From December 7, 2009, environment ministers and officials will meet in Copenhagen for the United Nations climate conference to thrash out a successor to the Kyoto protocol. The conference, held at the modern Bella Center, will run for two weeks.
One hundred-and-ninety-two countries have signed the climate change convention. More than 15,000 officials, advisers, diplomats, protestors and journalists are expected to attend the meet, joined by heads of state.
Greenhouse gases are gases in an atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. In our solar system, the atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Titan also contain gases that cause greenhouse effects. Greenhouse gases greatly affect the temperature of the Earth; without them, Earth's surface would be on average about 33 °C (59 °F) colder than at present.
Human activities since the start of the industrial era around 1750 have increased the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
In addition to the main greenhouse gases listed above, other greenhouse gases include sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons
Scientists who have elaborated on Arrhenius's theory of global warming are concerned that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are causing an unprecedented rise in global temperatures, with potentially harmful consequences for the environment and human health.
It was recognized in the early 20th century that the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere caused the Earth's overall temperature to be higher than it would be without them.
In the industrial era, human activities have added greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests
Since about 1750 human activity has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Measured atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are currently 100 ppmv higher than pre-industrial levels
The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide remained between 260 and 280 parts per million for the 10,000 years between the end of the last glacial maximum and the start of the industrial era.
The main sources of greenhouse gases due to human activity are:
Burning of fossil fuels and deforestation leading to higher carbon dioxide concentrations. Land use change (mainly deforestation in the tropics) account for up to one third of total anthropogenic CO 2 emissions.
Livestock enteric fermentation and manure management, paddy rice farming, land use and wetland changes, pipeline losses, and covered vented landfill emissions leading to higher methane atmospheric concentrations. Many of the newer style fully vented septic systems that enhance and target the fermentation process also are sources of atmospheric methane.
Use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in refrigeration systems, and use of CFCs and halons in fire suppression systems and manufacturing processes.
Agricultural activities, including the use of fertilizers, that lead to higher nitrous oxide (N 2 O) concentrations.
Seven Sources of CO 2 from fossil fuel combustion
The seven sources of CO 2 from fossil fuel combustion are (with percentage contributions for 2000–2004):
Solid fuels (e.g., coal): 35%
Liquid fuels (e.g., gasoline, fuel oil): 36%
Gaseous fuels (e.g., natural gas): 20%
Flaring gas industrially and at wells: <1%
Cement production: 3%
Non-fuel hydrocarbons: < 1%
The "international bunkers" of shipping and air transport not included in national inventories: 4%
Increase in the concentrations of Greenhouse gases
Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and three groups of fluorinated gases (sulfur hexafluoride, HFCs, and PFCs) are the major greenhouse gases and the subject of the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force in 2005.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the concentrations of most of the greenhouse gases have increased. For example, the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about 36% to 380 ppmv, or 100 ppmv over modern pre-industrial levels.
The sharp acceleration in CO 2 emissions since 2000 to more than a 3% increase per year (more than 2 ppm per year) from 1.1% per year during the 1990s is attributable to the lapse of formerly declining trends in carbon intensity of both developing and developed nations. Although over 3/4 of cumulative anthropogenic CO 2 is still attributable to the developed world, China was responsible for most of global growth in emissions during this period.
Atmospheric levels of CO 2 continue to rise, partly a sign of the industrial rise of Asian economies led by China. Over the 2000-2010 interval China is expected to increase its carbon dioxide emissions by 600 Mt, largely because of the rapid construction of old-fashioned power plants in poorer internal provinces
According to a preliminary estimate by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the largest national producer of CO 2 emissions since 2006 has been China with an estimated annual production of about 6200 megatonnes. China is followed by the United States with about 5,800 megatonnes.
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change aimed at combating global warming.
The Protocol was initially adopted on 11 December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan and entered into force on 16 February 2005. As of November 2009, 187 states have signed and ratified the protocol
The most notable non-member of the Protocol is the United States, which was responsible for 36.1 per cent of the 1990 emission levels.
Under the Protocol, 37 industrialized countries commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases (GHG) (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) produced by them, and all member countries give general commitments.
India signed and ratified the Protocol in August, 2002. Since India is exempted from the framework of the treaty, it is expected to gain from the protocol in terms of transfer of technology and related foreign investments. At the G8 meeting in June 2005, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out that the per-capita emission rates of the developing countries are a tiny fraction of those in the developed world. Following the principle of common but differentiated responsibility , India maintains that the major responsibility of curbing emission rests with the developed countries, which have accumulated emissions over a long period of time. However, the U.S. and other Western nations assert that India, along with China, will account for most of the emissions in the coming decades, owing to their rapid industrialization and economic growth.
In our solar system, the atmospheres of Venus, Mars and Titan (a satellite of Saturn) also contain gases that cause greenhouse effects. Greenhouse gases greatly affect the temperature of the Earth; without them, Earth's surface would be on average about 33 degree centigrade (59 degree Fahrenheit) colder than at present.
Asian megadeltas, such as the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta, are at risk because of large populations and high exposure to sea-level rise, storm surge and river flooding. Also, the Himalayan glaciers can melt leading to flooding, rock avalanches, disruption of water sources.
In tropical areas, crop yield is projected to decrease, even with relatively modest rises of 1-2 degrees centigrade in local temperature, increasing the risk of hunger. The changes in health will be most felt by those least able to adapt, such as the poor, the very young and the elderly.
India is doing its bit with the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) which includes 8 missions -- solar, enhanced energy efficiency, sustainable habitat, water, sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem, green India, sustainable agriculture, and strategic knowledge for climate change.
India has also reportedly offered to cut energy intensity of its emissions by 20-25 per cent following similar moves from the US and China. Energy intensity means energy used per unit of income or output. This means that emissions will increase but slowly.
An emission intensity is the average emission rate of a given pollutant from a given source relative to the intensity of a specific activity.
India's intensity of carbon dioxide or CO2 use is among the lowest in the world (and equal to that of Europe in 2007), and China's is among the highest.
India's trend decline in intensity is comparable to the world's average. However, the centre categorically states that in no way do these 'new' targets put pressure on India to commit to any reduction target. The current Indian per capita emission is 1.1 tonne. For the US, this figure is more than 20 tonnes.
India's energy intensity by unit of GDP has reduced from 0.3 kgoe (kilogramme of oil equivalent) per US$ GDP in PPP terms in 1980 to 0.16 kgoe currently. This is already lower than US and China and is comparable to Germany.
Among the trends already evident and which will accelerate if action is not taken, are:
Rise in temperature affecting agriculture and making water more scarce in some areas, more plentiful in others leading to increased risk of flood.
More extreme weather in the form of heatwaves, severe air pollution events and tropical storms, more floods and droughts causing crops failures and imposing immediate and significant costs: Australia is experiencing its worst drought on record, 2005 was the worst hurricane season ever in the US.
A rising of the oceans up to 0.6m or more by 2100 and affecting many of the world's major cities and ports
Mass animal and plant extinctions, and
An increase in many human, plant and animal diseases.
Effective ways of generating, distributing and using energy must be developed and applied at scale. The world must assess the relative merits and importance of different transportable and non-transportable energy sources: cleaner coal, gas, nuclear, wind, solar, wave and tidal, geothermal and other sources of climate responsible energy.
New ways of fueling cars and other forms of transport must be developed and applied including the use of hydrogen fuel cells, sustainable biofuels, and electric engines.
Farming practices need to become more productive and sustainable. Other methods should be reductions through the sequestration of carbon in agricultural soils; the efficient utilisation of crop waste and understanding more ecologically complex interactions on farms.
Promoting and protecting natural processes/biology
Tropical forests are an indispensable element in earth's climate system. They not only hold large amounts of carbon, but through their transpiration create rainfall and actively cool earth. About half of the mature tropical forests that once covered the planet have been felled.
The interconnections between water, energy and climate are complex but essential to consider.
Climate change will lead to dramatic changes in the hydrological cycle, both in terms of water availability and quality, and in terms of intensification of extreme events such as floods and droughts.