After a cold winter, it’s easy to see how the global warming non-believers would use this year’s weather as an argument against the issue. There is so much information floating around about climate change that it makes it hard to understand what’s really happening.
The non-believers might have a tough time conceding the point but there are scientists who are working to prove that the brutally cold winter of 2014-2015 may actually have been caused by global warming. The frigidly cold wind called the Polar Vortex that usually spirals the North Pole has begun to be expelled from its tight circular path and global warming is the cause. The frigid winter we experienced in North America and Europe was likely caused by the freezing Polar Vortex air being pushed south.
So what exactly is global warming? The words “global warming” generally paint a picture of something to do with industrial pollution, changing weather and car exhausts… If you really want to summarize the concept it is all to do with climate change. Climate change takes place when long-term weather patterns are altered — in this case, through human activity. Global warming is a rise in the average global temperature and is a measure of climate change.
So the planet is getting warmer and human activity is the cause. The average temperature of our planet has increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1 full degree Celsius. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but that change has just been in the past 100 years! That’s a relatively short amount of time for that degree of change and it’s something that we all should be very alarmed about. The problem is getting worse and worse, and fast. Most of that increase – two-thirds – has just been in the past thirty years!
Life on earth is possible because of the warmth of the sun. While some of this incoming solar radiation bounces back into space, the delicate balance of gases that make up our atmosphere traps a small portion of it. Without this layer of insulation, Earth would simply be another frozen rock hurtling through space.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important gas in the layer of insulation in the atmosphere that protects the Earth from the sun. The balance of the gases in the atmosphere is very delicate. The carbon that is stored in the ocean, soil, plants, and even in human beings on our planet is released as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when we do things like cut down trees and burn fossil fuels. Releasing all of that carbon dioxide is shaking the delicate balance of the atmosphere, which now contains 42% more carbon dioxide than it did one hundred years ago. All of that carbon dioxide has turned our planet’s atmosphere in to a thick layer that’s like a heat-trapping blanket. The climate is changing as a result, getting warmer, and the planet is also starting to experience more extreme weather events, both hot and cold.
With all of this warming of the planet, scientists estimate that we’ll be experiencing temperature averages that are 3 to 9 degrees higher by the end of the century with hotter summers and shorter winters, and extreme weather swings. More droughts, heat waves, more severe rainfall and serious flooding in coastal areas, hurricanes, storms, wildfires, winds and tornadoes, tsunamis… Those 3 to 9 degrees that might have sounded nice to people who don’t appreciate the cold seasons start to have some pretty serious repercussions when you stop and look at what else is really going on.
If these extreme and dangerous weather changes aren’t enough, the climate change and weather is also going to result in food shortages. It’s going to become more and more challenging to grow crops like corn and wheat, especially for developing countries.
There are many animal species that aren’t going to be able to adapt and survive the climate change. Polar bears and penguins are perhaps some of the first animals that we might think of struggling with the climate change but this will also affect elephants, tigers, rhinos, orangutans, koala bears, and butterflies. On the other hand, while we’ll be sad to see those butterflies go the way of the dodo, we’re not going to enjoy an increase in insects like mosquitoes. And with mosquitoes also comes the spread of disease.
Human activity is causing the planet to become warmer and it’s resulting in a lot of damage. So you might be wondering, can we stop it? Proactively, yes we can, particularly through burning fewer fossil fuels. On a larger scale, the world needs to be looking into other sources of energy, like solar, wind, and nuclear. As individuals we can make changes like using energy efficient appliances and light bulbs. We can reduce our waste as much as possible, and recycle what can’t be reduced. We can choose vehicles that are more fuel efficient, or don’t use any fuel like our feet or bicycles. And we can generally be aware of how much energy we’re consuming and work to lower our personal footprints. Let’s raise our awareness of the issue and with enough consciousness about the severity of the problem, we might be able to affect enough change to at least slow the problem own, if not stop it.