Let’s move back to the most asked question on the internet, “What’s Climate Change?”
Before we jump to any conclusions about Climate Change, it is very important for us to understand the phenomenon ‘Global Warming’. When sunlight enters the Earth’s innermost atmospheric layer ‘the atmosphere’, the heat radiation of sunlight gets absorbed by a consortium of gases (these are commonly known as Greenhouse Gases or GHG). The Greenhouse Gases got the name because of ‘Greenhouse Effect’. Greenhouse effect essentially follows the principle of absorbing re-radiated waves from bodies. Many of us are aware of black body radiation principle, ‘a perfect black body doesn’t exist’. In case of Earth, this is well evident in the form of oceanic surface, glaciers, and polar ice caps. Together, these surfaces make our planet deviate from a black body definition, making it more of an emitter. Earth, when irradiated with a short wavelength heat wave, reflects back its own long wavelength heat radiation, which fall in the Infra-Red band of radiation spectrum. Now when these IR radiation (form of heat radiation) are exposed to Earth’s atmosphere, they are trapped by the GHGs.
GHGs (Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Water Vapor, Nitrous Oxide, Ozone, and HaloFluoroCarbons) have a unique chemistry, which allows them to trap this heat radiation for longer durations. The vibrational spectroscopy shows that the vibrations in these molecules result in dipole moment changes, which acts as selection rule for IR radiation absorption by the GHG molecule.
GHGs are ranked on the basis of their heat absorption capacity and their atmospheric residence times. On this basis, a GWP (Global Warming Potential) scale has been introduced by IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Here, a molecule of Carbon Dioxide acts as 1 Unit equivalent of Global Warming Potential. On this scale, Methane has 24-28 CO2 equivalent GWP, and SF6 amounts to a staggering 23,000 CO2 equivalent GWP. This means a molecule of Sulfur Hexafluoride moving in the atmosphere absorbs heat equivalent to 23,000 Carbon Dioxide molecules (from capacity and temporal impact basis).
You must’ve been confused as to why all of it matters and where’s the original topic ‘Climate Change’? Spoiler alert, since this information is all the fundamental basis of Climate Change. The gases we are talking about, are all practically indestructible (they’re plastics of gaseous world).
The heat absorbed by GHGs all across the globe impact the atmospheric systems all the same, and doesn’t provide any special privilege to apex economies. The decimal increment in global annual mean temperature may cause episodes of flash floods in your city or may result in drought, leading to a famine in your state.
Are these all inter-related? Yes, of course they are. Just because US president doesn’t believe it, we can’t deny the principles of geology we’re being taught in Universities.
The temperature variations in the atmosphere directly affects the atmospheric circulation cycles. These altered atmospheric circulation cycles affect oceanic circulations, and cause the irregular pressure anomalies across land forms. The rains, the storms, and the seasonal patterns across the globe, each and everything gets affected. We can have numerous scenarios, say a fish visits the sea side during a particular season for its food or breeding, will not be able to comprehend the time, and this may lead to its extinction if it’s an endemic species. If there’s a fisherman colony beachside that thrives on these fishes, becomes instantly jobless.
The larger carnivores are far more vulnerable to these climatic variations, the big cats in Africa and their remnants in Asia are already feeling the heat. There are endless examples of these scenarios.
We know that removing the building block of food chain may catastrophically lead to the extinction of most of the associated species in the ladder. The autotrophs, the plants and trees are hypersensitive to seasonal variations, and so are the coral reefs alongside the beach oceanic bed.
The species sustaining on these primary producers must’ve been aware of how we (humans) are putting everything to risk because of one simple greed: The Energy.
Energy is our geographical identity cards, not our economic status. Poor nations like North Korea and Pakistan leave no stone unturned to enrich their energy requisites. The world relations are driven by crude oil trades. In the Climate-friendly next episode, we’ll talk about how these drivers can be tapped for human benefits and for a & peaceful world.
Ajay is currently working as consultant at Climate Connect Technologies Limited. He is an M.Sc in Environmental Sciences. An avid practitioner of Eco-friendly lifestyle himself, he likes to advocate same to the masses