Editorial Articles

volume-22, 31 August-06 September, 2019

Global Warming and Climate Change


Dr. Priyanka Sharma

Today we have the necessary technology, resources and capacity to address every issue on the planet. Never before in the history of mankind, have human beings been as capable as we are today. We are living in a time when we have to think of protecting and conserving all that has been bestowed on us. It was the planet that always took care of us but now we have to think and act to protect it. 

The beginning of industrial revolution triggered the sudden increase in carbon dioxide (Co2) concentration in the atmosphere. One of the key gases is Co2- it comprises more than 75% of the gases that cause the temperature change. And unlike the other green house gases (GHGs), it can last for almost 50-200 years, accumulating in the air above and adding to the greenhouse effect. Economists have concluded that there is a direct correlation between the economic growth and emissions of GHGs, atleast if the world follows the current pattern of economic development.

Global Warming is literally the warming of our planet caused by a steadily thickening blanket of gases such as Co2 and air pollutants that is building up in the atmosphere. This blanket of hot-house gases traps the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up. In the worst case scenario, Global Warming would make large areas of the world uninhabitable and cause massive food and water shortages, sparking wide spread migration and war.

Since the coming of Industrial Revolution and the modernisation of many of the world’s societies, the rate at which these energy resources have been consumed has risen dramatically and continued to do so. In the past three decades alone, world energy consumption has nearly tripled, and most of that energy still is provided by fossil fuels. These resources are being depleted so rapidly that many observers predict the complete exhaustion of specific fuels within the foreseeable future. For example, some estimates claim that half of all the recoverable oil in the world will have been used up by as early as 1997 and no later than the year 2017.

The nations of the world consumed a total of nearly 66 million barrels (about 2.77 billion gallons) of petroleum per day in 1990, a 40% increase from 1970 rates. Petroleum represents about one-third of the total current industrial energy consumption in the United States, although, since 1970, all energy-use sectors except transportation have moved away from petroleum and other fossil fuels toward increased use of electricity. However, according to U.S. Department of Energy projections, petroleum consumption will grow, with an increasing amount of that oil coming from foreign sources.

As of 1992, 364 commercial nuclear-powered reactors were in operation around the world, producing a total of nearly 1,900 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. Since then, there has been six-fold increase in the number of reactors but less than a tripling in the amount of electricity generated since 1970. Nuclear energy was once hailed as the most viable solution to the world’s energy needs, but rapidly rising construction and operating costs as well as mounting questions about the health and safety hazards of nuclear energy, have led to significant reversals in this once-booming area.

Since the advent of the Modern Age and the industrialisation of the world’s societies, the earth’s natural ability to cleanse itself of atmospheric pollutants has been strained to the point of collapse. Each year, developed and developing countries pour millions of tons of toxic pollutants into the air in the course of heating, cooling and powering the economies that sustain the social well-being of their populations and each year and disgorge rapidly growing amounts of the same fossil fuel and chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emissions into the atmosphere as they industrialise and modernise in an effort to improve their own population’s levels of well being. Ironically, one of the net results of this attempted global upgrading of human societal life has been the global downgrading of the physical environment and, ultimately, of human societal life as well. The atmosphere that is meant to sustain us is now dirtier, unhealthier, warmer, and thinner than at any previous point in recorded history.

Modern industrial society can not sustain itself without massive supplies of energy. Worldwide consumption of non-renewable energy resources has grown at a staggering pace. By the beginning of twentieth century, coal was the world’s principal source of power and oil was just coming into use. Only three generations later, the United States gets three-fourths of its energy from petroleum. Western Europe and Japan get about two-thirds of their power from that source, and the communist countries get about two-fifths of theirs.

The increasing use of non-renewable energy reserves has made possible an enormous growth in energy consumption. From 1950 to 1973, world energy consumption rose about 7% a year. In the 10 years between 1960 and 1970, consumption of the power in the United States increased by almost two-thirds. About 40% of this power goes directly to industrial production. The remainder is used for heating, lighting and transportation, as well as for running an array of home conveniences ranging from refrigerators and air-conditioners to electric tooth-brushes.

Some capitalist nations have economic and political systems that help wealthy and powerful people exploit the poor and the weak. When these systems are applied to the environment, the natural wealth of the people as a whole is destroyed in the interest of the few. As the less developed nations are trying to industrialise, they find that the cheap energy and raw materials that helped the wealthy nations to develop are gone.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, human activity has pumped steadily more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Most was quietly absorbed by the oceans, whose immense ‘sink’ capacity meant that 170 years were needed for levels to increase from pre-industrial 280 parts per million to 300 (inset graph). But the vast increase in fuel-burning since 1050 (main graph) has overwhelmed even the oceanic sink. Atmospheric concentr-ations are now rising almost as steeply as carbon dioxide emissions themselves.


The earth’s surface is warming. The temperature increase since the late 1800s may seem small, but the impact on people is likely to be profound. The impact will be even greater as temperatures continue rising, by as much as 6.4 C by 2100. Projected changes in the atmospheric concentrations of green-house gases and aerosols are projected to result in increase in global mean surface temperatures between 1990-2100 of 1.1 to 6.4 C, with land areas warming more than the oceans, and high latitudes warming more than the tropics. Globally averaged precipitations projected to increase, but with increases and decreases in particular regions, accompanied by more intense precipitation events over major regions of the world, and global mean sea-level is projected to rise by up to 0.5 meters, between 1990-2100, even without considering a contribution from melting of Greenland ice-sheets. The incidence of extreme weather events is projected to increase- hot days, floods and droughts.

A rise in earth’s temperatures can in turn root to other alterations in the ecology, including and increasing sea level and modifying the quantity and pattern of rainfall. There modifications may boost the occurrence and concentration of severe climate events, such as floods, famines, heat waves, tornados and twisters. Other consequences may comprise of higher or lower agricultural outputs, glaciers melting, lesser summer stream flows, genus extinctions and rise in the ranges of disease vectors. 

As an effect of global warming various new diseases have emerged lately. These diseases are occurring frequently, due to the increase in earth’s average temperature. Since the bacteria can survive better in elevated temperatures and even multiplies faster when the conditions are favourable. The global warming is extending the distribution of the mosquitoes due to the increase in humidity levels and their frequent growth in warmer atmosphere. Various diseases due to ebola, hanta and machupo virus are expected due to warmer climates.


Possibly, there can be two approaches: one is mitigation and second is adaptation to climate change.

The IPCC defines mitigation as activities that reduce green-house gas emissions, or enhance the capacity of carbon sinks to absorb GHGs from the atmosphere.

Many countries, both developed and developing, are aiming to use cleaner, less polluting technologies. Use of these technologies aids mitigation and could result in substantial reduction in CO2 emissions. Policies include targets for emissions reductions, increased use of renewable energy and increased energy efficiency. Studies indicate substantial potential for future reductions in emissions. Since even in the most optimistic scenario, fossil fuels are going to be used for years to come, mitigation may also involve carbon capture and storage, a process that traps CO2 produced by factories and gas or coal power stations and then stores it, usually underground.

Adaptation is making changes in lives and lifestyles to beat back the assault. To survive people are striking back- adapting, altering and improvising to face the challenges of climate change. Besides, migration of coastal population, increasing public transport and forestry are the main adaptations that India can opt for.

Increase forested area to 33% of the total geograp-hical area. Deforestation is responsible between 20-25% of global green-house gases emissions. It is warned that a third of the State’s bio-diversity would vanish or would be close to extinction by 2030. There is a urgent need for action plan in protecting natural forests at the state and national levels to slow down global warming and to check extinction of forest species. In addition, tree-planting should be on top priority under various schemes viz., afforestation, agro-forestry, social-forestry and farm level plantation as a part of carbon sequestration. Adoption of forest conserv-ation, reforestation, afforest-ation and sustainable forest management practices can contribute to conservation of bio-diversity, water-shed protection, rural employment generation, increased incomes to forest dwellers and carbon sink enhancement.

Increase carbon fixation in the soil by growing deep-rooted crops so as to decrease carbon foot-print: deep-rooted crops helps in addition of more biomass in the soil and after decomposition of that root biomass may fix the significant quantity of carbon content in the soil and increase the productivity of soil in a eco-friendly system.

Use water judiciously- technologies in rain-water harvesting, water conservation, judicious use of water and in-situ soil moisture conservation should be popularised to mitigate the effects of drought during summer when prolonged dry spell occurs if pre-monsoon showers fail.

Use less fossil fuels as per need and contribute in reduction of carbon dioxide and other gases responsible for global warming. Efficient, fast and reliable public transport systems such as metro-railways can reduce urban congestion, local pollution and green-house gas emissions.

Use more solar/wind sources of energy: adoption of cost-effective energy-efficient technologies in electricity generation, transmission distribution, and end-use can reduce costs and local pollution in addition to reduction of green-house gas emissions.

Educate farmers on the dangers of climate change: adoption of participatory approach to forest management, rural energy, irrigation water management and rural development in general can promote sustained development activities and ensure long term green-house gas emission reduction or carbon sink enhancement. Improved understanding of the exposure, sensitivity, adaptability and vulnerability of physical, ecological and social systems to climate change, at regional and local level.

Measures suggested by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)-

  • Implementing cost effective fuel.
  • Implementing energy efficiency measures and providing global platforms for energy efficiency improvement programmes.
  • Improving existing policies and practices to limit emissions.
  • Measures to raise and expand carbon sinks that trap carbon dioxide such as forest management and proper land management etc.
  • Pre-planning for the adaptation to climate change consequences in the worst case scenario.
  • Revising and implementing current-energy efficiency standards globally to check emissions.
  • Promoting environmental education and awareness training in schools and colleges for climate change and associated environ-mental issues.

More and more people are coming to realise that the magnificent technological advances that have made life so much more comfortable have a dark side as well. As we have seen industrial technology is polluting the environment, agricultural technology has brought havoc to the biosphere, and military technology has for the first time in history given humanity the means to destroy itself. And even if we do not destroy ourselves directly with nuclear bombs, we may do it indirectly by disrupting ecosystems, food-chains and the whole life-supporting system. The modern world is just beginning to discover, what a heavy price future generations will have to pay for our thoughtless use of exploitative technology. 

(Edited Excerpts from Research Paper)

email: drpriyankasharma2010 @gmail.com

Views expressed are personal.

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