“Climate is what you expect, and weather is what you get” Robert Heinlein

Weather and climate are two environmental conditions which are differentiated based on their duration. One word to differentiate these terms is ‘time’. Weather is a short-term environmental condition which last for minutes, hours, days or weeks. Factors which influence atmosphere of an area are temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, air pressure etc. Together they determine weather of a place at a given time. Most weather phenomenon occurs within troposphere which is the closest atmospheric layer to earth.
 Climate is the long-term atmospheric condition. Weather of a place tracked for at least 30 years is its climate. Climate of a place has a life span from months to millions of years.
Climate change is the significant shift in global average temperature and weather pattern at local, regional or global level. Climate change is a natural process but since 1800, due to anthropogenic activities these shifts in weather pattern and global temperature are increasing on a large scale and influencing all kind of life on earth. The concentration of greenhouse gases are increasing since 1800s due to industrial revolution and burning of fossil fuels which is leading to gradual increase in the average temperature of earth’s lower layer. This has become a major threat to all forms of life on earth and this situation is worsening each passing day.

Important GHGs

Carbon dioxide: It is the main greenhouse gas constitute almost 50% of total long term GHGs. As per 2003, CO2 is over 50% higher than it was in past before industrial revolution. CO2 has global warming potential GWP of 1.

Methane: CH4 is produced in anaerobic decomposition and combustion process. It has GWP of 28 to 36, and itself an important GHG.

NOx are added into atmosphere by several industrial processes and are released as a byproduct of fertilizer production. GWP of Nitrous oxide (a laughing gas) is 265 to 298.

Fluorinated gases are extremely warming and long-lasting gases with GWP range from 1800 to 8000 and some tops 10000.

SF6 is a dielectric material used as an insulator. It lasts for almost thousands of years and GWP is about 228000.

Role of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Increasing devastating effects of global warming is a global problem forcing attention from all concerned. In order to gather all the information on climate change, an intergovernmental program was initiated in 1988 by United Nations, named as Intergovernmental Program on Climate Change IPPC. This environmental program provides scientific assessment on climate change, its implications and future risks in its reports. Its head quarter is in Switzerland, Geneva.
According to latest report of IPCC, Earth’s temperature will probably rise to from 1.1 to 6.4 Celcius during 21st century. In IPCC 2019, it is stated that sea level has risen to 15cm during 20th century and is rising as twice as 3.6mm per year. I GHG emissions will continue to rise sharply sea level will be around 60 to 110cm.

“We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity   Al Gore Nobel prize Winner 2007

Causes of Global Warming

Industrial revolution and setting up of industries
The population of world is increasing at a rapid rate at the same time causing depletion of resources. In order to meet needs of human beings more and more factories are set up in this modern world. These industries and factories requires more machinery to produce more resources and thus releasing high level of fuels and emission in air destroying air quality and producing air pollution ad rising global average temperature due to release of CO2. At the same time waste of industries is being discharged into water bodies, not only damaging water quality but also cause devastating effects on the life in water. Industrial sector is the major contributor of Global warming.

Forest remove and store CO2 from atmosphere and are of great importance to control environmental pollution. The appetite for wood, land and paper products is rising with the population rate causing mass deforestation of our world. The Cutting of trees and forests cause increase in level of CO2 within the atmosphere and thus causing global warming. Deforestation increases the severity of global warming.

Burning of fossil fuels like coal, petroleum or natural gas release CO2 in the air thus contributing to rising temperature of Earth.
The use of chemical fertilizers in field of crops is increasing in order to produce more food to meet our needs. These fertilizers contain chemicals especially nitrogen oxide which has 300 times more heat trapping capacity than CO2. These NOx create dead zones in oceans our oceans during runoff. High level of nitrate due to fertilization in ocean is also concern for mankind.

The ozone layer is found in the stratosphere and traps UV rays coming from sun, providing protection to earth from such arming harmful gases. But CFCs, methane and CO2 is depleting ozone layer, creating ozone hole in Antarctica. This ozone hole allows harmful UV rays to pass and reach earth’s surface which not only cause global warming but also causing dangerous diseases like skin cancer.

Global warming is not a prediction. It is happening. —James Hansen

Volcanism is a natural process of rupture in the earth’s crust, releasing lava, ash and gases including dangerous GHGs which again leads to global warming.

Tectonic plates move and create topography of land. Shifting of tectonic plates results in the release of volcanic eruption and releasing Carbon dioxide and Sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere thus causing global warming.

Effects of Global Warming

  • Global warming will be increased at the end of 21st century from 1.1 to .4 degree Celsius over preindustrial level.
  • The rising level of temperature causes melting of ice, glaciers and snow cover which leads to rising sea level, floods and changing weather pattern.
  •  It is estimated that temperature will rise 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius
  • Sea level can rise 4 to 8 inches if the melting of ice in Greenland and Antarctica continues.
  • Temperature and sea level will continue to rise if the greenhouse gases are stabilized today
  • Global warming is causing change in weather pattern which is leading to droughts, severe storms and floods and causing damage to housing community as well.
  • Loss of biodiversity due to global warming is another major threat. Life of species that survive on ice is at major risk. Some species relocate due to changing environment, but some will not. Forest fires due to rising temperatures are also affecting life of flora and fauna.
  • Climate change increases the risk of factors which cause poverty and displacement. Floods can damage the house of poor and can also cause scarcity of food and displacement of people. People may find difficulty to work in hot environment.
  • It is very likely that hot and extreme heat waves and heavy rainfall will continue for centuries even if we control global warming to a greater level.
  • Health risks also increase due spread of several diseases like malaria due to global warming. It increases disease and death rate and thus makes it difficult for health system to keep up.

Suggestion to tackle with global warming:

Reducing use of fossil fuels especially carbon intensive coal is essential to tackle climate change.
There are many ways for this process like not building coal burning powerplant, capturing and storing emissions from power plant and closing driest and dirties coal burning power plants.
Use of alternative source of energy can help a lot to combat environmental issues. Energy producing from sun, wind, geothermal and water can reduce emission in air to greater extent. Transportation has increased emission in atmosphere at a faster rate than any other energy using sector. Improving transportation system like switching to low carbon fuels and improving efficiency in all modes of transport can also reduce GHGs in atmosphere.
Green advocacy: The need for environmental lawyers has emerged in order to regulate and implement environmental laws and regulations.
Green media: Environmental awareness can be spread all over the world through tv, social media, newspapers and seminars.
Green consultancy: Organizations are engaging consultancy to deal with environmental problems.
Role of government of a country is of great importance. Reforestation, use of public transport system, less waste of electricity, conservation and protection of biodiversity, EIA and lowering use of chemical fertilizer can leads to reducing levels global warming and its impacts to some extent.

About the Author: Tehziba Raza is a student of MPhil in 'Environmental Science' at Government College University Faisalabad, Pakistan.