Global Warming – a Reality?
The scientific consensus is overwhelming: The planet is getting warmer, and humans are behind it.
It has been ‘labelled’ Global Warming and/or Climate change. The planet is heating up and it is heating up fast.
In recent years, global warming and climate change have been the subject of a great deal of political controversy, especially in the United States. But as the science becomes clearer and consensus grows impossible to ignore, the debate is moving away from whether humans are causing warming and toward questions about how best to respond to try and prevent further damage.
Glaciers are melting, consequently, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are dying and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It has become clear that humans have caused most of the past century’s warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. This is called ‘greenhouse gases’ and their levels are higher now than at any time ever before.
We often call the result, global warming, and it is causing a set of changes to the Earth’s climate, or long-term weather patterns, which varies from place to place. While many people think of global warming and climate change as synonyms, scientists use “climate change” when describing the complex shifts now affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems—in part because some areas actually get cooler in the short term.
Understanding the greenhouse effect
The “greenhouse effect” is the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap heat. These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse, hence the name.
Sunlight shines onto the Earth’s surface, where the energy is absorbed and then radiates back into the atmosphere as heat. In the atmosphere, the greenhouse gas molecules trap some of the heat and the rest escapes into space. The more greenhouse gases concentrate in the atmosphere, the more heat gets locked up in the molecules.
Scientists have known about the greenhouse effect since 1824 when Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere. This natural greenhouse effect is what keeps the Earth’s climate livable. Without it, the Earth’s surface would be an average of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) cooler.
In 1895, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius discovered that humans could enhance the greenhouse effect by making carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. He kicked off 100 years of climate research that has given us a sophisticated understanding of global warming.
Aren’t temperature changes natural?
Human activity isn’t the only factor that affects Earth’s climate. Volcanic eruptions and variations in solar radiation from sunspots, solar wind, and the Earth’s position relative to the sun also play a role. So do large-scale weather patterns such as El Niño.
But climate models that scientists use to monitor Earth’s temperatures take those factors into account. Changes in solar radiation levels as well as minute particles suspended in the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions, for example, have contributed only about two percent to the recent warming effect. The balance comes from greenhouse gases and other human-caused factors, such as land-use change.
The short timescale of this recent warming is singular as well. Volcanic eruptions, for example, emit particles that temporarily cool the Earth’s surface. But their effect lasts just a few years. Events like El Niño also work on fairly short and predictable cycles. On the other hand, the types of global temperature fluctuations that have contributed to ice ages occur on a cycle of hundreds of thousands of years.
For thousands of years now, emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere have been balanced out by greenhouse gases that are naturally absorbed. As a result, greenhouse gas concentrations and temperatures have been fairly stable, which has allowed human civilization to flourish within a consistent climate.
Now, humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution. Changes that have historically taken thousands of years are now happening over the course of decades.
Why does this matter?
The rapid rise in greenhouse gases is a problem because it’s changing the climate faster than some living things can adapt to. Also, a new and more unpredictable climate poses unique challenges to all life.
Historically, Earth’s climate has regularly shifted between temperatures like those we see today and temperatures cold enough to cover much of North America and Europe with ice. The difference between average global temperatures today and during those ice ages is only about 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and the swings have tended to happen slowly, over hundreds of thousands of years.
But with concentrations of greenhouse gases rising, Earth’s remaining ice sheets such as Greenland and Antarctica are starting to melt too. That extra water could raise sea levels significantly, and quickly. By 2050, sea levels are predicted to rise between one and 2.3 feet as glaciers melt.
As the mercury rises, the climate can change in unexpected ways. In addition to sea levels rising, weather can become more extreme. This means more intense major storms, more rain followed by longer and drier droughts—a challenge for growing crops—changes in the ranges in which plants and animals can live, and loss of water supplies that have historically come from glaciers.
The causes of this condition called global warming/climate change will continue to endure longterm effects for the earth – humans, forests, animals, oceans – the whole world. Our World. The place we reside and there is no other. This is a serious matter, however as time goes on, the reality is, it is real. What can we do to help turn some of these effects around?
There is hope. Communities are more aware and we are fighting to help save our world – because we have to, our lives depend on it.
Some small but effective actions we are able to take:
Ride a bike
Drive an electric or hybrid car
Fly less (not as easily done)
Use energy-efficient light bulbs.
Install solar power
Unplug computers, TVs and other electronics when not in use
Use cold water for washing clothes
Hang clothes out on a line rather than use a dryer (or use dryer balls if unable to hang out – Use the balls in the dryer to shorten drying time by up to 30%, make your clothes softer and prevent static electricity)
Install a programmable thermostat for heating
Buy and appliances with the Energy Star label
Insulate your home & use a seal on windows to prevent heat escaping.
Eat organically grown, local produce wherever possible
Don’t waste food.
Grow your own. – Consume less, waste less. Learn to reap what is only needed at the time instead of ‘keeping for later’. If there is unnecessary leftovers put them in compost, to be returned to the soil.
A healthy planet is all about communities, families, working toward climate change solutions. Everyone needs to start talking to each other, people, friends, family need to converse this subject and about how they can help toward making changes around the town they live, where and how the climate change will affect you and how you can help to lessen its impact. Encourage friends and family to explore how to help.
To complete this important and interesting subject post here is a video from world reknowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough. – A man who DOES know his subject.
Sir David Attenborough has called out the Australian government in a sobering speech on climate change.
Posted by SBS News on Tuesday, July 9, 2019
This post is a mere glimpse at the information that has been obtained, researched and penned on the effects of global warming and climate change. (Some of the information included has been sourced from National Geographic who have an incredible amount of articles in relation to the subject.)