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Climate Change – Natural and Man Made

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The environment is essential for the survival of life. It is because of the environment that earth is the only planet in the solar system that is habitable. Climate change is considered to be a major contributor to environmental degradation. Human activities are mainly accounted for the said climate change. While the inference has a certain weightage to it, it is not completely accurate.

Climate Change – A Natural Phenomenon

Climate Change is a natural phenomenon. In fact, the climate of the earth has continuously been changing since the last 4.5 million years alternating between ice age and warmer periods. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that human activities are not causing climate change. However, they might be a catalyst accelerating the process that might cause a mass extinction of species earlier than anticipated.

Climate Change Caused by Natural Processes

Volcanic Eruptions

One of the major causes of climate change is volcanic eruptions. The Carbon Dioxide released during a volcanic eruption causes a sudden rise in temperature in the area. However, the aerosols released along with the lava reduce the insolation of earth, causing a cooldown effect.
Constant eruptions of volcanoes have been one of the reasons for the ice-age in the past. In fact, the year 1816 is referred to as the ‘year without summer’ because of the violent eruption of volcanic Mount Tambora in Indonesia. The eruption was considered to be the largest known eruption in the history of human civilization. Its impact was observed as far as the Americas and Canada where there was snowfall in the month of June causing heavy losses of crops, which led to food shortages.

Solar Radiation

Sun is the primary source of energy for all the events on earth. Therefore, change in Solar Radiation has a direct impact on the environment of the earth. The sun’s magnetic field flips completely every 11 years causing fluctuations in global temperature. Additionally, every 11 years, the number of sunspots changes from a maximum number to a minimum number.
The sun emits slightly more radiation during active periods of sunspots. Because the sunspots are suppressing heat, the heat flows to surrounding areas causing these regions to be brighter than normal, radiating more heat. While more sunspots may contribute to a warmer global climate, fewer sunspots are associated with a cooler global climate. About 300 years ago, there was a period of reduced solar activity. This was called the Little Ice Age.

Tectonic Activity

The tectonic activity causes a change in positions of the landmass. With a change in position, there is a change in latitudes. As the landmass moves to a higher latitude, its temperature changes, and so does the biodiversity around it.

El Nino

El Nino is a natural phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific Ocean between South America and East Australia. During El Nino, the South East Trade Wind that normally blows east from Australia to South America, reverses its direction bringing rainfall in the deserts of South America and droughts in Australia. The phenomenon occurring in one specific area has a far-reaching impact across the globe, including India.

Climate Change Caused by Human Activities

Apart from natural causes, there are also some anthropogenic causes that act as catalysts to accelerate the speed of climate change.

Extensive use of Fossil Fuels

Extensive use of fossil fuels leads to an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The heat trapped in the atmosphere as a result of this, causes a rise in temperature, causing global warming. Global Warming has catastrophic effects on life forms, oceans, topography, atmosphere and every element on earth that supports the existence of life on the planet.

Vehicular Pollution

Extensive use of vehicles releases particulate matter. The particulate matter traps humidity in the air, therefore, preventing rainfall in the area. Extended dry patches change the soil quality, topography and a climate of a region substantially over time.

Overpopulation

Increasing population means an increase in demand for economic development, food, lodging and so on. However, the resources available on the earth are not unlimited. Therefore, the planet is exploited beyond its capacity. These activities disrupt the balance that nature needs to heal itself from the damage caused by humans to it.

Deforestation

Forests are the carbon sink of the world. They act as lungs of the planet, shield against floods, cyclones and habitat for various species. In the absence of forests, there will be a mass extinction of species. In the last few decades, forests are cleared at a rapid pace for agriculture and other economic purposes. This has been heavily responsible for climate change and increased pollution.

Water, Land, Air Pollution

Pollution of land, water and air because of human waste, including chemical industrial waste, has severely affected the climate of the world. These natural elements generally have an ability to cleanse themselves with the help of one another. However, since all the elements are bearing the brunt of pollution and degradation, they are unable to cleanse themselves and are accumulating more and more pollutants.

Construction and Mining

Mining and construction activities release greenhouse gases which are directly responsible for climate change. Additionally, construction activity also receives a large number of aerosols which increases the albedo of the atmosphere and reduces the insolation. This also impacts the climate of the region heavily in the longer run.

Nuclear war

A paper called “Rapidly expanding nuclear arsenals in Pakistan and India portend regional and global catastrophe,” by Owen Toon of the University of Colorado analysed effects of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan in 2025. According to the paper, if the two countries continued to expand their nuclear capabilities, the exchange between the two countries will be deadly.
The paper says that even if no other countries get involved in the said war, the effects would be observed in the climate of the entire world. The authors have said that because of such a war, “surface sunlight will decline by 20 to 35%, cooling the global surface by 2° to 5°C and reducing precipitation by 15 to 30%, with larger regional impacts.”
This could directly affect food security leading to famines across much of the world. The paper estimates that it would take more than 10 years for the global climate to return to normal and that, in the meantime, millions of more people would die of starvation.

Corporate action against climate change

The effects of climate change loom overhead yet there is a great transition towards an ecologically sound world occurring simultaneously. The public and private sectors are waking up to the clarion call to understand how important collective action is, for a resilient natural environment on which we depend for everything from food and water to business and industry. Revolutionary CSR initiatives for biodiversity are addressing these concerns. 
Business-driven climate change action picked up speed when biodiversity loss was addressed at the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) in 1992. India was a participant of CBD and accordingly developed a national policy and action plan for this in 1999. For the next five years, the NBSAP (National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan) began roping in various stakeholders.
Meanwhile, the Biological Diversity Act came into being in 2002. The NBAP (National Biodiversity Action Plan) was developed in 2008 with multiple entities and took our nation’s unique geography, culture and economical makeup into consideration while devising environmental programmes. 
Businesses became more involved in the environment later in the decade, starting with a conference by the BBI (Business and Biodiversity Initiative). It was a structured integration of business development with ecological matters. The movement got a fillip in 2014 after the Indian government set 12 National Biodiversity Targets (NBTs) into NBAP.

Business needs biodiversity

There is a growing understanding among companies that it’s important to protect and value natural resources for long-term business sustainability. Businesses depend on the natural environment, either directly or indirectly. 
The corporate and natural ecosystems constantly intersect, so it’s important for companies to identify and deal with the risks their factories and manufacturing pose to the environment. The food and beverage industry, pharma companies, agro, forestry and packaging use raw materials having flora and fauna and other ecosystem services. The environment sustains the very resources that businesses thrive on. It follows that the business world has a responsibility to manage waste, conserve water, control air pollution and foster afforestation. 
Indian companies are late to the party, barring a few like Godrej and the Tata Group’s enterprises. However, the better-late-than-never idiom applies to desi firms because they’ve been quick to take stock of Biodiversity, Ecosystem and Ecosystem Services (BES) risks.
Businesses are using their technological resources efficiently to integrate BES into management for achieving CSR goals. You will notice a horde of new CSR initiatives that revolve around wildlife conservation, biodiversity management, air and plastic pollution and different aspects of sustainability.

Different strokes for different folks

How companies approach CSR for climate change varies starkly. Mining and construction companies whose work could negatively impact an ecosystem or habitat are motivated by regulation and the need to be viewed as responsible corporate citizens. Tech and IT companies which have a relatively lower impact on biodiversity loss design their environmental CSR programmes on the basis of brand value and customer identification. 
A large number of Indian companies are weaving environmental targets into their business models. They are buying machines which use less power and have a much lower carbon footprint, switching to clean energy in their manufacturing plants and adopting a zero single-use plastic policy in their offices.
Innovation is another factor in formulating environmental CSR programmes. Certain brands like Tetrapak and The Body Shop create products which take nature into account from their creation to delivery. These brands appeal to the global consumer base that is increasingly more conscious about the carbon footprint of the products and services they use. Finally, risk mitigation is a major factor for industries like agro-businesses and construction which are heavily dependent on natural resources for their present and future.
Business action on climate change in India has seen more movement in the past decade than ever before. Indian companies are as equally involved in being a responsible business as they are in being a profitable one.
Natural resource management and reduction in carbon emissions at the manufacturing level, in factories and production sites are major goals at the outset. They are investing in creating products that are not only environmentally friendly but subscribe to the circular economy. World Environment Day 2020 is a hopeful one.