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[Feature] [20 Must-know GEI] 9. Climate change, problems, and how to solve them

by Eco Generation | 03-08-2016 17:18 Comments 1 recommendations 0

20 Must know issue title

9. Climate change, problems, and how to solve them

20 Must know issue 9-1

1. What causes climate change?

Jenny has heard that unusual weather events are happening all over the planet: rainfall in arid areas, long-lasting drought, and even heavy snow in spring. Jenny found out that all these events were due to climate change. Climate change is a change in weather patterns that have usually stayed the same. It is not a simple change, but entails extreme weather events such as heavy rain, heavy snow, severe cold, and intense heat. Climate change has continued from the past. It happens naturally by interactions among air, water, land and species on Earth. According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), however, since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Why do you think these unprecedented changes happened during a relatively short period considering the long history of Earth? Most scientists believe that the causes of climate change are an increase in man-made greenhouse gases.


Greenhouse gases, what is the problem?

Actually, greenhouse gases are necessary in our life. They prevent absorbed solar heat from leaving the Earth, acting like glass in a greenhouse. This is called the greenhouse effect. These greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbon, perfluorinated carbon, and sulfur hexafluoride. If greenhouse gases increase, more heat will be trapped in the Earth?s atmosphere.

The problem is greenhouse gases are increasing due to human activities. Most of all, carbon dioxide, the most dominant gas, is known to be the major cause. Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels such as coal and oil are burned. Additionally, if forests are destroyed for urban development or expansion of agricultural land or livestock farms, the number of trees that absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen will decrease, which ends up with a rise in carbon dioxide. Methane produced by waste decomposition and artificial gases used for refrigerant or detergent are also greenhouse gases.


2. What will climate change cause?


(1)   Sea levels

Sea levels are rising due to melting ice in the Arctic or perpetual snow in high mountains flowing into the ocean. Additionally, a sea temperature rise leads to an increased volume of seawater, which eventually increases sea levels. Above all, a sea-level rise is likely to inundate low-lying island states. Low-lying coastal areas will also be affected by flooding or seawater, which will interrupt crop cultivation, taking a heavy toll on people living by farming in these areas. As lots of cities have developed along coastlines, they are vulnerable to sea-level rises or tsunamis.


(2)   Agricultural products

Many believe that if the Earth gets warm they will be able to farm even in high-lying, cold areas, and increased agricultural products will help solve the food crisis. Global warming can increase the area of arable land in high altitude areas. However, it not only increases average temperatures but also creates more extreme weather events causing damage. Moreover, a more serious problem is in low-altitude areas where most cultivation is conducted. Scientists expect that low-lying areas will suffer from dry soil and water scarcity for agriculture, which will severely reduce crop production. A fall in crop production including wheat and corn due to global warming will lead to a rise in crop prices, causing bigger problems. According to the findings of the IPCC, average warming exceeding 2 degrees above 20th century levels will cut wheat and corn yields by 2% and 1%, respectively, every decade beginning in 2030. As for countries in Africa facing severe food shortages or those heavily depending on food imports, they can face much more severe food shortages resulting from desertification or drought due to global warming.


(3)   Animals and plants

Animals are affected by climate change before people, because they are more sensitive to climate and have no technology to respond. We can easily find examples of ecosystems changed by climate change around us. For example, the pollock, the most common fish in Korea just 20 years ago, is not easy to catch these days. The reason we can?t see the fish in Korea anymore is because not only do we fish too much young pollock, but also climate change caused the sea level to rise.

Pine trees representing the upright spirit of Koreans and longevity have also suffered from climate change. Recently, lots of pine trees have withered, which experts attributed to climate change. Unusual weather events such as drought, dryness, heat waves, and cold spells have created conditions not suitable for pine trees. If global warming transforms coniferous forests into deciduous forests, pine trees will gradually disappear from the Korean Peninsula.

20 Must know issue 9-2 3. Responding wisely to climate change

In response to climate change, lots of studies and international agreements have been conducted worldwide. In 1992, delegates from different countries got together to sign ?the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).? Under the agreement, meetings are held every year to conclude international agreements on solving climate change problems. Moreover, in 1988, the IPCC was organized for evaluating the impact of human activities on climate change and developing international measures to publish assessment reports on climate change every five to seven years. If people are accelerating climate change, what should we do to stop the Earth?s temperature from rising? First of all, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by human activity as much as possible. We need to minimize carbon dioxide emitted from thermoelectric power plants using fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas and exhaust gas from plants and internal combustion engines. You can take actions to stop climate change in your everyday life. We need to make efforts to reduce carbon emissions as well as adapt to changing environments.

What can we do to wisely respond to climate change? Let?s find countermeasures we can practice in our daily life.

       Turning off unused appliances completely: There are actions you can take to respond to climate change in your surrounding environment. First, look at your appliances. Aren?t your TV and computer switched on even when they are unused? Aren?t lamps in empty rooms switched on? It is not enough to just turn them off. You need to use power strips or unplug them to reduce standby power consumption.

       Maintaining moderate indoor temperatures: Aren?t you running your air conditioner or heater too much? Just 2 degrees of temperature adjustment in summer and winter can reduce greenhouse gases. Save energy wasted by excessive cooling or heating. Moderate temperatures are good for our health as well. For cold wind blowing through the windows in winter, use bubble wrap they raise indoor temperatures as much as 2 degrees Celsius.

       Saving water: You can save a lot of water by paying even a little attention. Do not let water run while brushing your teeth, or wash your face by using a cup or bucket, and install a water saving machine. And why don?t you reduce your shower time, a time that uses 9L a minute?

       Planting trees: One pine tree is known to absorb 5kg of carbon dioxide a year. Plus, trees reduce wind speeds and provide shade. If it is not easy for you to plant trees by yourself, why don?t you support organizations that plant trees?

       Reducing waste: Use mugs instead of paper cups, and separate waste. Do not purchase over-packaged products and reduce unnecessary packaging. Also, finish all of your food.

       Producing your own electricity by installing mini solar power generators: By making your own electricity, you can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Why don?t you discuss with your parents installing mini or regular-sized solar power generators in your home?


[Learn More!]

No Penguin?s Land, Marcel Barelli, (2008)

An animation about a journey of a penguin who has lost its home in the Antarctic due to global warming and climate change and leaves for the Alps where there is still snow.


My Mother, Victoria Burns, (2014)

Kiribati, an island republic in the Central Pacific, is facing risks due to sea level rise caused by global warming. The movie describes the severity of climate change through the memory of a mother who is from Kiribati. 

Script by : Prof. Yoon, Sun-jin's Environment & Energy Lab
                Seoul National University

Illustration by : Kim, Jeong-kyeom


  • says :
    This should be titled Climate Change 101, so basic and useful.
    Posted 15-08-2016 07:35

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