How Climate Change Affects the World

On the 8th of December, I attended an event called “Impacts and Solutions to the Climate Crisis” which was delivered by Mr. Al Gore. He gave a brief explanation on the science behind climate change and explained how it affects our livelihood. Hence, this gave me the urge to write an article about it.

Energy has always been a key to rapid economic growth. The demand for electricity has been increasing dramatically with the ending of World War II. The widespread usage of fossil fuels (e.g. petroleum, coal and natural gas), particularly in generating electricity, generated unprecedented prosperity for most of the developed countries.

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Picture extracted from The Big Era Nine

Based on the 4th assessment report of IPCC, fossil fuels provide almost 80% of our world energy supply. In other words, CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuel accounts for around 80% of total global emissions.

As shown in the picture below, excessive greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will cause a chain of catastrophic events that puts the future of Earth at stake.

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As citizens of the world, we can stop this from happening.

“The total amount of man-made global warming pollution surrounding the planet and the atmosphere today now traps enough energy every 24 hours to equal the energy release by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs going off every single day,” – Al Gore

There are various impacts of climate change. I will pick a few to be mentioned in this article.

  1. Thawing permafrost
    Permafrost is a permanently frozen soil that stores massive amounts of carbon. Due to global warming, permafrost starts to melt and releases stored carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and methane (GHG gases).The thawing of permafrost has been known to cause erosion especially in coastal areas. Without permafrost, the ground above and below lost its nature barrier and become more vulnerable to erosion. Ground settling can cause damage to infrastructure. As stated in the UNEP report, infrastructure failure can cause severe environmental consequences, as seen in the 1994 breakdown of the pipeline to the Vozei oilfield in Northern Russia. It resulted in a spill of 160,000 tons of oil, causing the world’s largest terrestrial oil spill. Moreover, thawing of permafrost exposes the soil ground. Soil ground has the tendency to absorb more heat, causing the ground temperature to increase. Warmer ground temperature causes new plants that adapt to warmer climate to replace tundra plants. Since plants are the primary producer in the ecosystem pyramid, a single shift will change the whole ecosystem. You can click here to know more about permafrost.
  2. Rising of sea level
    Oceans are considers as an excellent heat absorber. Ninety percent of the extra heat in our atmosphere (mostly caused by anthropogenic activities) are absorbed by our ocean. This causes the ocean to become warmer and expand. Warmer sea water speeds up the melting of ice and contribute to rising level of sea water. In addition, the increase of carbon dioxide concentration in the ocean triggers chemical reaction and form carbolic acid, causing our ocean to become more acidic. Acidic water will cause corals to bleach and this affects our whole ecosystem.

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    Picture: Al Gore delivering his speech during the event

  3. Extreme weather patternsClimate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events. Warmer ocean causes higher evaporation rate of water. Increased evaporation rate results in higher occurrence of storms, causing more destructive hurricane/typhoon to happen. The deterioration of the environment and society affects the most vulnerable communities. One of the solid examples would be Typhoon Haiyan. Philippine was hit by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013 and it is the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded in the country’s history.As the atmosphere become warmer, it holds more moisture and this is expected to intensify downpour, causing more flood to country such as United Kingdom. Due to “the law of water cycle”, harder downpours is expected and longer droughts will persist in naturally arid areas such as South Africa and Syria.
  4. Food price hike
    Extreme weather patterns has a dramatic impact on agriculture. Insufficient agricultural production will trigger food crisis and eventually causing price hike. Inevitably, one of the most vulnerable groups are the farmers. They have to struggle to keep up with the increasingly extreme weather patterns while contend with the increase attack of pests and diseases. Food crisis will hinder the effort of poverty eradication and education, putting pressure on health and eventually affects the economic.

We are feeling the climate change’s fast growing impact now. – Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

Written by: Thomas Lai
Edited by : Merryn Choong

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