The Key Drivers of Climate Change Essay

The issue of climate change has raised a lot of concern among various companies and government across the world because its effects impacts on all of us. A 2004 estimate by Swiss Re indicated that the total cost of natural disaster as a result of climate change is likely to increase two-folds to reach $ 150 billion within a decade.

In addition, global carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase two-folds by 2050 (Reuters 2004). As such, there is need to ensure that long-term strategies are implemented to mitigate the effects of climate change. The effects of climate change may be synergistic, antagonistic, or addictive (Speth 2004, p. 18).

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Most of the times, the effects of climate change tend to be harmful. There is very little that can be done to reduce the unfavorable impact of natural factors; however, we can do a lot to mitigate the extra stressors brought about by antagonistic contributions, and human activities.

The report endeavors to explore the key drivers of climate change. Emphasis shall be on the natural and manmade drivers of climate change. Some of the nationally and internationally adopted strategies that deal with climate change shall also be examined. The issue of reducing carbon emission has remained quite intractable, and the report shall also attempt to explore why this is the case.

There are several options available for energy conservation and these shall be explored as well, including the growing shift towards renewable systems. Finally, the report shall endeavor to assess if an emission trading system can be made to work.

Extraterrestrial and terrestrial factors of climate change
The solar system happens to be the main source of energy that impacts on climate. Prolonged periods of geological imbalances has resulted in an unbalanced dynamic system that is more prone to cycles of cooling and heating up, with the corresponding falling and rising in the sea level (Pararas-Carayannis 2003, para. 3).

Terrestrial and astronomical factors are some of the key natural drivers of climate change. Changes in orbital forces are estimated to be nearly 10% of the entire amount of solar energy that specific latitudes can get (Dow & Downing 2006). also affect the earths climate.

Some of these changes could last for hundreds of thousands of years. The transfer of heat energy from the equator to the earths poles is also affected by seasonal variations (King & Walker 2008, p. 159). This heat energy determines the strengths of wind currents, rainfall, and ocean currents. Changes in the total energy adversely affect the entire climate of the earth.

Anthropogenic factors
New evidence shows that climate change is adversely affected by anthropogenic sources. Moreover, these anthropogenic sources are also thought to accelerate the natural process of global warming. The radiation and water balance of the earth has been affected greatly by extensive deforestation.

The continued use of fossil fuels results in the release of such gases as nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, and methane (Pararas-Carayannis 2003, para. 7). On addition, Chloroflouro-carbons (CFCs) are also thought to contribute greatly to the process of global warming.

In an attempt to assess the impact of manmade activities on climate changes, international organizations such as the U.N. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) have been set up. Also, international agreements like the Berlin Mandate and the Kyoto Protocol have also been established (Dow & Downing 2006, p. 43).

Walker and King (2008, p. 193) note that there is ample evidence to support the claim that an accumulation of anthropogenically-generated gases in the atmosphere are believed to be some of the human-induced drivers of climate change. Although the UN report has clearly noted that the issue of global warming is undoubtedly real, and appears to get worse with time, nonetheless, we are yet to know the extent to which such gases affect climate change, in addition to contributing to the Greenhouse Effect.

Human activities that could affect climate change
Human activities affects climate change by altering changes in the Earths atmosphere, such as in the amount of aerosols, cloudiness, and greenhouse gases. According to Stern (2006, p. 11), burning of fossil fuel is the largest contributor to climate change. It is important to note that aerosols (small particles) and greenhouse gases can affect climate by changing the outgoing thermal (infrared) radiation and incoming solar radiation.

Sims et al. (2007) has recognized the two forms of radiations as vital component of the Earths energy balance. Brown et al. (2003) contend that human activities have only resulted in a warming influence on the Earths climate since about 1750, when the industrial era begun. Human activities are reportedly responsible for the emission of four key greenhouse gases. They are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, and halocarbons.

The use of fossil fuel in building cooling and heating, transportation, and in the manufacture of goods leads to an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere (Dance 2010). Deforestation also results in the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while its uptake by plants is reduced.

Burning of fossil fuels and the manufacture of fertilizers leads to the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. Nitrous oxide can also be released into the atmosphere as a result of natural processes in the oceans and soils. Human activities are primarily thought to have contributed to the release of Halocarbon gas concentrations into the atmosphere.

Human activities have resulted to an increase in ozone, a greenhouse gas that is periodically destroyed and produced in the atmosphere owing to chemical reactions (Dance 2010). Human activities lead to the release of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide, and the chemical reaction of these gases produces ozone. As such, human activities result in an increase in ozone, especially in the troposphere.

By and large, strategy action to tackle climate change is mainly concerned with mitigation and adaptation efforts. On the one hand, mitigation action has to do with the action taken to address the cause of climate change, such as a reduction in greenhouse as emission (Lovejoy & Hannah 2005, p. 334).

On the other hand, adaptation has to with the action taken in order to adapt to the adverse impacts on climate change, as a result of human activities and natural activities as well. Limiting carbon dioxide emissions is a key strategy in reducing atmospheric greenhouse emissions since it constitutes nearly half of the entire greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate instability is a global catastrophe and as such, it ought to be a collective responsibility of all the countries to take a key role in efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change (FitzRoy & Papyrakis 2009, p. 43). Also, the national solutions of a country to tackle climate change should be aligned with the regional and international actions on the same. The impact of greenhouse gas emitted at a given location can be felt at a different location in another country and as such, all countries need to prioritize on this issue.

Therefore, countries are called upon to develop an action plan that will enable them to address the issue effectively. Ideally, the plan ought to be long-term and it should address unplanned events and uncertainties. Moreover, such plans should be flexible enough to accommodate new information.

Most mitigation alternatives are broadly classified into two classes, policy, and technical. These alternatives are also characterized by varying economic impacts, costs, as well as implementation requirements (Sims, Rogner & Gregory 2003, p. 1321). Although such options are many, they are broadly classified into long-term and short-term options. :

Adoption of cleaner technologies and energy resources
Enhanced forest management
Phasing out of CFCs in line with the Montreal Protocol
Enhanced livestock waste management, altered agricultural land use, changes in the
application and formulation of fertilizers, while still enhancing food security
On the other hand, long- term options include:

Enhanced and coordinated research programs
New technology development
Encouraging the adoption of structural and behavioral changes
Most countries find the since they are also characterized by development implications (Flannery 2005, p. 194). Moreover, they are also instrumental in enabling a country to attain stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions with minimal sacrifices (Flannery 2005, p. 194). The adoption process of the short-term options has also resulted in the following measures within the energy sector:

Countries are replacing fossil fuels with low carbon fuels. This has led to an increase in the adoption of renewable sources of energy, natural gas in place of coal, as well as an enhanced use of biomass.
There has been an increase in the uptake of efficiency programs with regard to energy use and supply
Transport-related emissions have been controlled
Gas plant leaks have reduced the adoption of new agricultural systems has seen a reduction in emissions.
With regard to the land use sector, the following strategies have been adopted:

Protection of forest, tree plantation exercises and practicing of agro-forestry has been instrumental in the expansion and maintenance of sinks.
Change of cattle food has seen a reduction in the amount of methane emitted, while new ways have been adopted to utilize the methane produced.
It is important to note that the choice of options relies heavily on several political, economic, as well as social parameters and can change from one country to another.

Carbon trading and taxation policy
It is important that the various countries agree on a global target of the atmospheric greenhouse gases as a way of addressing the long-term catastrophic effects of climate change. The adoption of price-driven instruments through trading and tax brings in the element of flexibility in the short-term, in as far as the issue of when and where emissions occur, are concerned.

At the same time, this also provides them with incentives and opportunities to reduce the mitigation cost. Price signal ought to be an indicator of the rising damages even as the greenhouse gases stock increases. It is important to ensure that efficiency remains common from one sector or country to another.

According to Stern (2006), carbon trading enables an organization or country to lower its emission below the predetermined trading limit, so that the extra reduction is traded with another organization or country whose emissions are above the preset limit. Trading enables companies to freely identify the reduction technology or approach to implement.

As a result, a company can reduce emissions at the least price. Furthermore, harnessing of market forces results in investment and innovation (Testor et al. 2005). Such a system also encourages faster execution of the most efficient reduction systems at the national and international level.

Also, those companies and countries that are aggressively committed to reducing emissions benefit economically as well. Moreover, emitters have a chance to meet their limits in an economically viable way, and this result in global efficiency in as far as reducing global warming is concerned.

According to the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries are required to ensure that their average greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 5% of the levels recorded in 1990, and this target should ideally be attained between 2008 and 2012 (OECD 2001). One of the strategies that developed countries can use to reduce their carbon emissions and meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol is to impose a tax on carbon content attributed to fuels.

Even as this remains the most efficient strategy to lower greenhouse gas emission, however, it could be faced with political impediments. The main strategies that have been adopted by developing nations to address the issue of climate change include establishing emissions standards for the different sectors, of a trading system that involves capping the overall emissions.

Options for energy conservation and the shift to renewable systems
There are a number of energy efficiency options that can be adopted to enhance energy conservation. One such option is passive design coupled with PV generation. For example, Bruntland Centre based in Denmark has achieved 60% reduced lighting cost and a further 85% reduced heating by utilizing passive solar design system and PV generation.

Another example is a housing project in Davis, California that utilizes 80% less energy. Another housing project in Damstadt, Germany is reported to have attained 90% less energy use in comparison with the German average. In Hamburg, a new township is also under construction and it utilizes the same approach, and is expected to result in a 75% saving in the average energy use per household.

Whereas these approaches are quite admirable, nonetheless, they are not the norm globally. There is need to offer incentives to enable us change our regulation and markets to tap such benefits. All the same, the future sustainable energy systems include hydrogen fuel cells, wind and tidal power, PV/Solar, and hot rock geothermal.

The issue of reducing carbon dioxide emission has remained such an intractable problem because it is an expensive undertaking, and often calls for the unparalleled cooperation among the various industries and government. In addition, businesses and government are faced with huge financial and political risks in an attempt to try and navigate the issue of reducing carbon dioxide emission (Evans & Steven 2007).

Devising comprehensive strategies to reducing carbon dioxide emissions tests our political, economic, and social institutions beyond what they can handle at the moment. Confronting the issue of climate change certainly requires that we challenge our current mindset on relying mainly on fossil fuels as the main sources of energy because they happen to be the chief polluters of carbon dioxide emissions.

Because this would require modern industries to invest heavily in new energy conservation means and alternative sources of energy to fossil fuel, not many organizations are ready to invest hugely in such a project. The matter is further complicated by the international dimensions in as far as the issue of carbon emissions is concerned.

Regardless of which industrial source or country emits greenhouse gasses, addressing the issue of climate change calls for the unprecedented international collaboration of all countries and industries (FitzRoy & Papyrakis 2009).

The past two centuries have seen the industrialized nations making a lot of wealth with energy and in the process they have ended up polluting the global environment with carbon dioxide. On the other hand, poor countries are yet to achieve the same level of economic development and as such, there is a bit of resentment from such countries because they would want the developed nations to pay for their actions.

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