What is Climate Change?

SHORT ANSWER- To put simply, climate change is the change in average worldly conditions that includes but is not limited to extreme weather, temperature, wildfires, etc. Climate change directly affects the quality of life for people around the world and destroys the environment. We can no longer wait idly by while our world is crumpling around us.

To understand climate change, you must first understand what causes it. Certain gases within the Earth’s atmosphere cause it to act like a greenhouse, effectively trapping the sun’s heat and preventing it from leaking into space. These gases are called Greenhouse gases and they include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluoridated gases. Most of these gases occur naturally, but due to human activity these gases have increased tremendously. Carbon dioxide is predominantly produced by humans burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gases) and accounts for 64% of man-made global warming. Methane is responsible for 17% along with nitrous accounting for 6%. While it is the greenhouse gases that causes the planet to heat up, it is human activity that causes the amount of gases to spike.

Human Activity that Cause Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Rise:

  • Burning coal, oil and gas produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
  • Deforestation – Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the trees are cut down in excess, these trees actually release the carbon they have absorbed. Not only does it lose the benefit of removing carbon from the atmospher, but it actually increases the amount.
  • Increase in live stock farming – Animals – especially cows, pigs, and sheep – produce large amounts of methane when the digest their food.
  • Fertilizers that contain nitrogen produce nitrogen oxide.
  • Fluoridated gases – cause a very strong warming effect (23,000x greater then carbon dioxide) and do not occur naturally. They are created for products we use everyday like fridges and aerosol cans. Luckily, this type of gas is released in smaller quantities than other gases.

At first glance, it may just seem like all that climate change is doing is making the planet warmer. When this is not the case, climate change directly affects every living thing on the planet.

Observable Impacts of Climate Change:

  • Water – With temperatures rising, access to clean water is being increasingly difficult for people all over the world, specifically in the West and Alaska. On the other side of the spectrum, places in the Midwest have experienced an increase in heavy downpours causing floods and ruining water quality.
  • Food – Food supply relies on the climate and weather conditions. Since the weather is becoming more inconsistent, it’s hard to not only grow crops but to raise live stock.
  • Human Health – Changes in the environment are expected to have a direct impact on human health. This impact may include an increase in waterborne diseases, poor air quality, heat stress, and an increase in diseases transmitted by insects and rodents.
  • Ecosystems – Flowering and egg laying are shifting in timing, resulting in the species either dying and/or altering their ecosystems.
  • Oceans – Oceans absorb around 30% of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere, resulting in the ocean being more acidic which alters marine life. With glaciers melting due to rising temperatures, sea levels are rapidly rising. This may cause a greater risk of erosion and storm surge, in addition to multiple places being completely flooded.
  • Increase in Extreme Weather – Rising temperatures alone greatly affect the weather, but the change in sea levels and deforestation is causing extreme weather to rise. 69% of extreme weather event trends were found to be made likely and/or serve due to human caused climate change.
  • Animals – The climate is changing at such a rapid pace that animals are not having a chance to adjust to the new climate patterns (varied rainfall, longer hotter summers, etc). The ecosystems and habitats are being destroyed, effectively taking away any place for these animals to live. Leaving an unprecedented amount of animals endangered or extinct.

Photos of Global Warming Impacts

As of 2019, we had 11 years to solve climate change before it became irreversible. One year later and no changes have been made to help fight this growing issue. Again, we can no longer wait idly by while our world is crumpling around us. It is time we start demanding action before it’s too late.

Sources:

Anonymous. “Causes of Climate Change.” Climate Action – European Commission, 28 June 2017, ec.europa.eu/clima/change/causes_en.

“Climate Change Impacts.” Climate Change Impacts | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, http://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/climate/climate-change-impacts.

“Climate Policy Info Hub.” Fluorinated Gases | Climate Policy Info Hub, climatepolicyinfohub.eu/glossary/fluorinated-gases.

“Mapped: How Climate Change Affects Extreme Weather around the World.” Carbon Brief, 21 Apr. 2020, http://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-climate-change-affects-extreme-weather-around-the-world.

NASA. “The Causes of Climate Change.” NASA, NASA, 14 Apr. 2020, climate.nasa.gov/causes/.

NASA. “What Is Climate Change?” NASA, NASA, climatekids.nasa.gov/climate-change-meaning/.

“Only 11 Years Left to Prevent Irreversible Damage from Climate Change, Speakers Warn during General Assembly High-Level Meeting | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.” United Nations, United Nations, http://www.un.org/press/en/2019/ga12131.doc.htm.

Richards, Photograph by Cory, and Photograph by Michael Melford. “What Is Global Warming?” What Is Global Warming, Facts and Information?, 25 Feb. 2019, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/global-warming-overview/#close.

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