Climate Change Essay


Introduction Scientific evidence of the world’s changing climate is unequivocal. The expected impacts of the changing climate are likely to adversely affect the well being of all countries and particularly the poorest countries, some of which are in Africa. The changing climate has been manifested in the form of: increased severity and frequency of droughts; floods and storms; water stress, coastal erosion, and higher incidence of vector borne diseases among others.The resulting declines in agricultural productivity and food security, widespread incidence of water-related diseases, particularly in tropical areas have had a telling effect on economic development. The poorest countries and communities are likely to suffer the earliest and hardest because of their geographical location, low incomes, and low institutional capacity, as well as their greater reliance on climate-sensitive sectors.Addressing climate change is, therefore, central to achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction in the continent.

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Climate change is a long-term shift in the climate of a specific location, region or planet. The shift is measured by changes in features associated with average weather, such as temperature, wind patterns and precipitation. Climate change can manifest itself in a number of ways, for example changes in regional and global temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, expansion and contraction of ice sheets, and sea-level variations.These regional and global climate changes are responses to external and internal forcing mechanisms. Climate change occurs when the climate of a specific area or planet is altered between two different periods of time. This usually occurs when something changes the total amount of the sun’s energy absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere and surface. It also happens when something changes the amount of heat energy from the earth’s surface and atmosphere that escapes to space over an extended period of time.

Such changes can involve both changes in average weather conditions and changes in how much the weather varies around these averages. The changes can be caused by natural processes like volcanic eruptions, variations in the sun’s intensity, or very slow changes in ocean circulation or land surfaces which occur on time scales of decades, centuries or longer. Humans also cause climates to change by releasing greenhouse gases and aerosols into the atmosphere, by changing land surfaces, and by depleting the stratospheric ozone layer. Research by various scientists has shown that the temperature of the Earth is controlled by the balance between the input from energy of the sun and the loss of this back into space and that certain atmospheric gas are critical to this temperature balance and are known as greenhouse gases. (Greenhouse gases are the gases in an atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range). The energy received from the sun is in the form of short-wave radiation, i. e. in the visible spectrum and ultraviolet radiation.

On average, about one-third of this solar radiation that hits the Earth is reflected back to space. Of the remainder, some is absorbed by the atmosphere, but most is absorbed by the land and oceans. The Earth’s surface becomes warm and as a result emits long-wave ‘infrared’ radiation. The greenhouse gases trap and re-emit some of this long-wave radiation, and warm the atmosphere. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, methane, and nitrous oxide, and together they create a natural greenhouse or blanket effect, warming the Earth by 35°C.Despite the greenhouse gases often being depicted in diagrams as one layer, this is only to demonstrate their ‘blanket effect’, as they are in fact mixed throughout the atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other gases. It is these other gases that we are interested in, as they include the greenhouse gases.

The two most important greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide and water vapor. Carbon dioxide accounts for just 0. 03–0.

04% of the atmosphere, while water vapor varies from 0 to 2%.Without the natural greenhouse effect that these two gases produce, the Earth’s average temperature would be roughly ? 20°C. However, because the amount of carbon dioxide and water vapor can vary on Earth, we know that this natural greenhouse effect has produced a climate system which is naturally unstable and rather unpredictable. The effect of climate change on the planet and various life forms that inhabit it manifests over an extended period of time. The internal variability is recognized in the form of hysteresis.

In this measure, the climate change recorded does not correlate or correspond to planned input. However, climate change is not only the cause of rapid deterioration of our environment, but is also irreversible. Climate change and global warming are seen used interchangeably, as if they were the same thing, which I think is a mistake. There are obvious differences between the meanings of the two terms. To better understand their distinction, it is good to have their definition.

Global Warming refers to the overall increase in the heat of the planet, based on average temperature over the entire surface.Climate Change on the other hand denotes changes in regional climate characteristics, including temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind and severe weather events. Hence we can say climate change is about much more than how warm or cool the earth’s temperatures are. In short, global warming refers to increasing global temperatures, whereas climate change refers to regional or global conditions of the overall atmospheric condition. {draw:frame} Causes of climate change. Human causes: The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century saw the large-scale use of fossil fuels for industrial activities.These industries created jobs and over the years, people moved from rural areas to the cities. This trend is continuing even today.

More and more land that was covered with vegetation has been cleared to make way for houses. Natural resources are being used extensively for construction, industries, transport, and consumption. Consumerism (our increasing want for material things) has increased by leaps and bounds, creating mountains of waste. Also, our population has increased to an incredible extent. All this has contributed to a rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.Fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas supply most of the energy needed to run vehicles, generate electricity for industries, households, etc. The energy sector is responsible for about ? of the carbon dioxide emissions, 1/5 of the methane emissions and a large quantity of nitrous oxide. It also produces nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide (CO) which are not greenhouse gases but do have an influence on the chemical cycles in the atmosphere that produce or destroy greenhouse gases.

*THE ROLE PLAYED BY CLIMATE* CHANGE INSTITUTION*S*.The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change UNFCCC was created to produce the first international agreement on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions However; this task is not as simple as it first appears, as carbon dioxide emissions are not evenly produced by countries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 jointly by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization because of worries about the possibility of the effect of climate change.

The purpose of the IPCC is the continued assessment of the state of knowledge on the various aspects of climate change, including scientific, environmental, and socio-economic impacts and response strategies. The IPCC is recognized as the most authoritative scientific and technical voice on climate change, and its assessments have had a profound influence on the negotiators of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol. The IPCC is organized into three working groups plus a task force to calculate the amount of greenhouse gases produced by each country.

Working Group I assesses the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change. Working Group II addresses the vulnerability of human and natural systems to climate change, the negative and positive consequences of climate change, and options for adapting to them; Working Group III assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change, as well as economic issues. The IPCC also provides governments with scientific, technical, and socio-economic information relevant to evaluating the risks and to developing a response to global climate change.The IPCC also compiles research on the main greenhouse gases: where they come fromand the current consensus concerning their warming potential.

The sources of Greenhouse Gases The first major source of carbon dioxide is the burning of fossil fuels, since a significant part of carbon dioxide emissions comes from energy production, industrial processes, and transport. These are not evenly distributed around the world because of the unequal distribution of industry; hence, any agreement would affect certain countries’ economies more than others.The second major source of carbon dioxide emissions is as a result of land-use changes. These emissions come primarily from the cutting down of forests for the purposes of agriculture, urbanization, or roads. When large areas of rainforests are cut down, the land often turns into less productive grasslands with considerably less capacity for storing CO2. Forest acts as a major sink to conserve CO2 and when forest are depleted or deforested, they release the CO2 into the atmosphere and also reduce the tree available to store CO2. {draw:frame} Water Resources SectorAfrica is endowed with abundant water resources and its share of global water resources is about 9% or 4,050 cubic kilometers per year. There are over 60 Tran- boundary River Basins, 17 major rivers and 16 large lakes but these Resources are highly underutilized as only 3.

8% is developed for water supply, irrigation and hydropower generation, only 6% of the cultivated land is irrigated and only about 3% of hydro potential is developed. The impacts of climate change – including changes in temperature, precipitation and sea levels are expected to have varying consequences for the availability of freshwater in Africa.This is of particular concern, considering that around 300 million people have no access to potable water or adequate sanitation. Also, much of the population relies on surface water for supplies.

Due to the inter-annual variability of rainfall, many are becoming reliant on groundwater as their primary source of freshwater; groundwater currently represents 15 percent of Africa’s water resources and is used by 75 percent of the population, mainly in North Africa.The icecap on Mount Kilimanjaro has been disappearing due to climate change with serious implications for the rivers that depend on ice melt for their flow. Several rivers are already drying out in the summer region due to depletion in melt water, and recent projections suggest that if the recession continues at its present rate the ice cap may completely disappear within 15 years. Other glacial water reservoirs such as Ruwenzori in Uganda and Mount Kenya are facing similar threats. Water-related Disasters Health SectorThe health effects of a rapidly changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative. Urban growth unaccompanied by strong public health infrastructure makes African countries even more vulnerable.

Africa is already vulnerable to a number of climate-sensitive diseases, such as Rift valley fever, Cholera, associated with floods and droughts, malaria, etc. Heat stress and drought are likely to have a negative impact on animal health, production of dairy products, meat and reproduction. This in turn could impact food security leading to protein deficiency and malnutrition.

Agriculture and Food Security Sector Land resources contribute up to 50 percent of household food requirements and up to 40 percent of household incomes, with 70 percent of the continent’s population depending on agriculture for their livelihood. Moreover, agriculture is the most important sector in the economy of most African countries, representing approximately 30 percent of Africa’s GDP and contributing about 50 percent of the total export value. Agriculture is mostly subsistence in nature with a high dependence on rainfall (over 95 percent) for irrigation.As a result, agriculture in Africa is highly vulnerable to changes in climate variability, seasonal shifts, and precipitation patterns. African countries whose economies rely heavily on one or two agricultural cash crops are vulnerable to climate change. A study in Uganda concluded that an increase in temperature of an average of 2? C would drastically reduce the area suitable for growing Robusta coffee in Uganda, where it is a major export crop and limit growth to the highlands only.With regard to fisheries, carbon isotope records in sediment cores suggests a decrease of up to 20 percent in the primary productivity of Lake Tanganyika in East Africa, implying a roughly 30 percent decrease in fish yields. Predicted future climate change may further reduce the Lake’s productivity.

Climate change may also adversely affect the rangelands which represent up to 83 percent of the agro-ecosystem area in sub-Saharan Africa. General impacts of climate change on agriculture include: Reduction in soil fertilityDecreased livestock productivity directly (through higher temperatures) and indirectly (through changes in the availability of feed and fodder) Increased incidence of pest attacks, resulting from increase in temperature The manifestation of vector and vector born diseases Negative impacts on human health affecting human resource availability Regional differences may occur regarding the distribution of this climate change impacts across the continent. Climate change in the already arid northern sub-region of the continent is expected to enhance desertification and bring a gradual decrease in forest cover.The impact of these changes on agriculture is exacerbated by the lack of adaptation strategies, which are increasingly limited due to the lack of institutional, economic and financial capacity to support such actions. Increasingly variable growing season conditions (shifts in start of rainy seasons, length and quality of rains, etc) are disrupting subsistence agricultural production leading to famine and severe loss of livelihoods in many semi-arid regions of Africa. Improved seasonal forecasts and application of these results at the community level is a high priority in ensure communities transition smoothly to the changing climate.

The food security threat posed by climate change is great for Africa, where agricultural yields and per capita food production have been steadily declining, and where population growth will double the demand for food, water and forage in the next 30 years. Africa’s food supply would need to quadruple by 2050 to meet people’s basic caloric needs, even under the lowest and most optimistic population projections. One study revealed that of the total additional people at risk of hunger due to climate change, Africa will account for the majority by the 2080s. Biodiversity Sector Africa is endowed with a highly diverse fauna and flora.Africa contains about a fifth of all known species of plants, mammals and birds in the world, and a sixth of the amphibians and reptiles.

Africa is home to five internationally recognized areas of particularly high species richness and endemism, referred to as “biological hot spots”. Biodiversity in Africa is already under threat from a number of natural as well as human induced pressures; climate change will be an additional stressor. There are some systems that are also vulnerable: coral reefs, tundra, boreal forest and IPCC have assessed that 20 to 30 percent of plant and animal species are in danger of extinction if temperature exceeds 1. to 2. 5 degrees centigrade. Other threats include: land-use conversion due to agricultural expansion and subsequent destruction of habitat; pollution; poaching; civil war; high rates of land use change; population growth and the introduction of exotic species. Increasing frequency of droughts and floods associated with climate variability and change could have a negative impact on the ecosystems of some areas in Africa e. g.

lakes and reservoirs in the African Sahel could lose part of their storage capacity leading to a complete drying.Changing rainfall patterns could lead to soil erosion, the siltation of rivers and the deterioration of watersheds. Wetlands of international importance and wildlife are also under threat from drought in Southern Africa. Forests are currently under pressure from demand for firewood and charcoal as energy sources, and from the export of forest products such as timber, nuts, fruit, gum. This has led to deforestation and degradation of African forests. Africa loses about 500,000 hectares of forest annually from exploitation and forest fires.Deforestation has been documented by field inventories of forest species which show a 25–30 km shift of the Sahel, Sudan, and Guinean vegetation zones in the past half century.

Forest exports are expected to be impacted by climate change which is important as forest products generate 6 percent of the economic product of African countries. Ecosystems services that rely on sub-Saharan African plant diversity, including indigenous foods, as well as both locally-used and potential exotic plant-based medicines, are likely to be adversely impacted. Coastal zone and Marine SectorCoastal ecosystems are among the most productive yet highly threatened systems in the world; they produce disproportionately more services related to human well being than most other systems.

Many factors can interact to increase the vulnerability of coastal zones. Some examples include: unsustainable rates of resource extraction; high population concentrations on the coast; inland activities such as the damming of rivers; increased use of fertilizers and clearing of natural vegetation leading to the degradation of coastal and marine habitats; and accidental oil spills (e. . in the Western Indian Ocean sea routes). Millennium Development Goals Climate change has the potential to undermine economic development, increasing poverty and delaying or preventing the realization of the Millennium Development Goals. Particularly, the lack of effective adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change can jeopardize the achievement of MDG goal 1 (eradicating extreme poverty and hunger), goal 6 (combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) and goal 7 (ensuring environmental sustainability).This indicates that a direct link can be seen between climate change and development, where the impacts of climate change could largely impede development efforts in key sectors while at the same time development strategies and plans could have an impact on coping capacity to climate change.

The following are the Goal of MDG Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change Home gardens and sheep fattening have contributed greatly to improving the adaptive capacity of small rural farmers in Kordofan and Drafur states of Western Sudan.In many locations food crops have replaced cash crops, and more resilient crop varieties have been introduced. Tribal and individual movements and migration are identified as adaptation options, e. g. in Western Africa since they provide for employment and income diversification away from their farms and reduce their vulnerability to drought. Regarding Coastal zones, proposed adaptation measures include fisheries management e.

g. in Seychelles the closed seasons control agreements with foreign fleets and establishment of marine reserves.In West Africa, measures include the development of a Sustainable Fisheries Livelihoods Programme. Dykes and protective measurements are proposed for the Nile Delta in Egypt, as they would probably prevent the worst flooding up to a 50 cm sea level rise. However, it is expected that they may cause serious groundwater salination and aggravate the impact of increasing wave action. The establishment of national and regional oil spill contingency plans have also cited as options in several African regions. Africa’s Response to Climate Change CONCLUSION: ReferencesAfrican Development Bank Group, “Bank Group Climate Risk Management and Adaptation Strategy – Approach Paper, Feb. 12, 2008, Tunis.

IPCC. “Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2007. Stern, N. , “The Economics of Climate Change, Nov. 2006.

UNFCCC, “Assessing, predicting and managing current and future climate variability and extreme events and implications for sustainable development” A Paper prepared for the workshop on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, Cairo, 18-20 June Mark Maslin Global Warming A very Short Introduction