Heating up the Earth with Global Warming & How to Stop It!

Heating up the Earth with Global Warming & How to Stop It!

The rise in the average temperatures of the Earth's oceans and atmosphere is popularly referred to as global warming. Because global warming can also cause long-term changes in the earth's climate, scientists also refer to it as "climate change." The fact that global warming is occurring has been firmly established by science. The controversy concerning global warming, however, centers around whether humans are responsible for the ongoing increase in average global temperatures. The vast majority of scientists who study the world's climate agree that humans are at least partly responsible for the current trends in global climate change.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to global warming and the climate changes that come as a direct consequence. Solar irradiance is energy that comes from the sun, and it can have a major effect on the climate of any planet in the star system, especially the inner worlds such as Earth, Venus and Mars. However, this doesn't explain the current trend of global warming, as according to NASA, global warming driven by the sun would warm all layers of the atmosphere. Global warming is currently only happening in the lower atmosphere and on the surface of the Earth. Volcanic activity does not contribute to global warming, as most of the gases that volcanoes release contribute to global cooling, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This leaves one other cause of global warming, which is a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect is a term that describes the trapping of heat in the Earth's atmosphere so that it cannot vent back into space. One component of the greenhouse effect involves the rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Greenhouse gases serve to trap heat and prevent it from radiating back into space. Examples of greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxides, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Another factor that leads to the greenhouse effect is the melting of snow. Snow is white, a color that reflects heat and sends it back into space, thus resulting in a climate cooling effect. When snow melts, however, the newly exposed landscape below is typically of various darker colors, which serve to absorb heat and trap it on the Earth's surface.

Humans are known to contribute significantly to the presence of greenhouse chemicals in the Earth's atmosphere. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by 80 percent since 1970. Up to 90 percent of this has come from the consumption and burning of fossil fuels. This comes largely from humans driving cars, which burn gasoline, as well as power plants that run on coal and oil. Humans also release CO2 into the air by chopping down large numbers of trees, a process known as deforestation. Trees capture CO2 while alive and release it when they die, especially when they are burned, such as in wildfires. Agriculture and resource extraction, including natural gas extraction and mining, are other human activities that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Since 1750, the amount of CO2 has increased from 270 parts per million (ppm) to 379 ppm by 2005. Humans are also contributing greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by extracting natural gas, which includes methane. As a result of rising levels of greenhouse gases, the Earth's average atmospheric temperature has risen by a little more than 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century and is predicted to rise by between 3 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100.

The consequences of global warming are long-lasting and potentially devastating. For instance, it will lead to more droughts in some areas and more powerful and dangerous storms in others. Some places will experience increased problems with droughts, flooding, and more severe windstorms. This can result in food shortages due to the destruction of crops, an increase in wildfires in severely dehydrated areas, and severe water shortages. In other areas, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods will become more common. In the long term, these problems could prove to be permanent.

Another long-term issue is the melting of glaciers and polar ice, which will result in a rise in global water levels. Cities on the coastlines that are presently at sea level may wind up becoming flooded, forcing mass displacements of large populations of people. The effects on animal populations can also be devastating, not only due to habitat destruction but because some plants and animals cannot survive in hotter temperatures. For instance, droughts will destroy wetlands, which are habitats for a wide variety of plant and animal life, and melting ice caps are leading to starvation for polar bears. Animals like the pika, which is related to rabbits, can only survive in cold temperatures and are now running out of suitable places to live. Global warming contributes to the rise of diseases as well. For instance, the rise in temperatures means that mosquitoes may be able to survive further to the north and south of the equator, and this enables the spread of West Nile disease and malaria.

Greenhouse gases are necessary to keep the earth warm enough to sustain life. On the other hand, however, an excessive amount of global warming can raise the planet's atmospheric temperature to a point where life on Earth can no longer survive. Human activities are a major contributor to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and, as a consequence, a major contributor to global warming. In order to help slow or stop global warming, however, it is necessary to understand the damage that it can do and what humans are doing to contribute to the problem.

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