Climate Change: An Introduction
An array of human actions can alter global climate. Temperatures can rise dramatically due to climate change. Increases in global temperature can cause a wide range of effects. More frequent and intense heat waves, for instance, as well as increased chances of flooding and drought are all possible outcomes. Also changing are the oceans and glaciers; the former are warming and becoming more acidic, while the latter are melting and raising sea levels. As these shifts become more common in the coming decades, they will likely pose difficulties for our culture and ecosystem.
Climate Change: Historical background
In the last century, humans have released vast quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. When we use fossil fuels as a source of energy, we release most of these gases. The Earth gets warmer because of greenhouse gases, which act like a blanket to trap heat in the atmosphere. The greenhouse effect is a normal and essential part of keeping life on Earth going.
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The accumulation of greenhouse gases, however, causes a shift in the climate that has harmful effects on human health and ecosystems. Since the end of the last ice age, several thousand years ago, we have enjoyed a relatively stable climate, and humans have adapted to it. Changes in the water supply, agriculture, power and transportation systems, natural environment, and human health and safety can all result from a warming climate. Some alterations to the climate are inevitable, no matter what humans do. The Earth will continue to warm in the future because, for instance, carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for nearly a century.
Climate Change: A different perspective
Over the past century, the world has warmed significantly. Climate change refers to the rapid rise in global average surface temperature over the past century, which has been caused in large part by greenhouse gases released when fossil fuels are burned. Warming of the planet is being caused by an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and accumulation in the atmosphere. Atmospheric gases include hydrogen chloride, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane.
Bright surfaces, such as clouds and ice, reflect nearly 30 percent of the sun’s rays back into space. The remaining 70% is taken up by the ground, the water, and the air.
Our planet is warmed by the solar energy it absorbs. The atmosphere’s ability to soak up and release heat is crucial to maintaining life on Earth. Due to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, more of the infrared energy radiated by the Earth’s surface is now absorbed by the atmosphere. With increased greenhouse gas emissions, Earth’s atmosphere can trap more heat and serve as a more effective greenhouse.
Over Earth’s long history, the planet’s climate has cooled and warmed for a number of different reasons. The current rate of warming is unprecedented in Earth’s history. Volcanic eruptions and variations in solar output are two examples of naturally occurring phenomena that can alter the climate.
Shifts in the amount of sunlight that reaches Earth can have a significant impact on the weather. Since a volcano’s eruption releases more than just lava and ash, it can have a significant impact on the local climate. Volcanoes spew out tiny sulphur dioxide particles into the air. These aerosols reach the stratosphere, where they serve as a mirror, sending the sun’s heat back into space. Temperature can also be significantly impacted by snow and ice. As the planet warms and snow and ice melt, less energy is reflected, leading to further warming.
Many forms of plant and animal life, as well as other forms of flora and fauna, have been shown to significantly influence global temperatures. Some can produce gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by trapping heat and hastening global warming. As they create food through photosynthesis, plants remove carbon dioxide from the air. At night, plants vent some of their stored carbon dioxide into the air. Cattle and sheep, among others, produce methane during the digestive process.
When fossil fuels are burned to power vehicles like cars and trucks, carbon dioxide gas is released into the atmosphere. The release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is a direct result of forest fires. A similar sized forest regrowing after a fire would remove from the atmosphere roughly the same amount of carbon as was released during the fire.
Loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise, and more intense heat waves are all effects that scientists have predicted would occur when global change was occurring. Scientists are confident that greenhouse gases produced by human activities will continue to increase global temperatures for decades to come.
The IPCC has warned that the severity of climate change’s effects on different regions will fluctuate over time and depend on the degree to which various social and environmental systems can adapt to the phenomenon (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
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This past decade has been the warmest since records began in 1880. 2010 and 2005 were the warmest years ever recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the 21st century, if we don’t cut emissions from fossil fuel burning, the world’s average temperature could rise by an additional 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Increasing temperatures will have severe consequences for the weather and for all forms of life on Earth.
In the last 150 years, industrial activities on which our modern civilization depends have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from 280 ppm to 379 ppm (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
Itis imperative that we all do what we can to slow or reverse the effects of climate change, especially global warming. Future temperature increases on Earth would kill off all life there. The world would be cooler and the current high temperatures would decrease if humans helped to control global warming. This world would be a safer place to live in if everyone took a stand together and tried to stop most of the climate changes that are happening.