The earth’s average temperature is rising. In the last century, it has gotten 1.5? warmer.
While this may not seem like a lot, it has some rather devastating effects. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and heat waves are more common today than they’ve been for as long as humans have kept record. The oceans are becoming more acidic, and water levels are rising. Humans seem to be a large contributor to global warming, especially in the last hundred years or so. While most people acknowledge the presence of global warming, not enough action is being taken. In order for the earth to be hospitable for life in the future, we must take action now.
In 1896, a Swedish scientist named Svante Arrhenius suggested that global warming could occur in the future, due to fossil fuel combustion. He stated that, due to humans releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the earth would become warmer. Arrhenius was the first person on record to propose such an idea. His idea was not a popular one, and nobody paid much attention to his research. People thought that humans alone weren’t influential enough to change the course of nature. Later, in the 1940’s, a scientist named Gilbert Plass did more research on the topic.
He found that adding more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere cut off infrared radiation and kept it inside the earth’s atmosphere instead of releasing it into space. In the 1980’s, the earth’s average temperature started to rise dramatically, going from 32? in 1939 to 32.72? in 1981, and began to convince people that global warming might be real. It began to attract media attention, and for the first time it seemed like a real issue. By 1988, it was confirmed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that the earth’s temperature was warmer than it had ever been since 1880. Dr.
James Hansen, one of the leading experts on climate change at the time, along with several other scientists, discovered by recording readings at monitoring stations around the world that four of the warmest recorded years had occurred during the 1980’s. In the following years, 1998 was the warmest year on record. This only further proved the evidence presented by Dr Hansen and his team. Today, as we see even greater changes in global climate than ever before, global warming is considered as a virtually undisputed fact. The rise in temperature has produced more water evaporation, which in turn means there is more moisture in the air.
When this air rises and interacts with cooler air higher in the atmosphere, it leads to a larger number of severe storms and rain. This can even cause hurricanes or tornadoes. There have been many examples of devastating hurricanes in recent years, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which lead to the death of over 1,200 people along the Gulf coast, as well as the displacement and destruction of property of countless others. It also caused $108 billion of property damage. Another big problem caused by global warming is the changes in the oceans and glaciers. The oceans have become more acidic, due to absorbing a large amount of the carbon dioxide in the air.
The ice caps and glaciers are melting because of a substantial rise in temperature, which in turn leads to water levels rising. The higher levels of acid in the oceans is extremely harmful to marine life. Because the water is so acidic, many organisms, such as clams and coral, are unable to build their calcium-based shells and skeletons. Many other species depend on them for food and shelter, and when their numbers are decreasing, it makes it increasingly difficult for these organisms to find sustenance. The same is true for humans, as seafood is becoming more difficult to come by, and if the oceans continue gaining acidity, may no longer be available.
Humans are responsible for the vast majority of these changes. In the last century, we have released ridiculously large amounts of carbon dioxide (between 5,000 and 6,000 million metric tons a year since 1990), as well as various other greenhouse gases, into the air. This mostly comes from burning fossil fuels for energy. These greenhouse gases trap energy in the atmosphere, which causes the earth to heat up. Greenhouse gases are also released naturally, mainly by the decomposition of animal and plant matter, but in much smaller quantities than is released by humans.
For ages, this natural process has helped to support life on earth, by ensuring that it remains at a hospitable temperature. Humans, however, have taken it out of hand and will end up harming all organisms on the planet. The USA is one of the leading contributors to global warming, but it is also one of the countries that is planning to do something about it. President Obama managed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by establishing pollution standards for power plants. He also made a large investment in clean energy. EPA is collecting greenhouse gas emissions data, and promoting clean energy.
The European Union also launched The European Climate Change Programme in 2000, with the goal of avoiding dangerous climate change. One of the ways they plan to achieve this goal is by requiring the average carbon dioxide emissions of vehicles produced to be less than about 130 g/km. Although the future of our planet may look grim, there is hope for the future. If the whole world comes together to solve this problem, catastrophe may be averted. Individuals can help as well, just by shutting off the lights when they leave a room, or by putting recyclables in the recycling where they belong.
Even small things can have a great impact.