Historically, only natural factors were believed to have affected the earth’s climate. However, during the 18th Century, scientists began to attribute human activities to changes in climatic patterns (U.S Environmental Protection Agency, 2010). Subsequently, much scientific evidence has linked the activities of human beings to the concentration of greenhouse gases being significantly increased in the atmosphere, thus contributing to climate change. Despite the evidence presented, many skeptics still believe that climate change is a naturally occurring heating and cooling cycle of the earth and that the extent to which human activities have contributed to it are being exaggerated (Hudson, 2009). However, based on the scientific evidence presented and the effects that climate change has already had and is predicted to have on planet earth, my position is that climate change is a real and eminent danger which could seriously affect our welfare on planet earth. In its Declaration on Climate Change 2009, The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) captured the essence of my viewpoint in proclaiming that “climate change poses the most serious threat to our survival and viability and that it undermines our efforts to achieve sustainable developmental goals and threatens our very existence”. The world has already started to experience the effects of climate change in various ways which affects all aspects of livelihood. Therefore, if serious efforts are not made to reverse the effects of climate change, planet earth is in serious trouble.
Climate change has already affected and continues to threaten the survival of terrestrial beings. In order to ensure survival here on planet earth, human beings as well as animals have basic requirements, water and food being of paramount importance. According to AOSIS (2009) water resources will be seriously compromised and food production will be affected as a result of increased inundations, erosion and salt water intrusion, which are all directly linked to climate change. Costello et al. (2009) purport in their article entitled “Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change,” that as a result of the rising temperatures associated with climate change in tropical and subtropical areas, half of the world’s population could face severe food shortages. For example, as a result of ocean acidification and increased temperatures, many coral reefs will be killed off. This could cause serious food shortages since coral reefs serve as nurseries for many fish, which approximately one billion people depend on as a source of protein (Black, 2009). Another way in which climate change affects the survival of human beings is that it has also been linked to an increase in various health problems. Costello et al. (2009) also explicitly stated that “climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century”. They also went on to say that “the effects of climate change on health will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increases risk”. For example, the spread and transmission rates of malaria by mosquitoes are accelerated by increased temperatures. The hotter the climate the faster mosquitoes multiply (Costello et al., 2009). Thus, it can be seen that increases in food and water shortages as well as negative health effects are a direct consequence of climate change. Therefore, if human beings are unable to have adequate amounts of food, safe drinking water and maintain good health, then survival will become very difficult.
Climate change also affects the ability of countries to achieve sustainable growth and development. The United Nations (2004) in its Brundtland Commission Report defines sustainable development as ‘the ability of the present generations to meet their current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy theirs.’ In light of the fact that climate is drastically affecting the ability of human beings to continue to adequately sustain themselves without further destroying the planet, sustainability will be more difficult to achieve. Black (2009) addresses climate change as it relates to development in his BBC News article entitled Bank Urges Climate ‘Action Now’ citing the point put forth by the World Development Report 2010 that “development will get harder, not easier, with climate change”. Development is one of the main ways in which governments are able to provide jobs and generate revenues. The resources found on planet earth are responsible for providing jobs and government revenue which all contribute to development. Climate change poses a serious threat to natural resources on sea and land with the intensification of natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. According to AOSIS (2009) tropical storms have become more frequent and stronger. As a result of this, tremendous damage has been done to infrastructures such as international airports, homes hotels and road networks, which in turn puts a serious strain on governments’ financial resources and in turn hinders sustainable growth and development. For example, in 2004 hurricane Ivan wreaked havoc on Grenada and has left the country still struggling to recover. As a result of the destruction of most of the nutmeg crops the government was forced to turn to tourism as the country’s main income earner which is proving to be very difficult since balancing conservation of already strained natural resources with economic development is a very difficult task (Kelly, 2008). Also, the continued effects of climate change such as water shortages which the island is currently experiencing directly affect sustainable growth and development efforts since water is not only required for human consumption but for construction and other purposes.
The fact that climate change affects the ability of human beings to survive as well as their ability to preserve the planet for use by future generations extends to a more serious matter which is that it could potentially threaten our very existence. Already, rise in sea levels have threatened the disappearance of entire populations. This is clearly exemplified in Bangladesh where, according to Shukman (2009) salty water could reach so far inland that the cultivation of staples which are essential for human survival could become very difficult. Coupled with this the occurrence of cyclones has left thousands homeless, killed many more and has caused widespread destruction and flooding. The very existence of 20 million people is being threatened as a result of climate change. Moreover, entire islands have already disappeared in Maldives, Kiribati and other Pacific Islands (AOSIS, 2009). In November 2006, at the United Nations negations on climate change held in Nairobi the vice president of Kenya Moody Awori captured the essence of the seriousness of the climate change matter when he commenced the talks by stating that “climate change is rapidly emerging as one of the most serious threats humanity will ever face.” The evidence has shown and continues to show that he is absolutely right.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the effects of climate change are a global crisis extending to the entire sphere of planet earth affecting the ability of human beings to survive, be sustainable and inevitably even exist. A plethora of events have taken place and continue to occur which underscores the urgency of the effects of climate change. The extreme weather patterns which are currently being experienced as compared to previous events can be emphasized using numerous examples from all over the world. What is most astonishing about this matter is that human beings contribute to its cause. It is quite ironic, that in our quest to improve and revolutionize the quality of our lives here on earth that we are the underlying cause of the destruction of the very earth that is our source of survival. Therefore, it is definitely apparent that urgent steps need to be employed in order to combat the problems caused by climate change. Human beings need to make an extra effort to correct the error of our ways since our ability to survive and continue to exist here on earth critically depends on it.
Alliance of Small island States (AOSIS). (2009). Declaration on climate change 2009. New York.
Black ,R. (2009). Bank urges climate ‘action now’. BBC News. Retrieved from https://angel.sgu.edu/Angel/section/default.asp?id=ASSSCI405%2D1%2D1%2D2010
Black, R. 2009. Climate targets will kill coral. BBC News. Retrieved from https://angel.sgu.edu/Angel/section/default.asp?id=ASSSCI405%2D1%2D1%2D2010&goto
Costello, A., Abbas M., Allen A. et al. (2009). Managing the health effects of climate change. Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission.
Hudson, P. 2009. What happened to global warming? BBC News. Retrieved from https://angel.sgu.edu/Angel/section/content/default.asp?WCI=pgDisplay&WCU=CRSCNT&ENTRY_ID=4D18682A8C7842578219AA7690673288
Kelly, A. (2008). Will tourism wreck Grenada’s environment while rescuing its economy?gardian.co.uk. Retrieved from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/mar/31/grenada
Shukman, D. (2009). Seas ‘threaten 20m in Bangladesh’. BBC News. Retrieved from https://angel.sgu.edu/Angel/section/default.asp?id=ASSSCI405%2D1%2D1%2D2010
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). 2004. Sustainable Development -Concept and Action. Retrieved from http://www.unece.org/oes/nutshell/2004-2005/focus_sustainable_development.htm
U.S Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). Climate change basic information. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/basicinfo.html