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Climate Crisis: Who is the culprit?

It is safe to say that these days, we are all bombarded with terms and phenomena like Greenhouse gases, Global Warming, Rising Sea Levels, Forest fires, etc. By now, most of know the meaning and devastating nature of these issues. However, we find ourselves in a precarious situation that demands urgent solutions and actions from us in dealing with these issues. That is precisely why the above-mentioned terms have been categorized under the phrase: Climate Crisis.  

Because, it is that, a crisis that demands all our attention and efforts to minimize the damage caused and fix things before it is too late.  

What are the current causes of this climate crisis? 

The causes of this crisis is now understood to be largely, of human nature. There are three main reasons, among many others that lead to this crisis: 

  1. Greenhouse gases 
  2. Deforestation  
  3. Burning of fossil fuels 

1. Greenhouse gases 

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the major greenhouse gas, that traps the heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. Human activities have been emitting extra greenhouse gases including COinto the air, since 1850s. This extra emission has resulted in a rise in average global temperatures by about 0.9oC (1.6oF) as of 2018.  

The EU is the world’s third largest greenhouse gases emitter after China and the United States and is followed by India, Russia and Japan (as of 2017). Within the EU, the top six emitters were Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Poland, and Spain. The energy sector was responsible for 80.7% of greenhouse gases emissions in the EU, followed by agriculture (8.72%), industry (7.82%) and the waste sector (2.75%). Although the greenhouse gas emission is down by 20% compared to 1990, the damage that has been done in the last 3 decades will unfortunately last much longer (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/). 

2. Deforestation 

Each year, forests are being cleared out in great proportions for logging, farming and other industrial purposes. Luckily Europe has been seeing a growing trend of forest size over the past few years. Today, more than two-fifth of the continent is covered by trees. Between 1990 and 2015, the area covered by forests and woodlands increased by 90,000 square kilometres – an area roughly the size of Portugal (Weforum.org). While this is promising news, deforestation has been on an increasing trend in other areas of the world, for example Brazil, and the effects of the clearing of forests in the Amazon can be felt everywhere else in the world.  

3. Burning of fossil fuels 

Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, fossil fuels including coal and natural gas have been used for urbanization at an alarming rate. Burning fossil fuels releases gases including Carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide into the air. Studies have shown that the global temperature is nearly 1oC warmer compared to pre-industrial revolution days.  

 

What are the main ways we see the effects of this climate crisis?  

heatwave in europe
Figure 1. Map of heatwave with extreme temperatures recorded in July 2019.

‘Our house is on fire’

Several countries in Europe and around the world have been experiencing a surge of temperature, especially in summers. In June and July this year (2019), extreme temperatures were experienced in Belgium, The Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, Spain and other European countries, as shown in Figure 1.  

A study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a non-profit group of researchers using science to address large-scale problems such as climate change and sustainability showed that this extreme temperature will only continue to be a trend in the near future, if we don’t take any measures to alleviate this situation.   

 

Flooding 

Sealevels have been rising since nearly 1880 for about 21–24 centimeters. Reasons for this rise include the melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and thermal expansion of seawater in warmer days. Just in 2018, global mean sea level was 8.1 cm above the 1993 average, which is the highest annual average recorded.  

sea levels worldwide
Figure 1. Map of rise in global sea level between 1993 and 2018 (blue colors). In some ocean basins, sea level has risen 15-20 centimeters. Rates of local sea level (dots) can be amplified by geological processes like ground settling or offset by processes like the centuries-long rebound of land masses from the loss of ice age glaciers. (Source: NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data provided by Philip Thompson, University of Hawaii.)

 

How can OPERANDUM help in creating awareness about climate crisis? 

OPERANDUM has set up several Open-Air Laboratories (OALs) around the world, which use nature-based solutions to tackle the local environmental challenges that are aggravated by the climate crisis.  

  • To combat deforestation, several of the OALs have developed green solutionsThese solutions include increasing afforestation by planting new native trees to promote evapotranspiration and increase heat sinks by expanding the current woods area in rural villages (Hongkong) 
  • To prevent flooding, some of the solutions include construction of sedimental ponds and pits, buffer zones, wetlands, and peak runoff control structures in the catchment areas (Finland), re-activating floodplains and re-naturation of embankments (Germany), and constructed wetlands and riparian buffer zones (Ireland). 

Get to know more about the project and Nature-based solutions.