Saturday, April 30, 2011

Global Warming: Small Steps Towards Conquering a Big Threat

By Jessica Vasquez

Since 1950, the world's climate has been warming and has had an increasing negative effect on the planet and its inhabitants. Today, carbon dioxide is abundant in Earth’s atmosphere primarily as a result of burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Such activity adds to the atmosphere's invisible blanket of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases. Recent research has shown that methane, which flows from landfills, livestock, and oil and gas facilities, is a close second to carbon dioxide in impact on the atmosphere.

While this is a scientific problem, no one should be intimidated from researching the issue. In fact, presentations on the matter have used various metaphors to get the point across so people all over the globe can understand what is happening and take a part in solving the problem to maximum human capabilities. The sun’s solar energy reaches Earth in the form of light and is absorbed by the surface. It is converted into heat and released from the surface. Some of this heat passes through the atmosphere and some is absorbed by greenhouse gases. With the increase in greenhouse gases, more and more heat is being trapped; this is known as global warming and climate change.

Now more than ever, scientists are studying the heat collecting in the seas and atmosphere to predict the strength and number of tropical cyclones to come. The latest science suggests that while the number of storms will decrease, they will reach the most dangerous categories of intensity. Such natural disasters are just that, natural, and the occurrence is not to be blamed on human activities. Reductions and reactions, though, are something that humans play a role in. In order to protect ourselves from these occurrences, the nation must come together to lower our impact on the world, such as consumption and waste. Such actions will slow down climate change and could reduce the harm caused by natural disasters. Also, by knowing that the intensity of storms are increasing, regions can take the necessary precautions to evacuate or prepare the people who could be affected.

As described on the official webpage,, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty began over a decade ago “to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.” Representatives from each nation include government delegates, environmental organizations, and business representatives. In 1997, UNFCCC met in Japan to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol. This treaty put restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.

While a majority of the world’s industrialized countries accepted this treaty, economic powerhouses, led by China and India, oppose mandatory obligations to curb their emissions. They promised to do what they could, but not at the risk of their economy suffering. Emissions of carbon dioxide per person range from less than 2 tons per year in India, where 400 million people lack access to electricity, to more than 20 tons per year in the United States.

A second part of the Kyoto Protocol required the wealthiest nations to provide assistance to developing countries for a cleaner energy future. The richest countries are able to use wealth and technology to insulate themselves from climate hazards, while the poorest, which have done the least to cause the problem, are the most exposed.

From Kyoto to Cancun

Another conference took place in CancĂșn, Mexico, in late 2010, where the Cancun Agreements were drawn up.

The main objectives of the Agreement include:
-encouraging the participation of all countries in reducing emissions
- mobilize the funds to enable developing countries to take greater action
-assist particularly vulnerable regions of the world in adapting to inevitable climate change
- reduce human-generated greenhouse gas emissions to keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees
- establish institutions to ensure these objectives are met successfully

The agreement fell short of the drastic changes scientists say are needed to avoid dangerous climate change in coming decades. Yet, it laid the groundwork for stronger measures in the future. The CancĂșn conference ended in December 2010, with only modest achievements.

While warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder, doing anything with this information is on hold. Before a worldwide effort to reduce emissions can begin, technological, economic and political issues have to be resolved. In the face of a global economic struggle, this is not likely to commence anytime soon.

The United Nation Framework Convention of Climate Change website was updated on April 4, 2011. Participating nations met in Bangkok this month to follow up on promises made at the 2010 Convention in Cancun. UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres called on governments to tackle work agreed in 2010 and address shortfalls in climate action. Ms. Figueres said that governments have two main tasks before them in 2011.

The first task relates to the emission reductions which would allow the world to stay below the maximum two degree Celsius temperature rise. Secondly, the building of institutions to follow the progress of the Agreement will take place immediately, as will the delivery of funding and technology to help developing countries deal with climate change. The latter includes educating the people of those countries on sustainability.

Next Step: Bonn

By the end of this convention, an agenda was created to enact these changes on a timeline. Ms. Figueres calls this “a significant step.” The United Nation Framework Convention of Climate Change meets again in Bonn, Germany, on 6 June 2011.

Some fluctuations in the Earth's temperature are inevitable regardless of human activity, but centuries of rising temperatures and seas lie ahead if the release of emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation continues unabated, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The panel shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore for alerting the world to warming's risks.

Over the next decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to regulate sources of greenhouse gases, imposing efficiency and emissions requirements. Until the UNFCCC starts taking action on a global scale, it seems that countering global warming and climate change is up to the people’s smaller actions and lifestyle changes. Maybe then those with the greater power will see that we are prepared for much bigger, even drastic changes.

About the Author
Jessica Vasquez is a graduating Communication Arts major at Ramapo College of New Jersey with a concentration in Writing. She aspires to be a creative writer of screenplays and novels. Her academic experience includes journalism, film, screenplays, and short fiction.

1 comment:

  1. I'm really glad that a lot of people are very concerned about the environment nowadays and most of them are even taking up environmental awareness training programs. I do hope that those who are not conscious about their environment can take the time to consider what is happening around us and ACT on it.