It is now accepted that human activity has been responsible for warming of the Earth of around 1°C since the beginning of the industrial revolution. There have always been particularly hot summers, like the one in 2018 and 2019, but studies of climate data over recent decades show an above-average number of consecutive hot years, pointing to a lasting change in the climate.
The increase in average temperatures is caused by the greenhouse effect. This describes the effect by which gases in the atmosphere allow solar radiation to pass through while, at the same time, blocking the radiation of heat from the Earth to outer space. The greenhouse effect also exists as a natural phenomenon: without it, the average temperature on our planet would be -18°C.
However, since the time of the industrial revolution, people have been boosting this natural effect and, through our activities, we are causing a growing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We have increased the concentration of CO2 by 44% over the last 150 years primarily through the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas.
This boosting of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere has caused planetary warming resulting in extreme weather events, such as droughts in 2018 and 2019. The effects are not only seen in crop failures, but also in devastating forest and bush fires such as those in Australia, Germany and the Arctic.
Long periods of drought and heat make plant life much more prone to wildfires. Between June 2019 and the beginning of 2020, the catastrophic bush fires in Australia destroyed an area measuring 126,000 km², equivalent to a country the size of Greece, Bangladesh or Nicaragua.
The consequences of global climate change are not only being felt on land. High concentrations of greenhouse gases are also leading to profound changes in the oceans. Over the past 200 years, the oceans have stored more than a quarter of the world’s C02 emissions. This has saved us from even more extreme warming of the climate, but has also had far-reaching consequences.
Absorbing CO2 reduces the pH value of sea water, leading to an effect known as acidification of the oceans. This acidification is making it more difficult for sea creatures, such as corals or shellfish, to form their calcium carbonate skeletons. The effects of acidification and ocean warming can already be observed today: fish populations are decreasing more than can be explainedby overfishing, shellfish colonies are reducing in size, and marine populations are migrating toward the poles.
These examples powerfully show that global climate change is already having tangible effects. Even so, it’s important to say, it is not too late: but we need to act now.
You too can play your part in creating a future worth living in. The majority of greenhouse gases are released in the process of converting fossil fuels into heat and electricity, with transport being another major contributor to emissions
In both these areas, individuals can take personal action to help our planet – through energy and mobility solutions that make sense: for you and for our climate.
Fronius provides photovoltaic solutions that enable you to generate your own electricity, enabling you to significantly reduce your carbon footprint while saving money. Photovoltaics is not just good for the environment, it is also a worthwhile financial investment – particularly if you use PV electricity both for heating and to charge your electric car.