Global warming



Climate change plans in Denmark


Photograph: iStock

Text: Mariano Anthony Davies


Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are dying and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It has become clear that humanity has caused most of the global warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. These gases are called greenhouse gases and their levels are higher now than at any time in the last 800 thousand years according to scientists.


Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, increasing sea levels and a range of other impacts. These changes are emerging as we continue to add heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, changing the rhythms of climate on which all living things have come to rely.


Industrial emission challenges Though many living things emit carbon dioxide when they breathe, the gas is widely considered to be a pollutant when associated with cars, planes, power plants and other human activities that involve the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline and natural gas. That is because carbon dioxide is the most common of the greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. We have pumped enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the past 150 years to raise its levels higher than they have been for hundreds of thousands of years.


Greenhouse gases also include methane sources such as landfills, the natural gas industry, gas emitted by livestock and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were used in refrigerants and aerosol propellants until they were banned in the late 1980s because of their deteriorating effect on Earth's ozone layer.


"By 2050, many scientists are predicting that sea levels will rise between 1 and 2.3 feet as glaciers melt."

The list of pollutants associated with climate change includes sulphur dioxide - a component of smog. Sulphur dioxide and closely related chemicals are known primarily as a cause of acid rain. They also reflect light when released in the atmosphere, which keeps sunlight out and creates a cooling effect. For example, Volcanic eruptions can spew massive amounts of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, sometimes causing cooling that lasts for years. In fact, volcanoes used to be the primary source of atmospheric sulphur dioxide. However, human beings are the main source today.


With concentrations of greenhouse gases rising, Earth's remaining ice masses such as Greenland and Antarctica are starting to melt alarmingly fast. That extra water could raise sea levels significantly and quickly. By 2050, many scientists are predicting that sea levels will rise between 1 and 2.3 feet as glaciers melt.


Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement's central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the Agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. The Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties regularly report on their emissions and on their implementation efforts.


Denmark ratifies Paris Agreement

Denmark has committed to make an ambitious, global response to climate change by shifting away from fossil fuels and cutting greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius. With a national target to reduce greenhouse gases by twenty percent in 2020, as well as the target to become one hundred per cent independent of fossil fuels by 2050, Denmark is ready to take serious action in implementing this historic decision.


Denmark is one of the few countries who have managed to cut carbon emissions from energy combustion below 1990 levels, and the Danish Government is determined to continue the downward trend in CO2 emissions.


The World Energy Forum has just placed Denmark at the top of the list of global progression on three dimensions of the energy "trilemma": energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability. Denmark acknowledges this frontrunner position with a great sense of responsibility to continue climate efforts.


Across the "Atlantic pond", President Donald Trump doubts that greenhouse gas emissions risk causing dangerous levels of global warming and plans to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement on 4 November 2020.