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Greenhouse Gases and Climate Change

Climate change is said to be occurring as a result of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases originate from natural and human-produced sources. The major greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, methane, and nitrogen oxides.

Plants and waterways, particularly rainforests and oceans, are natural sponges to absorb and process atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The oceans absorb the bulk of the world's atmospheric carbon emissions. It is estimated that about one-third of human carbon emissions are absorbed by the oceans. Deforestation and air and water pollution reduce the capacity for the natural absorption and processing functions.

Industrial, residential, and vehicular emissions overload the natural and stable carbon dioxide processing system, which causes the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is suspected of causing climate change.

International actions are required to implement regulations and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the possibility of climate change.

Climate Change Action Plan in the United States

In 1993, the Clinton Administration developed the 'Climate Change Action Plan', which was a voluntary program to 'slow down the build-up of greenhouse gases' (Owen).

Fifty (50) greenhouse gas reduction actions were proposed. The primary actions included:

1. Plant large number fast growing trees to absorb carbon dioxide;
2. Develop efficient electric motors to replace fossil fuel-driven motors;
3. Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electric power plants;
4. Increase household appliance efficiency;
5. Install energy-efficient lighting in business, with federal assistance;
6. Implement stricter methane emissions standards for landfills.
(Source: Owen (1998))

Some environmentalists opposed the Plan because of its voluntary, rather than mandated, guidelines for industries to follow. The Plan initiative was a good starting point to address climate change issues in the United States.

The Climate Change Action Plan was the US response the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil. Former Vice-President Al Gore, of the Clinton Administration, remains one of the primary proponents in the United States for abating climate change.

On Earth Day, 22 APR 2011, President Obama called upon all nations, regardless of wealth to take responsibility for the environment and to address climate change issues. International leadership, actions, and cooperation are necessary to implement pollution abatement strategies and tactics for global protection.

President Obama stated the United States could lead the initiative by investing in clean energy technologies. The United States regulatory agencies will continue to monitor and enforce all regulations and laws.

Every nation has some responsibility to address greenhouse gases and climate change issues.

Impacts of Greenhouse Gases on Climate Change

The Earth is a massive ecosystem. It has a 'feedback' communication system in place to identify breakdowns and when to initiate corrective measures. But, when external forces, such as pollution overload the system, the feedback system fails to operate properly. Many adverse effects are occurring due to the build up of greenhouse gases. The effects are felt the world over. No one is immune to these changes.

The adverse effects around the world include:

1. Drought and water shortages;
2. Poor crop yields and famines;
3. Elevated fire risks;
4. Flooding;
5. Poor sanitation and diseases;
6. Increased heat-related illnesses;
7. Increased disease-vectoring insect populations;
8. Fish and livestock kills;
9. Salinisation and desertification of agricultural production areas;
10. Destroyed coral reefs due to 'bleaching';
11. Permafrost and polar ice cap melting;
12. Rising sea levels;
13. Beach erosion;
14. Species population decline and extinction;
15. Landscape alterations;
16. Aberrant and destructive weather;
17. Economic losses.
(Sources: BBC UK and The Nature Conservancy)

Any of these conditions alone is enough for alarm. However, all of these adverse effects are happening right now. It is time for action, not committee discussions and political posturing.

One Solution To Help Prevent Climate Change

One of the proposed solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately delaying or preventing climate change is through carbon offsets (credits).

Emissions permitting programs allow industries, organisations, and even individuals to exchange and buy carbon credits to reduce emissions. Each 'credit' (offset) allows the permit holder to emit one tonne (metric ton - 1,000 kg, 2,204.62 lbs) of carbon dioxide. Carbon credits can be purchased from international brokers and online retailers.

Carbon credits are not the final answer to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which may possibly avert this weather changes. However, it does give the permit holders something to think about to implement pollution abatement technologies, which may result in long-term cost savings. Emission reductions through carbon offsets or carbon credits and improved technologies may ultimately result in delaying or averting global climate change.

Every nation is responsible for the health of the Earth, but many cannot afford to contribute to the cleanup campaign to prevent climate change. The greatest offending nations must take more responsibility than lesser offenders.

About the Author:

Carbon Central Network aims to be a market leader in the global carbon economy by empowering and rewarding organisations and individuals for reducing their contributions to climate change through conservation projects, such as rainforest conservation.

By Marie Brown


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