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Effects of Global Warming and Climate Change: Way Forward 

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Global warming and climate change refer to an increase in average global temperatures.  Natural events and human activities are believed to be contributing to an

increase in average global temperatures.  Global warming, as stated in many publications and journals, is the increase in the average temperature of Earth’s near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and it is projected to continue.  

Most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century was caused by increasing concentrations of Greenhouse Gases, which results from human activity such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuel, for example, gas flaring.  Greenhouse gases are gases in an atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range.  This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect (the rise in temperature on Earth as certain gases in the atmosphere trap energy).  

The primary greenhouse gases (heat-trapping gases) in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.  Other greenhouse gases are three fluorinated industrial gases: hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.  If the world doesn’t cut pollution of heat-trapping gases, the already noticeable harms of global warming could spiral out of control.  Top 5 most polluting countries in the World are China, United States, Brazil, Indonesia and Japan.  Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause of climate change.  Its effects on global warming and climate change are devastating, and it is becoming increasingly urgent to reduce these emissions and curb the pressure that humans exert on the planet.  

The situation is so critical that, by the International Energy Agency’s assessment, if we continue not to remedy it emissions will be up 130% by 2050.  Other countries with high emission rates are Russia, India, Germany, Australia and Canada.  Most of the emissions that reach the atmosphere come from Coal (43%), followed by Oil (33%).  It has been warned that countries must rapidly direct their development toward clean and renewable energy, to curb emissions and avoid the dark forecast for 2050.  Global warming and climate change is a global problem, and need to be addressed globally but individual Nation can address this issue separately and responsibly.  

Disasters associated with global warming and climate change includes killer heat waves, wildfires, droughts and flooding which highlight how vulnerable humanity is to extreme weather.  Twenty-first century disasters such as killer heat waves in Europe, India and Pakistan, wildfires in the United States, droughts in Australia and deadly flooding in Mozambique, Thailand and Pakistan, flooding and heat waves in Nigeria in recent times are caused by global warming and climate change.  The dangers are going to worsen as the climate changes even more.  

We’re now in an era where climate change isn’t some kind of future hypothetical.  We live in an area where impacts from climate change are already widespread and consequential.  As noted, nobody is immune to Global Warming and Climate Change.  However, the world has to deal with global warming and Climate Change in a fiscally responsible way that is friendly to business.  Therefore, the answer to the problem of climate change may not be regulation, but innovation.  However, for now, emissions control is highly suggested.  

According to weather experts, an increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the amount and pattern of precipitation, probably including expansion of subtropical deserts.  Warming is expected to be strongest in the Arctic and would be associated with continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice, which causes sea levels to rise.  

Other likely effects include changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, species extinctions, and changes in agricultural yields.  Warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe, though the nature of these regional variations is uncertain.  Another major worldwide concomitant of global warming, and one which is presently happening as well as being predicted to continue, is ocean acidification, which is likewise a result of contemporary increases in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.

 Among possible reasons put forward by scientists and meteorologists for the heavier rains and possible flooding are higher than usual temperatures in the Oceans; unusual behavior in the jet stream-a high altitude, fast-moving air current that affects weather patterns; and a shift from the warming and the cooling Ocean patterns.  The seven indicators that would be expected to increase in a warming world are tropospheric temperature, humidity, temperature over oceans, sea surface temperature, sea level, ocean heat content and temperature over land, and the three indicators that would be expected to decrease in a warming world are sea ice, snow cover and glaciers. 

In a recent meeting between UN climate change panel and other climate experts: renewable energy sources such as solar and wind could supply up to 80 percent of the world’s energy needs by 2050 and play a significant role in fighting global warming and climate change.  Developing countries are encouraged to take advantage of the new technologies.  There is a call for deep reductions in use of non-renewables in order to keep temperatures from rising more than 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels, which could trigger catastrophic climate impacts.  The call is an invitation to governments to initiate a radical overhaul of their policies and place renewable energy center stage.  In addition, there is a growing global awareness about the potential for renewable energy and the opportunities are tremendous.  However, I observe that the setback of these technologies is the development of new infrastructure.  As noted, the best conditions exist in Nigeria for renewable energy deployment.  

On the other hand, I observed that Nigeria is proposing nuclear energy for her power supply.  The proposal is a great and giant idea because nuclear energy produces huge amount of electricity.  However, if as a nation, we cannot manage the hydroelectric dams, the coal plants, the refineries, the railway system, the Nigerian National Shipping Line established by the Nigerian government in 1959 and Nigeria Airways among others in the country, how do we (Nigerians) manage a nuclear plant?  Nigeria may not be in a position to manage nuclear energy plant because of the high safety risk involved and based on the nation’s history of poor management of projects.  As noted, nuclear plant is more detailed and more complex than coal plants and hydroelectric dams, and requires skilled and disciplined professionals. 

A meltdown at a nuclear plant could be catastrophic, and handling the radioactive waste is another problem.  As noted, radioactive or nuclear waste is a byproduct from nuclear reactors, fuel processing plants, hospitals and research facilities.  There are two broad classifications: high-level or low-level waste.  High-level waste is primarily spent fuel (uranium fuel) removed from reactors after producing electricity while the low-level waste (other than high-level and wastes from uranium) comes from reactor operations and from medical, academic, industrial, and other commercial uses of radioactive materials.  The accidents at Three Mile Island in USA, Fukushima Daiichi in Japan and Chernobyl (a Soviet nuclear plant) should not be forgotten.  Let us learn by example and not through the hard way. 

The risks of Nigeria going nuclear as a source of electricity may outweigh the benefits unless we address the issues of giving priority to godfathers, tribe, religion, political parties and region (zoning) in appointment to key professional positions, and correct our past mistakes in managing projects.

Coal is the major source of electricity in many Western Nations.  The problem with coal is its effect on Global Warming, which give nuclear energy an advantage.  The amount of radioactive wastes produced by nuclear power is very small relative to wastes produced by fossil fuel electricity generation.  Nuclear energy does not emit Greenhouse Gases from plant operations as opposed to coal, oil and natural gas.  I suggest that Nigeria invest in solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable energy sources for the national energy future.  

Alternatively, Nigerian should invest in fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) as a source of energy as long as we control the methane and carbon dioxide that are generated in order to promote Green Technology.  However, the Nation should strive for stable energy supply as it is the key to social and economic developments, especially in manufacturing industries and other related industries, in agricultural systems, healthcare systems and educational systems among others.  Stable energy supply is a motivation for investment and promotes job creation, at the same time directly or indirectly reduces crime rate.  Today, the Nation has no stable energy supply.  

The international community must take a committed role in confronting global warming and climate change by moving the energy system away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy.  We should promote Green Technology at all times because the greenhouse gases are difficult to control, hence, Nigeria should go solar/wind for her energy supply to generate enough power in order to promote National development.  Experts said worldwide temperatures will continue to increase over the next few decades as a result of greenhouse-gas production — with potentially catastrophic consequences.

International community and major oil companies are striving to promote green technology to reduce global warming and climate change.  For example, Chevron is implementing its action plan on climate change to manage and reduce greenhouse gases emission.  The plan calls for reducing emissions and increasing energy efficiency; investing in research, development and improved technology; pursuing business opportunities in promising, innovative energy technologies; and supporting flexible and economically sound policies and mechanisms that protect the environment.

Environmental and energy policies are required to tackle global warming and climate change.  Environmental policy refers to the commitment of an organization to the laws, regulations, and other policy mechanisms concerning environmental issues, which include air and water pollution, solid waste management, biodiversity, ecosystem management, maintenance of biodiversity, the protection of natural resources, wildlife and endangered species.  

Energy policy is the manner in which a given entity (often governmental) has decided to address issues of energy development including energy production, distribution and consumption.  The attributes of energy policy may include legislation (trading, transport, storage, energy use: efficiency standards, emission standards, etc.), international treaties, incentives to investment, guidelines for energy conservation, taxation and other public policy techniques.  

Global warming and climate change are not the December 21, 2012 apocalyptic prophecies: mass extinction threat that was a hoax.  However, global warming and climate change are for real and should be accepted as scientific consensus and not a fallacy.

Finally, as observed, sea levels are rising, icecaps are melting, storms, droughts and wildfires are wreaking havoc around the world.  Earth just keeps getting hotter. Thirteen of the top 14 warmest years in recorded history have all occurred since 2000.  July 2015 was the planet’s warmest month on record, smashing old marks, U.S. weather officials said.  July’s average temperature was 61.86 degrees Fahrenheit, beating the previous global mark set in 1998 and 2010 by about one-seventh of a degree, according to figures released by U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.   

It should be noted that flooding and heat wave including cold front are coming and we should be prepared.  Hopefully, the Nigeria Meteorological Agency is there to provide early warning information about Global warming and climate change.  Thank you.

By Elder (Dr.) Chukwuma Nwaonicha

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