Climate Change


September 23, 2012

Earth’s climate and ecosystems are continuously changing. The orbit around the sun, the Earth’s axis, the moon's influence on tide (tidel energy/moon energy), the seasonal changes, the distance between Earth and the Sun, and the natural greenhouse effect all influence the climate and (eco) systems of our planet and makes our planet livable. The first four aspects is proved to influence our climate in a natural way. The last one, the greenhouse effect is currently however also affected by us, human beings. The natural greenhouse effect works as shown in the picture below: the sun creates helium out of hydrogen. The energy from this fusion comes within 8 minutes towards Earth and these light waves changes within the atmosphere. The ozonlayer absorbs much of this ultraviolet radiation and other parts reverberates back into the universe before it reaches earth’s surface. As such, only half of the sunlight actually reaches the earth’s surface. Also on the surface, sunlight is reverberated back as light into the universe. This is called the albedo effect and mostly happens on white ice and snow floes. The reverberation of the sunlight on surfaces is what creates light. The other light parts are absorbed as heat by the earth’s surface. The heated surface reverberates infrared radiation back into the universe. The warmer the surface, the more infrared radiation is reverberated. A part of this infrared heat radiation is held together in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. Without greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, like CO2, methane, and water vapour, almost all sunlight and heat would be reverberated back into the universe and Earth would have been 33 degrees colder than currently. It would then be -18 degrees Celsius.



Source: Environment – Clean Generations[1]

CO2 levels have not been naturally stable throughout the existence of Earth. As such, the climate has not been stable. This relation, climate and CO2, has always been identical. Orbital forcing has been a minor effect on Earth’s climate, compared to CO2 levels. Without CO2, earth would have been unlivable, and with too much CO2, it would be unbearably hot. But what is enough? Naturally, the CO2 levels have not been below 180 parts per million (ppm) and not higher than 300 ppm. However, humans have a profound impact on the levels of CO2. Already in 1910, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere surpassed the 300 ppm with 303 ppm. The current CO2 concentration lies around 379 ppm, surpassing the safe levels according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of 350 ppm. Despite the discussed credibility of the IPCC, it remains the most influential panel on climate change although it does not execute own research, but bases its statements on research done by climate scientists all over the world. In conclusion, CO2 concentrations are higher than ever than the natural levels and with it, our climate is changing.

If greenhouse gas levels remain to increase, and with it global temperature, we are then at dawn of a society and ecosystem collapse. For instance, the first islands and coastal areas have been declared unlivable and we can already speak of Climate Refugees. The increasing temperatures effects the Arctic and North pole negatively: the ice is melting. And with the melting ice, the albedo effect is decreasing, increasing the greenhouse gas effect. Furthermore, due to climate change, the oceans acidify, effecting the natural habitats of sea life and fishing negatively. Prolonging drier weather and floods effects the agricultural sector heavily.

Moreover, according to the Stern report, it will cost us 1% till 2% of the Global GDP to act upon climate change accurately by mitigation and adaptation. However, the costs of inaction are estimated between 5% to 20% of the Global GDP. As such, it is even economically viable to act upon combating climate change. Thus, investing in renewable energy sources and economies than carbon intensive ones such as oil and coal would be economically more interesting. As such, another plea for a transition towards sustainable societies, next to the oil crisis, is as such given[2].


[2] Cox, R. (2011). Revolutie met recht’.



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