Custom «Climate Change» Essay Paper Sample
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In recent years, the climate on the planet has changed noticeably. Some countries suffer from snowy and harsh winters, while others - from anomalous heat that is quite unusual for these places. Scientists all over the world discuss global climate change, including such aspects as the increase in the level of the world’s oceans and the rise of the average annual temperature. Apart from temperature increase, there is also an unbalance of all natural systems, thus resulting in temperature anomalies, regime of precipitation, and the increase in the periodicity of extreme events such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes. Among the physical reasons that could explain what happens, there are natural and those that are forced by human activities such as the burning of hydrocarbon fuels and the release of large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Today, the majority of scientists agree that climate change exists and the increase in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere due to the anthropogenic factor is the main reason for this; the outcomes of this problem are already evident, but there are methods, with the help of which it is possible to decrease CO2 emission into the atmosphere.
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History of the Problem
The impact of human activities on climate is obvious, while the emissions of greenhouse gases, which are caused by anthropogenic factors, have reached their highest amounts recently. Climate changes that already happen have negatively influenced the natural and anthropogenic systems of the planet. The warming of the planet’s climate system is an incontestable fact (Malone, 2013). A great number of the observed changes are unprecedented on a scale from decades to millennia. Temperatures of the atmosphere and the ocean have increased, sea levels have risen, while snow and ice reserves have declined (Malone, 2013). Since the beginning of the industrial era, the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases have increased to the greatest extent under the impact of the growth of the population and the world economy (Malone, 2013). This fact has led to the concentrations of nitrous oxide, methane, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaching levels that have been unprecedented for the last few centuries (Richardson, Steffen, & Liverman, 2011). Their effects along with the impacts of other anthropogenic factors are observed throughout the climate system. It is obvious that they are the major reason of global warming observed since the middle of the last century (Richardson et al., 2011). In recent decades, climate changes have had a great effect on anthropogenic and natural systems in the oceans and on all continents (Richardson et al., 2011). Regardless of their cause, these impacts are the consequence of observed climate change and they indicate the sensitivity of anthropogenic and natural systems to the changing climate of the Earth.
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Today, climate change represents a societal problem since it directly affects all people. Moreover, this impact cannot be overemphasized. In tropical regions, there will be a catastrophic decline in the productivity of agriculture due to climate change. The most fertile regions will be flooded, which will lead to mass famine. Nonetheless, such serious consequences are expected not earlier than in several hundred years and, thus, the humanity has time to take appropriate measures.
The Scope of the Problem
The Arctic is a highly defenseless place to the outcomes of climate change. The expected effects of change can have considerable impacts on global climate (Beckrich, 2014). Moreover, global warming happens faster in this area than in other places. Due to increase of temperature, the underlying surface of sea and land in this region are released from snow and ice. Consequently, the surface starts absorbing more solar heat. Over the past 100 years, the average temperature of the Arctic has risen twice as much as the average Earth’s temperature (Beckrich, 2014). Thus, all people will feel the consequences of great changes in the Arctic in the nearest future.
The sea ice of the Arctic serves as air conditioning in the Northern hemisphere, thus influencing global climate change. Since the 1950s, the thickness of sea ice has decreased by 40%, while its area in the Northern hemisphere – by 15% (Beckrich, 2014). In 2011, the volume of the Arctic ice cover decreased to an unprecedented minimum – 4,2 thousand km3. Nevertheless, the area of the ice is more important for the global climate system (Beckrich, 2014). In 2012, the area of packed sea ice in the Arctic was 4,61 million km2, thus reaching its historical minimum (Beckrich, 2014). If the nature does not interfere with the course of events by launching the reverse climate relations and if people do not change the situation, the complete disappearance of the ice with corresponding political, economic, and ecological consequences is expected by the middle of the 21st century.
Since the beginning of the industrial era, the content of greenhouse gases in the air has increased greatly. Today, it exceeds the pre-industrial level by one-third. Scientists refer rapid warming to the middle of the 1980s (Richardson et al., 2011). Since that time, the global temperature of the surface air layer has increased by 1°C (Richardson et al., 2011). The content of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from 280 to 385 ppm since the middle of the 19th century and the major growth has occurred over the last 40 years (Richardson et al., 2011). The most important cause for the growth of CO2 lies in the use of fossil fuels. Nevertheless, deforestation, agricultural technology, and other factors also contribute to greenhouse effect (Richardson et al., 2011). Because of these causes and the melting of fossil ice, the amount of methane in the air increases. However, it is impossible to define exactly, which of them and to what extent is responsible for the current climate change most of all.
Moreover, the temperature of the surface layer of the water in the World Ocean grows. Still, it grows slower than the temperature of the air. Consequently, the World Ocean cannot cope with the absorption of excess CO2 from the atmosphere (Brooks, 2013). Even the insignificant increase in the temperature of seawater serves as a highly serious signal. Scientists have established that devastating tropical cyclones originate over extremely warm waters (Brooks, 2013). Thus, it is possible to expect that temperature increase in the upper layer of the ocean will amplify potentially dangerous areas (Brooks, 2013). Moreover, the increase in a number of hazardous weather phenomena is already noticeable.
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Climate change has a devastating effect on plants and animals. These days, the anthropogenic pressure on the biosphere exceeds its ability to recover by more than 30% (Moore, 2011). Despite the fact that certain species of flora and fauna have an adaptive potential, the modern rate of climate change is unacceptable for the future existence for the majority of them (Moore, 2011). If the temperature continues to increase, animals and plants in the Northern hemisphere will migrate to higher places and higher latitudes (Moore, 2011). Forests displace the polar tundra and the latter moves into the zone of polar deserts, thus giving the underlying surface the ability to absorb solar radiation better (Thornes, 2014). This process is the shift of climatic and natural zones to the poles, stimulated by the emission of greenhouse gases.
It is necessary to mention that climate change has a noticeable effect on people as well. Thus, it represents a new threat to public health and changes approaches to protecting the vulnerable groups of people. Climate change and its variability result in numerous diseases that are caused by natural disasters such as the periods of droughts, floods, and extreme heat (Jay & Marmot, 2009). At the same time, the majority of serious diseases are highly sensitive to the changes in precipitation regimes and temperature. Climate change promotes to the global burden of disease, and scientists expect that in the future, this trend will only increase (Jay & Marmot, 2009). The effect of climate on the health of people will not be uniform throughout the world (Jay & Marmot, 2009). People from densely populated coastal areas and developing countries will be especially vulnerable if the situation does not change.
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In addition to health problems, climate change will affect the global economy. Specifically, if global warming maintains its speed, it will result in 3.2% decrease in annual world GDP by 2030 (Hertel & Rosch, 2010). Moreover, in developing states, losses will amount to about 11% of GDP, so for this reason, the global economy might lose to 20% of world GDP by 2100 (Hertel & Rosch, 2010). Economists assess losses according to two scenarios – considering countermeasures and without them. In the latter case, only the market component will lose more than 5% of world GDP (Hertel & Rosch, 2010). The account of secondary impacts brings them to about 15% (Hertel & Rosch, 2010). Therefore, the outlook is not optimistic.
Despite such a disappointing prognosis, it is still possible to change the situation. The most important measure is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (Pittock, 2013). The reduction in such emissions can be achieved by increasing the efficiency of energy use, upgrading the energy complex, reducing heat and fuel leaks, enhancing forest conservation, switching to safer fuels, and others (Pittock, 2013). Moreover, it is especially necessary to slow the consumption of fossil fuels. These measures should be supplemented by the development of alternative technologies for energy production that are environmentally friendly (Pittock, 2013). There is a set of various strategies, the purpose of which is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and encourage innovation in the application of renewable and energy efficient sources. Optimum policy presupposes a set of various tools, although the comparative prices of numerous policies for the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases depend on the parameters of the volume of restrictions on the emissions and their purposes (Pittock, 2013). The ranking of priorities for such restrictions can include the compliance with accepted emission standards, the price of duties on emissions, the share of renewable energy in its total consumption, the tax on the application of mineral energy sources, and the subsidies for the application of renewable energy sources (Pittock, 2013). Encouragement for the introduction of energy-saving technologies should also be added to this set. The optimal combination of these rewards and restrictions should cost less than a simpler but a more aggressive policy of the limitation of emissions of greenhouse gases.
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The struggle against climate change requires a considerable reconsideration of the way energy is consumed and produced. Thus, it is necessary to develop a long-term energy saving strategy. First, people should define the most significant courses of the energy policy – the economical consumption of energy, the increase in the share of renewable energy sources, and the growth of energy efficiency (Pittock, 2013). At the same time, since every type of energy supply has particular advantages and drawbacks, it is necessary to prepare for the regular reviews of their classification in cost, social accessibility, and their terms of risks (Pittock, 2013). What is more, only a coordinated global energy policy, which is grounded on the priorities outlined above, can prevent global warming.
The effect of rapid climate change on the global economy is not only straightforward through changing economic activities and living conditions of the world’s population. There are also other manifestations of the indirect relationship between global climatic and economic processes (McKinnon, 2014). The influence of climate change on technology and science may be one of them (McKinnon, 2014). This means the forthcoming breakthrough in the promotion of green technologies. Consequently, this will affect numerous sectors of the world economy such as agriculture, engineering, and energy (McKinnon, 2014). Therefore, there will be a double benefit of green technologies, and the means of combating global warming together with the attainment of environmental purposes can have a positive effect on the world economy.
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All parties that are involved in climate debates agree that the planet’s climate changed naturally in the past. Before the industrial era, the Earth passed through the numerous periods of cooling and warming (Richardson et al., 2011). Therefore, a group of scientists has concluded that if the global temperature had changed in the past, the current global warming is caused only by natural reasons (Richardson et al., 2011). Strong climate changes, which occurred in the past, could have been caused by corresponding significant and long-term changes in the radiation power of the Sun, as there was no great artificial impact on nature at that time. Sunspots are external signs of solar activity that are well-observed (Richardson et al., 2011). At the highest level of sunspot spreading, the solar constant is usually higher and it decreases noticeably at a lower level. Several somewhat incorrect cycles were observed in the behavior of the solar activity. The 11-year cycle is the most known of them (Richardson, Steffen & Liverman, 2011). Nevertheless, the centuries-old and two-century cycles are more interesting because this is a question of a modern climate trend lasting for decades. The two-century variations in the level of the magnitude and activity of the solar constant are matched mutually both in amplitude and in phase (Richardson et al., 2011). There are certain reasons to consider that solar cycles cause various cyclical fluctuations in the nature of the planet. Moreover, there is historical evidence to think so.
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Global warming, occurring at one of the high solar activity maxima in the 11th-13th centuries that was called a small climatic optimum, was very similar to or even exceeded the current one. At that time, grapes ripened in Scotland (Richardson et al., 2011). Greenland looked green and justified its name. The Normans inhabited it at the beginning of the 11th century (Richardson et al., 2011). However, the next century's minimum of solar activity came naturally. In the Northern hemisphere, it turned into an era of severe winters. Then, the Greenland colony of the Normans died. After the next rise, there was another decline in solar activity, the so-called the Maunder Minimum (Richardson et al., 2011). This was the deepest drop in temperature during the small ice age.
Indeed, natural causes of climate change exist, but they are not prevailing. Various examples of the effect of solar activity on the planet’s climate are grounded on statistical computations and comparisons. It is impossible to distinguish the solar component of variability since it is masked by such phenomena in the atmosphere as the content of water vapor, clouds, and others. The fluctuations of the solar constant with respect to its mean position are less than the fluctuations experienced by the indicators of the state of the atmosphere that are regarded as their consequences (Richardson et al., 2011). In such a way, changes in the activity of the Sun are extremely weak and, thus, they cannot explain the observed rapid climate change. Over the last 250 years, the contribution of greenhouse effect to climate change has been 8 times higher than the contribution of solar activity (Richardson et al., 2011). Volcanic and solar activity could account for no more than half of the temperature increase until 1950 (Richardson, Steffen & Liverman, 2011). However, their relative impact decreased after that. The assessment of contribution of solar activity in modern warming includes from 16% to 36% of the anthropogenic contribution (Richardson et al., 2011). Therefore, the statement concerning the fact that current climate change is the result of nature is refuted.
In the current paper, many sources have been used. All of them provide useful information regarding the issue of climate change. Despite this fact, there are certain limitations in these sources. For example, the article “The Green Room: The Latest on Climate Change” written by Amanda Beckrich provides highly reliable information concerning the topic under discussion. The author makes an emphasis that today, there are highly vivid manifestations of global warming in the Northern hemisphere and at high latitudes. In the temperature variations during 1936-2010, studies indicate the presence of the statistically important positive linear trend in general for the Arctic and for the latitudinal zone of 60° - 70° of northern latitude (Beckrich, 2014). The destruction of ice and snow cover as well as permafrost that form cryosphere can accelerate and disperse global warming. Global warming and ice melting are the two sides of the positive feedback developing each other. The reduction of the area of ice and snow that reflects solar radiation results in the increase in the temperature of the planet’s surface and its atmosphere (Beckrich, 2014). In turn, this process accelerates melting, and the sun opens new areas of soil and clean water that are ready for the increased heat absorption. However, the weakness of this source consists in the fact that the author has paid much attention to this zone while avoiding discussing other areas.
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Another useful source is the book Climate Change written by Barrie Pittock. The author discusses possible solutions of the problem of climate change. Statistical data provided in the book can help people around the world respond appropriately to save the planet. According to the author, to avoid the devastating outcomes of global warming, it is necessary to reduce emissions of СО2 by 2050 by half in comparison with 2000 (Pittock, 2013). However, it will be highly difficult to achieve this along with the constant growth of the Earth’s production and population, and it is a weakness of this source, as Barrie Pittock offers solutions without considering the constant growth the planet’s population.
Richardson et al. are the authors of another source that has helped realize the scope of the problem. They provide useful data regarding the natural causes of current climate change. This is a great advantage of this source because there is a group of scientists who believe that a natural factor is a real cause of global warming. Thus, the authors of the book provide the data of natural climate changes in the past with the participation of solar activity. However, they are not as strong today as the anthropogenic factor.