Anyone who watches television, reads the newspaper, listens to the radio, or browses the Internet has heard of global warming. It is a topic of much debate, but the debate is not over whether or not it is important. The debate is over what we need to do about it.
So what is global warming? In short, it is the continuing increase in the Earth’s average temperature. This is expected to continue in the years to come, and has a significant impact on many of the planet’s systems.
What Causes Global Warming?
One of the most publicized contributors to global warming, and the one that the human race has the most control over, is the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These are the gases that absorb infrared radiation and keep the Earth in its optimal temperature range.
A certain amount of greenhouse gases have always existed in the atmosphere, and natural processes contribute to them. But the burning of fossil fuels has greatly increased the amounts of greenhouse gases present. This is one of the main causes of global warming.
Other factors that contribute to global warming include volcanic eruptions and variations in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. We have no control over these things, but their effects are less significant than those caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
The increased temperature of the Earth causes greater evaporation of water, which results in more water vapor in the atmosphere, in turn increasing the greenhouse effect. It also causes the polar ice caps to melt, resulting in less reflection of heat and greater warming.
Effects of Global Warming
These events therefore cause a continuous cycle of increasing warmth. This has a number of adverse effects on the environment, and there may be other unexpected effects that will show themselves if global warming becomes more severe.
Many extreme weather events have been partially blamed on global warming. For example, there has been an increase in cyclone activity since 1970. Rainfall levels have also fluctuated more than expected in recent years. A rise in sea level has been attributed to global warming, and it is expected to continue to increase steadily.
If global warming continues at its current rate of increase, the effects could be devastating. Extinctions, severe droughts, and the submersion of islands and coastlines are just some of the potential problems the world could experience. And these problems could, in turn, snowball into famines, disease epidemics and even wars.
Global warming is one of the biggest problems the Earth is facing today. Unless measures are taken to reduce the factors that cause it, global warming will continue to worsen. Conserving energy, and supporting legislation that is designed to alleviate factors that contribute to global warming, are some of the things we can do to help turn things around.