The Real Concern Of Global Warming And Climate Change

Global Warming

Have you ever just thought about how absolutely minuscule you are in this vast universe we orbit, how unbelievably complex and divine solar systems and life are, all the theories and studies done to determine the formation of such complexities; It truly is remarkable! With advancements and evolution of human life and knowledge, we are seeing changes in our environment on a large scale level that have us questioning the effects us minuscule creatures are having on this universe, particularly our home on earth, our oceans, our weather, our air, our habitat. We really are larger than life and we are proving just how much larger that is in our research on the effects of global warming. So what is global warming?

It can be defined as “a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants”. The effects of global warming play a extensive part in all matters of our lives affecting earth and our atmosphere, in ways which include, climate change, ocean levels, air quality and even our weather.

How do we know that these changes are occurring?

Global warming is a great concern amongst researchers, scientists, environmentalists, and Astronomers alike. In recent years the release of orbiting satellites into our solar system have collected data of various matters concerning our planet, which include signals of changing climate. We have observed a 1. 62 degree Fahrenheit change in surface temperature on earth since the 19th century and a 0. 4 degree fahrenheit change in the top 2, 300 feet of the ocean in that last 49 years along with increasing ocean levels. Even more concerning we have witnessed an increase in the number of extreme weather events occurring including catastrophic hurricanes and cyclones, all of which these events can be linked to rising CO2 levels.

Can humans really be the cause to all of this?

It is known that cooling and warming has occurred on earth before the existence of humans in events called snowball earth and hothouse earth episodes. Snowball earth episodes are thought to have occurred during times when there was a removal of methane from the atmosphere which left the earth covered in ice sheets leading to glaciation. Hothouse earth episodes are believed to be a result of an era of high volcanic activity leading to an increase in atmospheric CO2 increasing the earth’s temperature, it is during these times that there was an increase in the development of life. Development of prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms is believed to be a result of a hothouse earth episode many years ago. Being that these episodes were also a result of changes in CO2 levels, how is the changes now any different?

Scientists have determined a dramatic rise in carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere preceding the years following industrialization, so much so that they have linked the rises directly with human causes, such as mining and burning coal, oil and gases or the destruction and burning of forests and fossil fuels and releasing of pollutants and aerosols into the atmosphere. They call these human activities fingerprints, which are a major cause of the greenhouse effect that is directly observed in the human effect on global warming. The release of these pollutants into our atmosphere is creating a layer around the earth referred to as a blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and in return warming the earth which in turn results in the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect can be summarized as a warming resulting from trapping heat in the atmosphere which radiates it from earth toward space. Recent studies have provided evidence that humans have caused nearly two thirds of the atmospheric and oceanic temperature changes on earth and the other third is from natural drivers that occur on earth without human influence, such as energy from the sun called solar irradiance. Solar Irradiance is the earth’s primary energy source and is measured radiation in solar variability. It is measured in a spectrum of ultraviolet rays that penetrate different parts of the earth’s atmosphere in either UV A, B, or C rays. Satellites of our solar system have observed changes in the sun which could have an effect on the rise in observed temperatures but it has been concluded that only very slight changes in solar irradiance have been observed and that those changes would only constitute about a 10% increase in the observations in the recent rise in warmings.

Other natural drivers include eruptions of volcanoes as they can create short term climatic effects as their eruptions release high amounts sulfur and aerosols into the atmosphere. These emissions into the atmosphere create a negative RF as they block sunlight from hitting earth’s surface and instead radiate the sun’s energy back toward space. This is considered a negative RF as it creates a cooling effect on earth. Emission of methane gases from organisms is also considered to be a natural driver for global warming. Although, natural drivers do play a part in global warming human effects are so much more vast that they have been correlated as the direct link to the phenomenon of global warming. We have gained evidence to prove the impact humans are having on global warming by determining the climate trends from the past, through the use of proxies. Proxies are found in a few forms such tree rings which are from cores of trees that determine the growth throughout its lifetime such as the temperature and precipitation and altitude that tree has seen in its lifetime through the density observed in the layers of the rings.

Another proxy is in the form of glacial ice cores which consist of light and dark bands and traces of various substances which are studied to determine age and environmental conditions throughout time. These proxies are reliable sources to tell us how the earth changed before we were able to observe it. Most of the warming changes happening on earth have been observed in the last 35 years. The earth is much like a greenhouse as it depends on the energy coming from the sun, NASA summarizes this phenomena “About half the light reaching Earth's atmosphere passes through the air and clouds to the surface, where it is absorbed and then radiated upward in the form of infrared heat. About 90 percent of this heat is then absorbed by the greenhouse gases and radiated back toward the surface, which is warmed to a life-supporting average of 59 degrees Fahrenheit”. - NASA. Greenhouse effects on earth are surly evident at this time but where they might go if it is not handled is something we can only predict. There are five gases responsible for the greenhouse effects which include, water vapors which are the most abundant, carbon dioxide which is a driving force of climate change, nitrous oxide which is a powerful greenhouse gas, and chlorofluorocarbons which contribute in the destruction of the ozone layer. Currently, we have seen an increase in overall surface temperature of the earth but how much more can it continue. Research from the IPCC suggests that earth’s temperature will continue to rise as much as ten degrees Fahrenheit over the next century if we continue on this path. Warmer climates in response to the greenhouse effects have lead to an increase in our ocean temperatures making them more acidic. Warmer climates also lead to melting of glaciers, which in turn cause a rise in the ocean levels. These climate changes have even given predictions on how precipitation will change, as higher temperatures will lead to more evaporation which will have an overall concurrent effect on the levels of precipitation. The ocean is affected in many ways as a result of global warming. As the global temperatures increase in the ocean’s they begin to expand as response.

Another factor contributing to the rise in ocean levels that is associated with global temperature change is that glaciers are melting at a much faster rate than previously measured in the past, they are melting at a rate so fast that could leave arctic locations such as Antarctica virtually glacier free within the next hundred years. Rising sea levels are of major concern for our oceans as it is estimated that by the year 2100 the ocean’s will have risen between 1 and 4 feet posing threat to surrounding coastal areas as the ocean will begin to occupy land which is currently inhabited by land species. The oceans act as a giant filter for the CO2 pollution in the atmosphere they absorb up to a quarter of the fossil fuels released, but the oceans are dramatically being affected by these increasing levels of CO2 creating a higher acidity in the oceans. The higher acidity levels are posing harm to marine life as crustaceans cannot produce their hard protective shells in acidic environments, and other sea life is affected as they are having to adapt to these changes or they will be forced to die. In recent years we have seen a rise in venomous sea creatures as an effect to their changes in environment. In addition to the effects on sealife these conditions also affect humans. With higher sea levels and increased risk of catastrophic storms, storm surges are generally becoming more detrimental to the coastal cities.

As previously mentioned the increase in atmospheric temperature has a direct correlation on the effects of weather. As the global temperatures rise more evaporation is taking place leading to a greater increase in precipitation and violent storms such as hurricanes and cyclones and in contrast has a drying effect in other areas causing severe droughts and dust storms. Research suggests that heavy precipitation events will increase 40% by the end of the century if emissions do not change. There has been a steady increase in these violent catastrophes over the years, storms and natural disasters that are said to be 1 in every 500 years we have seen over 20 times in just the last decade. Hurricanes are becoming larger and stronger as climates continue to rise and due to the increased sea levels they are becoming more damaging and fatal as they hit land. Flooding has also been on the rise of concern due to the increased levels of precipitation. Flash flooding has begun to be seen in areas that had been thought to be safe from floods, they come with violent rainfall in short periods of time which has become more relevant in this warmer global society. Droughts are becoming more of an issue as evaporation levels have risen in effect to higher temperatures, they are becoming common even in places that average rainfall has not been affected.

The effect of droughts is catastrophic as in most cases rainfall is diminished, or cannot keep up with the drying effects of the warmer climates. In response plants and trees begin to die and wildfires are more likely to begin due to the mass drying of forests. Wildfires and loss of trees and plants can result in further releasing pollutants and CO2 into our atmosphere adding to the effects of global warming. With our current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the overall increase in global temperature researches suggest we could be moving in the direction of another hothouse earth episode. We are already seeing rise in heat waves globally that are leading to mass droughts and other severe weather. These events are all of concern as the rise of greenhouse gases is increasing faster than some species can adapt creating challenges for life. A study suggests that vertebrae species are disappearing 114 times faster due to the changes in climate and effects of deforestation and pollution from global warming. Scientists suggest we must alter the degree of these changes if we want to change the direction of our fate and to mitigate the effects of global warming. We have already determined that humans are a primary cause of global warming so we are able to determine where and what the causes are to begin to determine ways in which we can reverse it. Being that global warming is on the global scale reversing its effects must also be done on the same collective global scale. The IPCC research shows that in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 there will have to be a 40-70% decline in emissions then there were in 2010. In order to keep global warming below a 2. 7 degree increase dramatic changes must be made and fast. Within the next 15 years the use of fossil fuels must be cut in half and within 30 years their use must be almost entirely eliminated.

Greenhouse gas emissions can be limited by developing methods of renewable energy sources and develop a way to capture and store carbon. In addition reducing deforestation and implementing reforestation plans could help reverse some of the effects caused in global warming by up to 18% by 2030 as reforestation could help eliminate billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions must be controlled in a way that is decarbonizing by reducing the demand for this energy and creating a supply of energy that uses less or no greenhouse gas. The use of fossil fuels must be eliminated from development of infrastructures and for a successful mitigation to stabilize global temperatures and the use of renewable energy must be implemented in its place. Homes and businesses should no longer run on oil and cars should no longer run on diesel and gasoline. It has been determined that by changing behaviors and lifestyle and adapting to more energy efficient ways could decrease energy demands by up to 20% in short term.

The global society has agreed to keep the earth from increasing 3. 6 degrees Fahrenheit which is considered the detrimental level in which we could not reverse the effects from and in order to do so they have established the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement was established within the United Nations to take actions on the effects of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. It is set to deal with the mitigation and adaptation needed to make changes and the finances required to do so. The Paris Agreement is set to take effect in the year 2020 as a worldwide attempt to keep global warming blow the dangerous threshold. So if all this is possible on earth, can we presume the same on other planets in the Milky Way galaxy and beyond? Do they have the same natural drivers causing a rise or fall in surface temperatures that could ultimately affect life on the planet? Are there organisms out there besides creatures of earth that are capable of producing the same detrimental effects to their planet and if so are they capable of adapting to the changes of solar irradiance as we are here on earth who may share the same sun as other life forms? There is so many questions yet to be answered, a universe with an unimaginable amount of information and just waiting to inform, it truly is unquestionably fascinating.

I was once asked the question to provide a comparison between time and space, and it has dawned on me just how to answer that. They are both never ending, never ending doors of opportunity, question, answers, theory, place and concept, they go on forever the true definition of infinite which is what makes them so fascinating. All in all, global warming and climate change is real despite the allegations against it. There is scientific evidence concluding that the earth’s surface temperature and ocean temperature are increasing at an accelerated rate due to unnatural causes primarily from human factors such as burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Many aspects of earth are affected by the results of global warming we are seeing changes on an environmental and astronomical level. Although, there are ways in which we can mitigate the effects of global warming action must be taken immediately before the damages become completely irreversible.

The path that the planet is on now with the overall increase in global temperatures is a real cause of concern for future generations and development of organisms on earth as adaptations are going to have to be made in species to adapt to the new changing environment. These adaptations have already begun in species in our oceans as they have to adapt to changing acidity and temperatures, the presence of more venomous organisms have come about. We can only expect the same changes with other species on this planet if things do not change. Actions have already begun to be implemented for changing our global society to limit the advancements on global warming to save the future of our planet. So yes we are larger than life, we may be small in comparison to the universe but we are capable of so much more, in the same way we are capable of destroying life on earth we can also create a plant capable of providing life for years to come.

15 Jun 2020
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