1. What is global warming?
Global warming, according to climate.nasa.gov, refers to the long-term warming of the planet since the early 20th century, and most notably since the late 1970s, due to the increase in fossil fuel emissions since the Industrial Revolution. Worldwide since 1880, the average surface temperature has gone up by about 1 °C (about 2 °F), relative to the mid-20th-century baseline (of 1951-1980). This is on top of about an additional 0.15 °C of warming from between 1750 and 1880.
2. Global temperature rising
According to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), an internationally-based group with members around the globe that lobby to protect to protect the environment, says, “Over the past 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. And experts see the trend is accelerating: All but one of the 16 hottest years in NASA’s 134-year record have occurred since 2000.”
The NRDC said there are scientific papers that prove global warming is real, despite what some say.
Director of the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) in T&T, Dr Ahmad Khan, says, “Climate change is real, it is real, we see it everyday with increases in temperature, more severe weather events, the wave action being more severe which is the storm surges and we see it being more severe in the coral reefs in Tobago, where you have the coral reefs bleaching because of the warming of the sea.”
3. What causes global warming?
The NRDC says global warming occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2), air pollutants and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface.
“Normally, this radiation would escape into space—but these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. That's what's known as the greenhouse effect,” NRDC explains.
In the US, the burning of fossil fuels to make electricity is the largest source of heat-trapping pollution and coal-burning power plants are the biggest polluters. The US’ second largest source of carbon pollution is the transportation sector, which accounts for 1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year.
IMA director, Dr Ahmad Khan said T&T was the highest net producer of CO2 emissions in the Caribbean.
“T&T, because of our industrial base, is the highest net producer of carbon dioxide in the Caribbean on a per capita basis,” Khan says. But climate change is not unique to T&T, it is a global phenomenon, so for the average T&T citizen, "one of the things that we have to do is reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere".
4. The effects of global warming
The effects of global warming on the earth’s climate have been devastating over the past few years. These include more frequent droughts, longer and hotter heat waves, heavier rainfall and more powerful hurricanes.
The NRDC said the temperature of the earth’s ocean is also rising, which in turn leads to stronger storms.
IMA director, Dr Ahmad Khan said rising sea levels is responsible for coastal erosion in T&T.
“There is another aspect to climate change which is sea levels rising when you have sea level rising, coupled with stronger and more frequent storm surges—you will get a greater occurrence of coastal erosion—if you have a coastline that is steep, coastal erosion in those areas will result in landslides, like in Cedros—because the sea undermined the base of the hill and it fell. For large expanses of beaches like we have in the East coast, the storm surge and the sea level rise will allow the sea water to run further inland because the waves would break and the sea would traverse a larger range and come into the Nariva Swamp.”
5. What can you do to reduce your carbon dioxide emissions?
While global warming and its effects can be daunting, there are some steps that citizens can take as an individual to lower their CO2 emissions and help curb global warming.
IMA director, Dr Ahmad Khan says there are small changes that people can make at home to reduce their carbon footprint: •Stop the burning of refuse, the burning of vegetation like when you cut your grass and light a fire to get rid of it—don’t do those things, that creates carbon dioxide.
•Start cutting back on the use of electricity and air condition units to reduce our local power demand and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced in generating electricity.
•Since gas vehicles produce the most amount of carbon emissions, keeping your vehicle well tuned and carpooling will also greatly reduce T&T's CO2 emissions.
NEXT WEEK: Destruction of Manzanilla coastline