AN ASSESSMENT OF THE PERCEPTION OF STUDENTS IN THE OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY, ILE-IFE, NIGERIA ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE AND GREENHOUSE EFFECT
COMFORT IFEOLUWA IDOWU
CHAPTER ONEINTRODUCTIONBackground to the StudyClimate change is a major risk facing mankind. It is one of the many issues being confronted by the United Nations. Climate change is more than changes in weather; it encompasses environmental issues like flooding, storm surges, sea level rise, temperature rise, variability of precipitation, and extreme weather conditions (Pitpitunge, 2013: 2). It is attributed to the rising concentration of greenhouse gases and increasing environmental degradation. It becomes a concern of international organisations and government institutions because of its impacts on different sectors such as agriculture, ecosystems and biodiversity (IPCC, 2007a). At the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Paris in 2015, 195 countries agreed on a plan to reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, aiming to limit global temperature increase to well below 2 °C (relative to pre-industrial climate, meaning a future warming of less than 1.4 °C because temperature had already increased by 0.6 °C by the end of the twentieth century). The link between CO2 and climate warming has caught the attention of scientists and politicians, as well as the general public, via the well-known greenhouse effect (Anderson, Hawkins, and Jones, 2016: 178).
Climate Change is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007b) as “any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.” Changes in climate refer to changes in means and variability of, for instance, temperature, precipitation, and wind over the course of months to millions of years. More broadly, climate refers to changes in atmosphere (gaseous envelope surrounding the earth), hydrosphere (water on the surface of the earth), cryosphere (snow, ice, and permafrost on and beneath the surface of the earth and ocean), land surface, and biosphere (ecosystems and organisms living in the atmosphere, land, and oceans). Global climate change is fundamentally a biophysical phenomenon. However, the recent and accelerating warming of the earth’s climate is largely attributable to human activity, and its impacts are mediated by psychological and social processes and can be limited primarily by human activity.
More succinctly put, one of the most critical environmental subjects of the 21st century is Global warming. Global warming is not only an environmental danger but also a social and economic threat, and unfortunately, some adverse consequences of it are becoming visible these days. Greenhouse effect which causes this phenomenon, happens because of greenhouse gases (water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and so on) existing in the atmosphere, trapping sunrays and making earth’s atmosphere warmer. Whereas some of these gases are naturally found in the atmosphere, human activity increases the amount of particular gases (Skamp, Boyes & Stranisstreet, 2009).
As human activities continue to add greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxides – to the Earth’s atmosphere, global temperatures are expected to rise, causing the Earth’s climates to change. These climate changes may affect precipitation patterns, severe and extreme weather events, and over time environmental systems. Furthermore, human health and agriculture may be sensitive to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that global warming is inevitable and that human activity is likely to be the main cause. The National Research Council’s Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences (NRC, 2000) identified eight “grand challenges,” four of which are directly linked to climate and climate change.
The gradual increasing process of Earth atmosphere annual temperature and World Ocean in the 20th and 21st centuries are the results of both natural causes and the consequence of human activity (Elizbarashvili et al, 2017: 17). Global concern regarding the devastating impact of climate change and greenhouse effect has emphasised the need for creating awareness and building community capacity for adaptation, strategies to mitigate the effects. This is why McMichael (2003) noted that:
The long-term good health of populations depends on the continued stability and functioning of the biosphere’s ecological and physical systems, often referred to as life-support systems. We ignore this long-established historical truth at our peril: yet it is all too easy to overlook this dependency, particularly at a time when the human species is becoming increasingly urbanized and distanced from these natural systems. The world’s climate system is an integral part of this complex of life-supporting processes, one of many large natural systems that are now coming under pressure from the increasing weight of human numbers and economic activities.
From the foregoing, the effects of global climate change and greenhouse effect are already being observed in the Nigeria and worldwide, and are projected to increase substantially over the next century and beyond (Santer, et al 2012). If people’s knowledge of environment generally improves, they will behave in a manner that avoids environmental degradation (Skamp, Boyes, and Stanisstreet, 2009). This fact is also true about global warming phenomenon; since the people’s behaviour in the field of producing greenhouse gasses is a determinant factor and their action is directly dependent on the amount of knowledge about this matter, it is so important to discover what they know in this regard. There may be some misconceptions about climate change in persons’ minds; therefore, it is necessary to explore those misconceptions before any educational planning (Kilinc, Stanisstreet, and Boyes, 2008). As students are among the most trainable stratums of the society, it is essential to discover their knowledge and perception of global climate change and greenhouse effect to prepare the best kind of educational programme for them. Being sensitive towards nature through a strong programme of climate change awareness is very important at this point in time, especially among students. This is imperative in the sense that when students are in the know of the impact of climatic change, they can play vital role in the dissemination of information of environmental knowledge with its associated problems and solution. To fasten their awareness towards global climatic change and greenhouse effect, it is essential to know what level of knowledge they possess in order to have a better grasp on development processes across context. Thus, this current study seeks to assess the perception of students in the Obafemi Awolowo University on global climate change and greenhouse effect.
Statement of the ProblemSince the first scholarly and quantitative work on the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide was done nearly one hundred years ago by Svante Arrhenius, the Swedish Nobel chemist (Ramanathan and Feng, 2009: 37-38). Arrhenius (1896) developed a simple mathematical model for the transfer of radiant energy through the atmosphere–surface system, and solved it analytically to show that a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration would lead to a warming of the surface by as much as 4–5 K. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of work on the science of global warming, culminating in the now famous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.
Climate change is quite an important subject in the discourse of development in this modern age. However, in spite of its significance, there is yet no clear evidence on whether this increasingly pressing subject has been clearly or commonly understood: “What exactly is climate change?” remains a question that has not been satisfactorily answered yet, making it more of an idea, a perception, a theory than an established fact. This is even more problematic when taking into consideration that the effects of climate change are generally perceived as negative (albeit in varying degrees) to humanity as a whole – a situation that seems to demand a concerted action. The question that becomes problematic, therefore, is whether it is possible to mobilize concerted efforts against the perceived scourge of climate change in a situation where there is no common understanding of the problem at hand. This question is even more important to examine when taking into consideration that the world is being told that the effects of climate change can only be mitigated by the very human beings who are seen as its main cause and catalyst. If this is really the case, it should be realized that not all human beings can contribute the same amounts of time, effort and expertise to the mitigation of climate change. This is simply because human beings possess different powers, capabilities and levels of training when it comes to driving the direction of this mitigation and how the development thereof should take.
Many studies have been conducted on the perceptions that the public hold on climate change. Yet little work has been done to establish the perceptions of Environmental students and Geography students on climate change. A notably drop in the ocean is Tse Ka Ho’s magisterial study of Hong Kong student’s perceptions on climate change and engagement in low Carbon behaviours (2013). The majority of the literature conducted on this topic focused on school students’ perception on global warming as young as kindergarten age to high school age and some focused on the role of teachers and formal Environmental Education in raising awareness (Boyes and Stanisstreet, 2001; Bozdogan, 2009; Yurttas and Sulun, 2010; Cimer et al., 2011; Ozbayrak et al., 2011; Owolabi et al., 2012). However, there is little or no academic attention being paid to the perception of university students in the Obafemi Awolowo University on global climate change and greenhouse effect. Paying adequate attention to the perception of students would bring to fore the level of awareness among students both at the undergraduate and the postgraduate levels in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The present study intends to fill this gap.
Research QuestionsThis research is intended to answer the following research questions:
what is the level of students’ knowledge on global climate change and greenhouse effect?
what is the perception of students on the causes of global climate change and greenhouse effect?
what are the different sources of global climate change and greenhouse effect?
what are the perception of students on the consequences of global climate change and greenhouse effect?
what are the perception of students on the various ways to reduce the effect of global climate change and greenhouse effect?
Objectives of the StudyThe main objective of this study is to assess the perception of students (undergraduates and postgraduates) on global climate change and greenhouse effect. Specific objectives of the study are to:
study and analyse the level of students’ knowledge on global climate change and greenhouse effect;
examine the perception of students on the causes of global climate change and greenhouse effect;
identify the different sources of global climate change and greenhouse effect;
investigate the perception of students on the consequences of global climate change and greenhouse effect; and
assess the perception of students on the various ways to reduce the effect of global climate change and greenhouse effect
Research HypothesisHypothesis One:
H0:There is no difference in the perception of students on the causes of global climate change and greenhouse effect
H1: There is difference in the perception of students on the causes of global climate change and greenhouse effect
H0:Students do not significantly have knowledge of global climate change and greenhouse effect
H1:Students do not significantly have knowledge of global climate change and greenhouse effect
Significance of the StudyThe rationale for the focus of this research is that these postgraduate (Honours) students in the field of Environmental Management are imminent opinion leaders of climate change policy and its implementation. As such, the research argues that the understanding of these two groups around the issues of climate change will be a determining factor in whether future climate change policies will (or will not) be implemented. This research is also based on the assumption that the lack of implementation in most current climate change policies is due to the schism that exists between two groups of opinion leaders who are not known for easily compromising their views: scholars (and specifically those chosen for participation in this research) and politicians.
The researcher believes that this study will impact on current and future climate-change and greenhouse adaptation, and policy-making on how to care for the environment in Nigeria as well as the whole continent. Even among this select group of students who have committed themselves to studying the issue of environment management, there exist considerable variations in their understanding of the causes of the problems and just as many variations in their suggestions for remedying the situation. If the upcoming generation, especially the future-productive university students participating in this research, can achieve a good understanding of the crises around climate change and adaptation, it will be a boon for society. It will also contribute to the implementation of policy without political interference.
In a society that respects academics, it will be important to know the perceptions of young future academics because they will go on to influence the society. Among them there will be politicians and parliamentarians who will formulate the laws of the country. If they are not aware of these issues, they will continue to formulate climate-unfriendly ones. An informed society is necessary in pushing for environmental friendly laws and advocating for the implementation of these.
In general, the study hopes to be significant in both the theoretical and practical aspects of climate change deliberations, by bringing a critical edge to many positions held by various stakeholders. Since, notwithstanding its popularity, facts on climate change are inaccessible to many. This study hopes to also identify the knowledge gap between experts and laymen and attempt to bridge it by bringing climate change deliberations to the domain of the general public through informing the study participants.
Scope of the StudyWith regards to the objectives of the study, conducting the study from the standpoint of students would be a substantial fitting approach. The major area of concentration will be the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Obafemi Awolowo University is a very large community with so many students. The fact is that, there are inadequate resources to extend the survey to all the students in the institution, therefore, five (6) major faculties of the institution was targeted for investigation as the sample areas. These five (6) faculties are: Sciences, Social Sciences, Agriculture, Arts, Education, and Environmental and Design Management (EDM). This study will concentrate on both the undergraduate and the postgraduate students in these faculties.
Limitation of the Study
It is quite possible that all studies have the tendency of facing one problem or the other. In this respect, in carrying out the research work, there is tendency of coming across some problems which might disturb the accuracy of the survey in achieving the desired result. In the course of this research the following limitations were encountered:
Reluctance on the part of some respondents to filling the questionnaire.
Time constraints for the completion of the exercise.
Definition of TermsAtmosphere: This is the blanket of gases that surround a planet. Earth’s atmosphere has evolved from being one filled with carbon dioxide and water vapour to one containing mainly nitrogen and oxygen.
Assessment: This is an opinion or a judgment about somebody/something that has been thought about very carefully (Hornby, 2006: 75).
Climate change: Refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activities and natural variation.
Global warming: This is the increase in the earth’s surface temperature due to natural and human activities.
Green House effect: This is the process of energy absorption and re-radiation by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Weather: Baede (2007:87) describes “weather”, as that perceptible fluctuating state of the atmosphere around us, characterised by the temperature, wind, precipitation, clouds and other elements.
Greenhouse gas emissions: Is any gaseous compound in the atmosphere that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere.
Climate: This is the average course or condition of the weather at a place usually over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity and precipitation.
CHAPTER TWOREVIEW OF RELATED LITERATUREIntroductionIn this chapter, relevant conceptual and empirical literatures are reviewed under the following dimensions:
The Concept of Global Climate Change
The Concept of Greenhouse Effect
Understanding Perceptions on Climate Change and Greenhouse Effect
Appraisal of Literature Review
The Concept of Global Climate Change
Meaning of Climate Change
Climate change has been defined by Weber (2010) as systematic changes in average conditions over time. These changes are difficult to observe and discern without statistical measurement, and this makes it difficult for the sceptics to believe climate change is happening (Weber 2010). Although climate change may occur in different parts of the world, it will result in heterogeneous effects which may result in the destruction of some ecosystems (Brody et al 2008; Leiserowitz 2005). Climate change is not a new phenomenon, as early as 1827 Fouries noted an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and greenhouse gas effects (Leiserowitz 2007). There have been many workers in this field until, notably, Callendar made a link between climate change and anthropogenic climate change in the 1930s (Hulme 2009). Yet there are different schools of thought on what causes climate change, the most dominant being anthropogenic and natural causes. When the link between climate change and emissions was made, the fossil fuel industry in the United States of America in the late 1980s launched a public campaign to discredit science and the anthropogenic causes of climate change (Lorenzoni et al 2007). This campaign and other causes have made it more difficult to convince some members of the public about the link between climate change and human behaviour.
Climate change is a problem demanding a great deal of attention by scientists, policymakers, and the public as well; and for this reason, recently there has been a great interest in public understanding of climate change and in educating pupils, the future citizens, so as to enable them to successfully cope with this threat (Papadimitriou, 2004). According to Pruneau, Liboiron, Vrain, Gravel, Bourque, and Langis (2001), climate change is an issue which affects all parts of life and requires education to be considered as a whole without the boundaries of disciplines.
Udenyi (2010) opined that climate change is simply a change in the climate condition of the world and that the change is found by the scientists and others to be on the negative. the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) understands climate change ‘as a change in climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activities that alter the composition of the global atmosphere and which are in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’ (UNFCCC 2013). Lucarine (2002) argues that “climate change is the perceptible variation in the physical state of a climatic system which is marked by changes in atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere.’ In this sense, Lucarine seems to be understanding climate change in a more physical and natural manner compared to the UNFCCC. The above scenario posits climate change as a complex issue which is understood and/or interpreted differently by different stakeholders. However, Sorensen (2005:56) prefers a more inclusive approach in his conceptualisation when he says: “The earth’s climate is most affected by latitude, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the movements of the Earth’s wind belts, and the difference in temperatures of land and sea, and topography. Human activity, especially relating to actions relating to the depletion of the ozone layer, is also an important factor.”
According to many contemporary climate change scholars, the meaning in climate change varies according to worldviews. Pettenger (2007b: 2-5) summarises that explicitly:
Climate change has a strong socially constructed dimension. This does not refer, however, to climate change being a fabricated myth, which contrary to surmounting scientific evidence does not happen. Rather, there is an increasing awareness that climate change in its meaning(s) to specific communities and within concrete societies is first and foremost a social phenomenon. In other words, its roots as well as possible strategies to cope with it are subject to various cultures of interpretation.
In recent decades, climate change has become a widely discussed topic that has attracted worldwide attention as increasing evidence suggests that the existence of climate change is occurring as a result of human activities. As a means of better understanding and curbing global climate change, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) founded the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. Gathering hundreds of researchers in the interest of addressing the assessment and offering evidence of global climate change to the general public. The IPCC is currently the leading international organization gathering in global climate change research. The IPCC assessment reports offer a clear scientific view on climate change knowledge as well as both its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. Many scholars have based their studies on the finding inform IPCC’s assessment reports (See Berrittella, et al., 2006; Gössling, et al., 2006; Gössling, ; Hall, 2012; Scott ; Matthews, 2011; Smith, 1993; etc.). Additionally, there is a steady emergence of studies geared toward furthering the understanding of both human perceptions on climate change and curbing human-induced climate change are emerging in large numbers (See Brody, et al., 2008; Gössling, et al., 2006; and Poortinga, et al., 2011).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines climate change as a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and the changes persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. Established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the IPCC was created with the intent of assessing the specific information (scientific, technical and socioeconomic) in order to understand the risk of human-induced climate change (Le Treut, et al., 2007 quoted in Zhao, 2017: 14). The findings determined that climate change may be due to internal processes and/or external forces. While external influences, such as changes in solar radiation and volcanism, are natural variabilities of the climate system, other external changes, such as the composition change of the atmosphere that began with the industrial revolution, are the result of human activity (Hegerl, et al., 2007 quoted in Zhao, 2017: 14). In the past two decades, the evidence of human- induced climate changes has accumulated steadily. For example, the first IPCC Assessment Report, released in 1990, contained little observational evidence of a detectable anthropogenic influence on climate. Six years later, however, the IPCC Working Group I SAR (IPCC, 1996) concluded that “the balance of evidence” suggested that there had been a “discernible” human influence on the climate of the 20th century (Hegerl, et al., 2007, quoted in Zhao, 2017: 15). Additionally, findings from the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007) shows that is unequivocal that the warming of the global climate is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and finally, the rising global average sea levels.
In 2014, the IPCC’s Fifth Synthesis Report concludes that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, a factor largely driven by economic and population growth, and the reality of emission reaching the highest peak in history, during the years ranging from 2000 to 2010. Both growths global economic and population are the most important drivers of the increase in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, stem from global economic growth and population growth; constituting for, 78% of the total GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emission increases, which took place between 1970 and 2010 (p.46). In recent decades, changes in climate have impacted natural and human systems on all continents and across all oceans (p.49). For example, the influence of human activities has been detected in the increasing warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, changes in the global water cycle, and a reduced production in snow and ice. Lastly, it has been noted that global mean sea level is rising, which is highly likely to be the dominant cause of the warming observed since the mid- 20th century (p.47). As aforementioned, climate change impacts both natural and human systems, and it will undoubtedly amplify existing risks, while creating new risks for natural and human systems (p.64). The IPCC (2014) lists four key risks that will influence all sectors and regions:
Severe ill-health and disrupted livelihoods that result from storm surges, sea level rise and coastal flooding, inland flooding in some urban regions, and periods of extreme heat.
Extreme weather events leading to breakdown of infrastructural networks and critical services.
Food and water insecurity and the loss of rural livelihoods and income, particularly for poorer populations;
Loss of ecosystems, biodiversity and ecosystem goods, functions and services.
Holdren (2006) defined climate change as any measurable trend in global climate towards extreme, which is in addition to rising global temperatures. It is a long term measurable change in the elements of climate tending towards extreme.
Perception of climate change as a threat across the world has been increasing over the years thanks to the severity and increased frequency of climate change impacts (UNDP, 2007), but it is still not considered a priority environmental issue especially in the developed countries (Leiserowitz, Kates and Parris, 2005; Leiserowitz, 2006; Pew Research Centre, 2013). Various studies show that people in developing countries are more likely to perceive climate change as a threat (GlobeScan, 2006; Pew Research Centre, 2006; Godfrey et al., 2009). Contrary results were, however, reported by Pugliese and Ray (2009) who states that climate change is more likely to be perceived as a serious problem in the developed world than in developing countries, despite developing countries being the most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
Causes of Climate Change
Although most people report being aware of climate change and its causes and show some concern, they cannot explain in detail its causes, consequences and solutions. They believe that climate change is caused by anthropogenic and natural causes but frequently do not understand the details (Lorenzoni et al 2007). In some instances, the public still associate climate change with the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer, greenhouse effects and climate variability (Brody et al 2008). This lack of understanding based on wrong knowledge models affects how people would tackle climate change (Wolf and Moser 2011). This is further demonstrated by how people try to provide solutions to climate change by recycling and other strategies which do not curb climate change (Leiserowitz 2005).
Impact of Climate Change
Evidence of observed climate change impacts is strongest and most comprehensive for natural systems. In many regions, changing precipitation or melting snow and ice are altering hydrological systems, affecting water resources in terms of quantity and quality (medium confidence). Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change (high confidence). Some impacts on human systems have also been attributed to climate change, with a major or minor contribution of climate change distinguishable from other influences. Assessment of many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops shows that negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts (high confidence). Some impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms have been attributed to human influence (medium confidence).
The health influences from climate change have been recognized, for example increased cardiopulmonary, communicable, allergic, mental illnesses and a host of weather-related injuries (Friel, Bowen, and Campbell-Lendrum, 2011). According to Ochieng and Koske (2013: 174), Climate change is an area that is in dire need of publicity to help the public make informed decisions in its adaptation and mitigation.
Climate, whether of the earth as a whole or of a single country or location, is often described as the synthesis of weather recorded over a long period of time. It is defined in terms of long-term averages and other statistics of weather conditions, including the frequencies of extreme events. Climate is far from static. Just as weather patterns change from day to day, the climate changes too, over a range of time frames from years, decades and centuries to millennia, and on the longer time-scales corresponding to the geological history of the earth. These naturally occurring changes, driven by factors both internal and external to the climate system, are intrinsic to climate itself.
In addition to the annual (seasonal) cycle of climate, global and regional climates are in a perpetual state of change on time-scales from months to millions of years. As a result, society and nature are in a continuous process of adaptation to change. A range of factors can lead to changes in climate on these time-scales, some internal to the climate system and some external, some naturally occurring and some deriving from human activities. In addition to physical mechanisms of climate variability, there are also random, chaotic fluctuations within the climate system. These account for a significant part of the observed natural variability.
In another instance, to Comsan (2006), the following are the global impacts of climate change:
Climate change impacts may challenge the survival of human beings and are a challenge to human security.
Climate change impacts will contribute to environmental stress and become a potential cause of conflict constellations.
Climate change impacts force human beings to leave their rural home for the next major city (urbanization) or to take refuge in a neighbouring country or overseas (migration).
Climate change impacts pose severe challenges for countries with most severe effects of sea level rise in delta areas but also by complex interactions of increasing temperature and declining precipitation in arid- and semi-arid regions.
Climate change impacts may contribute to escalation of social, ethnic or religious tension that may erupt in violent riots or result in domestic civil strife or civil war
Climate change Impacts and disputes on scarce resources – access to water or country crossing aquifers – may contribute to bilateral or regional non-violent or violent conflicts.
Climate change impacts and international environmental refugees may lead to international tensions on migration, on admission of refugees in neighbouring or in industrialized countries and on treatment of immigrant communities.
The mitigation of challenges posed by the impact of climate change requires bilateral or multilateral international cooperation, support for adaptive capabilities and a massive technology transfer.
The Concept of Greenhouse Effect
Meaning of Greenhouse Effect
Sorensen (2005:60) defines greenhouse effect ‘as the phenomenon whereby the earth’s atmosphere traps solar radiation, and is mediated by the presence in the atmosphere of gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapour, and methane that allow incoming sunlight to pass through, but absorb the heat radiated back from the earth’s surface.’ These ‘greenhouse gases’ (GHGs) provide a blanketing effect in the lower strata of the earth’s atmosphere, and this blanketing effect is being enhanced because of human activities like burning of fossil fuels, and unsound industrial and agricultural practices (Sorensen 2005).
The greenhouse effect is a natural process that plays a major part in shaping the earth’s climate. It produces the relatively warm and hospitable environment near the earth’s surface where humans and other life-forms have been able to develop and prosper. It is one of a large number of physical, chemical and biological processes that combine and interact to determine the earth’s climate.
Boyes and Stanisstreet (1993: 531) stated that the greenhouse effect has been cited as “perhaps the most important and widely reported problem in recent times.” The Sun powers Earth’s climate, radiating energy at very short wavelengths, predominately in the visible or near-visible (e.g., ultraviolet) part of the spectrum. Roughly one-third of the solar energy that reaches the top of Earth’s atmosphere is reflected directly back to space. The remaining two-thirds is absorbed by the surface and, to a lesser extent, by the atmosphere. To balance the absorbed incoming energy, the Earth must, on average, radiate the same amount of energy back to space. Because the Earth is much colder than the Sun, it radiates at much longer wavelengths, primarily in the infrared part of the spectrum. Much of this thermal radiation emitted by the land and ocean is absorbed by the atmosphere, including clouds, and reradiated back to Earth. This is called the greenhouse effect. The glass walls in a greenhouse reduce airflow and increase the temperature of the air inside. Analogously, but through a different physical process, the Earth’s greenhouse effect warms the surface of the planet. Without the natural greenhouse effect, the average temperature at Earth’s surface would be below the freezing point of water. Thus, Earth’s natural greenhouse effect makes life as we know it possible. However, human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests, have greatly intensified the natural greenhouse effect, causing global warming.
The two most abundant gases in the atmosphere, nitrogen (comprising 78% of the dry atmosphere) and oxygen (comprising 21%), exert almost no greenhouse effect. Instead, the greenhouse effect comes from molecules that are more complex and much less common. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the second-most important one. Methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and several other gases present in the atmosphere in small amounts also contribute to the greenhouse effect. In the humid equatorial regions, where there is so much water vapour in the air that the greenhouse effect is very large, adding a small additional amount of CO2 or water vapour has only a small direct impact on downward infrared radiation. However, in the cold, dry polar regions, the effect of a small increase in CO2 or water vapour is much greater. The same is true for the cold, dry upper atmosphere where a small increase in water vapour has a greater influence on the greenhouse effect than the same change in water vapour would have near the surface (IPCC, 2007).
According to Khan (2017), the greenhouse effect often gets a bad rap because of its association with global warming, but the truth is we could not live without it. The greenhouse effect was discovered by French mathematician Joseph Fourier in 1824 and reliably experimented on by Irish physicist John Tyndall in 1858 and reported by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius 1896 quantitatively.
Life on earth depends on energy from the sun. About 30 percent of the sunlight that beams toward Earth is deflected by the outer atmosphere and scattered back into space. The rest 70 per cent reaches the earth’s surface and is reflected back again as a type of slow-moving energy called infrared radiation. Most of that heat caused by infrared radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases. They can capture outgoing infrared energy from the earth because these gases having the molecules with three or more atoms. When that energy/heat in the atmosphere warms up the surroundings, it is known as the Greenhouse Effect. Thus, the greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring process by which thermal radiation from a planetary earth’s surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions (Khan, 2017: 34).
Causes of Greenhouse Effect
The greenhouse effect is caused by the gases in the atmosphere which have the ability to absorb the sun’s energy that is radiated back into space from earth. There are natural as well as human-made causes of the greenhouse effect. The natural causes of the Greenhouse effect are the emissions of gases like nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone and water vapour. The natural greenhouse effect is actually beneficial to the Earth (Norwegian Interministerial Climate Group (1992), quoted in Khan, 2017). Actually, the greenhouse effect is an essential environmental prerequisite for life on Earth. The problems begin when human activities accelerate the natural process by creating more greenhouse gases well beyond their natural levels, and have added more new greenhouse gases, such as CFCs, halons in the atmosphere than are necessary to warm the planet to an ideal temperature. This in turn is throwing the natural climatic systems off balance. Human activity is not only producing more CO2 and other greenhouse gases but also severely damaging the ability of the earth to absorb carbon, via its carbon sinks through damaging and misusing the forests and oceanic plankton. Ocean individually has the capacity to absorb around 50 per cent of CO2 (IPCC, 1992).
The destruction of the ozone layer by human-made chemicals, such as CFCs, halons are allowing increased levels of harmful UV-B radiation to reach the surface of the earth. Increased levels of UV-B radiation could reduce the density of plankton in the oceans. Since plankton are the primary carbon sink of the planet, reduction in their density could result in less CO2 being absorbed from the atmosphere and ultimately percentage of CO2 increases in the atmosphere (Held & Solden, 2000). According to Khan (2017), some of the major human-made causes of these emissions are:
Deforestation: One of the major man-made causes of the Greenhouse effect is deforestation. With the increase in population, more and more forests are being cut to provide accommodation and other amenities to people. As per the report of World Resources Institute the loss of forests contributes between 12 percent and 17 percent of annual global greenhouse emission. Deforestation increases the amount of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere in one way or other for example due to the disappearance of trees the process of photosynthesis has been decreasing day by day (in which trees use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in its place), which affect the optimal balance of gases in the atmosphere. As more forests are logged for timber or cut down to make way for farming, however, there are fewer trees to perform this critical function photosynthesis in which trees use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in its place & ultimately increase carbon dioxide. The levels of deforestation have increased by about nine percent in recent times. According to FRA in 1990 forests made up 31.6 percent of the word’s land areas; this has changed to 30.6 percent in 2015. Africa and South America had the highest net annual loss of forests in 2010-2015, with 2.8 and 2 million hectares respectively (NRC, 2008). As per the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) agriculture is the most important cause of deforestation. Out of the total only seven countries named Brazil, Canada, USA, Indonesia, China, Russia ; Congo amount to around 60 per cent of the total deforestation in the world. It reveals that the planet has already lost 80 per cent of its forest cover. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 18 million acres (7.3million hectares) of forest are lost each year. In the last two decades, Afghanistan has lost over 70 per cent of its forests throughout the country. The major culprits of this are the industrialized countries because they consume 12 times more wood and its products per person than the non-industrialized countries for example United States has less than 5 per cent of the world’s population but consumes more than 30 per cent of the world’s paper (WRI, 1993). The burning of wood as fuel on mass level is also the major causes of deforestation as well as releasing of more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Massive worldwide forest destruction results in much fewer trees to soak up CO2 and add little amount of O2 to the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis and also releases the stored CO2 from the trees into the atmosphere after burning, that is the extra addition of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Burning of Fossil Fuels: We all know that burning of fossil fuels, like coal, petroleum, oil and gas results in release of pollutants into the atmosphere spatially CO2 Fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas are high in carbon and, when burned, produce major amounts of carbon dioxide CO2. A single gallon of gasoline, when burned, puts 19 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (UNEP, 1994). These materials are used increasingly and rampantly spatially in industries. With the time, the consumption of fossil fuels is it for industrial purposes or consumers’ purposes would be further increased and ultimately increases the pollution levels in the world. Using fossil fuels to generate energy also releases pollutants into the atmosphere, such as sulphur dioxide (SO2).
Industries: Most of the industries/factories produce many gases some of that last for a longer time in the atmosphere. These gases are not naturally available in the atmosphere, such as aerosol cans, some foaming agents used in the packaging industry, fire extinguisher chemicals and cleaners used in the electronic industries that are the extra burden to the atmosphere, which have added ultimately to the greenhouse effect. Even the cement manufacturing industries are supposed to be the major culprits of altering the composition by adding more pollutant. Most man-made machines such as the automobile contribute more to the greenhouse effect, whether they run on petrol or diesel, release harmful gases into the atmosphere and damage the composition. These gases, in turn, create the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere.
Electrical Appliances: Electrical appliances are amongst the major contributors to the greenhouse effect, such as refrigerators, air conditioners. Even the humble refrigerator in the house emits gases known as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which is long lived and more effective contributor to the Greenhouse effect because it breaks the ozone and considered as ozone depleter.
Population Growth: The high rate of population growth has been indirectly responsible and one of major causes of the Greenhouse effect. With the increase in population, the needs and wants of the people increases, therefore, this increases the manufacturing as well as the industrial processes along with deforestation for housing as well as agricultural/grazing purposes. This results in the increase of the release of greenhouse gases which catalyse the greenhouse effect. The increase of some farming practices and land-use changes, which is also one of the major source of greenhouse gases particularly methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide. The ultimate consequence is greenhouse effect.
Impact of Greenhouse Effect
The main effect of increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations is global warming. This warming is altering the earth’s climate system, including its land, atmosphere, oceans, and ice, in far-reaching ways. Global warming is harming the environment in several ways including; increase of average temperature/desertification, rise in Sea level, rainfall variability and deviation in seasonal characters. Greenhouse effect has many negative effects on human being as well environment in general and ecosystem in particular. A great change in atmospheric composition has been observed because of the unwanted pollution created by human to full fill their desire which affect the greenhouse a lot. It is estimated that it will further aggravate the severity of the changes in coming 10 to 20 years if the rate of pollution is the same. On the basis of the additional pollution added human beings, it is expected that the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) will be around 450 ppm (0.04%) by 2040 (Khan, 2017); presently it is on the level of around 400 ppm. that is also much more than the pre-industrial stage about 313 ppm in 1960. The harmful effects of presence of greenhouse gasses beyond the natural composition in atmosphere are ozone depletion, sea level rise and adverse effects on the biodiversity, global warming and ultimately climate change. One way or another these adverse impacts are all directly or indirectly related to the increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Increase of Average Temperature: The term global warming refers to the increase in average temperature of the atmosphere. So the average temperature of the atmosphere may differ from a place at a particular duration and time. The increased temperature causes faster evaporation on land. Many dry areas, including the western part of American, Southern Africa, India and Australia are experiencing more severe droughts. The amount of land on the Earth suffering from drought conditions has doubled since 1970. This has occurred even as total global rainfall has increased by an estimated 10 per cent.
There is the prediction of a rise in average temperature that is about 1.5°C to 4.5°C due to much more addition of CO2 concentration as compared to pre-industrial period. The current change in temperature is about 0.88°C for a period from 1950 – 1989, while in the same period particularly India had recorded the change in the tune of 1.02°C. It is because of the industrial development and intensive agricultural activities for the sustenance of higher density of population. This increase in temperature is not spacio-temporal but it covers the whole northern hemisphere for the whole period as well. As per the model it is estimated that warming is more in higher latitude as compared to lower latitude and will be more distinct during winter than in summer. The radical change has been taken place since 1980. The average temperature along with the level of CO2 has been increasing simultaneously since then. The cause of this increase belongs to different sectors such as industrialization, maximum use of non-renewable energy, agriculture practices (land use pattern) etc. which bring several changes in hydrological cycles, sea level rise and many other modifications. As temperatures rise, more water evaporates from the oceans, there would be increase in storm activities. This includes more powerful hurricanes, pacific typhoons, and an increased frequency of severe localized storms and tornadoes, which result in flooding and property damage that is now more frequent in America and eastern coastal region of Asia.
Increase in Sea Level: The general and ultimate perception is that due to increase in temperature and excess of heat, melting of snow and ice takes place which ultimately increase the level of seas and oceans. There are different thoughts regarding the sea level rise. The first supposed to be the main reason is extra water generated due to melting of ice from polar ice sheet as well as from mountain glaciers. The polar ice sheet which was extending to 12 million square kilometres now decreasing on fast rate as well as many mountainous glaciers has been vanished or decreasing day by day. The second reason is the thermal expansion of sea water that is proposed by a group of scientist headed by Dr. Duncan Wingham. It is supposed to be a weak reason because at the increase of about 1°C mean rise in atmospheric temperature this much thermal is not possible. This is likely to be possible at the increase of 7° – 8°C.
It is observed that the level of sea has increased by 18 cm in the last 100 years, as per IPCC that the level of sea would rise up to 90 cm in next 100 years (by 2100) if the rate of heating would be the same. The testimony of the affect is seen from the 1999 large scale flooding in California as well as in Indian western coastal region in last 10 years where the most of the coastal settlement had been already shifted. If the increase is to the tune of 90 cm, the world is going to face a catastrophe. It has a major effect on the harbours and in fishery industry as the first causalities. People have had to relocate to higher ground particularly on low-lying islands in the South Pacific, Indian Ocean and off the coast of India ; Bangladesh. In Bangladesh alone, there are 15 million people living within 1 meter of sea level and another 8 million in a similar circumstance in India. Inhabited land could be inundated if sea levels continue to rise. Much of the world’s best farmland is low-lying which ultimate affect on the sustainability. Even a very modest rise in sea levels would have an enormous impact on millions of people around the world. Instead of properly managing the cause of sea level rise, attempt has been taken to manage the coastal region by constructing walls across the coast but it is not much more beneficial.
Change in the Rainfall Patterns: The differential heating of layer in the atmosphere is the main cause of pressure difference, which govern the rainfall system and it`s quantity. The air moves from high pressure to low pressure region, when it crosses the water body it become the source of rain and vice versa. The increase of average temperature substantially affect pressure region and so the wind direction and ultimately affect the rainfall pattern. Temperature anomalies over the last 100 years indicate the said pattern that some region received substantially more rainfall and some regions less rainfall and in many other places the rainfall pattern is not following any constant relationship with other climatic parameters. A critical study of positive and negative anomalies indicates only two heavy & one poor monsoon out of 10 positive anomalies and two heavy &three poor monsoon in 10 negative anomalies in northern hemisphere. The difference in mean rainfall for ten highest positive and negative anomalies is 7 cm.
It is observed that rainfall pattern has substantially changed. The regions of heavy rainfall are much more affected. Some regions receive less rain and some receive more. In some parts, the frequency of precipitation has increased by 20 per cent which brought a great change in hydrological cycle of the region. The regions which receive low rainfall are gradually moving towards the track of aridity, the best example is central & western India. It directly affect on ground water, which has been depleting day by day. Besides this the shortage of water has been observed throughout the globe due to uncertain untimely precipitation.
Changes in Seasonal Characters: Due to change in air temperature and rainfall patterns, it is observed that the seasonal characters have been substantial changing/shifting a lot throughout the globe. At many places the duration of winter has extended and at some place summer along with more severity. So uncertainty is more common which reduces the degree of dependability on weather. For example, pre-monsoon showers (summer rainfall) in India have reduced to a large extent, while during November-December cyclonic rainfall has become a regular feature. Similarly, the length of winter with low temperature and high temperature in summer has also increased at many places and vice versa to other localities. This change is observed particularly in the last 15-20 years due to unchecked maximum use of fossil fuels, which added more & more CO2 along with other greenhouse gases.
Rapid Climate Shifts: Scientists are convinced that past cycles of climate change on the Earth have been anything but slow and incremental, ever since the idea that the earth may warm over time as a result of human-created problems. Research indicates that the earth’s climate exists in a stable state for many thousands of years. Then, pressure for change builds due to increase in carbon levels as well as changes in solar radiation. At some point, the earth reaches a tipping point where global climate systems and ocean currents are radically altered over the course of only a small time span sometime even months. Ironically, changes in the climate due to excess greenhouse gases are causing higher frequency both in drought and floods. The situation is too grim to rethink regarding the present climatic classification that is equatorial, tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and polar climates, because it is observed that the climatic character has been shifting from tropical to sub-tropical and sub-tropical to temperate and so on at many places.
Expansion of Disease Carriers: There would be expansion in the territory of diseases, either by moving to higher elevations in mountainous areas or by expanding their territory farther from the equator. This expansion will expose millions of humans to the often deadly infectious diseases that some animals transmit. It is clear from World Health Organization report that extreme high air temperatures contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among elderly people. In the heat wave of summer 2003 in Europe for example, more than 70,000 excess deaths were recorded (Robine et al. 2008 cited in Khan, 2017). As per the record in 2005 about 150,000 annual deaths worldwide have been tied due to climate change already. Climate related deaths are expected to cause approximately 250000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress between 2030 and 2050; 38 000 due to heat exposure in elderly people, 48 000 due to diarrhoea, 60,000 due to malaria, and 95,000 due to childhood under nutrition (WHO, 2014). The main causes for these deaths are heat waves ; droughts as well as floods and more powerful storms linked to climate change.
Due to change of climate, many new regions become the favourable spot of many diseases and pests of plants/animals that follow a particular rhythm because of specific response of causal organism to a set of environmental conditions. Hence, it is extending beyond their previous limit and creates more problems. Technically it is called ‘pre-disposing’ factors. Due to environmental change, the disease/pests may occur with greater virulence or may subside. Hence, the unpredictable attack of pests and diseases in recent years has been observed on several places where it was not found earlier because of contentious increase in temperature. Many insignificant pests/diseases are attaining major proportions because composition of microbial population is affected by shift in temperature and hydrological cycles. For example, sap sucking insects called ‘aphids’ are favourably multiplied in large number if day temperature is between 15 – 20°C and humidity is 60 – 80%. Many new diseases such as neck-blast in paddy, wiltin cotton, as well as new pests like Armigera in cotton, nematode attack in paddy have been reported in the region where it was not found at all. Some diseases like black arm in cotton, blight in paddy, and canker in guava have gradually reduced. In the same way the attack of some diseases in human beings is pre-disposed by many environmental factors. For example, low temperature and high humidity favour asthma, coastal climate favouring elephantiasis, heavy rainfall favouring malaria are now very common in the region where it was not before. Transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes, malaria kills almost 600 000 people every year – mainly African children under 5 years old. The spread of mosquito borne diseases like malaria in USA, UK and dengue in India are the examples of tropical habitat moving northward favouring growth and development of mosquito population in unconventional areas. Changes in climate are likely to lengthen the transmission seasons of important vector-borne diseases and to alter their geographic range. For example, climate change is projected to widen significantly the area of China where the snail-borne disease schistosomiasis occurs (Zhou, 2008).
Understanding Perceptions on Climate Change and Greenhouse Effect
Wolf and Moser (2011) and Lorenzoni et al (2007) among others explain the different influences on people’s perceptions and list them as: their context, direct and vicarious experiences, and traditional ways of learning, how the problem is framed and religious convictions. Firstly, one’s context is important in shaping how climate change is viewed. Most people view climate change as more than just an environmental issue but also consider it as having an effect on livelihoods, health and global inequality among other issues (Wolf and Moser 2011). It has also been shown that where there are other more pressing concerns, the priority of climate change as a threat is reduced (Wolf and Moser 2011). An example is given of bio-reserve managers who felt that poaching and other illegal activities were a larger threat than climate change (Wolf and Moser 2011). Another example is when people have to worry about more pressing economic issues, projected climate change is deemed less important (Lorenzoni et al 2007).
In addition, people process information using their pre-existing frames of reference which are shaped by cultural values, beliefs and other world views (Wolf and Moser 2011). This implies that when they receive information, it is analysed through this lens and other personal considerations and this affects how climate change and other issues are perceived. This accounts for the five groups (solidarist, hierarchist, individualist, egalitarian and fatalist) of perceptions which emerge when climate change issues are discussed (Wolf and Moser 2011; Weber 2010). These different groups show different levels of concern and this, in turn, affects how they view possible solutions to the problem. Hierarchical communities perceive industrial and technological risks as opportunities and not threats, thus they see them as less risky (Weber 2010). Egalitarian communities, however, perceived them as threats to their social structure and thus perceive them as risky (Weber 2010). Lorenzoni et al (2007) note that being a fatalist gives rise to scepticism about the reality of climate change, human influence on it and the necessity to engage in mitigation efforts. Belonging to these different cultures therefore would affect how future information on climate change is perceived (Weber 2010; Lorenzoni et al 2007).
Secondly, direct or vicarious experiences of climate change influence how people perceive climate change. In their study, Brody et al (2008) found that respondents who resided closer to the sea perceived they were more at risk of flooding than those who resided much further away. Imagery used in documentary and other films if accompanied with relevant information which does not induce fear or guilt can influence how climate change is viewed by the public (Wolf and Moser 2011). This is very important because most people’s encounter of climate change issues may be through different types of media (UNESCO 2014) and it may colour how they perceive additional climate change information. Information which builds fear and guilt is largely seen as manipulative, whereas non-threatening factual images which can be linked to daily events are seen as more effective (Lorenzoni et al 2007).
However, images and experience do not always result in convincing the public about climate change. For instance, those who experienced flooding in the United Kingdom did not always experience an increase in concern (Wolf & Moser, 2011). The same was observed of some Pacific island dwellers who were threatened with flooding: they did not move but adopted adaptive strategies (Wolf & Moser, 2011). This implies that one must also have pre-existing concerns about the environment and the commitment to address climate change (Wolf & Moser, 2011). It is interesting to note that although some respondents in a South Pacific study lived on islands which may be viewed as vulnerable due to rising sea water levels, not all respondents felt vulnerable (UNESCO 2014). Although there was an understanding of what it was and concern about the potential issues, some respondents did not feel they were at risk of a personal threat from it (UNESCO 2014). These perceptions of risk had an impact on their response. Those who felt threatened by climate change were more likely to take some action, while those who did not feel threatened did not do anything (UNESCO, 2014).
Thirdly, the public learns about the environment by experiencing it. However, in urban areas where there is little opportunity to spend time outside, the public may not experience first-hand the changes in the environment (Wolf & Moser, 2011). This implies relying on the media for information. While this is not bad in itself, it requires that the public trust the source and also pay attention to it (Weber, 2010). Most people generally do not trust the media because they feel that they are biased, exaggerate, and are inconsistent (Weber, 2010; Lorenzoni et al 2007). This implies that they may also have ulterior motives in their reporting because of their different alliances and agendas.
People also need to pay attention to the media to learn about climate change; yet this topic lacks appeal to the general public (UNESCO, 2014; Weber, 2010). More so, when the issue is presented in the media or by other stakeholders, it is through stories which are full of technical acronyms and aims to meet international agendas (UNESCO, 2014). If the information can be made easier to understand by translating it into local languages, this would benefit communities and English second language speaking tertiary students studying these subjects (UNESCO, 2014). To make the issue more interesting, the stories could be related to local events so that they could engage the attention of the public, especially when published in different media (UNESCO, 2014).
In developing countries, however, people’s lives are immersed in the environment and they derive a livelihood from it (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). Local traditions and customs, which are mostly handed down orally mostly show the link between the environment and living things (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). This locally interpreted knowledge is still being passed down in rural communities (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). It forms the basis for ones understanding of environmental issues and how they will assimilate it with scientific knowledge. Some traditional knowledge frameworks allow for space to integrate with scientific knowledge, and this has helped gather data in remote communities (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). However, this is not always the case and the differences may negatively affect how scientific evidence showing climate change is received (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). It was also observed by respondents in the South Pacific study that even when their traditional knowledge could augment climate change response, it was often excluded (UNESCO, 2014).
Another area of concern is the difference in how the information in these two bodies of knowledge is presented. Traditional knowledge presents the information on climate change as part of one’s oral tradition and in keeping with the local cultural grouping’s way of life, values, governances and belief system (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). Scientific knowledge, on the other hand, shows the information and dangers in images which represent trends and phenomena which cannot be translated easily for the local community members (UNESCO, 2014; Brody et al 2008). These highly technical presentations may create a seeming incompatibility in the eyes of the community between these two issues and in turn affect how one perceives climate change.
How people perceive climate change causes and solutions is also influenced by who they interacted with. Some communities in the Pacific islands of Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu were agreed that climate change was caused by human activity but their different approaches to solving it were defined by the organisations they had interacted with (UNESCO, 2014). The community in Samoa which had previously received funding from NGOs felt that education, community information and social ties were important and these were to be augmented with project assistance and external finance (UNESCO, 2014). The respondents from Fiji on the other hand planted mangroves to protect their land from storm surges, and this shows that this could have been a project intervention (UNESCO, 2014). Finally, the respondents from Vanuatu who had been working with conservation NGO felt that conservation was important to combat climate change and to protect food security and livelihoods (UNESCO, 2014).
Views on personal and collective responsibility also affect how one views climate change and those who are responsible for solving the problem (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). Views on who is responsible for causing and addressing climate change are influenced by their moral, cultural and ethical convictions (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). Because industry and business are responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions, most people believe that they are responsible for increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Interestingly, Wolf ; Moser (2011) show that despite having similar knowledge on the causes of climate changes, British and Swedish students assigned responsibility for causing climate change to different entities ranging from individuals to government and largely felt that the government should solve the problem.
Although most people felt that they took part in many activities which contributed to climate change, they were only willing to accept responsibility to address some activities (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). The activities they felt they could control centred on their daily lives and not activities which occurred during their holidays (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). In addition, it emerged that while acknowledging that some activities are bad for the environment, the public was not willing to forego these as it was seen as affecting their quality of life. An example was that many respondents needed a car to take children to school, do grocery shopping and other responsibilities, and did not consider other alternatives (Wolf ; Moser, 2011).
An additional factor in how climate change is perceived was the language that was used to frame it and how the public assigned responsibility based on that (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). If climate change was framed as scientific or a technological innovation, then the general public would feel that it was directed to scientists, researchers and engineers as primary actors and not them (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). It was only when it was addressed as an issue of environmental stewardship that the general public became involved (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). The imagery, language, messengers and stories involved were also important as they also contributed to how the public felt (Wolf ; Moser, 2011).
Finally, beliefs and personal convictions have a great impact on how one perceived climate change. Those who believed in a higher God who also controls the weather were more likely to believe that they as people (government and individuals) were powerless to address climate change (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). This was exacerbated when knowledge was low. In this instance a natural disaster was seen as a punishment from God (Wolf ; Moser, 2011). This means that while people know that the climate is changing, their belief that God was in control of the weather left them largely powerless (Wolf ; Moser, 2011).
Weber (2010) and Brody et al (2008) on the other hand wrote that group membership influenced one’s perception, citing the differences in opinion between a rancher or an environment specialist and a fossil fuel worker. The former would perceive risk because they would feel that the environment was under threat and a fossil fuel worker could also perceive the loss of a livelihood as a greater threat to them. A similar dichotomy was observed by Wolf and Moser (2011) of people who dwell in the Arctic whose livelihoods are based on the fuel industry and yet the burning of fuels may threaten their habitat. Also people who were attached to social networks which believed the world is ‘fragile’ were more likely to adopt behaviours and support policies and interventions which would support the environment (Brody et al 2008).
Other factors which could affect how the issue of climate change is perceived are gender, education and income levels. Citing previous studies, Brody et al (2008) wrote that women were more likely to be aware of environmental risks and readily support environmental initiatives, when compared to their male counterparts. They add that people who are more educated and know more about climate change (cause, effect and possible solutions) were more likely to have lower levels of risk perception (Brody et al 2008). This was mirrored for people who earned a higher income.
Empirical ReviewsExtant related studies on the perceptions of students on global climate change and greenhouse effect vary a lot both in approaches and the scopes covered. Papadimitriou (2004) studied “student teachers’ perceptions on aspects of climate change as well as on greenhouse effect and ozone layer depletion” and as the author states, teachers were found to be unaware of the proper actions for the climate change. With the similar findings, Fortner (2001) and Dove (1996) manifested that teachers do not have an adequate knowledge to develop awareness and spread it to others. A similar outcome was also stated in a study conducted in Turkey by Çelikler and Aksan (2011), which showed that teachers’ awareness on environmental issues was inadequate. Each of the studies above indicates that teachers have problems with awareness of the Earth system relationships and the impact of human activities on Earth systems. Many researchers argue on the importance of professional development opportunities for teachers, especially on subject matter content knowledge since research addresses lack of content knowledge of teachers as an issue (Garet, Porter, & Desimone, 2001; Kennedy, 1998).
Yazdanparast et al, (2013) studied students’ knowledge about how global warming can help authorities to have better imagination of this critical environmental problem. This research examined high school students’ ideas about greenhouse effect and the results may be useful for the respective authorities to improve cultural and educational aspects of next generation. In this cross-sectional study, a 42 question questionnaire with mix of open and closed questions was used to evaluate high school students’ view about the mechanism, consequences, causes and cures of global warming. To assess students’ knowledge, cognitive score was also calculated. 1035 students were randomly selected from 19 educational districts of Tehran. Sampling method was multi stage. Only 5.1% of the students could explain greenhouse effect correctly and completely. 88.8% and 71.2% respectively believed “if the greenhouse effect gets bigger the Earth will get hotter” and “incidence of more skin cancers is a consequence of global warming”. 69.6% and 68.8% respectively thought “the greenhouse effect is made worse by too much carbon dioxide” and “presence of ozone holes is a cause of greenhouse effect”. 68.4% believed “not using cars so much is a cure for global warming”. While a student’s ‘cognitive score’ could range from -36 to +36, Students’ mean cognitive score was equal to +1.64. Mean cognitive score of male students and grade 2 & 3 students was respectively higher than female ones (P<0.01) and grade 1 students (P<0.001) but there was no statistically significant difference between students of different regions (P>0.05). In general, students’ knowledge about global warming was not acceptable and there were some misconceptions in the students’ mind, such as supposing ozone holes as a cause and more skin cancer as a consequence of global warming. The findings of this survey indicate that, this important stratum of society have been received no sufficient and efficient education and sensitization on this matter.
Freije, Hussain, & Salman (2016) carried out a study to investigate the awareness regarding global warming among the College of Science students at University of Bahrain. A total of 143 science students were examined using a questionnaire that covered three aspects of global warming including causes, impacts, and solutions. The study included 51, 28, 40 and 24 students from the departments of biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics respectively. The results have shown that 55 ± 10.18% of all students examined answered the questions correctly of which 51 ± 10.28% were in the first year, while 60 ± 7.4% were in their fourth year indicating a direct positive impact of university education. A significant dependence (p ? 0.05) was recorded between first and fourth year students’ answers. The results have shown that fourth year biology students were the most knowledgeable, a fact that can be attributed to their academic curriculum. Therefore, the study has recommended integrating environmental concepts into the university curriculum for all students irrespective of their academic specialization in order to increase the environmental awareness.
Maibach et al (2015) described Americans’ awareness of the health effects of global warming, levels of support for government funding and action on the issue, and trust in information sources. They also investigate the discrepancy in previous research findings between assessments based on open- versus closed-ended questions. A nationally representative survey of US adults (N ¼ 1275) was conducted online in October 2014. Measures included general attitudes and beliefs about global warming, affective assessment of health effects, vulnerable populations and specific health conditions (open- and closed-ended), perceived risk, trust in sources, and support for government response. Most respondents (61%) reported that, before taking the survey, they had given little or no thought to how global warming might affect people’s health. In response to a closed-ended question, many respondents (64%) indicated global warming is harmful to health, yet in response to an open-ended question, few (27%) accurately named one or more specific type of harm. In response to a closed-ended question, 33% indicated some groups are more affected than others, yet on an open-ended question only 25% were able to identify any disproportionately affected populations. Perhaps not surprising given these findings, respondents demonstrated only limited support for a government response: less than 50%of respondents said government should be doing more to protect against health harms from global warming, and about 33% supported increased funding to public health agencies for this purpose. Respondents said their primary care physician is their most trusted source of information on this topic, followed by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and their local public health department. The study concluded that most Americans report a general sense that global warming can be harmful to health, but relatively few understand the types of harm it causes or who is most likely to be affected. Perhaps as a result, there is only moderate support for an expanded public health response. Primary care physicians and public health officials appear well positioned to educate the public about the health relevance of climate change.
Latake, Pawar, & Ranveer, (2015) studied the build-up of so-called “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere – CO2 in particular-appears to be having an adverse impact on the global climate. The paper briefly reviews current expectations with regard to physical and biological effects, their potential costs to society, and likely costs of abatement. For a “worst case” scenario it is impossible to assess, in economic terms, the full range of possible non-linear synergistic effects. In the “most favourable” (although not necessarily “likely”) case (of slow-paced climate change), however, it seems likely that the impacts are within the “affordable” range, at least in the industrialized countries of the world. In the “third world” the notion of affordability is of doubtful relevance, making the problem of quantitative evaluation almost impossible.
Khan (2017) in his study on greenhouse effect noted that the greenhouse effect refers to the trapping of heat by certain gases in the atmosphere. Although these gases occur in only trace amounts, they block significant amounts of heat from escaping out into space, thus keeping the Earth warm enough for us to survive. He opined that, without greenhouse gases, the average surface temperature of the earth would be about -18 degrees Centigrade. However, human have been adding greenhouse gases in excessive amounts to the atmosphere ever since the Industrial Revolution, which is enhancing the greenhouse effect. This increase in greenhouse gases has the potential to cause catastrophic problems for Earth and its inhabitants. The greenhouse effect causes trouble by raising the temperature of the planet. The actual rise is not very much, but the Earth’s ecosystem is very fragile and small, changes can have large effects. Almost 100% of the observed temperature increase over the last 50 years has been due to the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations like water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and ozone. Carbon dioxide is the biggest reason for the greenhouses effect that leads to global warming.
Appraisal of Literature Review
Researches have been carried out on the perception of global climate change and greenhouse effect among students. From the literature review in this chapter, there exist a universal consensus across the world that global climate change is happening despite sceptical views from a minority group of scientists. The level of perception of global climate change and greenhouse effect is low in the developing world, despite the fact that these countries are the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Perception of global climate change as a major threat has increased over the years but still low, especially in developing countries. However, most documented studies on global climate change and greenhouse effect perception are in the form of opinion polls with no scientific backing. Nevertheless, literature on the perception of students on the global climate change and greenhouse effect especially in Nigeria is relatively scarce. This study intends to fill this gap by undertaking an empirical study to assess the perception of students on global climate change and greenhouse effect in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
CHAPTER THREEMETHODOLOGYIntroductionIn this chapter, the methods used in data collection, analysis and presentation are presented. It, therefore, provided a description of the research design, population, sampling and sampling techniques, research instruments, validity of the instruments, administration of instruments, and method of data analysis.
Research DesignA research design is the arrangement of conditions for collection and analysis of data in a manner that aims to combine relevance with the research purpose. According to Ogunbameru and Ogunbameru (2010: 109), research design is the plan, structure and strategy of investigation conceived so as to attain answers to research questions and to control variable. Therefore, the criteria for relevance points as stipulated by Creswell are as follows: problem statement literature related to the problem, questions to gather data and analyse them, write up a report (Creswell, 2013: 50). This study is a survey designed to assess the perception of students on global climate change and greenhouse effect; it is descriptive and analytical in nature. Since the study is a descriptive one, it satisfies the researcher’s curiosity and desire for better understanding. It also serves to test the feasibility of understanding a more careful study. More so, it helps to develop the methods to be employed in a more careful study (Ogunbameru and Ogunbameru, 2010: 111). The variables and subjects in the study were observed and data collected simultaneously to solve the essential elements and characteristics of the variables of interest. The study seeks to show the relationship between or association of two variables.
Method of InvestigationData was collected from primary sources. The primary data was collected through the administration of well-structured questionnaire. The questionnaire was carefully designed to incorporate all the research questions and research hypotheses formulated for this study, and to ensure that accurate results can be drawn from the data gathered.
Population, Sample Size and Sampling TechniqueThe population is the subject of a study and consists of individuals, groups, organisations, humans, products, and events, or the condition to which they are exposed (Welman, et al. 2001: 52). Ismaila (2011: 52) quoting Mugo (2011) noted that population is a group of individual persons, objects, or items from which samples are taken for measurement; for example, a population of presidents or professors, books or students. Thus, the targeted population for this study comprises of undergraduates and postgraduates from six (6) faculties in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. The sampling technique is simple random sampling whereby all elements in the population are considered and each element has equal chance of being selected. For the purpose of this study, the sample size is 300 which were randomly selected. This was arrived at using convenience sampling.
Research InstrumentThis study utilised both quantitative and qualitative techniques for purpose of enriching the findings. The research instruments used in this work consisted of two self-structured sets of questionnaire. The questionnaire was divided into two sections, that is section ‘A’ which has the demographic characteristics of respondents, and section ‘B’ which has questions that relate to the objectives of the study. The data were grouped using frequency distribution table, and were eventually given percentages in order to ensure further analysis of respondents’ perception. In other words, the percentages gave an insight into respondents’ perception in respect of the questions and responses.
Validation of Research InstrumentTo prove the validity of the research instrument, experts were asked to validate the instrument so as to measure what it intended to measure. After the questions were designed, constructed and ordered they were tested on population unconnected with the research design but similar to the one used for the actual survey. Afterwards, the research instrument was then constructed while considering the results obtained from the test carried out previously. If the measures were stable and consistent despite uncontrollable conditions and state of respondents, it is a sign of goodness of measure.
Its content validity was also established after having the instrument assessed by the supervisor. Validation of the research instrument, in this case the questionnaire is very essential in order to make certain that each item measures what it is projected to, within the framework off the hypotheses of this research and its set objectives. In all, the sample questionnaire was assessed by the researcher’s supervisor for validation.
Data Analysis TechniqueBoth descriptive and inferential statistics were utilised to analyse the data obtained with a view to achieving the objective of the study. After the data collection, then, the processing took place. Responses in the questionnaire were coded and used to carry out various statistical analyses. In order for the research to be useful, a descriptive approach of data analysis was applied. The researcher has decided to use percentages (descriptive statistics) and chi-square (inferential statistics) statistical technique to test the reliability of dependent variable over independent variable.
The Chi-Square formula is given below:
2c= (O-E)2EWhere 2c=Chi-square value
E=Total observed frequency
No of row
Where 2t = table value.
2c = calculated chi square
If 2c>2t, reject the null hypothesis (H0)
If 2c<2t, accept the null hypothesis (H0)
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APPENDIXOBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY ILE-IFE
FACULTY OF EDUCATION
INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION
This questionnaire is for research purpose. It is only design to give an assessment of the perception of students on global climate change and greenhouse effect in the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Please your sincere and accurate responses are required. The information obtained from this questionnaire will be used for writing Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) project. Read the instruction that follows each section carefully as you attend to the questions.
AN ASSESSMENT OF THE PERCEPTION OF STUDENTS ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE AND GREENHOUSE EFFECT IN THE OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY, ILE-IFE, NIGERIA
SECTION A: PERSONAL DATA
Tick or mark the most suitable answer(s) in the appropriate space below
Sex: Male Female
Age: 15-20yrs 21-25yrs 26-30yrs 31-35yrs 36 and above
Studentship status: Undergraduate Postgraduate
INSTRUCTION: Please mark () in the appropriate column to show the degree of your agreement to each of the following options below:
S/N Statement Strongly Agree Agree Undecided Disagree Strongly Disagree
Climate change is the same as Global warming Climate change is the same as Greenhouse effect Climate change is caused by ozone layer depletion Climate change is change in weather as a result of man’s activities on earth Global climate change is a natural fluctuation in earth’s temperature Climate change is just a natural fluctuation in earth surface Human beings can do their bit to reduce the effect of climate change People should be made to reduce their energy consumption if it reduces the effect of climate change It is too late to do anything about climate change The evidence of climate change is reliable Climate change is something that frightens me The climate of all continents/regions are the same, i.e. it is the same for Africa. America, Europe etc. Everyone should have the knowledge about climate change and greenhouse effect Only scientists should be taught concepts on climate change Pollution from industry is the main cause of global climate change The government is doing enough to tackle climate change Everyone should have the knowledge about climate change and greenhouse effect The media always talk about climate change and greenhouse effect SECTION C
Please look at the following list and tick the issues that concern you
Air pollution Overpopulation Poor waste management Litter Water/Gutter Flooding Climate change Greenhouse effect Disposing waste in flowing water Depletion in ozone layer Which of the following listed above has affected your health or your family, friends’ health?
Have you heard of Global Climate Change and Greenhouse Effect before?
If yes, where did you hear it from?
Television Radio Internet School Academic Journal Library Social Media Friends Others How important is climate change and greenhouse effect to you?
Very important ____ Quite important ____ Not important ____ Indifferent _____
Do you think anything could be done to tackle climate change?
Yes _____No ______
If yes, what can be done? _____________________________________________
Who do you think should have the main responsibility of tackling climate change and greenhouse effect
International organisation Nigerian Government State Governments Local Governments Individual Environmental organisation Business and industry Others