The world was created with balance, natural cause and effect. Our industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have caused severe imbalance. What is the human race doing that’s causing such a high speed of acceleration in the global warming process?
The largest cause – greenhouse gases
The greenhouse effect is a natural process; there are various types of gases in the atmosphere that warm the planet by trapping energy that would otherwise be emitted into space. Heat from the earth radiates upward and is absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If it weren’t for this process then the sun’s heat would disappear into space and Earth would not be able to sustain life.
The human element: when we burn fossil fuels we greatly increase the warming effect because it releases additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that trap heat near the Earth’s surface. These gases mostly include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide; of these three gases, carbon dioxide is contributing the most to the recent warming. Carbon dioxide is going into the atmosphere at a much higher rate than oceans and plants can absorb it.
The current atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide greatly exceeds the normal range of the last 650,000 years, from 180 parts per million (ppm) to 300 ppm as determined from ice cores.
Though greenhouse gases are one of many factors affecting the climate, it’s very likely that it is the single largest cause of global warming.
Worldwide climate change facts
- Global average air and ocean temperatures have increased, there’s widespread melting of snow and ice and globally rising sea levels. Sea levels could rise between 7 and 23 inches by the end of the century.
- The rate of global warming over the last 50 years is almost double that for the past 100 years. It is very likely that average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were warmer than any other 50-year period in the last 500 years. It is also likely that this 50-year period was the warmest Northern Hemisphere period in the last 1,300 years.
- Heat waves have been increasing since 1950. According to the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC), all of North America is very likely to warm during this century, and to warm more than the global average increase in most areas.
- With the Arctic ice rapidly melting, the region may have its first ice-free summer by 2040 or earlier. In 2007, Arctic sea ice extent was around 23% below the previous all-time minimum observed in 2005. Warming in this area is dramatically reducing the snow and ice covers that provide denning and foraging habitat for polar bears and other ice-dependent species.
- Glaciers are rapidly melting. In the Northern Hemisphere thaws come one week earlier in spring and freezes begin one week later. Glacier National Park, Montana, has only 27 glaciers remaining – there were 150 glaciers in 1910.
- As sea temperatures rise, coral reefs suffer from bleaching, or die-off, in response to stress. Highly sensitive to changes in water temperature some coral reefs are seeing bleach rates of 70 percent.
- It is likely that the annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes in the North Atlantic have increased over the past 100 years, a time in which Atlantic sea surface temperatures also increased. With frequent and more intense hurricanes comes an increase in extreme wave height, which will cause coastal erosion.
- Our oceans are more acidic due to the increasing amount of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere; this is expected to have negative impacts on the marine food chain.
For more facts on the effects of global warming and ways you can help slow it down please visit any of the informative links below.
Photo credit: Adam Baker