Climate change is a problem that has been plaguing humanity since the mid-20th century. This phenomenon is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which increases the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. This in turn increases the average surface temperature of Earth. Other natural processes, such as internal variability and external forcings, also contribute to climate change.
Human activities are the main driver of climate change
Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have caused the atmosphere to warm. This warming effect is largely caused by the emissions of carbon dioxide, as well as other greenhouse gases. These gases can cause changes to the earth’s climate, including sea level rise. Currently, scientists are studying the causes of the current warming trend.
The burning of fossil fuels, conversion of land to agriculture, and other human activities have all altered the earth’s climate. These activities release various gases into the atmosphere, which in turn influence incoming and outgoing energy. These gases cause global warming by trapping heat and causing the Earth to warm.
Energy from the Sun is the ultimate driver
The solar energy produced by the Sun is the primary driver of climate change. This energy is reflected off the Earth’s surface and changes the temperature. However, the Sun doesn’t always shine at the same brightness all the time. It goes through a cycle of 11 years during which its intensity dims and brightens. During this time, the amount of solar radiation also changes, as does the size and number of sunspots. These changes have different effects on Earth’s surface and atmosphere.
The temperature of the upper atmosphere, or stratosphere, is controlled by the amount of incoming and outgoing radiation. Satellite measurements have provided well-constrained estimates of these radiative fluxes in the modern era. Approximately a third of incoming short-wavelength energy from the Sun is reflected back into space, while the remaining is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere. The albedo of the land surfaces and clouds affect the amount of light that is reflected back to space.
Oceans moderate climate change
Oceans moderate climate change by absorbing excess heat and cooling the planet’s surface. They have a close link to the atmosphere and play an important role in weather prediction. The ocean receives the vast majority of solar energy, and in some regions, more heat than the atmosphere. The ocean also circulates enormous currents that carry heat throughout the planet. Some ocean currents travel thousands of kilometres and release this heat back into the atmosphere.
The oceans are also important in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. During the last two centuries, they have absorbed about a third of the CO2 we have emitted. This has helped absorb up to 90% of the extra heat trapped by rising levels of greenhouse gases. However, there are limits. Oceans cannot absorb all of the carbon dioxide we produce. This could lead to adverse consequences for the global climate.
Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation to climate change is the process of responding to the impacts of climate change. It is one of two main methods to address climate change. Adaptation involves addressing the immediate effects of climate change while also preparing for the effects of climate change. The process is often a complex one and takes a long time.
Adaptation is about changing ecological, social and economic systems to reduce or benefit from climate change. While the processes and practices of adaptation can be complex, the overall outcome is the same: adapting to the effects of climate change will allow people to cope with the current impact of the changes and take advantage of the opportunities created by climate change.
Impacts of climate change on human health
Impacts of climate change on human health are a major concern for health systems and societies around the world. Changing climate and its variability are causing many health threats, especially among the most vulnerable populations. These risks are projected to increase with additional warming. Currently, climate-sensitive health risks are contributing to injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Proactive actions by health systems can help address the increased burden of climate-sensitive health outcomes. However, these actions will require additional funding and resources.
Exposure to extreme weather and climate-related stressors has serious health consequences, especially for people with chronic health conditions. Extreme heat waves, for example, increase the risk of water and food-borne illnesses. They also disrupt essential infrastructure, including emergency response services, which are essential to protect human health. The President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks has begun focusing on the impacts of climate-related factors on human health. Its recommendations include developing K-12 educational materials to teach children about climate-related health risks and how to prepare for them. It has also launched the Climate-Ready Tribes and Territories Initiative, which awards organizations that are working to make their communities climate-ready.