Methods of Mitigating Climate Change
Climate change is one of the greatest environmental challenges affecting the world. Climate change is the significant change in weather patterns that may last for a protracted period of time (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2014). Climate change is the result of global warming, which refers to the gradual increase in surface temperatures leading to various side effects. Although episodes of global warming occurred over the past, the current rates of global warming are overwhelming and are incomparable with past global warming rates. Historical records indicate that the earth’s climate has fluctuated over millions of years, moving between warm episodes to extremely cold episodes. In the past, climate change was attributed to natural factors. However, the current changes in climate are attributed to human activities. There is the need for concrete action from governments and environmental bodies in order to stem climate change. Climate change can be mitigated by cutting emission of greenhouse gases, afforestation strategies, and improving farming practices.
Reduction of Greenhouse Gases
The release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is one of the major causes of climate change. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases associated with global warming. Large volumes of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels lead to ozone depletion and consequently global warming. Other pollutants resulting from burning of fossil fuels include sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds (OECD, 2014). Airborne particles may also contribute to climate change. For instance, too much volcanic ash affects the temperature of the areas nearby. Greenhouse gas emissions may occur due to human as well as natural activities. However, human-driven releases of greenhouse gas emissions disrupt the normal balances in the atmosphere leading to global warming. According to OECD (2014), about 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to human activities – this includes burning of fossil fuels and from industrial processes.
In order to reduce the impacts of global warming, governments, and environmental agencies must implement effective strategies that will see a reduction in emission of greenhouse gases. Addressing climate change is a global effort that requires action by governments, environmental agencies, businesses, and individuals. In the U.S., the transport sector contributes about 30 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, with cars alone contributing to about one-fifth of the total greenhouse gas emissions (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2016). Statistics indicate that for every gallon of fuel used by vehicles, 24 pounds of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. The annual total impact of the greenhouse gases is thus significant, and a major contributor to climate change.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the way forward. Governments across the world have started encouraging individuals, businesses, and industries to employ energy efficient measures that reduce the carbon footprint. Individuals can reduce carbon emissions by adapting energy efficient measures such as switching off the lights. Use of energy efficient bulbs can also help reduce energy consumption at homes. The concept of green buildings has also emerged. This refers to the construction of sustainable buildings that are less harmful to the environment. Sustainable buildings are designed to optimize energy usage, water usage, reduce waste, and to protect the health of the occupants. They are also built using environmentally friendly materials that have little impact on the environment. Green buildings are built using locally available materials hence there is minimal impact in the transportation of materials from the source to the construction site.
Adoption of clean sources of energy will greatly aid in cutting down carbon emissions. The move by governments to encourage the use of clean and renewable sources of energy such as solar energy, wind energy, and geothermal will reduce dependence on fossil fuel that is a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Advancements in the transport industry have seen the introduction of biofuels as the alternative to fossil fuels. Biofuels are clean sources of energy that have little carbon footprint compared to fossil fuels (Malhi et al., 2008). Another new technology in the transport sector is the introduction of electric cars. Electric cars eliminate the need for the use of fossil fuels thus reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. Governments have turned attention to the use of clean sources of energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy instead of relying on fossil fuels. The U.S. for instance, has installed large power plants in California’s Mojave Desert and in other areas to boost clean energy production.
Afforestation and Reforestation Strategies
Afforestation and reforestation can also be effective in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Forests are important in the carbon cycle since they act as natural carbon sinks by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The excessive cutting down of trees experienced over the last century has greatly reduced forest cover in the world. The reduced forest cover means a reduction in natural carbon sinks. This causes excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere thus leading to climate change (Malhi et al., 2008). Forests also play a significant role in the hydrological cycle. Forests enhance the rate of water percolation into the ground, ensuring that the water does not run off as floods. The water, which percolates into the ground, forms streams which become a source of drinking water for people and animals. Forests also modify the microclimates of the surrounding areas. Forests affect precipitation in local areas as well as modification of various weather elements such as winds, air density, and removal of various air pollutants such as dust particles.
Governments have stepped up efforts to control illegal logging which has seen forest cover reduce over the last century. Clearing of forests release stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere thus causing more damage. Deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere (Malhi et al., 2008). Afforestation and reforestation efforts aims at improving forest cover and thus natural carbon sinks. Afforestation involves the planting of trees in areas where none existed before. On the other hand, reforestation involves the planting of trees in areas where forests were cleared either by fire or through logging. Afforestation and reforestation efforts can enable the world achieve the zero net carbon emissions. This is a situation whereby all carbon emissions are absorbed by forests and hence the little effect of carbon emissions on the environment. To achieve this, there must be concerted efforts from governments worldwide to ensure the restoration of adequate forest cover.
Improving farming practices. The agricultural sector contributes about 14 percent of the total greenhouse emissions (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements [IFOAM], 2009). Greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector are related to land-use changes. The majority of agricultural-based emissions emanate from developing countries. In developing countries, much of the agricultural activities that contribute to climate change involve the clearing of forests to pave the way for land for cultivation and settlement. Grazing in forest areas also contribute to the destruction of forests. Since emissions from the agricultural sector are concentrated in developing countries, mitigation efforts can revolve around poverty reduction, improving the food security situation of communities living around forests, and adopting agro-systems for sustainable development. In most developing countries, majority of the poor live in rural areas and depend on subsistence farming. This drives them to the exploitation of natural resources such as forests for their livelihood.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector also come from enteric fermentation process, rice production, emissions from soil, burning of biomass, and rice production activities (IFOAM, 2009). Indirect sources also contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector. These indirect sources include mechanized farming, production of fertilizers, application of agro-chemicals, and transport of agricultural products (IFOAM, 2009). These have minimal impacts on the environment. It can be difficult for governments to control the contribution made by the agricultural sector in climate change. This is due to the large area of land that in use for agriculture. Adoption of safe farming practices can help reduce emissions resulting from agricultural practices. According to IFOAM (2009), adoption of organic agriculture can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the sector by up to 32 percent. Organic practices that farmers can adopt include composting, agroforestry, crop ration, use of organic fertilizers, and pure grazing.
To conclude, climate change continues to be a major threat affecting human beings and disrupting habitats. Increased greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have significantly accelerated the rate of global warming currently being experienced. There is the need for concrete action by governments to help curtail the looming crisis. Three strategies can be effectively used in mitigating global warming and its likely consequences. These strategies include reduction of greenhouse gases, afforestation and reforestation, and improving farming practices.
International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. (2009). The contribution of organic agriculture to climate change mitigation. Retrieved from http://www.infoagro.net/programas/Ambiente/pages/mitigacion/casos/2.pdf
Malhi, Y., Roberts, T., Betts, R. A., Killeen, T. J., Li, W., & Nobre, C. A. (2008). Climate change, deforestation, and the fate of the Amazon. Science, 319(8): 1 – 5.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2014). Agriculture and climate change. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/tad/sustainable-agriculture/agriculture- climate-change-september-2015.pdf
Union of Concerned Scientists. (2016). Car emissions and global warming. Retrieved from http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/car-emissions-and-global-warming#.VyoCIPl97IV