Beginning around 1760, the Industrial Revolution started overhauling the way human society operates. Innovations in energy, manufacturing, mining and transportation supercharged the economic evolution of the world.
But some of these industrial endeavours- such as coal refining and mechanised labour were a mixed blessing, putting the planet on a collision course for Climate Change.
Early Discoveries about Climate Change
The first discoveries that helped explain recent Climate Change and Global Warming were in the 18th and 19th centuries:
* in 1753, Joseph Black discovered carbon dioxide by treating limestone (calcium carbonate) and ‘magnesia alba’ (magnesium carbonate) with acids. Black gives the name ‘fixed air’ to the gas he discovers. He later finds that ‘fixed air’ is present in the atmosphere, is produced during the fermentation of beer, and is contained in air exhaled by humans.
* in 1827, Jean-Baptiste Fourier suggested that an atmospheric effect kept the earth warmer than it would otherwise be.He used the analogy of a greenhouse
* in 1896, Svante August Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, proposed that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal would enhance the earth’s greenhouse effect and lead to global warming
The Climate of the Earth has changed throughout history. Prior to the Industrial Era, the Medieval Climate Anomaly and Little Ice Age had defined the upper and lower boundaries of the climate’s recent natural variability and are a reflection of changes in climate drivers; the sun’s variability and volcanic activity in terms of Changes in the Earth’s orbit, Changes in the sun’s intensity, changes caused by Volcanic eruptions ( Aerosol and Carbon dioxide emissions), and the climate’s internal variability (referring to random changes in the circulation of the atmosphere and oceans).
The above Climate Change “drivers” were observed to often trigger additional changes within the climate system that amplify or dampen the climate’s initial response to them. Changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and changes in Ocean currents affect the climate from region to region and the world over.
Climate Change is a slow train that’s been coming for more than a century, but even slow trains eventually reach their destinations. With ocean temperatures hitting record highs this summer, Arctic sea ice dwindling and glaciers melting faster than ever, that train now seems to be pulling into the station — and the urgency has suddenly hit home for people all around the planet.
Just as this global awareness is gaining momentum, so is the global effort to stop climate change in its tracks. When world leaders met in Copenhagen for 10 days on a summit designed to replace the historic but hobbled Kyoto Protocol, which starts expiring in 2012 — it was a culmination of years spent listening, bickering and compromising over various countries’ greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat from the sun and warm up the planet. From the 1972 Stockholm Conference ( a precursor to the 1979 First World Climate Conference ) to the 2001 COP meeting in Marrakesh, among other small-scale meetings, climate negotiators have been working for decades to reach this stage of the war on warming.
Current International Action on Climate Change
The IPCC reported in 2007 that the planet has warmed about 0.75 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the 20th century, with the submiting there is a greater than 90 per cent chance that global warming for the past 50 years is due to human activity. At the 2007 UN Climate Change Conference in Bali, the world’s nations agreed to negotiate on a deal to tackle Climate Change. In addition, the United Nations (UN) conference in Cancun 2010 turned-out to be a pragmatic platform for a global deal to tackle climate change by the participants. The salient constituents of this consensus include:
– Overall target limit of two (2) degrees Celsius on temperature rise
– Measures that developed and developing countries are taking on climate change in the UN agreement
– Assessment system to track how countries are living up to their promises on emissions
– Green climate fund to support low carbon initiatives of developing countries
– Tackling menacing trees destruction
– Provision for developing countries to access low carbon technologies
We still have a long way to go, though some nations are still balking at the idea of mandatory emissions cuts. But the international debate has at least grown less heated in the 12 years since Kyoto, even if the planet hasn’t, and many observers saw the Copenhagen summit as a critical platform that provided renewed chance to stop the runaway train of Climate Change before it’s too late.
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