Climate Change and Social Problems
Nowadays, the international scientific community has overwhelming evidence of the secular trend of global warming, which is an indicator of climate change on Earth (ABD). Over the past century, the surface temperature of the atmosphere has increased by 0.74ºC. The average temperature in the northern hemisphere in the second half of the twentieth century was higher than in any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and probably the highest in the past 1,300 years. With the phenomenon of global warming, there are such agreements confirmed by a vast array of empirical material phenomena as rising sea levels, melting glaciers and polar ice sheets (especially in the Arctic), reduced snow and ice surface area, increased precipitation in some regions (East North and South America, Northern Europe, North and Central Asia) and decrease in others, the expansion of arid zones (Africa, parts of South Asia), more frequent tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic, etc. Global warming and climate change has an impact on the state of many natural ecosystems, and thus on the biosphere as a whole and on the biosphere conditions of human existence.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes 2,500 experts from 130 countries, in its contribution to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report states that global warming is undeniable and irreversible. The IPCC projected that by the end of the XXI century current trends surface temperature can rise to its best estimate another 1,8-4,0ºC (different scenarios), but likely and greater value – from 2.9 to 6,4 º C (IPCC). This will entail an increase in climatic “shocks” and catastrophes such as more frequent and extensive flooding, flooding of low-lying coastal areas in some regions, drought and desertification in others. That, in turn, will lead to the reduction in agricultural productivity, particularly in arid areas, depletion of water resources, a drastic reduction of biodiversity, the spread of dangerous infectious diseases due to the deterioration of the living conditions of the great mass of people, especially in the poorest countries, and to the general regression in human development throughout the XXI century.
Until recently, this conclusion is disputed by many. Referred to environmental factors as the main cause of global warming, the fact is that similar phenomena have been observed in the past. Now it is considered scientifically proven that at the present stage, the roles of human factors outweigh the potential “contribution” of natural sources of global warming. Since the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 reserves increased by a third; this growth was in the previous 20 thousand years at least. The current level of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere exceeds the natural rate observed over the last 650 thousand years.
The main reason for this is a massive human use of hydrocarbons as energy sources. Increased emissions of carbon dioxide (the main component of greenhouse gases) became visible with the beginning of the industrial revolution in Europe, and they marked the transition to the widespread use of coal, and then, from the late XIX to early XX centuries, more inclusion in the energy balance of the global economy of oil and natural gas. From the middle of the XIX century, the increase in CO2 emissions is strongly correlated with the growth of GDP per capita.
These data leave no ground for doubt and skepticism. Five years ago, skepticism about possible climate change was a thriving fishery. Skeptics of climate change generously financed large companies, their views are widely covered by media and attentively listened to some of the government, and they have provided a disproportionate impact on public awareness of the problem.
The hurricanes in the United States, drought in Australia, the abnormally hot summer in Europe, catastrophic rains and flooding in the foggy Albion – the list could be continued. Here are just some examples of the impact of climate change. Extreme events break all records in almost all regions of the world. And natural disasters result in economic consequences. Every year, the cost of natural disasters is increasing.
During the twentieth century, the average sea level has risen by 0.1 – 0.2 m. Scientists forecast for XXI century that the sea level will rise up to 1 m, in this case, coastal areas and small islands would be most vulnerable. States such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom as well as small island states of Oceania and the Caribbean are the first at risk of flooding. Besides high tides, coastal erosion will increase.
Species and ecosystems have already begun to respond to climate change. In the spring time, migratory birds’ arriving began earlier and departing later in the fall. There are predictions of extinction of 30-40% of plant and animal species as their habitat is changing faster than they can adapt to these changes.
Modern glaciation of the Earth can be considered one of the most sensitive indicators of current global changes. Satellite data approves the process since the 1960s. There was a decrease in snow cover of about 10%. Since the 1950s, the Northern Hemisphere sea ice has decreased by almost 10-15%, and the thickness decreased by 40%. According to experts, in 30 years, the Arctic Ocean during the warm period of the year will be fully opened from under the ice. The thickness of the Himalayan ice is melting at the rate of 10-15 meters per year. With the current rates of these processes, two thirds of China’s glaciers will disappear by 2060, and by 2100 all the glaciers will have been melted completely. The accelerated melting of glaciers poses a number of immediate threats to human development. Avalanches, flooding, or, conversely, decrease deep rivers, and, as a result, the reduction of fresh water are particularly dangerous for densely populated mountain and foothill areas.
A variety of sources including science and the media often claim that in the near future not the global warming but global cooling is expected. In the past, our planet has undergone periods of cooling and subsequent warming associated with centuries old natural cyclical processes. The last ice age was 10,000 years ago, now we live in the interglacial period. It is natural that in a few thousand years, we can expect global cooling.
However, global warming, which is happening now, does not fit into the natural cycles and also occurs very rapidly. In fact, it is not a millennium, the hundreds or even tens of years. Never before has the average temperature of the planet not changed with such incredible speed: 0.7 degrees per 100 years, of which 0.5 for the last 50. And 11 of the last 12 years were the hottest in the entire period of instrumental meteorological observations. This unprecedented speed is not characteristic of natural cyclical processes and leaves little chance to species and ecosystems to adapt to such rapid climate change.
International cooperation is crucial nowadays. Even the most powerful countries cannot counter global threats alone and therefore effectively protect their own long-term interests. This requires the consent and cooperation of all the major participants in the global process. Deviation from the agreed commitments and actions, especially by the big states, can doom to failure any plans. But the only one action at the national level is not enough. Creating effective international mechanisms for the transfer of new technologies to developing countries and financial support is one of the key issues.
The increase in the level of pollution in Asia (China, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), especially in the Himalayas, will affect the climate of the region and the world. Elevated levels of pollution in Asia may be manifested in the formation of clouds in the high Himalayas, which will strengthen the monsoon winds, and they will quickly melt the glaciers. However, the greatest danger of the Chinese pollution is hanging in the air heavy substances. They form a mist, seep into the lungs of man and produce a variety of problems in terms of health and safety. Most of the truly harmful substances penetrate into the Chinese air from the exhaust pipes of millions of trucks and other diesel vehicles as well as countless generators that support not very reliable Chinese electricity chain. Cancer has become the most common cause of death in China. Only as a result of air pollution in the country, every year hundreds of thousands of people die. The population of Asia suggests that rhino horns are rather effective to get rid of any diseases. “Asia is the main market for smuggled rhino horn, as some people believe it can cure diseases. Trade in rhino parts is banned under international agreements” (The Huffington Post). Therefore, the environmentalists are insisting on legal trade in rhino horns. This study shows the evident link between air pollution and a decrease in the number of wildlife species.
Unlike the previous study, the next study’s link between human actions and climate change is not that strong but is rather possible. “New York Mayor Bloomberg’s controversial ban on large, sugary sodas” is widely discussed nowadays. Production and distribution of soft drinks has a huge impact on the atmosphere as the production method is CO2 saturation %u2011 the carbonation. A certain amount of CO2 gets into the atmosphere next time one opens a can of such a drink. “A typical 12-ounce can of soda contains up to six grams (0.13 pounds) of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, which either escapes into the atmosphere from the liquid upon opening” (Reliable Answers). However, this amount is insignificant compared to the volume of CO2 produced by vehicles for the everyday delivery of this product. More important in the pollution of the environment is the production, processing and recycling of packaging of such kind a drink. The urgency of the matter is that fizzy drinks are popular worldwide and can be purchased anywhere in the world. As for the attempts of New York mayor to ban the sale of these drinks, according to various sources the main idea is the obesity, which is at critical level of the American society. “Curbing obesity has been the latest goal of the mayor, who has been concerned about high rates of diabetes and weight-related health issues” (The New York Times).
Both studies concern the idea of saturation the atmosphere with CO2. It happens either because of heavy industrial production or goods distribution.