The major factor disabling the human race from achieving sustainability is climate change. Climate change is the change in weather conditions that adversely affect the areas on earth locally or globally. Climate change is occurring mostly due to human activities that result in the release of greenhouse gases. Amongst these gases, the major contributors to the greenhouse effect are water vapors (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and ozone (O3). And from these gases, humans are directly responsible for the increase in CO2, CH4, and O3. The biggest chunk of these gases is produced due to the combustion (burning) of fossil fuels that include coal, natural gas, oil, etc. These fuels are burnt to produce energy to power large industries, cities, and even our cars. Due to the release of these gases, their particles are stuck in the environment where they provide an unhindered path of solar radiation to reach the earth, but obstruct these radiations from leaving the earth, thereby, raising the temperature of the earth, thus causing global warming. This is just like a greenhouse where solar radiation can enter a greenhouse but are unable to leave it due to the presence of glass surfaces from which the greenhouse is made off. The depiction of a greenhouse and greenhouse effect are shown in Fig. 1(a-b).
Negative impact of greenhouse effect
Due to the greenhouse effect, the earth gets warmed up. Even a small temperature rise can cause a huge global impact on the climate. The more prominent effect of global warming will be the melting of ice caps that can therefore disrupt beings living on earth (animals and plants). And since human beings depend on plants and animals as their major food source, they will be affected the most. Moreover, due to global warming, the severity of floods in coastal regions, droughts in landlocked areas, fires in forests, extreme cold waves, etc.
Although an increase in greenhouse gases providing the greenhouse effect, has severe ramifications on life on earth, it is also one of the key factors that sustained life on earth. Without the greenhouse effect, the temperature on earth would be at -18oC. However, due to the sudden increase in gas emissions, the model of life is quickly becoming unsustainable.
Ways to avoid climate change and global warming
1. The greenhouse gases emitted for power generation can be avoided by utilizing renewable energy from renewable sources of energy. The major player in this area is the sun that provides ample solar energy to earth for power generation, but it is not utilized as much as the hydroelectric power from the dams. Wind energy can be harvested using wind turbines. Other types of renewable energy sources include tidal energy, geothermal energy, nuclear energy, etc. Nuclear energy also has a very huge potential, especially in places where exposure to solar radiation is limited. The fission reaction of nuclear energy is non-renewable since it produces waste products, however, the fusion reaction counts as renewable energy since it does not produce waste products. The reliance on renewable energy sources will also avoid the exhaustion of fossil fuels that are non-renewable.
2. The climate change can also be averted by planting more trees. The green trees act as natural entrapment of CO2 in the air. The trees absorb CO2 in the air and produce oxygen (O2) by a process called photosynthesis. Therefore, planting more trees can help to not only fight CO2 emissions but can also help in increasing oxygen concentration as well they are aesthetically beautiful.
3. We can employ gadgets to capture the harmful greenhouse gas emissions. These gadgets should absorb greenhouse gases and convert them into other forms where they are not harmful to the environment. An example of such gadgets is a catalytic converter that converts harmful gases into less harmful gases, and it usually comes pre-equipped in modern cars. Researchers are actively researching ways to decrease CO2 levels in the air.
4. Governments should make effective policies to reduce and monitor the CO2 emissions from vehicles and industries. Policies should also be made for keeping the environment clean by proper waste management systems and not disposing of the waste in the sea. Countries should keep a check on their air quality index and should immediately take action if it is poor.