[Model Answer QP2022 GS3] Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997.

Global warming is a gradual, long-term increase in the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect where gases from various human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, trap heat from terrestrial radiation.
The global average surface temperature rose 0.6 to 0.9 degrees Celsius between 1906 and 2005, and the rate of temperature increase has nearly doubled in the last 50 years
The greenhouse effect is when the Sun’s rays penetrate the atmosphere, but when that heat is reflected off (terrestrial radiation)the surface cannot escape back into space. Gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels prevent the heat from leaving the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, water vapour, methane, and nitrous oxide. The excess heat in the atmosphere has caused the average global temperature to rise overtime, otherwise known as global warming.

Effects of Global Warming

A scientific report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlines the serious effects of global warming and global climate change as follows:
  • Higher Temperatures: The average temperature on the Earth has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1900, and many scientists predict that this trend will continue due to global warming.
  • Rising Sea Level: Sea levels along the United States coastline are projected to rise between 10 and 12 inches by 2050, which could destroy islands and coastal cities.
  • Extreme Weather Events: Global warming has been linked to an increase in extreme weather events, such as floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, which can cause deaths, famine, and disease.
  • Plant and Animal Extinction: Rising global temperatures can cause parts of the planet to become uninhabitable for many native plant and animal species.
  • Ocean Acidification: Because of escalating carbon dioxide emissions, oceans are becoming more acidic and harmful to marine life.
  • Dirtier Air: Hotter temperatures lead to more smog, which can trigger respiratory problems and aggravate existing health conditions.
  • Disappearing Polar Ice (Cryosphere): When the water frozen in polar sea ice melts into the oceans, it can have a huge impact on rising sea levels and speed up the heating of Earth’s atmosphere.

Control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases in the light of Kyoto Protocol

  • The Kyoto Protocol was an international treaty that commits state policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005.
  • The Kyoto Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and is the only global treaty with binding limits on greenhouse gases emissions.
  • The Kyoto protocol targets emission of six gases which includes Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (NO2), Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), group of hydrocarbons (HCFs), and groups of perfluorocarbons (PFCs).
  • The clean development mechanism allows the country with emission-reduction commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to implement projects in developing countries.
  • Carbon credit is a tradable certificate which is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide. It attempts to limit the growth of concentration of greenhouse gases. Carbon credits can be acquired through afforestation, carbon sequestration, methane capture, etc.
  • Joint implementation allows countries with an emission reduction commitment under Kyoto Protocol to earn emission reduction units from emission reduction projects.
  • Emission trading allows countries to sell unused emission units to other countries which have exceeded their targets.
In short, the Kyoto Protocol operationalizes the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by committing industrialised countries and economies in transition to limit and reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in accordance with agreed individual targets. The Convention itself only asks those countries to adopt policies and measures on mitigation and to report periodically.

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