"The greatest service you can give to the world is to take responsibility for yourself, your relationships and your environment.” Prof. Dr. Svami Purna
The Climate and Weather
When we talk about the climate, we usually mean the general conditions of the temperature: hot or cold, warm or cool, dry or humid, windy or calm. Scientists studying the prevailing typical weather conditions or patterns have found that our planet has experienced weather cycles and patterns over the centuries that have led to huge changes in habitation and impact how future generations may live. While we feel that we may not be able to make a big difference individually, we can affect the climate through our collective activities and even set individual examples for others to be encouraged by and perhaps follow. Climate campaigners, crusaders, champions and heroes are very much needed to comprehend the issues fully and to maintain a balanced approach to enable sound solutions and action in the face of any challenges in my humble opinion. Recently we have seen young people in particular collectively campaigning for prioritizing the climate emergency as vital to our future wellbeing and life on our beautiful planet.
The first step is to understand, respect and honor the forces that are part of our climate. In this publication, I hope not only to raise awareness of the importance of the climate but also to increase reverence for the natural world so that we can protect our environment and sustain the best conditions for our children and our children’s children. I have been passionate about energy and environmental issues during my career as an international environmental lawyer. I have considered this a vital interdisciplinary matter that should be part of our education as citizens of this Planet. Here, therefore, I am setting out a brief overview (as I understand and recall it) of the vast history and science of the climate below based upon published information I have reviewed over many years. This is to provide the setting for the verses that follow in this selection. A key message is to treat Mother Earth and the planetary forces with humility and love.
Climate study became part of military planning in the 1940s, during the Second World War and later at the outset of the Cold War, in order to understand the trajectory of fallout from a nuclear attack. Developments in long range weather forecasting as well as the launch of space programs in the US and the Soviet Union provided further impetus and funding for climate science. The fear of sudden climate change began as a scare about global cooling during the 1960s moving to global warming in the 1980s. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and Al Gore, as both a US Senator and later as Vice President in the 1990s, both pushed the climate change agenda at home and internationally. While a minor specialization for most of the last century, since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the ratification of the Kyoto Treaty, climate study underpins every discipline. Collective action has indeed become recognized as being paramount for our wellbeing. Indeed, many world leaders have come together in this regard: for instance President Obama has again very recently highlighted the significance of commitment to appropriate climate action globally. It is very interesting that for all the procrastination and the extremely delayed and hard fought negotiations in achieving some agreement - over time - Nature has now enjoyed a wonderful break and resurgence during the pause in polluting activities forced by the pandemic that has had immediate effect. Skies are blue and clear again in many places - the birds are singing and flora and fauna flourishing. In view of this evidence we must urgently overhaul the way of life globally in many respects.
I have often pointed out in my International environmental professional career that the responsible players in this context are Government, Industry and the Public. Unfortunately, the engagement of scientists with politics and policy has sometimes led to a vicious circle which has generated more fear. For business climate change is a huge opportunity for profits in say, emissions trading, and reputational issues including public relations. The framework for action is generally driven by governments. This is why we individual inhabitants of the Earth should try to understand the position as far as possible and act responsibly as time evolves.
On the research front computer modeling is a tool for the understanding of climate mechanisms. However they are not proof: they are just projections of a hot future, based on an uncertain science. The more responsible approach is to live in a balanced and responsible manner, allowing the Earth to breathe in its natural breathing places and to respect the environment.
Greenhouse Gases and the Temperature
Instrumental measurements of Earth temperatures began only in the 1860s giving us nearly 150 years of information of varying quality. Most of this information is concentrated in the industrialized countries of the northern hemisphere, partly due to historical reasons of economic development, but mostly because some 80% of the southern hemisphere is ocean. The Earth’s average temperature is 15 degrees Celsius due in part the greenhouse effect. Certain gases, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, chlorofluorocarbons and ozone - trap a proportion of the Sun’s heat within the atmosphere. These gases have become known as greenhouse gases. The relative proportion of trapped heat to that which is transported by air currents away from the Earth has been the subject of dispute for some time.
Scientists have debated changes in the climate and the weather for many years. Different opinions are supported by various evidence and case studies. For instance, some scientists believe that if humans do not curb “greenhouse gas” emissions, Earth temperatures will rise uncontrollably, melt ice sheets and cause huge sea level rises, as well as increase the frequency and strength of extreme events such as hurricanes. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), created in 1988 by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), projects that global temperatures will rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius in the next century and concludes that human activity is responsible for warming the earth.
Apparently there is still no overall complete agreement about the principal driving force for climate: whether it is the Sun, the Moon, plate tectonics, the carbon cycle, or indeed humanity. Indeed there is no certain prognosis about the likely upcoming climate and the impact on life on Earth although opinion is becoming less diverse. There is agreement on the following historic facts:
1. That global mean temperatures have risen abut 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past century.
2. That concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by about 30% since the industrial revelation.
Whereas there is no complete consensus about the role of increased levels in terms of temperature and carbon dioxide or its effect on the future climate, yet proactive steps are being taken through reports, meetings and debates about steps governments should implement in a responsible way. This may be seen as implementing the precautionary principle so that Earth’s peoples collectively become responsible to mitigate any risks to our future climate.
The climate we experience is the result of interactions among the oceans, the atmosphere, land and ice masses and the biosphere as the Earth spins on its own axis, is orbited by the Moon, and itself orbits the Sun. Some believe that the climate one day will shift into a catastrophic state. Others say that even if carbon dioxide concentrations were to triple, there would be little effect.
The Carbon Cycle
The situation is complicated by the blurring between what has happened as a result of human activity and what may be the result of a natural climate cycle. It has become clear that deforestation and subsequent soil erosion has limited the absorption of carbon dioxide. There is an overall recognized effect known as the carbon cycle by which carbon flows between the atmosphere, soil and vegetation, and to a lesser extent the oceans, then the Earth’s crust, to be later found in volcanism or weathering back into the atmosphere. Volcanoes are known, in turn, to affect the climate patters. Their impact – and that of Plate Tectonics – has also been considered for some time, along with interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans.
The Sun – and solar impact - is important to grasp from the outset. In Space the Earth is surrounded by the magnetosphere, which deflects high energy particles emitted by the Sun known as the solar wind, and which otherwise would burn the planet. About half of the solar energy, which impacts the Earth, is converted into heat on the Earth’s surface. Sunspot activity, an upwelling of visible dark spots on the surface of the Sun, has some influence on climate. Changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, as well as the Earth’s movement on its own axis have been explored as determinants of climate.. Scientists also study the Moon to see changes in the fraction of sunlight that is reflected back into space.
Clouds play an enormous part in the climate but are not well understood. They reflect the sun’s radiation but there is also a coupling between surface temperatures and clouds. When the temperature changes the clouds change, and that in turn may amplify or diminish the temperature. This is known as “cloud feedback”. No climate models have managed to simulate this effect.
Many have tried to forecast the climate and weather trends, setting out complicated and contradictory results. The resulting data sets are used in computational modeling to make correlations between say, global temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations, or sunspot activity with pressure anomalies, and most recently, sea surface temperatures and hurricane strengths. The trend is in favor of some agreement over rising temperatures on the Earth. However, academic literature has often warned that such correlations are not causality and of course many inexplicable and unexpected events occur that people cannot find answers to.
Climate extremes, such as hurricanes, are a normal part of climate processes, just as earthquakes are a normal part of Earth processes. They are not actually dangerous in themselves. They are dangerous because humans choose to live in their path. The strength of Hurricane Katrina was equivalent to about 12 Hiroshima bombs. The strength of the earthquake which caused the Asian tsunami was equivalent to 700 million Hiroshima bombs. These are forces human beings cannot combat, thus we need to understand and live with the different forces of nature and co-exist in a responsible, caring and positive way.
All of this rather complicated background has led to my creating a second in the adventure of Eenie Meenie Beenie Bo entitles Climate Companions (Heroes and Friends) in the hope to inspire as many as are ready to be a part of this ongoing story and live and learn and serve the environment and climate in a harmonious, joyful and peaceful manner.
Welcome to the Learning Corner!
Eenie introduces us to some of his insect and animal friends, to different places, to the ways of the weather and to the wonderful world. Eenie also shows us how to feel happy and healthy! READ MORE >
Dr Linda Spedding creates this charming world of Eenie, the sparkly snail who enjoys wonderful adventures, sights and sounds - despite his very small stature- in a world where right values are illustrated and rhymed as memorable guides for young children.