Nov 15, 2018 Last Updated 6:23 AM, Nov 5, 2018

What is climate change?

Published: Jul 30, 2007

Agus P Sari

Climate change happens due to the so-called 'greenhouse effect' (see picture). The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon necessary for life as we know it. If there were no greenhouse effect, the earth would be 32 degrees celsius colder than it is now, rendering it uninhabitable. Too much greenhouse effect, however, will lead to global warming and climate change, with disruptive effects on human well-being. The greenhouse effect occurs due to the presence of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. These gases - water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), nitrous oxide (N2O), and tropospheric ozone (O3) - act like a blanket that slows the loss of heat from the earth's atmosphere.

The concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere are steadily increasing. Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was about 350 parts per million (ppm, by volume) in 1990, already one-fourth higher than that in the preindustrial era (circa 1750 - 1850). The concentration of methane at 1.72 ppm in 1990 was more than twice that in the preindustrial era. CFCs are strictly of human origin.

Carbon dioxide has contributed approximately 60 percent of increased global mean air-surface temperature 'forcing' by greenhouse gases over the last 200 years, followed by methane at 20 percent, CFCs at 10 percent, and other gases at 10 percent. Based on a modeling exercise, **IPCC expects that a doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations will increase the global mean temperature by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius. Thus, IPCC suggests cutting current emissions levels by 60 to 80 percent just to stabilise current atmospheric concentrations.

Carbon dioxide, the most prominent anthropogenic gas, arises primarily from the combustion of fossil fuels and from the burning and clearing of forested land for agricultural purposes. Worldwide consumption of fossil fuels in the period of 1860 to 1949 is estimated to have released 187 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Between 1950 and 1990, fossil fuel use had accelerated and carbon dioxide emissions are estimated at an additional 559 billion metric tons.

Agus P Sari (apsari@pelangi.or.id) is executive director of Pelangi, a Jakarta-based environmental think tank. He has followed the climate change negotiations since their inception and has been part of the Indonesian official delegation the last three years.

Inside Indonesia 62: Apr - Jun 2000

Latest Articles

Photo essay: Hope in the face of disaster

Nov 02, 2018 - MELANIE FILLER & TIM BARRETTO

Source/ Melanie Filler & Tim Barretto

Palu after the tsunami

Surviving while seeking asylum

Oct 26, 2018 - GEMIMA HARVEY

Hazara asylum seeker Shiringul first fled Afghanistan to Pakistan and then when the danger spread to Pakistan, she was forced to flee again, this time to Indonesia. She said the streets outside of Kalideres immigration detention centre were her best option. Source/ Gemima Harvey

A change in Australia’s asylum policy has denied refugees in Indonesia vital support

Review: The killing season

Oct 01, 2018 - FRANK BEYER

More than 50 years on, mis-truths about the 1965-66 killings and what motivated them prevail in Indonesia. Geoffrey Robinson's and other books and films on the issue, based on archival research...

Essay: Harmony versus hate

Sep 19, 2018 - DUNCAN GRAHAM

Masykuri Bakri doesn’t fit the stereotype for a moderate Muslim leader

Subscribe to Inside Indonesia

Receive Inside Indonesia's latest articles and quarterly editions in your inbox.

 


Lontar Modern Indonesia

Lontar-Logo-Ok

 

A selection of stories from the Indonesian classics and modern writers, periodically published free for Inside Indonesia readers, courtesy of Lontar