guest column Peter Makwanya
The science of climate change is the most fundamental in predicting the state of the environment in a number of years to come as well as sufficiently empowering the audience with life-saving information.
It is the climate science community of practice, which came up with critical inventions such as the renewable energy of clean energy fame, which transformed energy saving and its sustenance around the world.
But the science of climate change is not without its controversies though, some of which have generated debates among scientific and non-scientific communities too; all these resulting from interpretations.
The science of climate change walks us through the history of global warming, the future projections and the role of technology and satellites in forecasting future predictions, including the role of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in interpreting weather phenomena.
Although climate science is experimental and transformative.
It is modelled around uncertainties due to complex issues surrounding climate science.
The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate change is a discourse community, comprising of scientific experts, under the United Nations and is dedicated to provide the world with objective, scientific developments of climate change, together with its natural, political and economic impacts, risks and possible interventions.
Scientists began measuring temperatures centuries’ back, ranging from 1660, 1774 and the early readings represent irreplaceable traces of a climate long gone.
The World Meteorological Organisation launched in the 1950s focusing on global warming began resurfacing and several scientific discourse communities began carefully monitoring global air temperatures across the world. The unearthed data sources now act as evidence for public and scientific opinion on climate change.
The majority of climate scientists around the world believed that the earth would continue to warm and people could only adapt. In all these circumstances, the study of the past climate is significant, in order to establish how climate and greenhouse gases interacted during previous warm situations.
The sun and the earth’s tilt, together with the orbit cycles produced dramatic swings in climate cover, for thousands of years. By studying how the natural climate shifted, scientists also found clues about how the earth might respond to changes that are human-induced. These are the changes that have destroyed the environment, poisoned, polluted and deformed the earth. Volcanic eruptions release large amounts of ash, soot and other gases, some which are greenhouse in nature, into the atmosphere.
Appropriate proportions of carbon dioxide in the air, can make the earth stay warm enough to sustain life on the planet, but too much of carbon dioxide can contribute to global warming.
Plants and trees take in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and release it when they die. Billion megatons of carbon are believed to be trapped in the oceans and sea beds in the form of methane. But as methane is released, under pressure, it pours into the atmosphere, thereby contributing to global warming.
Computer modelling can also inform us about climate change projections in the distant future and also these computer models should not be taken as weather forecasts, because according to the current models, scientists say, greenhouse gases will have roughly doubled in the atmosphere by the mid-to late 21st century.
As the signs of climate change continue to unfold, both in the public and scientific domains, the signs are attributed directly or indirectly to the fingerprints of humanity and its actions, attitudes and behavioural tendencies ought to change. The signs of climate change significantly complement the science of climate science predictions, and they are well-pronounced, evident and glaring, hence climate action is required.
The signs of climate change, in as much as they are manifested in environmental changes, they also transcend, sometimes into ugly political upheavals.
Fossil fuels, for example, do more than just juicing our vehicles and homes, but above all and everything else, they fuel the climate change crises as well.
That is clouds of burning smoke, in the vast oilfields of the Middle East, coal-powered thermal stations around the world, heavy industries in the developed countries and burning of bushes elsewhere.
The signs of climate change provide human beings with insights and remedies of reducing their footprints at home, at work, in the fields, farms, mining and manufacturing as well as during travelling.
The signs of climate change have also resulted in the emergence of climate induced disasters, killing thousands of people, destroying infrastructure, killing livestocks and destroying crops every year.
Too much rainfall usually results in floods, while too little rainfall always results into droughts, hunger and famine, especially on the African continent, where recovery programmes are still poor and inadequate.
All the signs highlighted above, are all there for everyone to see.
Also, livestock, people and wildlife become affected due to water scarcities and stresses.
The signs of climate change have also been witnessed and verified under the Kyoto Protocol, where industrialised countries pledged to cut their yearly emissions by 5,2%, followed by the Paris Conference (COP21) agreement dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, mitigation and adaptation and finance, signed in 2016, where industrialised countries pledged to cut emissions by below 2°C and limiting the temperatures even further to 1,5°C.
However, these were all pledges and nothing more tangible as no strict monitoring safety nets have been instituted.
Otherwise, major polluting nations could pollute anyhow and as much as possible, unless when they don’t feel like polluting anymore. The signs of climate change also inform us that the USA (15%) has been overtaken by China (28%) as the major polluting nation in the world. Other major polluting nations are India (6%), Russia (5%), Japan (4%), Germany (2%), Saudi Arabia (2%), Canada (2%) and our own South Africa (1%), among others. The other signs of climate change are, despite the world promising to phase out fossil fuel power and invest in renewable energy and this is happening very fast, fossil fuels are still very much in the energy matrix.
What is, however, encouraging is that many progressive nations around the world have embraced solar energy and some, notably Morocco, is even exporting solar power to Europe. Solar products have also invaded developed and developing countries markets, although the costs are still high.
There are also signs that methane emissions are increasing in the rice producing countries, from livestock belches around the world, from the increased number of vehicles, major industries and gas explorations.
As such, Africa has its own share of greenhouse gas emissions through its massive deforestations, clearing of bushes and land uses, increased mining
activities, regulated and unregulated, commercial logging, alluvial gold panning, burning forests, among others.
There are also signs that heat-waves are increasing every year, killing people in the process and the same can be attributed to harsh and cold weather too.
In a number of countries, people are dying because of pollution related ailments, including water pollution, air, land, fumes and gases from industries and vehicles.
Other deaths are related to long term effects from cotton chemicals. All in all, these are some of the telling markers of the science and signs of climate change.