FAQ: A brief guide to climate change

    10 Jun 2021

    The climate is often compared to the weather, but there’s a difference between them. The weather changes every day – sometimes it rains, sometimes there’s heat or frost. And the climate is the nature of weather conditions over a long period for a large area.

    Throughout the history of the Earth, the climate has changed many times. Scientists know about seven ice ages, after which there was always warming.

    Warming nowadays is not just a natural process, because it is 10 times faster than ever. Increasingly, scientists are using the term “climate crisis” instead of “climate change” to emphasize the seriousness of the problem and the need to address it now. The climate crisis is an excessively rapid change in climate “due” to rising global average temperatures. To counter the climate crisis, carbon neutrality must be achieved by 2050 and adapted to climate change.

    Let’s check Ecoaction NGO explanation about the most frequently asked questions on climate change,

    Causes of climate change

    Greenhouse effect

    The greenhouse effect is a process in which greenhouse gases trap solar energy on the Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere and prevent it from returning to space. The greenhouse effect maintains a comfortable temperature on Earth for life. If this effect didn’t exist, the average global temperature would be -18 ℃ instead of +15 ℃.

    The greenhouse effect is a normal natural phenomenon. But after the industrial revolution of the mid-19th century, due to the combustion of fossil fuels, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere began to rise sharply.

    Greenhouse gases include:

    ·        Carbon dioxide CO2;

    ·        Methane CH4;

    ·        Nitric oxide (I) N2O;

    ·        Ozone O3;

    ·        Water vapor.

    The first four compounds stay in the atmosphere for months or even years without undergoing physical or chemical changes. For example, a methane molecule can be in the atmosphere unchanged for up to 14 years, and an ozone molecule for about 100 days. This has contributed to rising global temperatures for decades.

    Water vapor stays in the atmosphere for only a few days and reacts quickly to temperature changes. The warmer it gets, the more water evaporates and enters the atmosphere. Thus, water vapor intensifies the process of global warming.

    Greenhouse gas emissions

    Mankind significantly changes the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, burning fossil fuels: coal, oil, gas and more. Their combustion releases carbon, which combines with oxygen in the air to form CO2. Over the last 150 years, the concentration of CO2 has increased from 280 ppm (parts per million) to more than 400 ppm.

    Such a rapid increase in the content of CO2 in the atmosphere occurred on the planet for the first time in hundreds of thousands of years:

    Scientists confirm: other reasons, although there are, but they are not as influential as human activity.

    Consequences of climate change in the world

    Global warming

    What is the global average temperature?

    The global average temperature is the average of all annual temperatures on Earth. Usually the data are calculated by region for each day, and then the arithmetic mean for the year for the entire planet is displayed. The difference between the annual values ​​of these average temperatures is the same increase (or decrease) in the average global temperature on Earth. Rising global average temperatures on Earth mean that there are more hot days in the year and fewer cold days. This does NOT mean that every day compared to the corresponding day of the year in the pre-industrial era became almost 1 degree warmer.

    According to observations, the average global temperature on Earth has risen by 0.95 ° C since 1880. Global warming is uneven across the planet. The average temperature in the Arctic regions of the planet has already risen by 2 ° C.

    Melting glaciers

    Warming in the Arctic is twice as fast as in other parts of the world. Therefore, glaciers are melting faster. Since 1979 (the first full year of satellite observation), the volume of ice in the warmest season in the Arctic has decreased by 32%. According to this trend, by the middle of the century in the summer the Arctic will be without ice.

    Melting glaciers has several serious consequences.

    First one. The area of ​​the white cover, which reflects from 20% to 50% of solar radiation, is reduced. And the area of ​​the ocean increases and absorbs more than 95%. So the water heats up even more and accelerates the melting of glaciers, leading to greater climate change.

    Second. Scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center estimate that permafrost contains 1,400 gigatons of carbon dioxide, almost twice as much as the atmosphere now contains. As the permafrost melts, it gradually releases these gas deposits. Together with CO2, Methane (CH4) enters the atmosphere – a gas with a greenhouse effect 84 times stronger than CO2.

    Source of picture: globalchange.gov

    Third. Rising ocean levels. The islands are already disappearing underwater: the Maldives, Fiji, Seychelles, Marshall Islands, Canary Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Philippines, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands (already lost 5 islands due to rising ocean levels).

    The section on climate change in Ukraine describes how rising ocean levels will affect our country and which of they are the most vulnerable.

    The graphs below show how the world ocean level rose from 1870 to 2020.

    Source:  nasa.gov


    The trend that scientists have been noticing in recent decades is heat waves. They are becoming more common in the world, lasting longer and becoming more extreme. Such, for example, was the heatwave in the summer of 2019 in Europe. On July 25, 2019, heat records for the entire history of observations were recorded in Germany – 41.7 ° C, in France – 42.6 ° C, in Belgium – 41.8 ° C, and other countries of Central and Northern Europe. According to scientists, the probability of its occurrence was twice as high precisely because of anthropogenic climate change.

    Source: nasa.gov

    More droughts and dust storms

    A fire in Australia in the winter of 2019-2020 affected 1 million animals. Due to the drought caused by climate change, the fire was longer and larger than the previous ones.

    Dry weather threatens not only forest fires but also dust storms. When a strong wind blows dust from plowed open areas, it lifts up dry land and carries it for tens of kilometers. As a result, land fertility is declining and locals are suffering from respiratory diseases and poor visibility on roads due to dust and sand.

    Changes in precipitation

    An increase in temperature increases evaporation and causes redistribution of moisture. As a result, in some regions, excessive moisture evaporates and drought intensifies. In other regions, this moisture condenses, and there are more frequent showers and storms, which causes the risk of flooding.

     More frequent and more intense storms

    Depending on the origin of storms, there are hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones.

    Source: nasa.gov

    Storms form in the warm waters of the equator. These are usually the tropics, where the ocean surface temperature is higher than 26 ° C. Warm water turns into steam and rises with warm air. In the atmosphere, the steam begins to cool and form storm clouds, which under the action of the wind begin to actively rotate, fed by heat and water from the ocean surface. Reaching a wind speed of 119 km / h, the storm turns into a “hurricane”. It begins to lose its strength and moisture when it hits land, and falls as a downpour, causing flooding. Therefore, the higher the temperature of the world’s oceans, the faster the water evaporates from it, the more often hurricanes form, and their power increases. Accordingly, cataclysms do more harm to humanity, taking away lives, health, homes, and so on.

    Ocean currents and their changes

    The ocean is not a solid mass of water. It has a constant movement of water in the form of the thermohaline circulation (warm and cold ocean currents). Thermohaline circulation (THC) occurs due to changes in water temperature and changes in its salinity. Thermal processes have the largest contribution to THC. Salinity increases in the surface layer of ocean water due to evaporation. Reduction of water salinity occurs in some parts of the ocean due to precipitation and removal of freshwater by rivers. It also reduces the salinity of melting glaciers of Greenland or Antarctic ice. Cold, salty water is dense and sinks to the ocean floor, while warm – less dense – remains on the surface.

    THL is a powerful process, but it is easy to break. Researchers suggest that ocean currents may be affected by climate change. If global warming leads to increased precipitation in the North Atlantic and melting glaciers, the influx of warm freshwater to the sea surface can prevent the formation of sea ice, disrupting the flow of cold saltwater. This sequence of events can slow or even stop ocean currents, which can cause sudden changes in temperature and weather conditions. For Western and Northern Europe, this means severe cooling. After all, the Gulf Stream will stop its circulation and will not carry heat from the tropical latitudes to the north.

    Disappearance of biodiversity

    Biodiversity is the diversity of living organisms on Earth; this includes diversity within species, between species, and ecosystems.

    Healthy ecosystems require large amounts of flora and fauna, from soil microbes to predators. If one or more species disappear from this environment, it can damage the ecosystem.

    For example, insects pollinate many important human plants in natural ecosystems. Different crops attract different pollinators. Cocoa beans attract only the Mokretsi midge. If this species disappears, we will no longer have brownies or cocoa. If all pollinators disappear completely, people will lose more than a third of the entire crop.

    Due to climate change and human activity, the number of vertebrate populations on Earth has decreased by 68% over the last half century. This threatens humanity with the loss of plant and animal food, water, fuel, medicine.

    Climate refugees

    Climate refugees are people who are forced to leave their homes due to adverse sudden or long-term climate change. Increased drought, desertification, rising sea levels and disturbances seasonal weather situations – these changes often push people and animals to change their place of residence. Climate refugees may choose to migrate to another country or within their own country.

    According to UN experts, by 2050 there may be up to 1 billion climate refugees on the planet.

    Combating climate change. What are countries doing?

    International climate negotiations

    In 1992, during the International Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 154 countries recognized the existence of climate change as a result of human activities and decided to work together to limit global warming. In the same year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted, and since 1995 the parties to the convention have met annually to take joint decisions at the Conference of the Parties (COP).

    The conference brings together representatives of each UNFCCC signatory country: 196 countries, as well as the European Union, which participates as a separate member of the Convention. In addition, the conference is attended by representatives of non-governmental organizations, local authorities, the scientific community, youth, business, trade unions and other stakeholders.

    Paris Agreement

    The Paris Agreement was signed at the UN International Climate Negotiations (COP21) in 2015. A year later, the agreement entered into force – immediately after it was approved by 55 countries, which are responsible for more than 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As of early 2019, 184 countries (out of 197 countries party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) have ratified the Paris Agreement.

    The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep global warming on Earth within 2° C and to make every effort to stop warming at 1.5° C. This means that humanity must limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion and global warming.

    The participation of each country in achieving the world goal is determined by it individually, is voluntary and is called “nationally determined contribution” (or “NDC”). The agreement requires that such contributions be “ambitious” and set “to achieve the purpose of the agreement.” However, recent analytical studies show that the emission reduction targets that countries have submitted to the Paris Agreement will not help keep warming within 2 ° C, but on the contrary – will further increase the average temperature on the planet by 2.6 ° C – 4.0 ° C.

    By 2020, countries were expected to revise their greenhouse gas reduction targets.

    Transition to 100% renewable energy

    Investment and finance in the electricity sector are shifting from fossil fuels and large centralized infrastructure to distributed energy resources – renewable sources and energy storage and storage systems. In a world where the climate crisis is raging, the verdict on coal energy has already been passed by the economy itself.

    Over the last year, the cost of building of renewable energy sources has fallen to a level where new wind farms and power plants will compete with kilowatt-hours for coal-fired power plants. This was confirmed by the International Renewable Energy Agency, think tanks Lazarus and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

    At the same time, low efficiency, high specific consumption of fuel, outdated equipment, and the need for frequent repairs increase operating costs for TPPs.

    Due to the low cost of energy from renewable sources, their low carbon footprint, the transition to RES is the most economically and environmentally feasible option for development.

    Adaptation to climate change

    Adaptation to climate change is the adaptation of natural or human systems to actual or expected climatic influences or their consequences. It allows you to reduce damage and take advantage of opportunities such as job creation or cost savings to deal with emergencies.

    Adaptation to climate change can occur at any level of society, from the individual to the national and international levels.

    Adaptation measures take different forms and formats and depend on the unique context of the community, country, or region. There is no one-size-fits-all solution – adaptation can range from building flood defenses, creating early warning systems for cyclones and switching to drought-resistant crops.

    International adaptation policy

    In 2010, the Adaptation Committee was established at the Conference of the Parties (COP16). Its purpose is to promote consistent and active adaptation measures. The functions of the Committee include:

    ·        providing technical support and guidance to parties;

    ·        exchange of relevant information, knowledge, experience and best practices;

    ·        promoting synergies and strengthening interaction;

    ·        providing information and recommendations for consideration by the Conference to be monitored and reviewed by adaptation parties.

    COP16 also established the Cancun Framework for Adaptation, which should strengthen adaptation efforts in developing countries through international cooperation. The program began the process of creating national adaptation plans. This allows parties to formulate and implement national adaptation plans and to develop and implement strategies, programs that are needed to meet adaptation needs. The plan combines efforts to adapt many government agencies together under one document.

    The Paris Agreement also obliges countries to adapt to climate change in Article 7. It states that adaptation to climate change is a key component of responding to climate change to protect people and ecosystems. Adaptation must take into account the needs of countries, especially those most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.

    The world experience

    It is important for each country to create its own adaptation policies. Their goal is to reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change. As the manifestations of climate change are very different, both adaptation measures and policies are developed taking into account the specifics of a particular country and industry.

    Possible examples of adaptation to climate change are: adaptation of building codes to future climatic conditions and extreme weather events; construction and raising the level of dams for flood protection; development of drought-resistant crops; creation of early warning systems for cyclones.

    The EU has created the Climate Adapt platform to share knowledge and best practices on adaptation. On the site, you can find EU policies, research or practical projects, successful tools for adaptation.

    Examples of adaptation

    The city of Arnhem, the Netherlands, has set itself the goal of removing 10% of the asphalt pavement over the next 10 years and replacing it with lawns, shrubs, and trees. This will allow 90% of rainwater to enter the soil freely and prevent flooding of roads and sidewalks during heavy rains. Green areas also help to reduce the temperature around.

    Lawns or trees can also be planted on the roofs of houses. In Denmark, back in 2010, it was decided that new buildings and modernized houses with flat roofs should become green. There are already more than 40 such facilities in Copenhagen alone.

    Another tool for adapting to climate change is warning systems based on weather forecast data, thermal indicators, minimum night temperatures, and other meteorological data. They can warn of future heat waves or emergencies, giving the authorities time to prepare for them.

    Warning systems can be used in various fields.

    In 2019, the German Weather Service (DWD) announced the launch of a new forecasting tool that generates long-term forecasts (for 6 weeks) of soil moisture content and informs about the potential danger of drought. The launch of the model was a response to drought emergencies in 2018, which led to reduced grain yields, field fires, and economic losses. The system can also report where soil moisture deficiencies are observed and where crop losses can be expected, and conversely, areas with excessive soil moisture.

    One of the most important consequences of climate change is rising sea levels. Island states such as Kiribati, Fiji, and the Marshall Islands are already significantly affected by rising sea levels. European countries – the Netherlands, Britain, the Greek islands are also at risk.

    As one example of adaptation, the Fiji authorities use a combination of mangrove forests, which, due to their strong root system, effectively reduce wave energy and protect the soil from erosion. AND

    Another way is to build sea walls that also protect locals during emergencies.

    Agreement of mayors

    The Covenant of Mayors is the world’s largest movement for climate and energy conservation at the local level. The European Initiative The Covenant of Mayors brings together thousands of local authorities who have voluntarily committed themselves to achieve the EU’s climate and energy goals. The signatories to the Covenant of Mayors are committed to achieving the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 40% by 2030 and to develop a common approach to tackling climate change mitigation and adaptation.

    Cities are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as severe floods, heat waves, or severe dust storms. More than 200 settlements of Ukraine have signed the Covenant of Mayors.

    How everyone can counter climate change

    ·        Save energy and natural resources, but also money;

    ·        Reduce car use to a minimum. Prefer walking, cycling/scootering, public electric transport;

    ·        Reduce, reuse, and recycle waste;

    ·        Eat local organic products, preferably of plant origin;

    ·        Buy products and things with a low carbon footprint (carbon footprint is the sum of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, production of goods or services);

    ·        Make a choice in favor of durability and environmental protection;

    ·        Consume your own “green” energy;

    ·        Take care of natural ecosystems;

    ·        Vote and encourage politicians to act for the climate;·        Unite with others to achieve climate goals.

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