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Why are summers no longer summers and winters no longer cold? What is this famous ‘climate change’ all about, anyway?

* Author: Mónica Oviedo *

These days, who hasn’t heard about global warming, radical temperature changes, melting icecaps, droughts, hurricanes, etc.? Hardly a week goes by without the news featuring some item linked to the famous climate change phenomenon.

In fact, right now this is probably the environmental problem that is most concerning to society in general. People are worried that April no longer means there’ll be April showers or because we can no longer say that a cold winter will be followed by a hot summer.

But do we really know what climate change actually means?  What used to be the spearhead in the battles waged by NGOs has become a conundrum for governments and companies, who have to respond to the concerns of the general public.

What is climate change?

Scientists explain it as being a gradual increase in the temperature of the Earth caused by the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, particularly CO2, as a result of human activities.

How does this warming of the Earth occur?

The so-called ‘greenhouse effect’ is a natural process in which certain gases that make up the atmosphere (greenhouse gases) retain part of the radiation we receive from the sun. This allows the temperature ranges to remain more or less stable.   The problem arises when there is an increase in these gases, which leads to more heat being retained and therefore, an increase in temperatures.

What are the consequences of global warming?

The effects of this process are causing significant changes in the climate and environment, which will affect our own generation and those yet to come.  Therefore the main consequence of this phenomenon is that climate is affected, because there is an increase in temperature, which in turn triggers other effects in terms of agriculture, water availability, the sea, the planet as a whole and the various species.

What is causing this increase in temperatures?

For the most part, the use of fossil fuels such as oil or coal, which contain carbon that when burned releases CO2 into the atmosphere.  However, there are other greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4), which is produced, for example, in agricultural and livestock farming activities; nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are used in nitrogen-rich fertilisers or industrial processes; hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), which are used as coolants; perfluorocarbons, which are used to produce aluminium and, to a lesser extent, in the manufacture of semiconductors; and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), which is used as an insulator in electric circuits.  On the other hand, there are also natural factors at play, such as changes in solar radiation, volcanic eruptions and the natural fluctuations in the climate system itself.

What greenhouse gas levels are considered to be adequate?

These gases are measured in parts per million.  Their current levels in the atmosphere are equivalent to some 430 ppm of CO2, compared to 280 ppm before the Industrial Revolution.   The latest studies highlight the need to limit global warming to 2º C higher than the pre-industrial age, around 550 ppm.

Author: Mónica Oviedo
Bio: I hold a degree in Economic Law, with master´s degree in international relations and I started working at Iberdrola more than 12 years ago. During this time, I became familiar with the international vision of the company, working in its subsidiaries in Bolivia and Brazil. My greatest hobby is to travel; whenever I can, I try to escape with backpacks and my large family and get to know different cultures and explore many lost corners of the world.

7 Comments

  1. Brenda Barnum

    Monica, thank you for your post. It was a wonderful overview of climate change and its causes. It is so important that Iberdrola (USA included) understand this phenomenon in order to understand Iberdrola’s goals and mission and why we need to work so hard toward those goals. Thank you!


    21 March, 2012 a 16:44

  2. D M West

    Do not forget your American shareholders/pensioners who rely on your ability to make those important decisions to assist in a model to provide for continuing success.


    23 April, 2012 a 23:16

  3. cliettify

    Honourable bye, sentimental chum :)


    26 April, 2012 a 23:52

  4. Interesting^^


    2 May, 2012 a 0:37

  5. KemAmarmpet

    Good bye, genial alternative other :)


    3 May, 2012 a 8:02

  6. Jeremy Rowley

    I don’t beleive in global warming and I find it hard to beleive that you can measure something as complicated as PPM before the industrial revolution. Then compare it to the reading you get today. Volcanoes have contributed 10 times the amount of CO2 gases as compared to our emissions. The Earth continues to evolve every day with little or no explanation because there are too many variables. I beleive we should do what is right for consumers and the economy while keeping in mind our moral obligations to land and people.


    27 July, 2012 a 20:11

  7. Greg Lester

    Many people do not believe that humans could affect the environment as much as some would have us believe. It was not too long ago that the southwestern United States experienced what happens when humans do affect our environment. The great “dustbowl’ is just an example. Overfarming and ignorance of crop rotation in Texas and Oklahoma led to one of the the greatest environmental disasters of the 20th century. It is true that the earth can take care of itself concerning natural disasters,but coupled with manmade disaster it is stretched thin. This is why we need to take our obligations as stewards of this planet seriously and do everything we can to limit and erase our “footprints” where ever possible.


    17 September, 2012 a 17:46

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