Climate Change: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

What is Climate Change?

Climate change, also called global warming, is the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. Thousands of studies conducted by researchers around the world have documented increases in temperature at Earth’s surface, as well as in the atmosphere and oceans. This issue is in fact real.

The Greenhouse Effect

Gases in the atmosphere, trap heat just like the glass roof of a greenhouse. These heat-trapping gases are called greenhouse gases. The primary greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere are water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ozone (O3).

During the day, the Sun shines through the atmosphere. Earth’s surface warms up in the sunlight. At night, Earth’s surface cools, releasing heat back into the air. But some of the heat is trapped by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Greenhouse Effect - Climate Change – Putri Ardhia
Earth’s atmosphere traps some of the Sun’s heat, preventing it from escaping back into space at night. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Why Does It Matter?

Contributing Causes

The primary cause of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions. Human activities continue to contribute to Earth’s climate for centuries. The burning of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal — primarily carbon dioxide. Agriculture and deforestation also contribute to the rapid increase of greenhouse gases emitted that cause climate change.

Global Impact

Climate change affects human health and wellbeing through more extreme weather events and wildfires. This includes decreased air quality and diseases transmitted by insects, food, and water.

Glaciers and snow are shrinking, causing a rise in sea levels. The temperature of the seas is warming and becoming more acidic, causing an increased risk of erosion and coastal storms. Flooding has become more frequent, even in Jakarta, Indonesia, and wildfires occur more frequently.

Extreme heat, sea-level rise, and heavy downpours are affecting infrastructures like roads, rail lines, airports, and energy infrastructure. Many species are moving to other locations in response to climate change.

The Action

According to the United Nations, if left unchecked, if we don’t take action, climate change will cause average global temperatures to increase beyond 3°C and will affect every ecosystem. Personally, I don’t want that to happen. It’s hot already, I don’t even want to increase its temperature.

As mentioned above, the increasing surface temperature of the Earth is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Below is the world’s top emitters of carbon dioxide in 2018. It’s sad to see Indonesia has made it to the list, note that it’s in megatonnes.

CO2 World's Top Emitters - Climate Change – Putri Ardhia

To address climate change, we have to vastly increase our efforts. When I say we, I mean all of us. We are the ones contributing to this climate change. We can also use our power to educate and to decrease these contributing causes of climate change. One way is to reduce our own carbon footprint. A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent. More of this will be published soon.

There are many things that each of us can do as individuals, and to find out what you can do, check out the resources below. This is a friendly reminder that we, humans, are hosts to mother nature, to Earth. Where will we be if there’s no more Earth?

United Nations – ActNow Climate Action
United Nations – Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) No. 13 Climate Action

U.S. Global Change Research Program
BBC – Climate Change Guide

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