Combating Climate Change

The ground trembles and cracks appear on the ground. Rain stops falling from the sky. Volcanoes belch out huge amounts of lava and putrid smoke.

These natural disasters are happening more and more often, and people attribute this to global warming and climate change. Nowadays, it seems inevitable that we see a new warning or the horrendous damages done due to climate change. Farmers have less crop yields, water supplies are down, and the frequency of natural disasters is increasing.

Everyone is familiar with the topic- the factories give out greenhouse gases, which mainly consists of carbon dioxide. The gas traps some of the Sun's heat, but the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are so much that the average temperature is increasing, which is global warming in other words. This has changed the climate and weather. In the 1930's the scientists had noticed that the temperatures in North America and Europe had been rising, but they had then thought that it was only happening there and was not happening elsewhere. However, English engineer Guy Steward Callendar, believes that rises in the world's temperature were due to human's burning fossil fuels and so releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Thirty years down the road, scientists had proved that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was increasing, but it took another 30 years before the world started to take notice and the United Nations Earth Summit met at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Many governments took part in this meeting, and people started to make a commitment to reducing greenhouse gases for the first time.

The meeting did not do much and they gathered again in Kyoto, Japan, and in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was introduced. The EU and Members of State ratified the protocol in May 2002. The developed countries commit themselves to reducing their collective emissions of six key greenhouse gases by at least 5%. This group target will be achieved through major cuts of 8% by Switzerland, most Central and East European States, and the EU, 7% by the US, 6% by Canada, Hungary, Japan, and Poland. New Zealand, Russia and Ukraine are to stabilise their emissions, while Norway may increase emissions by up to 1%, Australia by up to 8% and Iceland 10%. These targets are to be achievable by the period 2008-2012. Demonstrable progress towards meeting their targets must be made by the year 2005. However, the protocol is about to expire soon, and they are not aiming to renew the protocol. Also, the director of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton University thinks that the world would take another 30 more Kyoto's before the climate change problem is cut down to size.

The countries gather for meetings yearly. Last year, they met at Copenhagen, Denmark, but their commitments were too difficult to achieve and nothing much was done. This, year, however, the meeting in Cancun this year bore more fruits. They recognised that current emission pledges need to rise, and setting a target of limiting a rise in average world temperature to below 2 deg C over pre-industrial times. They also created a fund to channel money from the West to developing nations by establishing a US$100 billion annual green fund that will pay countries to protect their forests and help them with new technology in areas such as weather forecasting and risk management.

Another problem of climate change is that it will allow more insects to survive in more places. Mosquitoes have recently been found in places where they have never been seen before and people are catching malaria in places where people living there 20 years ago have not seen a mosquito.

The main culprit of climate change is the carbon dioxide released by us, so scientists are scrambling to find renewable sources of energy which are clean and green. Currently, wind power, tidal power, solar power and nuclear power can be harnessed. Wind energy is clean and all you need is a turbine, a generator, and wires leading to power stations, but wind energy is unreliable and can only be harnessed when there is wind around. Wind turbines also spoil the landscape according to some people. Tidal power is also clean, and large amounts of energy can be harvested through tidal power, but they require large areas of land for dams to be built, and have a devastating effect on local habitats and wildlife. Solar power is probably the most common form of energy harvested, but it is inefficient, expensive and can only be used in the day. Nuclear power can harness a great amount of energy and can meet 6% of the world's energy requirements. However, they are dangerous to build and explosions like the Chernobyl incident in 1986 can cause huge amounts of damage. The Chernobyl incident released 30-40 times the nuclear fallout than in the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Harvesting nuclear power also produces nuclear waste which can stay toxic for up to 100 years.

We have reached a point when humans have to make a choice. Scientists that study global warming say that we have little time to do anything. However, if we take action fast enough, temperatures will not continue to climb and the dark future looming ahead of us can be avoided. To stop the worst effects of global warming from happening, everyone has to do their part. There are two possible futures ahead of us and I am sure that we all want the better one. We should do all we can to save our Earth and stop global warming before its ugly effects reach their peak.

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.