Climate Change: Causes, Effects, and Actions to Combat It

Human activities are causing world temperatures to rise, with more intense heat waves and rising sea levels among the consequences.

Climate change is a global phenomenon that poses a great threat to the continued sustenance of life on our earth. Climate denotes the average weather conditions encompassing temperature, humidity and rainfall patterns prevailing over seasons, years or decades on a regional or global scale. In the next decade, things could get worse, so what are we doing to stop it

What is Climate Change?

Changes that have been observed throughout the 20th century show that there has been an increase in global air and ocean temperature, a rise in worldwide sea levels, widespread long-term reduction of snow and ice cover, alterations to atmospheric and oceanic circulation as well as regional weather patterns which substantially impact seasonal rainfall conditions. 

Although weather patterns may shift within a brief period, climate modifications occur across extended periods, and this poses a severe threat to life on our planet. 

Causes of Climate Change

Sadly, Human actions are the major cause of climate change. Human actions alter the atmosphere’s composition by directly emitting gases or particles through chemical processes in the atmosphere. Since the Industrial Era, human emissions have significantly increased the concentrations of greenhouse gases. The disruption of Earth’s energy balance by external factors is called Radiative Forcing (RF). Positive RF leads to warming, while negative RF causes cooling. This concept helps compare how different factors affect global surface temperature individually.

Over the last decade, the world was, on average, about 1.2°C warmer than it was in the late 19th century.

It has now been confirmed that global warming exceeded 1.5°C over the 12 months from February 2023 to January 2024. This followed 2023 being declared the warmest year on record.

Fossil Fuels: The Main Culprit

The primary cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. These fuels are responsible for over 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions. The combustion of fossil fuels for energy and transportation releases large amounts of CO₂, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere, leading to global warming.

Manufacturing and Industry

The manufacturing sector is another major emitter of greenhouse gases. Industries rely heavily on fossil fuels for energy, and processes like cement production release significant amounts of CO₂. Additionally, the production of goods such as plastics, electronics, and textiles involves chemicals derived from fossil fuels, further adding to emissions. Even the existence of non-biodegradable plastics has made greatly negative changes to Mother Earth, as tons of waste thrown into the oceans kill important aquatic life forms.


Forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing CO₂ from the atmosphere. However, deforestation for agriculture, logging, and urban expansion releases the stored carbon back into the atmosphere. Annually, approximately 12 million hectares of forest are lost, contributing to about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.


The transportation sector, which includes cars, trucks, ships, and planes, is a major contributor to CO₂ emissions. Most vehicles rely on petroleum-based fuels, and the sector accounts for nearly one-quarter of global energy-related CO₂ emissions. The trend indicates an increasing demand for energy in transportation, exacerbating the emissions problem.


Agriculture contributes to climate change through deforestation, methane emissions from livestock, and the use of fertilizers. The sector also involves significant energy use for equipment and transportation. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is released during the digestion process of ruminants like cows and sheep.

Building Operations

Buildings consume over half of the world’s electricity, mainly for heating and cooling. The energy used in buildings comes predominantly from fossil fuels, leading to substantial greenhouse gas emissions. The demand for energy in buildings is rising due to the increasing use of air conditioning, lighting, and electronic devices.

Consumer Behavior

Individual consumption patterns significantly impact greenhouse gas emissions. High levels of consumption, particularly among the wealthiest populations, contribute disproportionately to global emissions. Household energy use, transportation choices, diet, and waste generation all play a role in an individual’s carbon footprint.

Effects of Climate Change

The ill actions of our society have driven the temperature of the earth to unsafe levels. It’s also led to the highest CO2 levels in 800,000 years! This reality has had devastating effects on our world.

The global surface temperature has been steadily increasing, with the last decade being the warmest on record. Higher temperatures lead to more frequent and severe heatwaves, posing health risks and making outdoor work challenging. Wildfires become more common and destructive as well.

There has also been an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms, including hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons. Warmer ocean temperatures contribute to more powerful storms, resulting in devastating impacts on communities and economies.

Extreme weather conditions are the reality of climate change. Global warming affects water availability, causing more frequent and severe droughts. This impacts agriculture, leading to food shortages and increased water scarcity. Droughts also contribute to desertification, reducing arable land and affecting biodiversity.

Since the start of the Industrial Revolution – when humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels – the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by about 50%, external. Photo: BBC

Melting Ice and Rising Sea Levels

The warming climate causes polar ice caps and glaciers to melt, contributing to rising sea levels. This threatens coastal communities and island nations with flooding and erosion. Additionally, the warming ocean expands in volume, exacerbating sea level rise.

This drastic change in the ecosystem poses a significant threat to biodiversity. Species are forced to migrate to new habitats or face extinction as their environments become inhospitable. The rate of species extinction is accelerating, with one million species at risk within the next few decades.

Changing weather patterns and extreme events also mean disruption in food production, leading to increased hunger and malnutrition. Fisheries, crops, and livestock are all affected, threatening food security for billions of people.

More directly, climate change impacts human health through increased air pollution, the spread of diseases, and extreme weather events. Heatwaves, floods, and droughts can lead to injury, illness, and death. The mental health impacts of climate-related displacement and disasters are also significant. The change also exacerbates poverty and displacement. Extreme weather events destroy homes and livelihoods, forcing people to migrate and increasing the risk of poverty. Developing countries, which are least equipped to adapt, suffer the most severe impacts.

Actions to Combat Climate Change

The response of the world to the reality of climate change can be arguably considered slow and inadequate; however, there have been efforts made to counter the causes of climate change in order to restore health to the earth and it’s inhabitants.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, is a landmark international treaty aimed at limiting global warming to well below 2°C, with efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. Countries submit their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) outlining their plans to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. The agreement emphasizes the need for economic and social transformation based on scientific evidence. As was stated earlier, the temperature of the world continues to rise and there is an urgent need for nations around the world to take this agreement seriously to combat the increasingly urgent crisis. The objective of the Climate Ambitious Summit was set out new and ambitious commitments under the three pillars of the Paris Agreement which are mitigation, adaptation and finance commitments.

COP26, COP27, and COP28

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), known as the ‘Earth Summit,’ took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 3-14, 1992. It marked the 20th anniversary of the first Human Environment Conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Leaders, diplomats, experts, scientists, media, and NGOs from 179 countries gathered to address the impact of human activities on the environment. 

The Earth Summit emphasized the interdependence of social, economic, and environmental factors and the need for coordinated action across these sectors. Its main goal was to create a new agenda for international cooperation on environmental and development issues for the 21st century.

In the three decades since the Rio Summit and the launch of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Conference of the Parties (COP) has convened annually to set goals, assign responsibilities, and evaluate climate actions. The 21st session of the COP (COP21) resulted in the Paris Agreement.

At COP26, held in Glasgow, the leaders focused on increasing ambition in adaptation, mitigation, and finance. COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh addressed loss and damage, adaptation finance, and the operationalization of the Santiago Network. The most recent UN climate change summit, COP28, was held in the United Arab Emirates. For the first time, countries agreed to “contribute” to “transitioning away from fossil fuels,” though they are not required to take action.

The next conference, COP29, will be held in Azerbaijan in November 2024.

The final agreement of the COP 28 signals the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era, says the final text of the summit. Photo: UN Climate Change

Advocacy and Communication

Advocacy efforts by environmental organizations, youth groups, and activists are vital in pushing for stronger climate policies. Effective communication strategies, including social media campaigns and community engagement, help raise awareness and mobilize public support.

Climate action was also added as one of the SDGs. This SDG intends to take urgent action in order to combat climate change and its impacts, especially in developing nations that often feel the effects of climate change the hardest. 

Economic and Financial Measures

Economic incentives and financial mechanisms play a key role in reducing emissions. Carbon pricing, subsidies for renewable energy, and investments in green infrastructure implemented by nations have helped shift the economy towards sustainability. 

Technological Innovation

Innovation in clean energy technologies, such as solar, wind, and battery storage, is essential to reducing emissions. Advances in energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and carbon capture and storage are also contributing to mitigating climate change. Supporting research and development in these areas is critical for long-term success.

Written by Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar, USA/UN Correspondent.

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Olivier Noudjalbaye Dedingar

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