Climate Change

Material Science: Chapter 5: Ceramics
July 8, 2017
Interview Guidance
July 11, 2017
  1. Climate Change
    1. What is climate change?
    2. Why climate changes?
  2. Global warming
    1. Greenhouse effect
    2. Greenhouse gases
  3. Carbon Dioxide Emissions
    1. Sources
    2. Emission Status
  4. Global Warming Impacts
    1. Climate Change
    2. Extreme weather events
    3. Ice sheets and glaciers
    4. Ocean
    5. Flora and Fauna
    6. Agriculture
  5. Mitigation
    1. Control and Prevention of Emissions
    2. Carbon Sequestration and Climate Engineering
  6. Adaptation
  7. Global Efforts
    1. History
    2. UNFCCC and related agreements
    3. IPCC
    4. The Green Climate Fund
    5. REDD and REDD+ Programmes
  8. National Efforts
    1. National Action Plan on Climate Change
    2. The Energy and Resources Institute(TERI)
    3. Intended Nationally Determined Contributions
    4. Others
  9. FAQs
    1. What is permafrost?
    2. Explain Ocean Acidification
    3. What is ENSO phenomenon?
    4. What was the notorious London smog?
  10. Practice Questions

1. Climate Change

1.1 What is climate change?

The planet earth has witnessed many variations in climate since the beginning. (There have been at least five major ice ages in the earth’s past!!). The Variability in climate has occurred all the time, but the present change, we only created. 

2.1 Why climate changes?

The causes for climate change are many. They can be  natural or human induced. The increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the most important man made effect responsible for the climate change.

2.Global warming

2.1 Greenhouse effect

The Sun radiates energy at very short wavelengths. Earth is much colder than sun, so cannot radiate at shorter wavelengths. Earth radiates long wave radiation and much of it is absorbed by the atmosphere and reradiated back to Earth. This effect warms the surface of the planet. This phenomenon is referred to as the greenhouse effect.

Can you imagine what would have been the situation if there was no green house effect?

2.2 Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gases are responsible for the green house effect. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the second-most important one. Ozone is very effective in absorbing terrestrial radiation when it is present in the lower troposphere. The effectiveness of any given GHG molecule will depend on its lifetime in the atmosphere and the wavelength of radiation that it absorbs. The water vapour has short life, hence it is less effective. 

The measurement global warming potential of a gas shows how much it would warm the earth over a 100 year period as compared to carbon dioxide. It is measured as “Carbon dioxide equivalent” or “CO2e”. The warming potential of some gases are,

Greenhouse Gas Formula 100-year GWP (CO2e)
Carbon dioxide CO2 1
Methane CH4 25
Nitrous oxide N2O 298
Sulphur hexafluoride SF6 22,800
Hydrofluorocarbon-23 CHF3 14,800
Per-fluorocarbons CF4 7,390 – 13,300

The chemicals which easily react with primary GHGs and affect their concentration in the atmosphere are called secondary GHGs. They are

  • Nitric oxide (NO)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)

3. Carbon Dioxide Emissions

The largest concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere is carbon dioxide.

3.1 Sources

The emission of CO2 comes mainly from fossil fuel combustion (oil, gas and coal). It makes up 87 percent of all human-produced carbon dioxide emissions . The remainder results from the clearing of forests and other land use changes (9%), as well as some industrial processes such as cement manufacturing (4%)

3.2 Emission Status

Concentrations of the greenhouse gases are measured in parts per million (ppm) by volume. A concentration of 1 ppm for a given gas means there is one molecule of that gas in every 1 million molecules of air. The global average concentration of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere is currently about 0.04%, or 400 parts per million by volume (ppm).

4. Global Warming Impacts

The increasing trend in the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere warms up the earth.  The effect of global warming is visible as climate change, extreme weather events, melting of ice sheets and glaciers, ocean acidification, change in spatial distribution of flora and fauna etc.

4.1 Climate Change

Climate can be viewed as a status of the entire Earth system, including the atmosphere, land, oceans, snow, ice and living things that determine the weather patterns. Thus changes in balance of any of the ecosystem equilibrium, creates climate changes

4.2 Extreme weather events

As climate changes, the probabilities of certain types of weather events are increased. For example, more frequent and intense heat waves and heavy downpours

4.3 Ice sheets and glaciers

The ice world or cryosphere (ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, continental glaciers, snow, sea ice, river and lake ice, permafrost[FAQ 1] etc) , is an important component of the climate system. It has

  • high reflectivity (albedo) for solar radiation
  • has low thermal conductivity
  • has potential for affecting ocean circulation and atmospheric circulation
  • has large potential for affecting sea level
  • has potential for affecting greenhouse gases (through changes in permafrost)

Thus change in ice-sheets and glaciers due to global warming acts like a positive feedback mechanism and further accentuates the global warming

4.4 Ocean

The effects are

  • Sea level changes
  • Ocean acidification[FAQ 2]
  • Changes in ocean circulation (ex- the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon [FAQ 3]

4.5 Flora and Fauna

  • Climate change can cause extinctions
  • Habitat changes
  • Changes in migration pattern

4.6 Agriculture

  • Disrupts crop yields
  • Makes nutrients scarcer 

5. Mitigation

Mitigation refers to efforts to reduce or prevent emission of greenhouse gases. It can be achieved through use of new technologies and renewable energies, changing management practices or even consumer behaviour. It can include methods of capturing and storing the excess carbon in atmosphere and even reducing the incoming radiations.

5.1 Control and Prevention of Emissions

The various methods can be summarised as follows

Methods How it helps Examples
Efficient use of energy Energy generation is the highest contributor of greenhouse gas emission. Saving energy means saving emissions Improved cook stove design, Use of LED lights, Improved supply and distribution efficiency
Alternate fuels The fossil fuel combustion contributes the major share of fuel emission. So switching to other fuels helps to reduce emissions Use of gas instead of coal in industry, Renewable heat and power 
Changes in industrial process and design Helps in energy conservation, optimum use of resources and reduce emissions Renew automobile design

Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) for cement, ammonia, and iron manufacture

Efficient building design Optimum use of resources and reduced power consumption Efficient lighting and daylighting, Intelligent meters that provide feedback and control
Efficient urban design Urban design to minimise transportation needs and energy consumption High-tech subway systems , Waste management and recycling
Transportation technologies More fuel-efficient vehicles,  modal shifts from road transport to rail and public transport systems etc helps in emission reduction Hybrid vehicles, Hyperloop transit
Waste management Reduces emissions from the landfills, helps to produce renewable energy from waste Waste incineration with energy recovery, Recycling
Agriculture land management helps to increase soil carbon storage, improved cultivation techniques helps to reduce CH4 emissions, improved nitrogen fertiliser application techniques helps to reduce N2O emissions Restoration degraded lands,

Zero tillage farming, Organic farming etc

Changes in consumer behaviour Rampant consumerism consumes lot of resources and generates more waste. Ethical consumerism can reduce emissions

Use of recycled materials,

Energy saving practices

5.2 Carbon Sequestration and Climate Engineering

  1. Carbon sequestration
    • Is long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon in the carbon sinks naturally or artificially
    • The forests acts as natural carbon sinks. The methods are afforestation; reforestation; forest management; ; tree species improvement etc
    • Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) is a process consisting of the separation of CO2 from industrial and energy related sources, transport to a storage location and long-term isolation from the atmosphere in depleted oil and gas fields or deep saline aquifer formations
  2. Climate Engineering
    • Is an application of geoengineering
    • Is the deliberate and large-scale intervention in Earth’s climatic system with the aim of reducing global warming
    • It proposes has two categories of technologies- carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management
    • Debates are still going on the climate engineering proposals
    • examples
      • Stratospheric sulfate aerosols to create a global dimming effect to control solar radiation
      • Ocean fertilization or ocean nourishment that introduce nutrients to the upper ocean so as to increase marine food production and thus to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
      • Mirrors high in the atmosphere  to reflect the incoming solar radiation

6. Adaptation

Adaptation is different from mitigation. Adaptation refers to the measures that will be required to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change and variability, regardless of the scale of mitigation undertaken. The different fields that require adaptation are,

Area Why adaptation? How it is done?
Agriculture The crop yields are changing with climate change.

Soil needs protection from degradation.

Adjustment of planting dates and crop variety

Crop relocation

Improved land management for erosion control

Disaster Management The coastal zones face danger of sea level rise.

Increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.

Coastal zones – Relocation; seawalls and storm surge barriers

Protection of existing natural barriers and stabilisers like wetlands, mangroves

Resources Conservation Risks of depletion, contamination and pollution Use of renewable sources Reduced dependence on single sources of energy

Expanded rainwater harvesting

Water storage and conservation

Human Health Increased risk of vector borne diseases

Health effects due to pollution

Health risks during disasters

Emergency medical services

Improved climate-sensitive disease surveillance and control

Safe water and improved sanitation

Can you guess why India advocates for adaptation rather than mitigation in the global stages?

7. Global Efforts

7.1 History

  • The first climate measurement began in 1873 with the formation of the International Meteorological Organization (IMO) and the establishment of a network of weather stations (Later the IMO became a part of the United Nations, changed its name to the World Meteorological Organization).
  • A  killer smog in London in 1952[FAQ 4], followed by a similar smog in Los Angeles and then in New York made people aware of the fatal consequences of the emissions from industry
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change
  • In 1992, the Rio Earth Summit was convened which resulted in a treaty that established the United Nations Framework for Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • The UNFCCC has since been organising the Conferences of Parties (COPs) to find a globally acceptable pathway to mitigate climate change

7.2 UNFCCC and related agreements

  • The 197 countries that have ratified the Convention are called Parties to the Convention
  • Their meetings are called Conference of Parties (COP) which happens every year
  • Preventing “dangerous” human interference with the climate system is the ultimate aim of the UNFCCC
  • So far 22 COPs have happened

The important agreements during the COPs are

COPs Important Outcomes How it works?
COP 3 (Kyoto, 1997) The Kyoto Protocol was adopted Includes legally binding emission targets for developed country (Annex I) Parties for the six major greenhouse gases, which are to be reached by the period 2008-2012.
COP 8 (New Delhi, 2002) Delhi Ministerial Declaration on Climate Change and Sustainable Development Reiterated the need to build on the outcomes of the World Summit of 2002 on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg
COP 13 (Bali, 2007) Bali Action Plan Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol negotiations

Developing countries adopted Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA)

LDCs put forward National Adaptation Programme for Action (NAPA)

COP 14 (Poznan, 2008) Launched the Adaptation Fund under the Kyoto Protocol To finance concrete adaptation projects and programmes in developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change
COP 15 (Copenhagen, 2009) The Copenhagen Accord This included agreement on the long-term goal of limiting the maximum global average temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees Celsius about pre-industrial levels
COP 16 (Cancun, 2010) The Cancun AgreementsEstablished a Green Climate Fund Adopted a technology mechanism to boost the development and spread of new climate-friendly technologies

Green Climate Fund to provide financing for action in developing countries

COP 18 (Doha, 2012) The launch of a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol Annex 1 Parties that have agreed to the 2nd commitment period obligations will review their emission targets

Adds nitrogen trifluoride to the list of GHGs

COP 21 (Paris, 2015) The Paris Agreement Brings all nations in the efforts to combat climate change


Kyoto Protocol

  • Was adopted at COP-3 at Kyoto, Japan in1997 and came into force in 2005
  • The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP 7 in Marrakesh, and are referred to as the “Marrakesh Accords.”
  • Its first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012.
  • During the first commitment period, 37 industrialized countries and the European Community committed to reduce GHG emissions to an average of five percent against 1990 levels.
  • During the second commitment period, Parties committed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18 percent below 1990 levels in the eight-year period from 2013 to 2020
  • Under Kyoto Protocol, each Annex-I country is given emission target “quota” (Kyoto Units). The national government should do all steps to make sure it doesn’t cross that quota
  • Even after all the measures, if emissions are not controlled, they can buy additional ‘quota or units’ through the  mechanisms of
    1. Carbon Trading
    2. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and 
    3. Joint Implementation (JI)

Paris Agreement

  • The Paris Agreement was adopted at COP-21, Paris in 2015
  • For the first time brings all nations in the efforts to combat climate change
  • The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016
  • Aim is to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
  • The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts.
  • In 2018, Parties will take stock of the collective efforts
  • There will also be a global stocktake every 5 years

In 2017 USA, the second largest emitter withdrew from the Paris agreement.

Fortunately, the first, third and fourth largest emitters – China, The EU and India have reiterated their commitment to the treaty.

Can you guess why The Montreal Protocol for ozone protection was a success, but the Kyoto Protocol for reducing GHG emissions was not so successful ?

7.3 IPCC

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the UNEP and WMO (World Meteorological Organization) in 1988. 
  • Currently 195 countries are members of the IPCC
  • To evaluate the present scenario of Climate change and its future impact on Environment, Livelihood and Economics
  • It assesses the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information produced worldwide relevant to the understanding of climate change, but does not conduct any research nor does it monitor climate related data or parameters.
  • The scientific contribution is on voluntarily basis
  • One of the main IPCC activities is the preparation of comprehensive Assessment Reports(AR) about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its causes, potential impacts and response strategies.
  • Since its inception, the IPCC has prepared five multivolume assessment reports. The Fifth Assessment Report was released in four parts between September 2013 and November 2014.
  • The IPCC also produces Special Reports, which are an assessment on a specific issue
  • Methodology Reports provide practical guidelines for the preparation of greenhouse gas inventories

7.4 The Green Climate Fund

  • Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a fund within the framework of the UNFCCC
  • GCF launched its initial resource mobilization in 2014, and has gathered pledges worth USD 10.3 billion
  • Is a mechanism to transfer money from the developed to the developing world 
  • The Fund pays particular attention to the needs of societies that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and African States.
  • The Fund’s investments can be in the form of grants, loans, equity or guarantees.
  • GCF is used for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) by developing nations

7.5 REDD and REDD+ Programmes

REDD and REDD+(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) programmes aim 

  • To reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation.
  • It is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to maintain forests that act as carbon stores
  • Is developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

REDD+ goes beyond simply deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. It will require the full engagement and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities. 

UN-REDD Programme supports nationally led REDD+ processes. It helps in national and international REDD+ implementation.

8. National Efforts

The climate action is not an easy thing, given its link with development, resources and global concerns. As a developing country, we will emit more in coming years to pull all our people out of poverty through economic development. At the same time, we have to face the consequences of the climate change already happened.

8.1 National Action Plan on Climate Change

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) was launched in 2008. There are eight National Missions, which form the core of the NAPCC.

Missions Objectives
National Solar Mission To increase the share of solar energy
National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency A market based mechanism to incentivise energy efficiency

Shift to energy efficient appliances

National Mission on Sustainable Habitat Energy Conservation Building Code

Urban waste management

Urban planning and public transport

National Water Mission Integrated water resource management
National Mission for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem For sustaining and safeguarding Himalayan glaciers and mountain ecosystem
National Mission for Green India To enhance ecosystem services and carbon sinks
National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture To make agriculture more resilient to climate change
National Mission on Strategic knowledge for Climate Change For global collaboration in research and technology development

Funding of research

8.2 The Energy and Resources Institute(TERI)

TERI was established in 1974 as an information centre on energy issues. Now it is a major research institute, whose key focus lies in promoting:

  • Clean energy
  • Water management
  • Pollution management
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Climate resilience

8.3 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions

Based on the guidelines issued after COP-20 at Lima, Peru, each country has to submit their INDCs ahead of COP-21 in Paris. India’s pledges are

  1. To reduce GHG emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels. 
  2. To achieve about 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030 with the help of transfer of technology and low cost international finance including from Green Climate Fund (GCF) (you give us fund, then will try to reduce our emissions)
  3. To create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030

8.4 Others

  • The Energy Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2010 to address all matters related to the efficient use of energy and its conservation.
  • New thermal power plants should be based on supercritical technology.
  • Upgradation of vehicular emission norms.
  • National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) launched in 2011 for – natural resource management, improving soil health, improving crop production and livestock
  • System of Rice Intensification that results in reduced emission of methane is being promoted in 199 districts 
  • National Agroforestry Policy to encourage and expand tree plantation
  • Government of India is in the process of developing its National REDD+ strategy.
  • Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) for eight industrial sectors, namely Power, Iron and Steel, Fertilizer, Cement, Aluminium, Pulp and Paper, Textile and Chlor-alkali for encouraging energy efficiency
  • The Integrated Energy Policy (IEP)to promote actions that address climate concerns also raise funds
  • Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) and Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) for offtake of renewable power .

9. FAQs

1. What is permafrost?

Permafrost is perennially frozen ground. Is naturally occurring when temperature is colder than 0 °C continuously for two or more years. Most permafrost is consolidated by ice.

2. Explain Ocean Acidification

  • Ocean acidification is called the “evil twin of global warming”.  
  • The carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves into oceans. To achieve chemical equilibrium, some of it reacts with the water to form carbonic acid(H2CO3 ). Some of these extra carbonic acid molecules react with a water molecule to give a bicarbonate ion(HCO3 – – ) and a hydronium ion( H3O+), thus increasing ocean acidity (H+ ion concentration). 
  • The concentration of carbonate ions decreases with acidification.The carbonate ions(CO3 – – ) are essential for the calcification process to build shells. Thus the survival of calcifying organisms becomes difficult.
  • The dissolution of CaCO3 shells releases more carbon to the geochemical cycle thus accentuating the global warming .
  • Acidification would lead certain marine organisms to emit less of the sulphur compounds which affects formation of clouds.

3. What is ENSO phenomenon?

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a naturally occurring phenomenon that involves fluctuating ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. 

4. What was the notorious London smog?

In 1952 winter, a killer fog covered London for five days, causing breathing problems and killing thousands of residents. Later researches showed that sulfate was a big contributor to the fog, and sulfuric acid particles were formed from sulfur dioxide released by coal burning for residential use and power plants. The reaction by which sulfur dioxide was turned into sulfuric acid, was facilitated by nitrogen dioxide, another co-product of coal burning.

The 1952 killer fog led to the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1956 by the British Parliament and is still considered the worst air pollution event in the European history.


Hey, Don’t Ignore me!

Hi there.. We know, you just need single reading to grasp the concepts…Please prove us right.


  1. SHUBHAM VERMA says:

    Sir notes are really good.but some time we skip important term so please provide more quiz.

  2. Vineet Ranjan says:

    Sir/Mam ,
    I found this very much relevant and conforms with ese syllabus.Thanks alot for this effort .
    One thing I want to say if it’s possible to attach some questions like then it will be extremely good.
    But yet this is life-saving .

  3. Balkrishna says:

    sir please check question no 2 option green house gas emission order should 1energy. 2 agriculture. 3transportation 4 industries

  4. SAGAR SUROSHI says:

    Sir, how is that Global environment facility is not included in the answer. They also contribute to developing countries.

  5. SAGAR SUROSHI says:

    Also in question no 8 …. Sea level rise is an indicator of Global Warming. If we see from sea level rise towards permafrost the option seems to be true. please help.

  6. shankar says:


    I am preparing for ESE 2018, Will this material available in your website is sufficient to crack the GS paper?
    I am completely dependent on your website data. Please provide me the confidence to prepare for it.


  7. Shailesh says:

    Thanks a lot for providing such a precise content for GS portion.

  8. Bablu Mehta says:

    Good content

  9. Dhrumil says:

    Sir i am planning for gate 2019 but General studies is week part for me how to improve in that

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