February 25, 2015
The Economic Impact of Climate Change
The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advances and retreats. This ended with the last ice age 7,000 years ago and the atmosphere has remained relatively stable for thousands of years.
In 1712, British ironmonger Thomas Newcomen invented the first widely used steam engine, paving the way for the Industrial Revolution and Industrial scale use of coal.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the impact of human activities on the Earth’s climate has extended on a global scale. The Earth’s temperature is determined by the balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing or reflected infrared radiation. This balance has been dramatically changed due to human activities involving the use of fossil fuels for industrial uses as well as for transportation. This produces what is known as greenhouse gases and aerosols that affect the composition of the atmosphere and disrupts the balance in Earth’s atmosphere.
Not only are increases in greenhouse gases caused by transportation and industry impacting our atmosphere but the change human are making to the land are impacting climate change as well. The term for this is “land – use change” and it refers to any changes made in the use or management of land. These changes result from various human activities such as changes for agriculture, irrigation, deforestation, afforestation, urbanization, and traffic. These changes cause not only physical changes, but changes in the biological properties of land and climate systems.
NASA reports that 1/3 to ½ our Earth’s land has been altered by human development. All though forest and trees are cut down for many reasons, the largest reason is for agriculture. Farmers cut down forest to make room for animals to graze and for planting crops. Scientist estimate that 50% of global temperature change in coming from land – use change.
Greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Water Vapor (H2O) are accumulating in the atmosphere causing temperatures to rise all over the planet, even in our oceans. According to the book titled, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (2011) written by a Committee on the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, “The mid – range model estimates of human induced global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is based on the premise that the growth rate of climate forcing agents such as carbon dioxide will accelerate. The predicted warming of 3*C (5.4*F) by the end of the 21st century is consistent with the assumption about how clouds and atmospheric relative humidity will react to global warming.”
With the growth of greenhouse gases being unimpeded Earth’s temperatures are on the rise. The accelerated pace of climate change, combined with the growth of the world population threatens food security everywhere.
These change are going to be catastrophic on a global scale in the future if human practices are not altered dramatically. The economic impact is not truly yet known. There have been many models and studies done, yet none take into account every variable. Changes in precipitation patterns will increase crop failures and production declines. The overall impact of climate change on agriculture will be negative, threatening global food security. Populations in the developing world which are already vulnerable and food insecure are likely to be effected mostly. Today 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas.
For this project I would like to focus on what is being done to this planet at the hands of humans and the possible implications these practices have on the future of Agriculture.
Agriculture is defined as, “The cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, biofuel, medicinals and other products used to sustain and enhance human