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Climate Change - Basics of Climate Change
                                                                                                    December 21, 2017

Basics of Climate Change

‘Climate change’ as a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

The major characteristics of climate change include rise in average global temperature, ice cap melting, changes in precipitation, and increase in ocean temperature leading to sea level rise.


• Unprecedented warming over the last few decades.
• -0.8°C since 1880 and still continue.
• Increase in the average global temperature of Earth’s atmosphere, near the surface and in the troposphere.

Green House (Glass House)
• Cold climate areas
• Inside temperature higher than a low outside temperature
• Protects the plants from plant

Green House Effects
• Naturally occurring phenomenon that blankets the lower atmosphere and warms it, maintaining the temperature suitable for living to survive.
• Frozen and lifeless in the absence of Green House Effects, like moon
• Venus- thick atmosphere
• Average temperature – 14°C
• In the absence of green house effect- 18°C
• Green house (Conventional) v/s Green house effect (Radiative)
Gas that absorbs and emits infrared Radiation are known as Green House Gases.

Trap Heat in Atmosphere:
– Water Vapour ( H2O)
– Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
– Methane (CH4)
– Nitrous Oxide (N2O)
– Fluorinated Gases (HFCs, PFCs, SF6, etc.)
– Nitrogen Fluoride ( NF3)
Factors that determine the degree to which any GHG will influence global warming:
– Abundance
– Ability to absorb energy (global warming potential)
– Life – how long it stays in atmosphere.

Global Warming Potential (GWP)

A measure of the total energy that a gas absorbs over a particular period of time (usually 100 years) compared to CO2.

Larger than GWP, more warming the gas causes:

(CO2-1)-Carbon Dioxide (CO2):

• Fossil fuel Burning
• Energy production – Coal and natural Gas
• Transportation- petrol and diesel industry
• Industry, production of chemicals, cements etc.

(CH4- 21)-Methane (CH4):

• Wetland
• Coal Mining
• Agriculture
– Domestic Livestock
– Rice field
• Industry
• CH4- Component of Natural Gas

(N2O- 300)-Nitrous Oxide (N2O):

• Fossil fuel combustion- In industry and transportation
• Synthetic fertilizers in Agriculture
• Livestock manual and Urine- Nitrogen complexes breakdown

(F- Gases – High GWP Gases)-Fluorinated Gases:

• HFCs to replace CFCs
• PFCs in semiconductor manufacturing
• SF6 in industrial processes

Impacts of the Climate Change:

Impact on Biodiversity

• Climate change is expected to have a significant influence on terrestrial biodiversity at all system levels – ecosystem, species and genetic diversity.
• The changing climate will stimulate species-level changes in range and abundance, life cycle and behaviour, and, over time, genetic evolutionary responses.
• These changes will in turn be linked with changes in natural disturbance patterns and changes in ecosystem structure and function.

Impact on Agriculture

• According to World Meteorological Organization, climate change can adversely impact global environment, agricultural productivity and the quality of human life.
• More importantly in developing countries, it will be difficult for farmers to carry on farming in the increased temperatures.
• While in temperate latitudes a rise in temperature would help countries increase food productivity, it will have adverse effects in India and countries in the tropics.
• The monsoon accounting for 75% of India’s rainfall significantly impacts country’s agriculture and livelihood of tens of millions of small farmers.
• Climate change is likely to intensify the variability of monsoon dynamics, leading to a rise in extreme seasonal aberrations, such as increased precipitation and devastating floods in some parts of the country as well as reduced rainfall and prolonged droughts in other areas.

Impact on fisheries and Aquaculture

• Climate change, more particularly harsher weather conditions, will have impact on the quality, productivity, output and viability of fish and aquaculture enterprises, thereby affecting fishing community.
• The small-scale fishers may be faced with greater uncertainty as availability, access, stability and use of aquatic food and supplies would diminish and work opportunities would dwindle. Aquaculture development opportunities will increase in particular in tropical and sub-tropical regions.
• The climate change in warmer regions offers new opportunities as production in warmer regions will increase because of better growth rates, a longer growing season and the availability of new fish farming areas where it was once too cold.

Impact on Demography

• Rising sea levels owing to climate change would force communities in low-lying coastal areas and river deltas to move to higher ground level.
• Similarly, increase in frequency of droughts due to climate change would force farmers and pastoralists, who rely on rainfall to raise their crops and livestock, to migrate to areas in search of land and water.
• This migration/displacement of people would result in direct conflict and competition between migrants and established communities for access to land and water.
• It may be difficult for displaced communities to maintain their farming or pastoral traditions.

Impact on Glacier

• Glaciers the world over are thinning and shrinking as the planet warms, and glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than anywhere else.
• If the earth keeps warming at the current rate, Himalayan glaciers are likely to disappear altogether in 25 years.
• In the absence of glaciers, rivers in the Indo-Gangetic plain will become much more seasonal, threatening the rabi crop as well as domestic and industrial water supplies in the non-monsoon months.
• In addition, more precipitation will fall as rain rather than snow and the greater water run-offs will increase flooding.

Impact on Weather

• Increasing global temperatures will lead to higher maximum temperatures, more heat waves, and fewer cold days over most land areas.
• More severe drought in some areas, combined with other factors, has contributed to larger and more frequent wildfires.

Impact on Human Health

• Changes in the greenhouse gas concentrations and other drivers alter the global climate and bring about myriad human health consequences.
• Environmental consequences of climate change, such as extreme heat waves, rising sea-levels, changes in precipitation resulting in flooding and droughts, intense hurricanes, and degraded air quality have impact directly and indirectly on the physical, social, and psychological health of humans.

Impact on Water Resources

• Climate change will have an impact on the predictability and variability in the availability of water and also increase in frequencies of droughts and floods.
• Worst sufferers would be farmers of the rainfed agriculture, which covers 60% of all cultivated land in the country.
• The risk of crop failures will increase in semi-arid zones with prolonged dry seasons forcing people to migrate, when stability of food production cannot be assured.
• Irrigated areas in large river basins and deltas can also be at risk because of a combination of factors, such as reduced runoff, salinity, increasing floods, sea level rise, urban and industrial pollution.

Lead to Sea Level Rise

• The Bay of Bengal points to the sea rising 3.14 mm a year in the mangrove swamps of ‘the Sunderbans delta’ against a global average of 2 mm, threatening the low-lying area which is home to about 4 million people.
• A trend of sea level rise of 1 cm. per decade has been recorded along the Indian coast. The major delta area of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Indus rivers, which have large populations reliant on riverine resources, will be affected by changes in water regimes, salt water intrusions and land loss.
• The rise in sea temperature also causes coral bleaching, which negatively affects fishes, sponges, giant clams, and other sea creatures.
• The El Nino event of 1998 resulted massive mortality of corals in the Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Threat to Cities

• The Indian cities will face the impact of climate change in various forms. Indian urban infrastructure is less advanced and over-stressed in most cities.
• The floods and heavy rains caused by climate change will devastate the urban dwellings and make havoc to the lakhs of poor lives.
• Nowadays rural population is migrating towards cities increasing the demands of power, housing and drinking water and transportation.
• The water scarcity due to glacial melting and irregular rainfalls will reduce the availability of clean drinking water.

Steps taken by India to Mitigate Climate Change:

India has adopted the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008 which has both mitigation and adaptation measures. The eight National Missions which form the core of the NAPCC represent multi-prolonged, long-term, and integrated strategies for achieving key goals in the context of climate change.

The Eight Missions of NAPCC-

Steps taken by Government:

India’s Energy Conservation Act ( Energy Conservation Act), 2001; The 2010 amendment to the S ENERGY CONSERVATION ACT created PAT scheme as a market-based trading scheme enable industries to meet the mandatory energy efficiency standards that had begun to be developed under the original Energy Conservation Act.
PAT scheme is now India’s main effort-defining policy. It is overseen by the BEE and was introduced by the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).
Use of Renewable Energy-The Electricity Act 2003 together with the National Electricity Policy 2005 (NEP) and the Tariff Policy (TP) mandate promotion of electricity generation from renewable sources. The Electricity Act and these policies envisage regulatory interventions for promotion of renewable energy sources.
Climate Friendly Transport Sector-Transport India has taken substantial initiatives to make the transport sector less emission intensive. One of the major initiatives has been upgradation of vehicular emission norms such as Bharat Stage II, Bharat Stage III and Bharat Stage IV. The commercial manufacture of battery-operated vehicles has begun in India with a view to promoting low/ no carbon emitting vehicles.
Conservation of Agriculture, Forest and Water Resources- National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. There are also programmes for crop improvement and drought proofing. India has launched an ambitious Green India Mission to increase the quality and quantity of forest cover in 10 million ha of land. Also an incentive-based additional special grant of US$ 1.2 billion had been announced by the central government to all states for sustainable forestry management.
Forestry Sector- The National Forest Policy (1988), Participatory Forest Management/Joint Forest Management Programme, National Afforestation Programme, National Forestry Action Programme and National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas.
Coastal Area- Coastal Ocean Monitoring and Prediction Systems (COMAPS), Land Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone (LOICZ), Integrated Coastal and Marine Area Management (ICMAM), and Society of Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM).
Enhancing Adaptive Capacity- the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is India’s National Implementing Entity (NIE) for the Adaptation Fund created under the UNFCCC. At present, NABARD is the only NIE in the Asia Pacific Region.
India is a part of the international collaboration for mitigating climate change; such as- international forum, regional forum, negotiation group etc.

‘Terms in News Related to Climate Change’

1. Black Carbon:
• Aerosol/ soot/ fine particulate matter
• Almost pure carbon
• Due to incomplete combustion- due to anthropogenic activity
• Strongly absorbs by light and convert the energy into heat.
• Global warming- Tropospheric Temperature: Deposited on snow and ice – decreases Albedo
• Public Health – Morbidity: Cancers- respiratory illness
• Life time days to weeks
Fossil fuel Combustion: Climate change, Public health and Economic Development.

2. Project ‘Surya’:

• NGO, project from UNEP, Solar (or biomass) stove and solar lights
• Indoor Air Pollution: Respiratory illness asthma, cancers.

3. Ozone hole:

Ultra Violet Radiation from Sun:
• Adverse effect from human: skin cancer, cataracts
• Adverse effect on Biosphere: inhibiting plant growth and damaging ecosystem.
• Adverse effect on physical infrastructure: degradation of material

4. Carbon Sequestration:

• Carbon uptake
• Carbon capture and storage
• Taking up CO2 from the atmosphere and long term storage.

5. Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR):

• Set of a technique that aims to remove CO2 directly from atmosphere, by either
– Increasing natural sink for carbon or
– Using engineering techniques to remove CO2 with the intent of reducing CO2 concentration.
• Ocean- iron fertilizers
• Land- large scale afforestation
• Technical- direct capture a CO2 from atmosphere by chemical means.

6. Iron fertilization:

• Deliberate introduced of iron on upper ocean surface to enhance biological productivity which can sequester additional atmospheric CO2 in ocean.
• Added advantage- to marine food chain.

7. Carbon Sink:
Reservoir that stores carbon containing material for an indefinite period.
Natural and Artificial:
• Forest tropical, mangroves (bio-sequenstration)
• Oceans
• Wetlands
Geological sequestration: landfill, pumping CO2 directly in oil and gas wells.
Ocean sequestration: Pumping CO2 deep into the ocean, artificial trees

8. Geo Engineering/ Climate Engineering:

• Broad set of methods and technologies that, aims to deliberately alter the climate system in order to alleviate the impacts of climate change.
• By either,
a) Reduce the amount of absorbed solar energy
b) Increased net carbon sinks at sufficiently large scale to alter climate.
Solar Radiation Management:
• Intentional modification of earth’s shortwave radiative budget with the aim to reduce climate change.
• Artificial injection of stratospheric aerosol
• Cloud brightening
CO2 removal techniques: Denoting a nuclear bomb on the lunar surface.

9. Carbon Credit:
A tradable certificate/ permit representing the right to emit one tones of carbon or CO2 equivalent.
Way to earn the carbon credit:
• Produce one tone less of Carbon of CO2 equivalent than the standard level allowed for its activity.
• The credit can be trades in exchanges.
• International emission trading – a ‘Kyoto mechanism’
1 billion- multi commodity exchange – Carbon trading.

10. Carbon offsetting:
Credit of reduction in GHG emission made at another location mostly from renewable energy projects.

11. Carbon Tax:
Direct tax based on amount of the carbon in fossil fuel, equivalent to emission tax on CO2 emission.

Climate change is a global phenomenon that we have to address in a spirit of cooperation taking into account the historical responsibilities and capabilities of countries. The direct fallout of this environmental decline will be borne by the poor and the already deprived. Therefore each action in this context must be seen from the perspective of the most underprivileged. The entire global community has to work towards this issue.