Environmental Science: Climate Change (What has ever happened to global…
Environmental Science: Climate Change
What has ever happened to global warming? Global warming is about the average temperature across the entire planet. We've been tracking that number every year for more than a century. Since then, it's climbed by about one-and-a-half degrees Fahrenheit.
A warming planet doesn't mean there won't be any cold days, or that there won't be any more snowstorms or even that your town can't have a cooler summer than usual
Those are all examples of weather: what's going on outside in one place at one particular time.
Global Warming is a change in the world's climate: the pattern of weather over long periods.
Each of these yearly temperature readings is an example of weather. We can't predict if one year will be hotter or colder than the next. But the overall trend is unmistakable. That is global warming.
It's caused by certain gases in our atmosphere. The more of these gases there are, the hotter the planet gets.
When sunlight hits the Earth, land, and water soak up some of that energy. A lot more reflects off the surface as heat.
Gases like carbon dioxide and methane act as a barrier. They're really effective and absorbing and redirecting heat. That's why we call them greenhouse gases.
Like a greenhouse, they let sunlight through easily, then trap the heat that bounces off the surface. This is known as the greenhouse effect. Without it, our planet would be a cold, lifeless rock.
Until recently, natural processes kept the level of greenhouse gases right. But human activity is throwing off this delicate balance. Our modern world. depends on burning fossil fuels.
Coal, oil, and gas supply the energy that makes our lives so comfortable and convenient. But they release huge amounts of carbon dioxide, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Large-scale food production is another source, we keep billions of cows and other livestock for meat and dairy. Their digestion produces methane. It traps 20 times more meat than carbon dioxide.
The problem isn't only about adding greenhouse gases. We're also destroying Earth's ability to remove those gases from the air. Copping down forests, for example. The average tree absorbs 50 pounds of carbon dioxide each year...
...As we cut them down we lose their natural cooling effect. And in many places, forests are cleared through burning, that releases all the stored up carbon dioxide back into the air.
Right: Industry and Agriculture are amplifying the greenhouse effect. The result is rapid warming.
Earth's climate has changed before, we know that by studying air bubbles trapped in ancient ice.
The ice cores tell us that the temperature continually rises and falls. In other words, Earth's climate is constantly changing.
There's a difference, this natural rate of climate change has been slow. A shift of a couple degrees ordinary takes thousands of years. That gives organisms time to adapt to changing conditions.
One species might move to a milder climate; another could evolve new traits. Man-made warming is moving way to fast for life to keep up with it.
At this rate, thousands of species will go extinct, by the end of the century.
1 or 2 degrees may not seem like much, bout our planet is a fragile living system, just like the human body. Raising temperatures even a couple degrees can have a huge impact.
Our oceans are currently absorbing most of the additional warmth. This is destroying coral reefs that are home to thousands of species.
The polar ice caps are melting, causing sea levels to ice. That would be an enormous problem for coastal cities.
Ice is a major part of the water supply. As mountain glaciers melt, these places will experience more droughts and food shortages. Plus, rising temperatures lead to extreme weather patterns.
Warmer air has more energy. That means stronger storms and hurricanes. Not to mention heavier rainfalls and floods. In some places, it will mean more severe blizzards. In other regions, rainfall will dry up and forests will turn to desert.
That's why many scientists prefer the term "global climate change" over "global warming."
The most important step is that we move away from fossil fuels.
Because temperature alone may not be the most noticeable effect. But there are solutions, individually, you can help by conserving energy; like by walking or biking instead of getting a ride to places; by using more efficient light bulbs, and switching them off when you leave a room; and even taking shorter showers.
Renewable energies like solar and wind add no carbon to the atmosphere.