Global warming is a fact – and a potential danger to the future of our planet. What causes it? Are its effects reversible? We’ve created this guide to provide you with answers to these and many other questions related to climate change.
With the end of pre-industrial era, the global average temperature on Earth has been continuously rising. When comparing the temperatures from the few years, this conclusion may not be that obvious. However, it’s enough to look at the stats that cover the whole century to notice an upward trend (check out this 2019 Berkeley report comparing averages from 1850 to 2020).
The moment the temperatures started rising is not by any chance coincidental. Industrial activity has triggered global warming with the enormous emissions of carbon dioxide – the greenhouse gas that was always naturally present in the atmosphere, but never in such amounts. The electrification and dissemination of cars have increased the demand for fossil fuels, which, until recently, were the only mass resource, with no alternatives like solar or wind energy (or only on a micro-scale).
For many years, the skeptics have been underlining that the temperature fluctuations are nothing new on Earth. However, the temperature rise we’re experiencing right now has no precedence. There is no doubt that human activity was its main trigger – and only we can stop it.
The topic of global warming has been familiar to the scientific world for decades, but only in the last two has it found its place in the public debate. Today, we tend to call the overall phenomena with the more general term “climate change” that reflects its broadness better. It’s because the rising temperature of our planet’s atmosphere causes various changes, some of which are not easy to associate with global warming at first glance. That is, for example, extreme weather events, rising sea level caused by glacier melting, and the disruption of the natural cycle of seasons that leads to damaged crops and poses a danger to fauna and flora associated with a particular region.
The rise in average global temperature is a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions. Their accumulation in the atmosphere causes increased absorption of solar radiation and warmth. When the solar rays bounce off the Earth’s surface and pass back through the atmosphere, they get reabsorbed by these gases. That’s what we call the greenhouse effect – a phenomenon that has a devastating influence on global climate.
The main culprit here is carbon dioxide, but there are some other greenhouse gases you should be aware of: methane, nitrous oxide, and freons. The last ones make the ozone layer – a natural protection against UV radiation – disappear. Fortunately, in the past decades, the emissions of freons went down to less than 10% of what they were in the 80s and 90s as a result of regulations imposed on household appliances producers. Nevertheless, the problem of the other emissions is only increasing.
The methane emissions originate mainly in the meat and milk industries. However, with the glaciers melting, we’ll have to deal with its other, more problematic source – the reserves under the ice sheet. That creates the vicious circle – the methane released as a result of global warming causes an even more rapid rise in temperature. That’s why it’s crucial to act as soon as possible in order to stop these changes.
The CO2 emissions have various sources, mainly tied to fossil fuel exploitation. Car traffic, energy consumption based on non-renewable resources, plane travels, deforestation – all these factors contribute to high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
There is no proven way since we’re dealing with this problem first time in history. But since we know the sources of greenhouse gases, the formula seems quite clear – cut down emissions to the lowest possible.
Is it already too late? According to most scientists, not yet – but we’re close to crossing the border of irreversible. That’s why taking individual and systemic actions as soon as possible is crucial to the future of our planet. If we act now, we still have a chance to stop or even reverse climate change.
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