The world is covered in weather patterns. These include cold winters in the north, monsoons in south Asia, trade winds in the Pacific and many more. When these weather patterns start to change and those changes last for decades or more, it is considered climate change. This may refer to a change in the average weather conditions or simply longer or shorter duration of the usual weather conditions. The world has a history of climate change through variations in solar radiation, biotic processes, volcanic eruptions and plate tectonics. However, recent significant climate change has been attributed to human activity. This is called global warming.
What is Global Warming?
The average temperature of the earth has gone up 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 100 years, and it is projected by scientists to continue rising from two to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 100 years. These changes may seem small on paper, but they can cause catastrophic changes in weather patterns. Some of the changes already seen are changes in rainfall causing flooding in some places and drought in others. Another change is a rise in heatwaves. There have been big changes in glaciers all over the world, and they melt faster than ever before. The oceans are warming causing the ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise.
The Human Effect
The activities of humans over the past 100 years have released a large quantity of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Most of these gases are produced from burning fossil fuels, but there are other reasons. Deforestation, some agricultural practices and industrial processes are all contributors to the rise in greenhouse gases.
What Do Greenhouse Gases Do?
In a greenhouse, heat is trapped so that the plants inside can have a warm climate in which to grow even if it is too cold outside the greenhouse for them to survive. Greenhouse gases blanket Earth and act like a barrier that keeps energy inside causing Earth to warm. This is why it’s called the greenhouse effect, and it is a natural process that is necessary for life on Earth. However, when the barrier becomes so thick that it doesn’t allow heat to escape at all, it can be dangerous for all the inhabitants of Earth. There are steps humans can take today that will reduce the production of greenhouse gases.
Global Warming or Global Cooling
In the early and middle years of the last century, scientists were still debating whether the greenhouse effect was helping the earth or hurting it. Some scientists argued that it was required to protect Earth from extreme temperatures, which is true, but others pointed out how carbon emissions could cause the barrier to become so thick that it caused global warming. The subject was finally taken up by an international network of scientists who formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988.
Even though there are still climate change deniers, there is a major global consensus that global warming is a distinct threat to life as we know it, and it is caused mainly by human activity. In Europe, the United States and other countries, policies have been adopted to limit carbon emissions and to develop alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind and biofuel.