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The Greenhouse Gas Effect

Climate change has become a buzz word in Laos. But do people really understand what the term means? This is the second of five articles in Vientiane Times, which explains by means of 10 FACTS the causes and effects of climate change and how Laos is coping with its impacts. Each article incorporates two FACTS. This article focuses on FACT 3 and FACT 4.
Fact 3: Global warming and climate change are also caused by human activities
Scientists around the world agree that the average temperature on earth is rising. This is called global warming. This increase in temperature is mainly caused by people’s use of natural resources and human activities. These activities like industrial production, conversion of forests into agriculture and deforestation for timber are considered main causes of the so-called greenhouse gas effect.
Gardeners in colder regions of the world use houses made of glass or plastic to trap heat inside in order to grow vegetables and fruits. These houses are called greenhouses. The same kind of effect happens when the atmosphere around the earth traps more than usual of the sun’s heat. As a result the temperature slowly rises globally.

Weather describes as the conditions of the atmosphere (rain, wind temperature) over a short period of time. A thunderstorm is a typical weather event.

The atmosphere is made up of a mixture of gases. When some of these gases increase due to human activities, more heat than usual is trapped. Because of their global warming effect these gases are also called greenhouse gases. The gas most commonly mentioned in this context is carbon dioxide or CO2.
Global warming does not mean that it gets hotter everywhere and every year. There can still be large variations in the average temperature per region or per country, and one year can even be cooler than the previous one. For example, women in Khammuan and Huaphan who responded to a 2012 survey on environmental and climate change awareness reported an extraordinary short cold period of low temperatures in winter 2011. “Last year, it was very cold so that we had to use blankets at night while we just wear T-shirts this year”. Nevertheless, over the past 50 years, average air temperature close to the surface of  planet Earth has increased between 0.75-1.50 degrees Celsius.
The survey was conducted by ProCEEd, the Promotion of Climate-related Environmental Education project implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) and Deutsche GesellschaftfürinternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
The results of the survey, which was repeated in 2016, show that many Lao people do not differentiate between climate change and the environment. This makes sense as people observe the impacts of climate change when trends in their natural environment such as the amount of rainfall or seasons are not as familiar as before.
But there is a clear awareness that climate change and environmental degradation is caused by humans. Old men in Xayaboury state that “icebergs are melting because of man-made disasters, which causes the sea level to rise”. Meanwhile, embers of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Khammuanrealise that one cause of climate change is logging which leads to forest degradation. When forest degradation happens at a large scale “there is climate change: too hot, too many natural disasters like floods and droughts”.
Indeed, human activities such as the extraction and burning of coal or oil, rice field cultivation and livestock rearing or deforestation release the greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere.
These activities have drastically increased since the late 19th century as many countries progressed from an agrarian to an industrial society.
This type of development and a steady population growth put high demand on land, natural resources and produced goods. For example, global consumption of energy generated from coal or oil has increased almost three times faster than the world’s population.
Energy is mainly needed for the material wellbeing of humankind such as heating, lighting, household appliances and the production of goods.
Fact 4: Climate change does not stop at borders
When people in Laos hear the term global warming, some of them think only of rising sea levels. As Laos does not have a coastline, they believe to be protected. But climate change does not stop at borders. Even though Laos contributes little to global warming, being a land-locked country does not protect it from the effects of climate change. The regional climate in South East Asia will change as a whole, and this includes Laos.
In Laos, mainly agricultural activities, deforestation and mining add to global warming. The Lao government therefore intends to apply a sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to economic development so that the impacts of climate change can be reduced.
Regional cooperation is one policy step towards sustainable economic development. It enables countries to deal with cross-boundary issues such as water resources management or disaster risk reduction, which are related to climate change. Within Asean, a Climate Change Initiative has been set up in 2010 with member countries taking up a common climate policy framework.
This article has been contributed by ProCEEd (Promotion of Climate-related Environmental Education), a project supported by the Federal Republic of Germany and implemented by the Deutsche GesellschaftfürInternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the Department of Environmental Quality Promotion of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update June 22, 2017)

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