Weather and Climate
Before we understand climate change and its effects, we must first understand what weather and climate are and how they change.
Weather is defined as the state of the atmosphere at a particular time, as defined by the various meteorological elements. It is generally described in short time frames - minutes, hours, days, and weeks
Climate is defined as the average weather over a long period of time (at least 30 years) of a certain place.
Climate System - Climate essentially relates to the varying states of the atmosphere only, the other parts of the climate system also have a significant role in forming climate, through their interactions with the atmosphere
Over decades and centuries, the world’s climate has had its own ways of changing naturally. However, in the late 1890’s, when the first coal power station was turned on and industrialisation started, people started burning large amounts of coal and oil to power their homes, factories and vehicles. Even today, most of the world relies on this fossil fuels for their energy needs releasing gases (mostly carbon dioxide) in to the atmosphere. These gases accumulate in the atmosphere causing concentrations to increase with time. These gases are able to trap the heat causing the earth to get warmer and warmer. The increase in the earth’s temperature is the main reason why the climate is changing. These gases are normally referred to as greenhouse gases (GHGs).
The World’s Response to Climate Change
In 1979, the First World Climate Conference identified climate change as an urgent world problem and issued a declaration calling on governments to anticipate and guard against potential climate hazards. In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was formed with the aim to stabilise greenhouse gases (GHGs in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The Framework sets no binding limits on greenhouse gases and contains no enforcement mechanisms. Parties to the Convention have since met on an annual basis through the Conference of the Parties (COP) and take key decisions aimed at advancing effective implementation of the UNFCCC.
In 1995, Parties to UNFCCC established the Kyoto Protocol (KP). KP sets binding targets on developed country parties to reduce GHGs by at least 5% of their 1990 levels between 2008 - 2012 (the first commitment period). The KP entered into force in 1997. The second commitment period runs from 2013 - 2020 and is based on the Doha Amendment to the Protocol, which has not entered into force.