Climate Change

Climate Change​

Climate change which can also be called global warming, refers to the rise in average temperatures of the earth. Below we can see the continuous rising of the mean surface temperature of the planet.

Global Mean Surface Temperature
Global Mean Surface Temperature

(https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/GlobalWarming/page2.php)

What are the causes of Climate Change?

What causes this temperature rise? There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that this is caused by the human actions primarily related to the use of fossil fuels which release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone) into the air. These gases prevents the heat captured within the earth to leave the atmosphere which has been attributed to affecting eco systems, droughts, rising sea levels and wildfires. Below we see the rise of the Carbon Dioxide and Methane gases into the atmosphere over the years which show a significant rise (blue curve) in the third millennium.

Increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide (top) and methane (bottom) coincided with the start of the Industrial Revolution in about 1750.
Increases in concentrations of carbon dioxide (top) and methane (bottom) coincided with the start of the Industrial Revolution in about 1750.

How is Sri Lanka affected by Climate change?

Due to Sri Lanka’s location as a small island in the Indian Ocean there are several key climatic issues that might cause alarm. The low lying plains in the coastal zones have a vulnerability to rising sea levels and weather induced calamities such as the Tsunami in 2004. There is also the risk of the changes in the water cycle which makes impacts into agriculture, marine life and eco systems.

According to a study in 2012 ( The World Bank. (2017). World Development Indicators Data Bank. http://databank.worldbank.org/data/reports.aspx?source=world-development-indicators) Sri Lanka accounts for less than 1% of global GHG emissions. Transport and electricity are the two sectors largely responsible for emissions in Sri Lanka. This can be seen in the following figure.

Sri Lanka CO2 emissions by sector-2014
Sri Lanka CO2 emissions by sector-2014

*‘Other’ includes, for example, emissions from residential buildings, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and public services
Source: World Development Indicators, last updated on 08/02/2017

Where Transport in concerned the largest contributor to GHG (non renewable sources) , the following table illustrates the quantities of emissions. Bio Mass emissions also make a large impact but it has now been classified a renewable energy source.

 Summary of Energy sector GHG emissions    
 CO2 CH4 N2O NOX CO NMVOC SO2
National Electricity Generation3,065.540.120.028.180.60.232.82
Refinery own use268.910.010.0020.780.060.021.96
Manufacturing Industry & Const781.570.0210.0062.0790.1040.05212.62
Road Transport4,443.720.4720.03746.961131.46625.2647.5
National Aviation496.920.0040.0142.1067.020.3510.16
Rail Transport80.230.010.0011.311.090.220.15
National Navigation36.70.0020.0010.750.50.10.17
Agriculture  & Forestry60.560.00400.970.810.160.75
Household & & Commercial use1,197.450.1741.0461.7430.3490.0872.632
Biomass usage for energy18,735.6941.730.90423822.60596941.323682.4881647.19
Gross Total (Giga grams) 29,167.2942.5472.03123887.484961083.323108.9422105.952

Net emissions*

 

10,431.6 0.817 1.127 64.879 141.999 26.454 58.762

Below we see the energy increases that are in demand for Sri Lankan Electricity generation. There has been a drastic increase for non-renewable resource utilization in the past few years.

National Electricity Generation Renewable and Nonrenewable Mix (1970 – 2007) (Source National Energy balance)
National Electricity Generation Renewable and Nonrenewable Mix (1970 – 2007) (Source National Energy balance)

Carbon dioxide levels increased the most for cement manufacture while Sulphur dioxide increased for paper production. Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) emissions was most for Soda and Beverage manufacture.

Industry sector GHG Emissions summary (G. gr)
Mineral ProductsSO2NOxCOCO2NMVOC
 Cement0.12  191.83 
 Lime Production   30.39 
 Limestone & Dolomite use   6.16 
 Soda as use   37.83 
 Asphalt Roofing    0.00
 Asphalt Road paving0.01   14.11
 Glass    0.18
Steel production2.181.940.040.071.45
Pulp and Paper47.5010.1838.0025.10
Food, Drink & beverages    39.385
Total 49.81 12.12 38.04 266.28 80.23

(National GHG Inventory Report Prepared for the Second National Communication of Sri Lanka )

However this low emission does not make Sri Lanka’s immune to the imminent threat. In 2017 alone the country experienced severe climate-related disasters in the form of droughts and floods. These weather impacts made substantial effects on food security, lives and the GDP, The details of the Disaster Relief meted out to the affected regions can be given as below.

Disaster Relief meted out to the affected regions
Disaster Relief meted out to the affected regions for 2018

Below we see the natural hazards that have been influenced by the climatic shifts in weather.

Houses Destroyed due to Landslides
Houses Destroyed due to Landslides
Crop Losses due to drought (ha) 1974-2008
Crop Losses due to drought (ha) 1974-2008

Mapping of selected weather related disasters in Sri Lanka.

Climate change has also had effects on health, we see below the incidence of heat related on the rise for the given period.

Incidence of heat related disorders 1994-2007
Incidence of heat related disorders 1994-2007

Second National Communication (SNC) on Climate Change Project

Another Climate Change challenge is the sensitivity and adaptation of populations. In recent studies this has shown that high sensitivity prevails in certain districts based on livelihoods (based on crops and related ventures) and human related sensitivity (based on adaptation, availability of water and high populations).

Components of sensitivity index and the composite sensitivity index for each district
Components of sensitivity index and the composite sensitivity index for each district district (Eriyagama et al. 2010) Second National Communication (SNC) on Climate Change Project.