GEN 499 General Education Capstone
November 11, 2019
While it is difficult to analyze and understand a system as complex as the Earth’s eco-system, one thing is sure, climate change is real. There is strong evidence to support this claim and 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that human activity is the leading cause. Global warming, which is the long-term rise in the Earth’s temperature, is often used synonymously with the term climate change. Climate change includes global warming and the effects that are felt from global warming. Global awareness of climate change can encourage more research and help to find ways to prevent further damage to the environment. Solutions such as emissions reduction, developing renewable energy sources, and policies to promote energy efficiency need to be examined. Climate change is a complex global issue encompassing many areas such as science, economics, and politics. Focus is needed in all areas if change is to be made.
Earth’s climate has changed all through history. Most of these changes can be explained by minute variations in the Earth’s orbit. These variations change the amount of solar energy that the Earth receives. Solar irradiance measures the amount of energy the sun gives off. Satellite instruments have been measuring the sun since 1978 and have shown a drop in solar irradiance. Recent analysis of carbon in tree rings indicates that solar irradiance could not account for more than ten percent of global warming in the twentieth century (The Effects of Climate Change, 2019). The Greenhouse Effect is warming that is a result of the atmosphere trapping heat radiating from Earth toward space (The Effects of Climate Change, 2019). Greenhouse gases are naturally occurring and keep some of the sun’s warmth from reflecting back into space. This makes the Earth livable and keeps humans and millions of other living things alive. After the Industrial Revolution, and after populations, economies, and standards of living grew, the cumulative level of greenhouse emissions has grown as well (Climate change, n.d.). Global warming is the rise in global temperature which is due mainly to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. Climate change refers to the changes in the measure of climate over a period of time. These changes include precipitation, temperature, and wind patterns. Human activities are changing the natural function of the Greenhouse Effect. During the last century, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (The Effects of Climate Change, 2019). Some scientists believe that human activity plays a major role in climate change, while others believe the evidence is unclear and that these conditions are simply part of a natural heating and cooling process. The debate involves numerous stakeholders. Scientists, environmental activists, energy companies, worldwide communities, and politicians are involved. Some of the key issues include: validity of research, legislative or regulatory options, environmentally safer alternatives, value of biological diversity, and conservation (Issitt & Flynn, 2018).
The impacts of climate change are global and possibly catastrophic. Earth’s average surface temperature has risen 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. Frost-free and growing seasons will lengthen, which will affect ecosystems and agriculture. Precipitation patterns will change. Recent trends suggest more heavy precipitation events, even in areas where total precipitation totals are expected to decrease. Drought and heat waves will become more intense and cold waves will become less intense. As the climate becomes warmer, hurricanes and the storms associated with hurricanes will become more intense and rainfall rates are projected to increase. Since the early 1980’s the strength and number of hurricanes has grown (The Effects of Climate Change, 2019). Accurate record keeping of sea level began in 1880 and since then the sea level has risen nearly eight inches. Projections show it could rise one to four feet more by the year 2100. This is the result of warming of the Earth’s surface and the melting of land ice. The oceans will continue to rise beyond the year 2100 since it takes a while for the ocean water to respond to the warming at the surface of the Earth. Before mid-century, the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free in the summer (The Effects of Climate Change, 2019).
The United Nations has been working to keep the discussion and understanding of climate change is the forefront for years. In 1992, the Earth Summit produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This was a first step to addressing global climate change. The Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 and legally binds developed country parties to reduce emissions. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This panel was organized to provide an objective source of scientific information. The panel released its Fifth Assessment Report in 2013. The report provided a comprehensive report on the rise of sea level, an estimate of cumulative CO2 emissions, and provided a CO2 budget in an effort to limit warming. The IPCC released its categorical conclusion that climate change is real and that human activities are the main cause (Climate change, n.d.). The Paris Agreement was signed in 2016 and aimed to reduce emissions approximately 85% over the next three decades.
It is becoming necessary to promote pro-environmental behavior. All-together, emissions reduction through behavioral changes such as diet and personal vehicle use have been promising but they lack the scope and scale needed to meet international climate targets (Wynes, Nicholas, Zhao, & Donner, 2018). Renewable energy sources are obtained from solar, wind, biomss, geothermal, and hydro sources that are obtained through nature. These renewable energy sources are helping to achieve energy efficiency worldwide as we attempt to move to a low-carbon economy (Strielkowski, Volkov, Pushkareva, & Streimikien, 2019).
The 2019 Climate Action Summit was held on September 23, 2019. The Summit focused on heavy industry, nature-based solutions, cities, energy, resilience, and climate finance. World leaders will convene again in 2020 for the United Nations Climate Conference. The call is for more financial institutions to choose the green economy (Climate change, n.d.). Maximilian Auffhammer’s article, Quantifying Economic Damages from Climate Change, which was published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives in 2018 contends that we need to understand the external cost imposed by greenhouse gases. Since climate change is global and results in global damages and since greenhouse gases are long-lived, they will affect generations for hundreds of years. Professor Auffhammer states his goal in writing this article,
Is to shed light on how (mostly) economists have gone about calculating the “social cost of carbon” for regulatory purposes and to provide an overview of the past and currently used estimates. In the second part, I will focus on where empirical economists may have the highest value added in this enterprise: specifically, the calibration and estimation of economic damage functions, which map weather patterns transformed by climate change into economic benefits and damages. (Auffhammer, 2018)
Standard economics will typically recommend that the solution to climate change is to impose a price on carbon. The logic is that, emitting greenhouse gas harms others and this harm is not taken into account by the emitters. The carbon price corrects this and causes an incentive to not pollute (Mattauch & Hepburn, 2016).
In two centuries of industrial development, we have changed the chemistry of our atmosphere and oceans. Business organizations are in the middle of the situation since they are part of the cause of the situation but are also attempting to find innovative ways to cut greenhouse emissions. When corporations are faced with the challenge of making good decisions for the environment, they are overcome by the desire to return to business imperatives (Wright & Nyberg, 2017).
The sources used in this paper were all valid and credible. They all came from scholarly journals and were all peer-reviewed. Most of the articles used included data found during scientific research and all included a sizable reference list. With the topic of climate change, there will always be biases, depending on your politics and personal beliefs. There is no denying that our climate is changing and the authors have provided extensive research to prove their data.
Climate change affects the entire world, whether developed or undeveloped. Because climate change is a global issue, there is awareness on a worldwide scale. However, the poorest countries are often hit the hardest when unpredictable weather patterns and changing seasons disrupt their ability to grow food and natural disasters hit their countries.
Climate change is real, and we can certainly see where human actions have caused the majority of issues. Climate change is a broad term that includes global warming and the effects that are caused by global warming. More research is needed to attempt to slow the progression or possibly reverse some of the effects. More policies to encourage the use of alternative energy sources such as renewable energy sources need to be addressed. This is a global issue with implications in science, economics, and politics. Now is the time to focus on the changes that need to be made.
Auffhammer, M. (2018). Quantifying Economic Damages from Climate Change. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 32(4), 33–52. https://doi-org.proxy-library.ashford.edu/http://www.aeaweb.org/jep/
Climate change. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/climate-change/.
Issitt, M. L., & Flynn, S. I. (2018). Greenhouse effect. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=89158205&site=eds-live&scope=site
The Effects of Climate Change. (2019, September 30). Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/.
Mattauch, L., & Hepburn, C. (2016). Climate Policy When Preferences Are Endogenous-and Sometimes They Are. Midwest Studies In Philosophy, 40(1), 76–95. https://doi-org.proxy-library.ashford.edu/10.1111/misp.12048
Seth Wynes, Kimberly A Nicholas, Jiaying Zhao, & Simon D Donner. (2018). Measuring what works: quantifying greenhouse gas emission reductions of behavioural interventions to reduce driving, meat consumption, and household energy use. Environmental Research Letters, 13(11), 1. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edb&AN=133023935&site=eds-live&scope=site
Strielkowski, W., Volkova, E., Pushkareva, L., & Streimikiene, D. (2019). Innovative Policies for Energy Efficiency and the Use of Renewables in Households. Energies (19961073), 12(7), 1392. https://doi-org.proxy-library.ashford.edu/10.3390/en12071392
Wright, C., & Nyberg, D. (2017). An Inconvenient Truth: How Organizations Translate Climate Change into Business as Usual. Academy of Management Journal, 60(5), 1633–1661. https://doi-org.proxy-library.ashford.edu/10.5465/amj.2015.0718