Many people are unaware or unwilling to accept the fact that climate change is making an irreversible impact on planet Earth. According to NASA, the global temperature has risen by 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. It may seem like negligible temperature rise, but it has caused changes in weather patterns and caused ocean levels to rise.
The Arctic ice minimum has shrunk by 12.8 percent each decade, causing a massive impact on animals and ecosystems. The proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased to 412 parts per billion, the highest level in 650,000 years.
Jacob Gitman, a scientist, and entrepreneur describes the changing conditions which are a result of climate change, offering possible solutions to the increasing danger posed by the phenomenon, including the adoption of renewable energy sources.
Causes of Climate Change
The primary cause of climate change is the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gases like methane and carbon dioxide raise the planet’s temperature by trapping the energy from sunlight and warming the Earth like a greenhouse.
These gases are naturally present in the atmosphere, but their increasing concentration is causing global warming by preventing heat from escaping into space.
The release of these gases into the atmosphere is largely a result of the incredible shifts in human activity since the Industrial Revolution. The world has become increasingly dependent on energy from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. Motorized modes of transport, like cars, trucks, and trains, changed how people move around the world. Factories burning fossil fuels produce most consumer and industrial goods. The increasing demand for electricity around the globe has led to more fossil fuel plants to be built.
While clean technology has helped these fuels become less polluting, especially in the past 30 years, the overwhelming volume of fossil fuels that are burned outweighs many of the benefits.
Secondary Causes of Climate Change
Another shift that has contributed to climate change is more subtle. Deforestation around the globe has reduced the environment’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide naturally. Growing trees and vegetation take in carbon dioxide through the process of respiration and release pure oxygen into the atmosphere. It helps to shift the balance of the atmosphere away from carbon dioxide.
The proportion of forests around the world has been steadily shrinking. This change is most apparent in the Amazon, where the rainforest is known as the “world’s lungs” is being cut down and burned for farmland as well as for paper production.
Consequences for the Oceans
The world is already beginning to notice some of the dangerous effects of climate change. Climate change has raised the heat content of the Earth’s upper oceans dramatically since 1990. It has led to more severe weather events throughout the globe.
Many people may believe that increasingly severe winters prove that global warming is not happening, but this short-sighted view ignores established climate science. The change in global ocean temperatures causes the jet stream to move, bringing Arctic air into lower latitudes.
Also, the warming of the oceans is associated with more severe tropical weather events. It is no mystery why the North Atlantic has suffered from more dangerous hurricanes and tropical storms than in the past.
Global warming is also causing the sea level to rise as the polar ice caps melt. The increased volume of water in Earth’s oceans is causing environmental disruption at the coastlines. If nothing is done about global warming, erosion and land loss will continue at the shores. Many inhabited areas close to the water and low in elevation will need to be abandoned.
Many scientists and members of the public feel hopeless and discouraged about climate change. While it is true that much of the damage has already been done, humanity has the potential opportunity to slow the progression of global warming.
The use of alternative forms of energy would make a huge difference in the volume of fossil fuels that are consumed by power plants and factories today. Solar, wind, and hydropower are already in use, but they produce only 15 percent of the net production of electricity in the United States.
New research from Switzerland is beginning to suggest that a focus on reforesting disadvantaged lands can also make a positive impact on global warming. Reforesting areas that have been clear-cut for farming or paper production could capture as many as 205 gigatons of carbon, leading to a 25 percent decrease in atmospheric carbon. It could turn back the clock 20 years when it comes to global warming.
This method of reducing global warming may be challenging to put into place since it involves replanting 2.2 billion acres of forest. It shows that the reforestation of available areas is a viable way to reduce atmospheric carbon.
A Global Emergency
Climate scientists have been raising the alarm about global warming for several decades, but many members of the public do not believe that it is causing any harm. The immediacy of this problem will strike anyone who studies the scientific data.
Individuals who understand how much global warming has affected the planet want to know what they can do to help in some small way. The use of renewable forms of energy, like home solar and wind power, can make a measurable impact. Also, reducing dependence on gas- and diesel-powered transportation can help, as can purchasing plug-in electric vehicles. Insulating a home properly means that fewer fossil fuels need to be burned to keep the temperature comfortable.
If a significant portion of Americans could take these precautions, the march of global warming may be slowed. Jacob Gitman emphasizes the importance of these small steps in combating global warming. The world’s industries and governments must band together to reduce their carbon emissions and slow the progress of global warming, or the world will be less hospitable to human life.