There is strong scientific evidence of climate change and mounting evidence of a connection with human economic activity associated with the burning of fossil fuels. The change in climate is likely to have a large and predominantly negative impact on many aspects of life on Earth (IPCC, 2001). Some of the sunlight that arrives to earth is reflected back into the space, but the rest reaches the surface, warming the land, atmosphere and oceans. The earth re-emits this energy in the form of infrared radiation. However, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, ozone, methane, etc.
trap this radiation and prevent its escape, thus causing increases in temperature. It is a fact that carbon dioxide (C02) is responsible for over 70% of the greenhouse effect. The result of the greenhouse effect is a warming of the earth surface. Without these greenhouse gases its surface would be up to 30°C cooler. Thus, we need these gases to an extent sufficient to survive (Dalton, 2006) Humans contribute to greenhouse gas concentrations and, thus, an even greater radiation trap through manufacturing, power generation, transportation, and livestock farming.
The burning of coal, oil and natural gas is the key human factor in increasing greenhouse gas emissions because these fossil fuels are being used at a much faster rate than they were created. What is worrisome is the fact that climate change resulting from the buildup of greenhouse gases appears to be happening at unprecedented speed.
According to Stern (2006), that over the past 30 years, global temperatures have risen rapidly and continuously at around 0.2°C per decade, bringing the global mean temperature to what is probably at or near the warmest level reached in the current interglacial period, which began around 12,000 years ago. The decade of the 1990s was the warmest since the mid-1800s, when record-keeping started. Further, the hottest years ever recorded are: 1998, 2002, 2003, 2001, and 1997. Estimates suggest that by the year 2100, the average global temperature will rise by 1. 4 to 5. 8 degrees Celsius (IPCC, 2001). The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident in my country, the Philippines.
Cyclones and hurricanes appear to be more frequent and more powerful. As world temperatures rise, floods and droughts are becoming more severe. Scientists suggest that this is evidence that climate change has already begun. In fact, last year we have suffered three super typhoons, which is not an ordinary course of nature. In addition, other countries also experienced the unusual climate. The spring ice thaw in the Northern Hemisphere occurs 9 days earlier than it did 150 years ago, and the fall freeze now typically starts 10 days later.
According to a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), “arctic air temperatures have increased by about 5 degrees C during the 20th century, and in the Russian Arctic, buildings are collapsing because the permafrost under their foundations has melted” (UNFCCC) The sea level may rise from 9 to 88 cm due to melting water resulting from reductions in the size of the polar caps (Pancoast, p. 15) The annual duration of lake and river ice coverage has shortened by about two weeks during the 20th century.
In Europe beetles and other insects are living at higher altitudes where previously it was too cold to survive and examples are multiple. Large proportion of the endangered species may become extinct. Public concern for environmental issues such as air and water quality is not new. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, smoke control ordinances were enacted in England and the U. S. In the 1850s, Dr. John Snow’s work to trace the origin of London’s Cholera epidemic to a public water pump significantly contributed to an understanding of water quality impacts on human health.
Not surprisingly, public opinion polls often show that people rank water and air quality at or near the top of environmental concerns. And this is true to the case of the Philippines, our major sources of water, Laguna de Bay and La Mesa Dam Watershed, are threatened by the perpetually worsening climate change. However, other perceived environmental problems, specifically climate change or global warming, are relatively new. What I find astonishing, is how quickly the issues of climate change, global warming, and the greenhouse effect have taken hold at the forefront of environmental debates.
A recent public opinion survey of more than 30,000 people in 30 countries revealed that 90% of people think global warming is a somewhat or very serious threat (Program on International Policy Attitudes 2006). In only three countries, the U. S. , Kenya and South Africa, did fewer than 80% of respondents think the issue was a somewhat or very serious threat. Despite continued scientific debate concerning the level of risk posed to humans and the natural and man-made environment by climate change (natural or anthropogenic), it seems many people around the world are sufficiently convinced that the threat is real enough for them.