The terms global warming and climate change are often confused, as media companies use them interchangeably. Although they share a causal relationship and overlap in some aspects, there are clear differences between the two concepts.
Global Warming and Climate Change
Understand global warming
Global warming refers to a long-term increase in the Earth’s average air temperature. This is particularly associated with the effect of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), absorb and radiate infrared radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface, increasing greenhouse gases.
While greenhouse gas emissions are a major factor in recent global warming, other factors such as variations in Earth’s orbit, axial tilt, and solar energy production also play a role. Higher concentrations of greenhouse gases prevent the escape of heat into space, increasing Earth’s average temperature.
Understand climate change
On the other hand, climate change involves long-term changes in the average state of the atmosphere. To understand climate change, it is important to differentiate climate from weather.
Weather refers to short-term atmospheric conditions in a specific location, such as diurnal or nocturnal changes. Climate, in contrast, represents the average atmospheric conditions in a particular region over an extended period of time, typically 30–40 years or more. Therefore, climate change refers to significant and sustained changes in average atmospheric conditions over time.
Although human activities contribute to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases, they are not the only factors causing these changes. Earth’s climate can change due to interactions between the atmosphere and various geological, chemical, biological, and geological factors.
For example, regional and global climate can be affected by volcanic activity over long periods of time, which is linked to the movement of tectonic plates driving continental shifts. These continental movements affect ocean currents and local winds, changing the transport of heat from the tropics to the poles.
Earth’s global climate has also undergone significant changes in response to changes in atmospheric chemistry, such as increased oxygen concentrations billions of years ago when photosynthetic life such as plants and algae spread across the planet.
As humanity grapples with the impact of human activities on Earth’s climate, the discernible consequences of climate change resulting from global warming, such as the melting of glaciers and ice caps, the elevation of sea levels, and alterations in seasonal temperature and rainfall patterns, are assuming greater significance.
With these disruptions becoming increasingly evident, scientists are now focusing more on discussing them as genuine long-term climatic shifts, rather than merely observing fluctuations in Earth’s average temperature. Consequently, climate change encompasses the cause-and-effect relationship between global warming and alterations in the overall atmospheric conditions.
How Biodiversity Loss Harms Human Health
The Urgency of Biodiversity Loss
Without nature, we are nothing. Yet humans are destroying the environment and endangering the creatures that inhabit our planet at an unprecedented rate. Biodiversity loss poses a grave threat to our future and the well-being of all people, with consequences ranging from increased disease risks to disruptions in the global food chain.
Unveiling the Health Impacts of Biodiversity Loss
While the devastating effects of climate change on human health are becoming increasingly evident, the detrimental impact of biodiversity loss on our well-being and the essential ecological cycles that sustain us is often overlooked. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, humanity’s current path is driving a mass extinction, and we are essentially endangering ourselves.
The Amazon’s Battle for One Health
The Amazon rainforest exemplifies the tangible threat of biodiversity loss. Despite harboring one-third of the planet’s species and being a biodiversity hotspot, the region is being decimated by record levels of deforestation. Habitat destruction brings humans and wildlife into closer contact, elevating the risk of zoonotic spillover, where pathogens from animals jump to humans. The Amazon serves as a critical site for tracking zoonotic pathogens and preventing future pandemics through the “One Health” approach.
Safeguarding Nature’s Protection
Biodiversity loss has far-reaching implications for human health, extending beyond infectious disease risks. Disrupting the delicate ecological balance that regulates our planet’s oxygen, water, and nutrient cycles jeopardizes the entire food chain. Furthermore, species extinction and habitat destruction deprive us of potential sources for new medicines and hinder the discovery of innovative solutions to health problems.
Recognizing Nature’s Mental Health Benefits
Nature also provides significant mental health benefits, often underestimated. It offers solace, community, and beauty, as witnessed in projects cultivating traditional medicinal herbs in refugee camps. Protecting nature becomes an essential act of self-preservation, as it provides us with food, water, and clean air. Failing to do so means losing out on the benefits nature offers us.
Halting the “Biodiversity Apocalypse”
Solutions to restore and preserve ecological well-being already exist. Critical measures include protecting and restoring natural habitats, prioritizing the needs of island nations and their unique biodiversity, supporting sustainable agriculture, fishing, shipping, and land use, and respecting Indigenous knowledge and rights. Incorporating Indigenous wisdom into global policymaking is crucial, as they have long served as effective stewards of the environment.
A Time for Global Cooperation
Addressing global biodiversity loss requires international collaboration. Initiatives like the “30×30” campaign to protect 30% of the Earth’s land and water by 2030 offer hope for collective action. However, time is running out, as irreversible tipping points loom, such as the potential transformation of the Amazon into grasslands. Meaningful action is needed urgently, with a paradigm shift towards sustainable consumption and production that recognizes the intrinsic value of ecosystems.
Forging a Peace Pact with Nature
In the face of the biodiversity crisis, it is time to establish a peace pact with nature. UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged world leaders to rally around a comprehensive plan that addresses the root causes of biodiversity loss and embraces sustainable practices. The urgency to act cannot be overstated, as our future depends on it.