Climate change means a extreme, drastic and highly noticeable change in the earth’s climate. The climate consists of weather patterns.
More specifically still, climate change refers to changes in weather patterns caused by human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels.
The phrase climate change only started to be used towards the end of the 20th century. This is because it is a 20th and 21st century phenomenon, linked to huge fuel use associated with the industrial revolution.
Climate change is closely related to ozone depletion, global warming and the greenhouse effect. Climate change is a phrase that is often used interchangeably with the phrases global warming or the greenhouse effect. However, these phrases are not exact synonyms.
Major Causes of climate change
1. Global warming: The overall cause of climate change is the warming of the earth’s atmosphere. This comes about due to the greenhouse effect, whereby a layer of polluting gases (including CO2, sulfides and CO) in the earth’s atmosphere trap the sun’s rays and cause them to warm up the earth and the air surrounding it. It is called the greenhouse effect because it evokes the way in which a greenhouse traps the sun’s rays and thus warms up the air inside it. Global warming is caused by humans, and the ways in which they do so are described in the six points below.
2. Human use of fossil fuels: When they combust, fossil fuels release large amounts of carbon dioxide and this contributes heavily to the greenhouse effect and climate change. Out of the three main fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), coal releases the most CO2 into the atmosphere when it is burnt.
3. Burning plastics: Poor waste removal that involves burning plastic can pump tonnes of nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxides into the atmosphere.
4. Human consumption: Human consumer culture lies behind a lot of climate change. Our false belief that we constantly need to buy new things creates a demand that fuels factories and other industries that use a lot of fossil fuels and chemicals that pollute the atmosphere.
5. Deforestation: As human beings cut down forests for fuel or to make way for building projects, they get rid of the earth’s natural mechanisms for regulating the levels of oxygen and carbon in the atmosphere: the respiratory processes of trees. The Amazon rainforest, in particular, which is disappearing at an alarming rate, is often described as a giant ‘biotic pump’ or a lung of the world.
6. Human travel patterns: Air travel and car travel contribute hugely to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Even if you do not personally travel by car, you might still be contributing to this if you purchase clothes or groceries that have been freighted over to your country by air or by container ship.
We should all start to take urgent action in order to halt climate change before it is too late. After all, as we are the species that is responsible for climate change, we are also the species that should be working hard to put it right. There are many ways to stop climate change. Chief among them are burning fewer fossil fuels, buying fewer things, going vegan, eating locally produced food, reversing deforestation and traveling less by air and by car, van and lorry.