Global warming, also known as climate change, is caused by the human interventions that pollute the Earth’s atmosphere with gases that amplify a process called as the greenhouse effect.
The average temperature of Earth is 1.2 degrees Celsius (around 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than in preindustrial times, causing weather patterns to shift and more frequent and severe extreme weather events such as storms and droughts to occur.
When the sun’s rays reach the Earth’s atmosphere, the majority of the radiation bounces back out into space, causing the greenhouse effect. A small portion of this is absorbed by chemicals in our atmosphere when this occurs. These are referred to as greenhouse gases.
Scientists discovered that the increase in the amount of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide cause rise and fall in the atmospheric temperature globally.
Humans have been burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas for energy production, since the start of the industrial revolution. Excess greenhouse gases, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide, are released when these chemicals are burned.
Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now 50 percent greater than in the preindustrial period, according to observations obtained in February and March at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory. More greenhouse gases trap more heat in the atmosphere, resulting in a warmer Earth over time.
We witness some dramatic effects when the Earth’s average temperature is raised, even by a few degrees. It has the potential to raise ocean temperatures, resulting in more severe storms and flooding.
According to Klaus Jacob, a special research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, the ocean expands as it gets warmer. As the sea level rises, only smaller storms are required to reach the same elevation in places where storms occur. This causes frequent and quick flooding in the flood-prone areas.
At the same time, other places experience extended droughts as a result of increased evaporation and drying of the soil and plants, resulting in issues such as crop shortages and massive forest fires.
In a landmark report conducted by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the consequences of climate change were analysed and assessed.
According to the study, warming of more than 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures could be avoided if the world adopts a greener way for energy production.
But if the greenhouse gases emission is not cut significantly by all nations around the world, the world could get warmer with an average temperature of 3 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial levels by the year 2100.
More extreme events, including hurricanes and heat waves, will inevitably occur, causing flooding, wildfires, and droughts.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described the report published by IPCC, as ‘a code red for humanity’.