may face, and be prepared to deal with them by adopting the necessary policies that assess the potential consequences. Damaged crops, infrastructure losses, unanticipated market stock price movements, investors demanding sustainability reports, and society's increased expectation of company transparency, are all variables to keep an eye on.

Furthermore, according to the latest report of the IPCC - The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2022), the most vulnerable people and systems (i.e., children, the elderly, women, low-income households, and socially marginalized groups) are the most affected ones.

c. Drivers of Climate Change:

Major Greenhouse Gases causing global warming and climate change are showed and explained in table below.

Name

Chemical formula

Emission percentage

Comment

Carbon dioxide

CO2

80%

CO2 levels are increasing primarily due to fossil fuels that people are burning for energy. About 95% of CO2 flow are associated with energy services in 3 sectors: transport, building, industries.

Methane

CH4

10%

CH4 is the primary component of natural gas. It is significantly more efficient at retaining heat over time. And it is more than 80 times more responsible than carbon dioxide for warming the climate system.

Nitrous oxide

N2O

7%

N2O molecules remain in the environment for more than 110 years before being removed from the sink or destroyed by a chemical reaction. One pound of N2O has a warming effect on the atmosphere nearly 300 times greater than one pound of CO2.

Sulphur hexafloride

SF6

1.5%

SF6 is a high global warming gas. It decomposes under electrical stress, forming poisonous derivatives causing health issues.

Perfluorocarbons

PFCs

1.5%

PFCs contribute to climate change because of their radiative forcing effect. This gas is more warming than carbon dioxide.

d. Solutions:

According to the IPCC’s latest report, the only possible way to avoid the global warming effect is by avoiding temperatures increase and thus by meeting the + 1.5°C objective evoked in the Paris Agreement. A temperature increase that reaches or exceed +1.5°C in the short term (2021 – 2040) would lead to an inevitable increase in many climate risks and would present multiple risks for ecosystems and human beings. Actions taken in the short term will limit losses and damages.

There are effective options that can reduce risks encountered by people and nature. The feasibility of implementing short-term adaptation solutions differs across sectors and regions. Integrated multi-sector solutions that, address social inequalities, differentiate responses based on climate risk, and cut across systems, increase the feasibility and effectiveness of sustainable efforts across multiple sectors.

Many climate change solutions have the potential to improve our lives while saving the environment. Multiple solutions were suggested by the IPCC latest report. The chart below extracted from the 2022 report of the IPCC shows the proposed adaptation solutions, their potential feasibility and their dimension (economic, technological, institutional, social, environmental, and geophysical).

Global agreements like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement aim to support climate change mitigation. Their goal is to limit global warming below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Cutting emissions, adapting to climate consequences, and financing essential modifications are three main types of action.

Switching from fossil fuels to renewables such as solar and wind will lower the emissions that cause climate change, but we need to get started right away. While a rising number of countries are pledging to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, around half of all emissions reductions must be implemented by 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5°C in the short term, i.e., between 2021 and 2040.

Governments and corporations must make large financial commitments to climate change. Inaction on climate change, on the other hand, is far more costly.


References:

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