Zainab Imran, Green Blogger

            The terms global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably without much regard for the minute difference that sets them apart. Global warming is a cause, the effect of which is climate change. Thus, the two are linked in a cause-and-effect relationship. Global warming itself, in another association, is an effect of a large number of activities that are widely spread across the planet. These causes of global warming encompass activities, mostly anthropogenic, the combined potential of which warms up the entire globe. Such activities start a cycle of events that impact each of the earth’s spheres and disrupt the planet’s natural balance.

            A major contributor in the global warming phenomenon is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat. The gas naturally exists in the atmosphere in a concentration of about 0.04 percent. This is just the optimum amount required by the atmosphere for trapping heat that is enough to keep the planet from turning icy. Thus, this percentage of carbon dioxide works wonders and the slightest imbalance produces adverse effects, mostly, irreversible ones. In the year 2000, carbon dioxide’s concentration was 370 parts per million and as of 2020, this concentration has gone up to 414 parts per million. Respiration, decomposition, weathering and volcanic eruptions are natural processes that add carbon dioxide to the air and nature can take care of their products without causing the balance to be lost. But ever since the use of fossil fuels, the balance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been disturbed. Industries, power plants, motor vehicles, aviation sectors etc. are all the leading anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Other greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are methane, water vapor, nitrous oxide etc. Out of these, methane possesses a heat trapping potential which is much greater than that of carbon dioxide.

            Carbon dioxide’s increased concentration in atmosphere due to anthropogenic activities allows the gas to trap heat more than that required by the planet, the result of which is global warming. However, in the presence of forests, temperature can be regulated if the forests act as natural sinks, absorbing excess carbon dioxide. But the current scenario happens to be quite different and deplorable. All around the globe, vast areas of forests are being cleared for construction purposes, farming, pastures, mining, and oil and gas exploration. Besides the countless habitats that are destroyed and wildlife that is disrupted, the consequences of deforestation are also experienced by man.

            What happens as a result of global warming is climate change, an effect. When the earth warms up unusually, places across the planet experience extreme changes in climate. Some places begin receiving more rainfall than expected while others become drier. The consequences are manifested in more ways than just changed weather patterns. Gigantic glaciers, sea ice etc. continue to melt and shrink in extent due to increased global temperature. Further, the water from the melted glaciers adds to the ocean and seas, causing a significant rise in levels. The effect of this is, very obviously, experienced at the coastlines. Such changes have forced many animal species, native to a region, to move out. Many species successfully adapt to changes in the climate but this is not true for all species, whether of plants or animals. Some adapt rather slowly, while many others do not at all and face the threat of extinction. Several bird species now appear to migrate earlier than they normally did, all in response to the temperature changes. In short, changes in phenology are indicative of climate change.

            The number of anthropogenic activities that lead to global warming might appear to be many but are still few and countable if compared to the cascade of effects they produce. The impacts are not felt in any one sphere of the planet or by the humans or animals alone. Rather, they weave and bind all spheres, humans, plants, and animals in an intricate web of long-lasting consequences. The topic of global warming and climate change is not as simple as it sounds. It is about phenomena, the effects of which become the causes of innumerable other phenomena, many a times, disruptive ones. 

About the Author: Zainab Imran is a student of MS Remote Sensing and GIS at COMSATS and hold a BS degree of Environmental Sciences. Writing is her favorite pastime.