Climate Change seems to be the hottest topic of the century, and it is one of the most serious threats our planet is currently facing. Whether you’re well informed on the matter or not, you must have experienced its negative effects at one point or another. Before talking about what climate change is, however, let’s first clarify that is not the same thing as global warming; it is rather the bigger umbrella global warming falls under.
Climate change is a term used to describe numerous changes in global phenomena, such as rising temperatures (global warming), sea level rises, ice mass loss, and extreme weather events. The results of climate change have not only been devastating to planet Earth, but to all living creatures on it.
Credits to NASA
Last year, massive floods across India, Bangladesh, and Nepal killed over 1,500 people in addition to leaving over 1.5 million people homeless. Although such floods are likely to occur from July to September, their intensity and destructiveness are magnified due to climate change. Animals are also struggling to survive, as polar ones are left starving or in danger of ice melting and others are victims of drought and a new lack of food sources.
It’s also likely that we will experience dangerous extreme weather events this year, seeing as Japan has already reached record-breaking high temperatures, which left 65 dead, and Greece and California have already experienced strong wildfires led by heat and strong winds.
Climate change is largely a man-made problem that started rising with the first and second industrial revolutions, but it started forming a serious threat since the mid 20th century. Since then, global temperatures have risen about 0.6 °C, Antarctica lost around 119 billion tons of ice, and sea levels rose about 20 centimeters.
The burning of fossil fuels, land changes, and deforestation by humans have led to an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; contributing to what is referred to as the “greenhouse effect.” The reason we call it a greenhouse effect is because the gases making up the Earth’s atmosphere act like a greenhouse; keeping it constantly warm by trapping the sun’s heat and not letting it escape back to space at night. Other greenhouse gases include methane, which results from rice cultivation, and nitrous oxide produced from soil cultivation practices or from burning garbage, as well as the abundant water vapor.
Whether on a local or an international level, governments seem to have listened to scientists’ warnings of climate change and have started turning to renewable energy and restricting the amount of carbon that polluters can emit. Some countries like Japan have governmental programs fully dedicated to reducing emissions and fighting climate change, knowing that they are likely targets of it. When it comes to the international community, the Paris Agreement under the UN urges countries to work on combating climate change by limiting their own production of greenhouse gases in order to curb the increase in global temperatures to 1.5 °C.
Surprisingly, the United States is not one of the 195 members of the Paris Agreement anymore, as US President Donald Trump has stated that "The Paris accord will undermine the (U.S.) economy," and has also claimed that it would put the US at a disadvantage.
It’s worth mentioning that 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters in the United States, with a price tag of at least 306 billion USD.
If you think that number is big, climate change is expected to cost the global economy 700 billion USD annually by 2030 if it keeps on going at the same rate. Hundreds of millions will also find themselves seeking refugee by 2025, as the UN High Commissioner has stated that climate change may be the biggest driver of displaced people. Wildfires are also expected to burn up to eight times higher by 2100, as wildfires increase by two to four factors for each one degree Celsius. Hurricanes will likely increase by 11 percent and rainfall by 20 percent and about 50 percent of animals and plants will be in danger of extinction. Many beautiful tourist destination are also in danger of disappearing due to climate change.