Change in global and regional climate patterns attributed to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels
Climate change describes weather patterns and temperatures that change over the long term and on a large scale. Although the changes can be natural, trends over the last two hundred years show that human activity is the primary cause of the shifts.
What causes climate change? Can we stop it, and are there solutions to reverse or adapt to the shifts that are happening? What does climate change mean for the planet? Let’s explore the answers to these crucial questions.
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas, is one of the main drivers of climate change caused by humans. These fuels release gases that trap heat, causing temperatures to rise. They are known as greenhouse gases due to the effects they have and include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.
Besides producing gases, burning fuels produces energy, which also contributes to rising temperatures. Natural events, such as volcanoes, may have a very small effect on increased temperatures and climate change. Thorough research indicates that human activity is the main cause.
The average temperature of Earth has risen by around one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. We need a blanket of greenhouse gases around the planet to keep it at suitable temperatures for the ecosystems we have. However, adding more gases means an enhanced effect with more infrared radiation reflected back from the sun’s rays and providing heat.
Sources of gases include:
- Burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat
- Agriculture, forestry, and other land use
Climate Change Indicators
Keeping track of the changes and reading the signs is a complex and fast-paced activity. Observations from key areas, such as the Arctic, ships, satellites, and research teams from around the world are crucial.
Scientists are measuring:
- Greenhouse gases
- Global temperature
- Ocean heat content
- Sea-ice extent
- Global sea levels
- Major patterns or climate modes, such as El Nino
Scientists’ predictions are already coming true. We’re seeing the effect of global warming today, and current generations won’t witness any reverses in their lifetime. Changes in temperature and weather patterns are leading to:
- Extreme rainfall and floods
- Rising sea levels will flood some inhabited areas
- Stronger hurricanes
- Changes in plant growth affecting ecosystems
- Melting sea ice releases gases that compound the problems
- Peer pressure
- Presence of drugs at home/school
- Community attitude and influence
- Poor academic achievements
- Parental drug use and criminal activity
- Trauma (abuse, witnessing violence, divorce, etc.)
These changes will have significant impacts on the ecosystem and our quality of life. Besides dealing with uncomfortable temperatures, floods, and wildfires, the agricultural yield will reduce, and air quality will be diminished.
Combatting The Shifts
There are two responses to climate change. Since we’re already experiencing the impact, we’ll need to practice both mitigation and adaptation. Some of the worst effects of climate change could still be limited or avoided.
We can try to adapt to the new climate with different crops and construction methods. However, the bulk of the work is aimed at slowing and stopping the changes. One of the key actions is to stop emitting greenhouse gases and, at the very least, drastically reduce what we are emitting. The effect would be flattening the rise in global temperatures within a few years.
Actions need to be taken at all levels. While individual behaviors can contribute to adaptation and mitigation, governments need to react with policies, laws, research, and alternatives. Industry and companies need to be part of the solution, too, not just in the energy sector but in manufacturing, transport, and agriculture.