Global warming refers to an increase in the earth’s average temperature. Climate change, on the other hand, is one of the most significant consequences of global warming. Though global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably, they are distinctly different from one another. In the following essay, we will study global warming and climate change in detail.
What is Global Warming?
Global warming refers to the long-term warming of the planet since the industrial revolution in the 1970s. Since then, the average temperature of the earth has gone up by a little over 1°C, a change which might seem small, but even small changes in the earth’s temperature could have damaging effects, and moreover, the temperature is still gradually rising.
What is Climate Change?
Climate change is an implication of global warming. Global warming results in unexpected weather changes, apart from other effects like melting glaciers, raised ocean temperatures and extreme cold or heat. These conditions all together cause changes in climatic conditions throughout the globe.
What Causes Global Warming?
One of the main causes of global warming is an escalated greenhouse effect. It is an effect caused by the increased atmospheric condition of Greenhouse gases like Carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and Methane (CH4).
These gases are emitted as byproducts of fossil fuel production and use. Humans extensively use fossil fuels resulting in the increased atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, consequently resulting in the greenhouse effect.
In order to understand global warming, let’s understand green house effect. Under ideal conditions, earth’s atmosphere contains a number of gases including quantities of green house gases.
During sunlight hours, these gases do the job of filtering UV rays of the sun and also the intensity of the sun’s rays. At the night these gases help retain the heat absorbed by the earth during the day, by not letting it escape in the atmosphere, thereby resulting in a maintained temperature of the earth.
Human activities like industrialization and extensive use of fossil fuels, results in production of green house gases (ex – CO2, CH4, CO etc), and hence a larger green house effect takes place.
To better understand green house effect, imagine yourself sitting inside a car on a sunny day, with its windows all rolled up.
The rays of sun, will reach inside of the car through window glass, but since the car is completely closed, they are unable to escape back into the atmosphere, thus further raising the internal temperature of the car.
This phenomenon is called green house effect, and forms the basis of global warming.
What Causes Climate Change?
Green house effect as explained above is primarily responsible for climate change. Sun’s heat is blocked from escaping the surface of earth by certain gases which form a thermal blanket over the earth.
These gases constitute primarily water vapor (H2O) and other gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous oxide (N2O), and are responsible for maintaining the earth’s temperature to a life-supporting 15°C.
These gases are called green house gases. Problem arises when the atmospheric concentration of green house gases rise above the permissible level. Human activities like industrialization and excessive use of fossil fuel, produces green house gases.
This raised concentration of the green house gases in the atmosphere, raises the green house effect, consequently raising the earth’s average temperature above 15°C.
The temperature rise in earth’s atmospheric and surface temperature results in some unexpected and drastic changes in the climatic conditions, initiated by a series of events arisen due to the temperature rise.
For example, the temperature rise results in the melting of the earth’s ice cover, present in form of glaciers and snowfalls. This excess melting of ice results in raised temperature and other climatic conditions.
A rise in earth’s average temperature also changes the movement of monsoon currents, which has resulted in some areas witnessing lesser rainfall, since the past few decades.
South Asia has recorded considerably low rainfall during the past four decades, while rainfall in the tropical western pacific has increased abundantly.
Also, a raised earth’s temperature, results in natural calamities like floods, famine, droughts and storms. Many cyclones and hurricanes across the world have been attributed to the green house gases and a raised green house effect.
Climate change is a consequence of global warming, and the latter on other hand is caused by human activities.
The greenhouse effect has been responsible for maintaining the earth’s average temperature to a livable 15°C, but in recent decades, there has been an escalation in the greenhouse effect, due to an increase in human-produced greenhouse gases.
With the rise of green house effect, abrupt climatic changes across the globe become inevitable, often resulting in extreme events like famine, droughts, floods and cyclones.
Global warming and climate change both are directly linked to human activities and only humans have to power to reverse or at least nullify the effects.
It is, therefore, necessary to take appropriate steps in this regard and save the planet from the consequences of global warming and climate change.