What is Climate Change?

In technical terms, climate change can be defined as a shift in average climate parameters and/or in the magnitude of climate variability observed and persisting over long periods (typically decades or longer) (GCCA Glossary).

In simpler terms, it refers to the fact that a change in the main climate features has been observed consistently over 200 years… approximately the period in which the world has industrialized by burning large amounts of fossil fuels, which (see the Greenhouse effect) are causing global warming. To learn more on the Industrial Revolution and its impact on climate, read here.

Observed Changes

According to the 5th IPCC report, “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen”. More in detail, the report says that “Each of the last three decades [Ndr from 2014] has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850. The period from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years in the Northern Hemisphere, where such assessment is possible (medium confidence). The globally averaged combined land and ocean surface temperature data as calculated by a linear trend show a warming of 0.85 [0.65 to 1.06] °C 2 over the period 1880 to 2012, when multiple independently produced datasets exist” (IPCC 5th Report).

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Source: IPCC, Global Average Temperatures 

In Myanmar, according to the NAPA Report 2012 (find it here), observed changes include:

  • increase in temperatures across the whole country (~0.08°C per decade) i.e. in the northern and central regions;
  • increase in total rainfall over most regions, but notable decreases in certain areas (e.g. Bago Region);
  • decrease in the duration of the south-west monsoon season as a result of a late onset and early start times;
  • increases in the recurrence and severity of extreme weather events

For more information, see here.

Causes of Climate Change

It is clear today that the fossil fuels which have powered the industrial revolution (mostly starting from the 18th century), and which continue to support economic development, are also contributing to changes in climate. How? There are several ways in which man forces climate to change.

  1. Emitting gases from several human activities is now proven to create global warming. This includes burning fossil fuels which emit CO2 gas, which traps radiations from the sun in the atmosphere, and progressively warms the Earth surface, the Oceans and the Atmosphere itself. This, we call global warming. We mostly refer to Carbone dioxide (known as CO2) which is emitted in Transport, heating, etc. But this is not the only one! Livestock and Agriculture also emit gases such as Methane, or air-conditioning CHF gases etc., which also contribute to the greenhouse effect.
  2. Forests absorb enormous amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. We call this ‘carbon sinking function’. Deforestation (what we call “land-use change”) therefore, contributes to global warming heavily: 18.3% of the total GHG emissions. Myanmar (at least with the data available since 2000) absorb through its forests more CO2 than it emits (Source INC). This is why it is even more important that Forestry is managed in a sustainable manner in Myanmar through fight against illegal logging, afforestation and reforestation.

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Source: Myanmar’s Initial National Communication 

IPCC

Source: WRI/Tim Herzog, Kick the Habit: A UN Guide to Climate Neutrality