The Earth’s climate has always undergone changes since the pre-industrial era and continues to do so nowadays.
Scientists have determined that there has always been gradual changes in the Earth’s climate, but the ones that have taken place in recent years have been very dramatic.
Climate change is a variation in the average temperature of the planet, which usually takes thousands of years.
Which gases cause climate change?
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most abundant greenhouse gas
- It is produced by combustion of carbon-based fuels (carbon, gas, diesel, coal, and other petroleum products).
- Deforestation causes an increment of CO2, since trees capture it as part of their photosynthesis and produce O2.
Methane (CH4) has an impact 21 times greater than CO2
- This gas is produced by ovens and dryers, forest fires, waste through animal farming like cows, rice plantations, landfills and waste waters.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are produced entirely by humans
- It is present in refrigeration and air conditioning systems, evaporation of industrial solvents and production of plastic foam.
- It remains in the atmosphere between 60 and 400 years.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
- It is produced by power plants that use coal, car mufflers, animal waste or nitrate contaminated landfills. Another source is the degradation of nitrate-based fertilizers on the soil.
Other gases: water vapor.
How does climate change affect us?
Climate change may cause global temperatures to rise between 1.8°C and 4° C by the end of this century.
Even if all greenhouse gas emissions suddenly stop -something that is not going to happen-, the inertia of the Earth’s climate system is so big, global warming will continue for several decades due to the volume of emissions that have already been released into the atmosphere.
Climate change will cause:
- Increased temperature of air, land and oceans.
- Heavier storms, cyclones and hurricanes.
- Greater floods and more intense droughts.
- Precipitation patterns and increasingly unpredictable winds.
Climate change and tourism
Despite all the benefits associated with tourism, for it being one of the best ways to distribute wealth among populations, this sector is one of the major contributors to the greenhouse effect.
The gases that cause this weather phenomenon by tourist activities emissions (including air travel), are equivalent to its contribution to the world economy, which is estimated at 5% according to the World Tourism Organization.
Moreover, the tourism sector is one of the economical activities dependent on climate change, because the weather determines the demand in tourism seasonality and influences operating costs such as heating or cooling, irrigation, water and food supply, among others.
It is expected that climate change impacts:
- Economic expenses primarily on infrastructure, especially in the most vulnerable areas such as coastal areas.
- Schedule changes negatively affect tourism activities.
In addition, climate change will cause some environmental conditions that may scare away tourists:
- Forest fires.
- Contagious diseases.
- Extreme phenomenon (tropical cyclones).
- Insect pests or waterborne (jellyfish or algae blooms).
Therefore, companies linked to tourism activities are challenged to implement additional measures to be prepare for emergency situations, which will raise the costs for insurance, back-up systems for water and electricity supply and evacuation, as well as a disruption in the business operation.
These are the two most popular vacation activities being affected currently:
Beach tourism: Erosion by intense storms and the proliferation of algae and jellyfish infestation due to higher sea temperatures.
Winter Sports: The ski resorts have had to deal with the lack of snow and a shorter season. The devastating hurricanes, cyclones, floods and droughts -many times accompanied by violent winds- have become more frequent in recent years.
Climate change and wildlife
Nature, which is one of the main reasons why tourists visit certain destinations, is affected by the increase in temperature.
Climate change causes the loss of wildlife habitat for many organisms and changes migration patterns of some species of whales, birds, butterflies, among others. Therefore, it is expected that the affected areas with fewer species become less attractive to tourists.
Small islands and low-lying coastal areas are at higher risk of any sea level rise which is caused by the melting of the polar ice caps.
Climate change and Monteverde
Research over the last 40 years in Monteverde, brought that the area receives 38% more rain and that 300% of the days are dry. The increase in temperature has caused the clouds to remain at higher elevations and a decrease of the haze that has always characterized the mountain forests.
This situation has caused:
- More damaged roads.
- Impact on public health.
- Affected agricultural activities.
- Less clouds and more blue skies.
- Extinction of some species.
- Altitudinal migration of some species: some species of hummingbirds have moved to higher elevations. This has decreased in the populations of some amphibians and reptiles, sensitive to the decrease of cloudy days, especially lizards and frogs.
- Changes in precipitation, temperature, cloud cover and light can affect the production of nectar of some plant species, which can affect the abundance and distribution of hummingbirds.
Climate change and marine organisms
Marine organisms are also affected by climate change, since the increase in temperature and CO2 concentration causes a change in the wind pattern, strong hurricanes and waterspouts. In addition, marine currents and acidity are altered, causing also change on the supply of nutrients and the food chain.
Migration and distribution of species of marine species and organisms are altered, and studies have detected the presence of fewer boreal species.
There is a reduction in phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish and algae. Organisms attached to the seabed (benthic) are the most affected.
Most of the world’s coral reefs will die with an increase of only 3°C of the sea temperature, and the multitude of colorful fish and sea creatures living in the reefs would also disappear. Half the coral reefs of the Caribbean, for example, has disappeared since 2005 due to coral bleaching.
Climate change and global initiatives
Due to the critical situation the planet is in, 196 countries part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In December 2014, the last conference was held, their main achievement was the end of the existing division between developed and developing countries since 1992, when the obligations of the countries depended on their level of development.
Lima agreement imposes obligations on countries regardless of whether they are part of the developed countries or not.
The responsibilities of the countries are differentiated according to the respective capabilities and national circumstances.
Climate change in Costa Rica
The contribution of Costa Rica in the production of greenhouse gases is small compared to giants like the US, China, Japan and India, but:
- In Costa Rica, 70% of greenhouse gases comes from private transport and cargo: there are about 1 million vehicles in the country.
- MINAET created the Carbon Neutral Program (Programa País Carbono Neutralidad).
Costa Rica aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2021 through:
- GHG Mitigation
- Technology Transfer and Capacity Building
- System of precise, reliable and measurable metrics (MRV)
- Public awareness, creating culture and changing consumer habits.
- Adapting to climate change to reduce the vulnerability of key sectors and regions.
The positive side: Financing the fight against climate change
International cooperation funds projects aimed at preserving the environment, at the same time seeking an economic development. For example, the French Development Agency (AFD), has funded the following projects:
- Ethiopia: Wind farms.
- Madagascar: Forest management.
- Colombia: Clean Urban Transport.
- Indonesia and Vietnam: National plans on climate.
Organizations like the World Bank and others have begun to use “green bonds or climate bonds”. These bonds are similar to the traditional ones, with the difference that they are asset-backed with investors that contribute to sustainable development and climate mitigation. However, it is necessary to develop measures to ensure certification, since it is a weak spot.
The downside: The myth of zero emissions
“Zero Emissions” is one of the latest solutions that a group of scientists has proposed to counter the emissions from burning coal, oil, and gas that are heating up the planet.
However, this undeveloped technology is controversial because it suggests that the planet can continue to use fossil fuels on a large scale, as long as these emissions are off-set.
It is based on the Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage, which entails planting a huge amount of grass and trees, burning the biomass to generate electricity, capturing the CO2 that is emitted, and pumping it into geological reservoirs underground.
However, it may present the following problems:
- Gas leaks with serious environmental and social consequences.
- Appropriation of land for crops from poor people, similar to the way it has happened with biofuels.
- The use of this methodology implies that around 218-990 million acres should be allocated for the plantation of the foxtail palm tree, in order to capture one billion tons of CO2.
- High production of nitrous oxide as fertilizers will exacerbate climate change.
These proposals draws attention due to lucrative business involving the production of more than 67,000 million barrels of oil, which is three times the volume of proven oil reserves in the US, according to data from the Energy Department in the US.