Global warming is one of the most talked about environmental issues of today. Studies show that the Earth’s near-surface temperature rose about 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit (0.74 degrees Celsius) over the last 100 years. That doesn’t sound like much, but it has made an impact. And if the average temperature continues to rise, the impact could be much larger.
The effects of global warming are not readily apparent to the average person. But it has already caused some subtle changes in the weather that have contributed to larger problems. By recognizing these effects and working to decrease global warming in the future, we could avert disaster.
The most obvious effect of global warming is that of rising temperatures. In many areas, summers have been hotter over the past several years. The Earth as a whole has experienced all of the ten hottest years on record since 1990. This has resulted in a higher rate of heat-related deaths and disrupted normal weather patterns.
These changes in weather patterns have resulted in droughts in some areas and flooding in others. In the United States, snow accumulation has dropped by 60 percent overall and winter has shortened in some areas.
Hurricanes have also been affected by global warming. While the trend does not create hurricanes, the warmer water does allow existing ones to become stronger than they would otherwise have been. This results in greater destruction when the hurricane hits land.
Rising Sea Levels
Global warming has a direct effect on sea level. The consistently warmer temperatures cause the melting of glaciers, which causes sea levels to rise. The shrinking ice caps also reflect less sunlight, allowing for even greater warming and keeping the cycle going.
Coastal areas are more prone to flooding when the sea level rises. A higher sea level can also disrupt the habitats of certain plants and animals, possibly leading to their extinction. These and related effects have the potential result of an increase in pests and disease-spreading insects.
What If Global Warming Continues?
Unless preventive measures are taken, global warming will continue to increase in the future. It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen to the Earth, but models have shown that more extreme weather patterns and higher sea levels are imminent. Prolonged droughts will likely cause water shortages, and islands and coastlines could become submerged.
Global warming is a serious problem for the whole world. In order to stop it, the entire world must work together. We all need to do our part to reduce our own contribution to the problem, and we all need to encourage industries to be more responsible to the environment. These measures could slow down the trend and help prevent further damage to our precious ecosystem.