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The causes of climate change can be divided into two categories, human and natural causes. It is now a global concern that the climatic changes occurring today have been speeded up because of man's activities. The natural variability and the climate fluctuations of the climate system have always been part of the Earth¶s history however there have been changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere growing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude. The United Nations, governments and many top scientists around the world believe that we must act now to stabilise and arrest further changes.
To understand climate change fully, the causes of climate change must be first identified. Scientists divide the causes into two categories, natural and human causes. Back to top
What Causes Climate Change in detail
Natural Causes of Climate Change
The earth¶s climate is influenced and changed through natural causes like volcanic eruptions, ocean current, the earth¶s orbital changes and solar variations.
Volcanic eruptions - When a volcano erupts it throws out large volumes of sulphur dioxide (SO2), water vapour, dust, and ash into the atmosphere. Large volumes of gases and ash can influence climatic patterns for years by increasing planetary reflectivity causing atmospheric cooling. Tiny particles called aerosols are produced by volcanoes. Because they reflect solar energy back into space they have a cooling effect on the world. The greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide is also produced however the CO2 produced is insignificant when compared to emissions created by humans. (see also featured article - Do Volcanoes cause climate change) Ocean current - The oceans are a major component of the climate system. Ocean currents move vast amounts of heat across the planet. Winds push horizontally against the sea surface and drive ocean current patterns. Interactions between the ocean and atmosphere can also produce phenomena such as El Niño which occur every 2 to 6 years. Deep ocean circulation of cold water from the poles towards the equator and movement of warm water from the equator back towards the poles. Without this movement the poles would be colder and the equator warmer. The oceans play an important role in determining the atmospheric concentration of CO2. Changes in ocean circulation may affect the climate through the movement of CO2 into or out of the atmosphere. Earth orbital changes - The earth makes one full orbit around the sun each year. It is tilted at an angle of 23.5° to the perpendicular plane of its orbital path. Changes in the tilt of the earth can lead to small but climatically important changes in the strength of the seasons, more tilt means warmer summers and colder winters; less tilt means cooler summers and milder winters. Slow changes in the Earth¶s orbit lead to small but climatically important changes in the strength of the seasons over tens of thousands of years. Climate feedbacks amplify these small changes, thereby producing ice ages. Solar variations - The Sun is the source of energy for the Earth¶s climate system. Although the Sun¶s energy output appears constant from an everyday point of view, small changes over an extended period of time can lead to climate changes. Some scientists suspect that a portion of the warmin g in the first half of the 20th century was
Methane is another important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. or has made the same contribution to global climate science and current knowledge." Independent Review 2007 "There is strong evidence that the warming of the Earth over the last half-century has been caused largely by human activity. If global warming was caused by a more active sun.due to an increase in the output of solar energy. As the sun is the fundamental source of energy that is instrumental in our climate system it would be reasonable to assume that changes in the sun's energy output would cause the climate to change. UK "The Hadley Centre holds an unique position in the world of climate science. landfills and waste dumps. It is released from animals such as dairy cows. Hadley Centre. deforestation. such as the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use." The Met Office. pigs. No other single body has a comparable breadth of climate change science and modelling. agriculture. coal and natural gas supply most of the energy needed to run vehicles. Also climate models that include solar irradiance changes cannot reproduce last century's observed temperature trend without including a rise in greenhouse gases. This is due to greenhouse gasses capturing heat in the lower atmosphere. The energy sector is responsible for about ¾ of the carbon dioxide emissions." The Royal Society 2010 The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century saw the large-scale use of fossil fuels for industrial activities. For instance a decrease in solar activity was thought to have triggered the Little Ice Age between approximately 1650 and 1850. the most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. buffaloes. then scientists would expect to see warmer temperatures in all layers of the atmosphere. Back to top Human Causes of Climate Change "It has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the climate is changing due to man-made greenhouse gases. goats. 1/5 of the methane emissions and a large quantity of nitrous oxide. . and other activities have all led to a rise in the emission of carbon dioxide. horses and sheep Methane is also emitted during the process of oil drilling. Fossil fuels such as oil. We are already committed to future substantial change over the next 30 years and change is likely to accelerate over the rest of the 21st century. Changes in land use pattern. leaking gas pipelines. including agriculture and deforestation. generate electricity for industries and households. land clearing. camels. coal mining. Carbon dioxide is undoubtedly. the average amount of energy coming from the Sun either remained constant or increased slightly. Current global warming however cannot be explained by solar variations. a warming at the surface and in the lower parts of the atmosphere. Some examples are evidenced such as since 1750. They have only observed a cooling in the upper atmosphere. when Greenland was largely cut off by ice from 1410 to the 1720s and glaciers advanced in the Alps. Scientific studies demonstrate that solar variations have performed a role in past climate changes.
The biggest sources of emissions for most people are likely to be: * energy use in the home (the main use is heating) * driving a car * air travel There other elements of people's homes that contribute to climate change indirectly. primarily through the production and release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.e. from furniture to computers. from clothes to carpets. Another contributing cause of climate change is when agriculture alters the Earth's land cover. which can change its ability to absorb or reflect heat and light. land use. and nitrous oxide. the three main causes of the increase in greenhouse gases observed over the past 250 years have been fossil fuels. Land use change such as deforestation and desertification. all use energy when it is produced and transported ± and this causes carbon emissions to be released. . Back to top Agriculture as a Contributor to the Causes of Climate Change According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. are the major anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide. It is especially clear in the dramatic change of the polar caps. the Arctic ice cap is shrinking and the Antarctica ice shelf is melting. Want to learn more on the causes of climate change? Then take a look at the video below. and nitrous oxide emissions from chemical fertilisers 21% carbon emissions from transport 65% come from the use of fuel to generate energy (excluding transport) About 40% of carbon emissions in the UK are the result of decisions taken directly by individuals. methane.The certainty of global warming can be seen through some of the natural phenomenon like the effect on crops and extreme weather conditions around the world. and agriculture. together with use of fossil fuels. Back to top Main Contributors and Causes of Climate Change According to the UK Government the main contributors of man made causes of climate change in the UK are: * 4% of carbon emissions come from industrial processes * 7% come from agriculture ± for example methane emissions from livestock and manure. Everything. i. Agriculture has been shown to produce significant effects on climate change.
Rainforests every year help to absorb almost 20% of man made CO2 emissions therefore deforestation can be classed as a major contributor to the causes of climate change. More deforestation means more CO2 build up in the atmosphere. . first to understand what a precious r esource rainforests play in our world.Back to top Deforestation as a contributor to the Causes of Climate change It is important. They form part of a delicate ecosystem that has taken millions of years to evolve. Deforestation by means of cutting down and burning these tropical rainforests usually pave the way for agriculture and industry which often produce even more CO2. Cutting down rainforests faster than they can be replaced has a devastating effect on the carbon emission cycle producing an extra 17% of greenhouse gases. Remember trees absorb CO2.
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