Hello everyone! I thought it would be nice to go back to the basics, so with this post, I will be starting the series “Environmental Issues 101”. Each post will highlight the need-to-know facts about one significant environmental issue our planet faces today. We’re starting off with global warming, arguably the most wide-known of the few.
What is global warming?
As the name suggests, global warming refers to the current rise in the Earth’s average temperature. Global warming is a type of climate change, which refers to any significant change in, well, climate that lasts for a long period of time.
What causes climate change?
Global warming is caused by the emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHGs), which include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and many others. When released into the atmosphere, these gasses temper with the Earth’s ability to release excess heat from the Sun, and therefore trap said heat in the atmosphere. This phenomenon is similar to what occurs in a greenhouse, thus explaining their name.
While there are natural sources of emissions, such as enteric fermentation, a digestive process occurring in ruminant animals such as cattle and goats that releases methane, human activities far outweigh them. As Citizens’ Climate Lobby puts it, “as we learned new ways to extract energy from coal, oil, and gas, we proceeded to burn them faster and faster, converting ‘fossil’ carbon that’s been buried for millions of years into CO2, exceeding the natural level we had for millennia.” The “fossil carbon” they referred to is what is called fossil fuels. These are formed from the fossilized remains of ancient organisms. Coal, natural gas, and crude oil, which are the main sources of energy we run on, are all considered fossil fuels.
Why does this matter?
Global temperatures are rising at an uncontrollable rate, and will continue to do so if nothing is done. This has several disastrous effects, some of which include:
- This one’s pretty obvious, but if the temperature keeps rising, it’ll get way too hot for us to live on Earth. Also speaking to weather, the overall weather and climate (including temperature extremes) can get pretty altered by increasing temperatures, which puts us at greater risk for natural disasters like forest fires, which release even more GHGs into the atmosphere.
- Global ice caps are melting much quicker, which not only takes away habitats for countless animals, but causes sea levels to rise, which increases the risk for natural disasters such as floods, tsunamis, etc. The oceans also themselves get warmer and more acidic, which kills many marine animals and causes a phenomenon called coral bleaching. This essentially kills coral reefs, which is detrimental to the ecosystems that depend on them.
- Regions that are already pretty water-scarce can become even more dry. This leads to droughts, which can then stir up sand and cause dangerous sand storms.
- The change in temperatures also affects plants and animals, who may try to adapt to new conditions by migrating, but often fail, causing several species to go extinct, harming their ecosystems as well.
What can we do about it?
I’m sure you can tell by now that global warming is no child’s play, it is a serious issue that needs attention now. Not to worry though, as there are several things we as individuals can do to combat it. Check out my blog posts to learn more about this:
- Carbon Footprints
- Composting Basics
- 6 of the Best Eco-Friendly Investments
- The Transportation Sector
- Electricity and GHGs
Well, that’s all for today! I hope you’ve learned something new. Stay tuned for the next part of this series!