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By now you have surely heard about the term global warming correlated to the changes in the Earth's climate.
It is high time that we delve deeper into this topic and know everything about what is global warming, its causes, and how it is bringing havoc to the entire world in a variety of concerning ways. If we want to reverse the consequences of such rising temperatures then we have to pay heed to curb carbon emissions and switch to utilizing clean energy.
The rise in global temperature caused by the increased amount of greenhouses gases in the Earth's atmosphere is known as global warming. Although it is an umbrella term for a host of issues related to climate change, global warming refers to the extreme heat-trapping by the atmosphere that is disturbing the natural heat balance of the Earth. The greenhouse gas emissions are the major contributors speeding up climate change through a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect. This is causing the rapid rise in temperatures which has now risen up to 34 °F (1.11 ° C) than it was in the 1880s at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Even if it seems to be a very slight increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is enough to cause extreme weather changes across the globe.
Want to know more about global warming? Read on to find out more hard-hitting facts about the worldwide changes it is bringing in.
You can also check out intriguing facts about tornadoes and facts about hurricanes here.
The term global warming was first introduced by Wallace Broecker in 1975 in his article on climate change at Columbia University.
With the introduction of coal as a fossil fuel to move steam locomotives during the Industrial Revolution, carbon emissions started shooting up. In just a century between 1880 to 1980, the global temperature rose by 33 °F (0.55 °C), and over the last 40 years, the temperature has further increased by 32.3 °F (0.18 °C) per decade. Apart from carbon dioxide, the other key contributors are methane and nitrous oxide that amplify the greenhouse effect. In 2016 alone, the USA contributed 81.6% of carbon emissions. Now that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has risen by 50%, it is important to stabilize its rise so that the warming up temperatures can be stabilized to 35.6 °F (2 °C) by the year 2100.
In recent decades we have already started observing alterations in the normal climatic patterns across the globe. Climate change events like occurrences of heatwaves, glacial melting at the poles, intensified tropical storms, rise in sea levels are on the rise, and scientists have predicted other intensified climate change events that are going to make the existence of human life tougher in the coming years.
To understand global warming better, let us first understand what is the greenhouse effect.
The shortwave solar radiation that enters the earth helps in keeping the atmosphere and the earth's surface warm. Certain atmospheric gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen dioxide, CFCs, and water vapor trap the sunlight and prevent it from reflecting back into space. This heat-trapping causes all the sun's energy to stay back on the Earth, heating up the Earth more than normal. Fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas are used worldwide for vehicles, industries, electricity generation, and other purposes. Since the major component of these fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, their burning releases the major greenhouse gas- carbon dioxide along with other gases like nitrogen dioxide and methane emissions. As these gases remain in the atmosphere for millions of years, their concentration is increasing and causing problems.
According to scientists, another notable factor amplifying global warming and climate change is the large-scale deforestation to serve anthropogenic needs. Be it for housing, agriculture, or making wooden products, human's unsustainable forms of deforestation due to increased population and their demands have catalyzed global warming and climate change. Since trees trap carbon dioxide for photosynthesizing and induce rainfall, they influence the local climate. Pointless felling trees have reduced carbon dioxide absorption, increasing their heat-trapping activity. Other sources of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere come from landfills and rice fields where a lot of methane is released into the air due to the decomposition of organic matter. Scientists have also estimated a major rise in the levels of greenhouse gases increasing the global average temperature even further from the melting ice of the polar regions of the Antarctic and Arctic.
While the developing countries are blamed for the recent carbon emissions, we cannot overlook the damage that the developed countries have already caused since the Industrial Revolution.
Even today, most of the greenhouse gases coming from vehicular emissions are contributed mostly by the developed countries. Whereas the maximum fossil fuel consumption of the developing countries is for the industries. Whatever be the cause, unless all the nations come united to safeguard the environment, the effects of climate change cannot be reversed and no blame game can save the world from devastation. To combat global warming a hierarchical system including nations, governments, and individuals is the most effective way.
At the national and international level, conferences on climate change, laying down guidelines for every country with regard to their carbon emissions should be strictly followed like the Paris Agreement of 2015, following the path of sustainable development. Governments can impose strict regulations on banning deforestation. They can also put an upper ceiling to the annual carbon footprint of countries, monitoring their greenhouse gas emissions regularly. Projects on implementing renewable energy in industries, electricity generation, etc should be proposed and implemented by the governments.
At the community and individual level, each one should be made aware of this burgeoning issue and the effects of climate change. We can switch from the 'use and throw' lifestyle to adopting reduce, reuse, recycle, and repair. Instead of investing in cars, we should avail more of public transport. Small things like checking the energy consumption of your electrical appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners can also help in checking emissions of CFCs. Switching off power when not in use will not only save your electricity bill but will also lower the amount of hydrocarbon burning and resultant greenhouse effect on the climate.
Apart from the warming up of climate, the effects of global warming and associated climate change are far-reaching affecting both the developed and developing countries.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has increased from 280 ppm between 800,000 years ago to Industrial Revolution to a whopping 407.4 ppm in 2018. Consequently, the polar ice caps are melting at the Arctic and Antarctic region at unprecedented rates. Owing to rising temperatures, it has been estimated to retreat around 10 to 15 times more than normal. Water from the melting ice has risen the sea level up to 7 in (17.78 cm). A further increase would result in the submergence of major coastal regions of the world. Apart from the surface and atmospheric temperatures, ocean temperatures have also risen, increasing the occurrence and intensity of tropical cyclones due to the rapid formation of low-pressure zones, enhancing coastal flooding.
Another effect of global climate change is the recurrence of heatwaves in tropical and temperate regions. The climate of most countries is facing extreme weather conditions due to the heat waves that are occurring not only in the summer season but also in the winter season, bringing drought-like conditions in some places. The climate in winters is filled up with smog due to excess air pollution in metropolitan cities.
Climate change is warming up the oceans which are threatening the survival of marine life. As oceans absorb carbon dioxide, the excess carbon dioxide present in the air is absorbed by the ocean leading to ocean acidification.
On the part of living organisms, global warming is sparing none from its harmful effects. Air pollution due to greenhouse gases is causing respiratory problems to humans and animals alike. Smog is reducing visibility and choking birds. Deforestation is resulting in habitat loss of wild animals that are becoming vulnerable to extinction. Changes in the climate like cyclones, heat waves, polar ice melting is disrupting the normal life of many animals and are posing threat to their survival. Warm and acidic ocean waters are leading to coral bleaching, destroying acres of beautiful coral reefs across the world. Animals living in colder climates are not being able to withstand the heat waves, especially the Polar Bears of the Arctic and the penguins of the Antarctic, as the ice floes are all melting, leaving them with very little land area to survive. Although human beings are responsible for global warming, humans are also affected by climate change in the form of degradation of life or property.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what is global warming, find out if you should be worried, then why not take a look at Hurricane Katrina or 1935 Houston flood?
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