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21 March 2022

What are the causes of climate change?

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In this article, we will look at the causes of the current climate change, which has raised the planet’s average temperature by 0.76 ºC over the last hundred years.

While at first sight this might seem like a small change, if we look at critical areas of the planet in terms of the impact of climate change, such as the Arctic, the increase in temperature shoots up to 5 ºC.

In the previous article, we talked about the consequences of climate change, but in this one we will focus on its causes. The main reason relates to global warming, which in turn is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases produced, for the most part, by actions carried out by human beings. This leads to accelerated warming of the planet when this should not naturally happen.

To understand these causes, we need to first understand that this warming occurs when the heat emitted from the Earth is trapped in the upper layers of the atmosphere. The gases that cause these high temperatures block the heat and do not allow it to leak out or disperse and so it keeps raising the temperature of the planet. The problem arises because the life which has evolved naturally on the earth to live within specific temperature ranges is negatively impacted when these temperatures change, and this can lead to the disappearance of living beings such as plants or animals.

This whole process originates from certain actions caused by human activity, which in turn cause climate change and its effects:

Causes of climate change

The main factors that cause climate change can be divided into several groups:

  • Energy generation from fossil fuels
  • Power supply
  • Industrial activities
  • Management of natural resources
  • Transport and mobility

Generating energy by burning fossil fuels

One of the main issues that causes global warming and its effects is the use and combustion of fossil fuels to create electricity or heat. Obvious examples of this, which are part of our everyday lives, are coal, oil and natural gas. Together, these fossil fuels account for the majority of electricity generation, rather than renewable energy sources, which only supply 25%.

This problem is most prevalent in cities and industrialised areas. According to the United Nations, cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions, yet they account for less than 2% of the Earth’s surface. One of the key factors in this issue is that something that is so physically small does so much damage to the planet.

Power supply

The lighting that we use every day in our homes is changing. This is probably one of the areas about which there is more social awareness. In private homes today, it is unusual to find light bulbs that are not energy efficient. But this is not just a problem for homes. According to the United Nations, the energy supply sector is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

We can see that this has a simple explanation. If we look around, we can see a lot of devices that are connected to an electrical current that is generated from non-renewable energy.

Industrial activities

Mass production in factories has an extra cost that we often fail to take into account. This is because easy access to products - the simple ability to go to any shopping centre and find thousands and thousands of products - has a negative impact that we often do not understand.

As SDG 12 underlines, ‘worldwide consumption and production rest on the use of the natural environment and resources in a way that continues to have destructive impacts on the planet’. This means that the higher the level of production, the more natural resources will be used, and the greater the greenhouse effect.

Management of natural resources

This problem, which happens at both surface level and sea level, leads to an increase in global warming. This group of causes includes the indiscriminate felling of forests and the destruction of marine ecosystems.

One of the key factors in the greenhouse effect is deforestation. Forests absorb carbon dioxide, so when they are destroyed, this eradicates nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere and release oxygen. In the underwater world, this occurs when the ocean reaches its limit for CO2 absorption and the marine ecosystem is destroyed, causing the disappearance of fauna and flora.

Transport and mobility

On this last point, our daily life in the real world has begun the process of change toward more sustainable mobility which does less damage to the environment. Our daily means of mobility are mostly powered by the burning of fossil fuels. Transport is one of the main factors responsible for the emission of greenhouse gases and the increase in global temperatures.

This situation will be a point for exploration at the next specialist international congress, Global Mobility Call, which will address issues such as sustainable mobility for goods and people, holistic approaches to ecosystems of interconnected industrial sectors and how to contribute to a cleaner, safer, more inclusive society.