Climate represents the average weather patterns of a place within an extended period. The climate of an area is characterized by temperature patterns, rainfall patterns, and humidity and wind patterns. The change of these patterns is climate change. Balance between energy getting into earth and energy leaving earth determines atmospheric temperature. The sun’s energy is incorporated into the ground system causing the Earth to increase in temperature. This energy is released back into space causing the earth to cool. The energy balance can be affected by various factors which are: Changes in the amount of sun’s energy reaching the earth, The change in the ability of the land to reflect back the energy into space and the variation of the greenhouse effect which determines how much of the sun’s energy is retained in the earth’s atmosphere. The above factors often lead to the change in climatic patterns hence climate change.
Change in the amount of energy of the sun and a change of the earth’s orbit can lead to an effect on the amount of sun energy reaching the land’s surface. The strength of the sun’s rays can either result in warming of the earth when there is high solar activity or can also lead to the cooling of land when there is low solar activity. Also, the changes that occur on the sun’s orbit and axis that change in shape of the orbit and tilting of the earth’s axis can lead to a change of the amount of sun’s energy reaching the land’s surface leading to a change in climate.
The earth’s reflectivity affects the amount of the sun’s energy retained in the earth’s system. The color of the surface that receives the sunlight rays determines how much is absorbed. Bright surfaces reflect more of the sunlight rays while dark surfaces and objects tend to absorb more sunlight rays. Aerosols present in the atmosphere can also absorb or reflect sunlight rays, and they affect the amount of sunlight absorbed in the earth’s system and that which is reflected back. Volcanic particles in the atmosphere and coal emissions that majorly comprise of sulfur can create a cooling effect of the earth and if present in the air for extended periods of time, they can lower atmospheric temperatures significantly.
The greenhouse effect causes the amount of sun’s energy absorbed by the earth’s system to be retained in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gasses act like a blanket restraining released energy from the land surface into the air. The three most prominent gasses include; Carbon dioxide, Nitrous oxide and methane. The primary greenhouse gas that is causing climatic change is carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere through various platforms that comprise of natural processes and human activities. Human works include the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal whereas natural occurrences include volcanic eruptions, respiration of animals and plants and atmosphere exchanges of the ocean. Methane, on the other hand, is made available through natural events and human activities and just like carbon dioxide, through the burning of fossil fuels, also, natural wetlands emit methane gas and through farming activities. Nitrous oxide also finds its way into the atmosphere through natural and human activities through the same process of fuel-burning just like carbon dioxide and methane gas but mainly through agricultural activities. Other greenhouse gasses include; Chlorofluorocarbons, tropospheric ozone, and water vapor.
Analysis of climatic impacts pointed out five industrial areas that are affected by climatic changes. They include agricultural sector, the energy sector, forestry and coastal. All these areas involve land.
Climatic impacts on land can be subdivided into market impacts and nonmarket impacts. On market effects, six sectors of the economy are affected, and they are; energy, coastal, water, agriculture, forestry and extreme events (Ingram and Hong 25). Agriculture is the major industry that is affected by climatic changes. Every crop has the ideal temperature and rainfall that it gives its best yield. Places, where agriculture takes place, can either have lower or higher temperatures than the typical or can either be drier or wetter than the ideal thus having a low productivity rate of the crop, hence making some crops more valuable than others. If a tilling land is cooler than the ideal temperature, increase will result in high yield in productivity by pushing the heat to the perfect temperature but if a tilling land is hotter than the ideal temperature of the crop, then increase in temperature will lower the yield of the crop by driving the temperatures further off from the ideal of the crop. The variation of climate will, therefore, have different effects on tilling lands in low-latitudes, mid-latitude which is the optimal and high latitude areas and different effects may be experienced about the amount of rainfall received. As an increase in temperature continues, there will be changes in the tilling lands in that lands that were too cold will start to experience little benefits, lands that were optimal will suffer more damages, and the hot areas will become permanently unfavorable for farming.
An increase in temperature also has various effects on the water bodies and water as a resource. Increased temperature leads to a rising hydrological cycle that means more evaporation will take place and consequently more down pouring rain. The water runoffs decrease with increase in temperature as studies suggest and the demand for water is directly proportional to high temperatures. Therefore, water will become less available as a consequence of these effects. The effects caused by the scarcity of water will trickle down to farmers who will have less water per a unit of land.
On forestry, the increase in temperature accompanied by increased carbon dioxide levels affects trees in various ways. The expectation is that the ecosystems will shift towards the poles consequently causing some types of wood to expand while others contract. Also, there is an expectation that forests productivity will increase.
Regarding coastal effects, a rise in sea level is also a result of global warming and will occur because of two reasons. One is because an expansion of seawater occurs and two, increases in temperature results in the melting of glaciers which increases water in the water bodies. Since not all melt water will be deposited in the ocean, some will end up in the atmosphere. The rise of sea level will consequently have an effect on coastal land since part of it will be swallowed by the ocean.
Extreme events will also be affected by climate change such as floods, droughts, etc. The increase of these extreme events on specific areas will have an effect on land, and the damages experienced will increase significantly. As for the non-market impacts, climatic changes consequently affect the quality of people’s life. Species that are endemic to particular locations may end up being completely lost by not surviving the change of location from the occurrence of a shift in ecosystems.
To overcome and mitigate the challenges that arise from climatic changes, it’s highly essential to conduct the following actions as a collective action plan; first, it’s important to ensure that the home is designed in a way to conserve the maximum amount of energy that can be conserved (IPCC 43). Opting for more energy saving home electrical appliances and ensuring that all devices that are not in use are unplugged is a way towards energy conservation. Preferably having to take less meat will go a long way since it has been established that animal agriculture leads to more emission of greenhouse gasses that is the release of methane and nitrous oxide gasses into the atmosphere from animal solid waste and urine. Since emission of carbon dioxide into the air is one of the principal causes of climatic change adopting environmentally friendly habits not just at home but at work too is important, such as travelling to work using public transport, shutting down appliances that are not being actively used and turning off lights that are not being put into use. Another significant task is to educate the future generations regarding climate changes and the adverse effects that can be experienced consequently. Educating children on the environmentally friendly practices and getting them involved in initiatives that propel the agenda of climatic change is of high importance.
Climatic change initiatives require the collective actions of each and every individual who cares about the future of the planet and the generations to come. Hence we are all compelled to get involved in this fight at all levels, socially, politically, economically, and any other possible level since the changes affect us collectively.
Change, IPCC Climate. “Mitigation of climate change.” Summary for Policymakers 10.5.4 (2007).
Ingram, G. K., and Y. Hong. Climate change and land policies. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2011.