Global Warming & Climate Change:
At the top of the list of concerns is global warming. And it’s critically important to be acquainted with the facts. The term global warming is a reference to a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere. Experts believe the roots of this problem can be traced back to the beginning of the industrial revolution. Since the mid-twentieth century, when humans first began to use fossil fuels for industry, the progress of global warming has grown unprecedented in both rate and scale. In accordance with this, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated it is extremely likely that human activity, in the form of the burning of fossil fuels, is the predominant cause of global warming. Some specific human activities that have an influence on climate change include our means of transport, (burning gasoline and oil to power our vehicles), deforestation, (due to both urbanization and agriculture), as well our agricultural practices, (including both plant and animal agriculture), just to name a few. To better explain how these factors effect climate change, we first refer to a concept called the greenhouse effect.
What are greenhouse gases?
The gases ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane gas, and a class of gases collectively known as the chlorofluorocarbons, are referred to as the greenhouse gases. And as the name would suggest, together they produce the aforementioned effect called the greenhouse effect. Stated in its most simple terms, the greenhouse effect is like a blanket. In the same way that you would cover yourself up with a blanket while sleeping at night, the greenhouse gases wrap around the Earth and retain the sun’s energy in our atmosphere, holding that energy in. In a very important way, the greenhouse effect is a natural part of our environment. It’s critical for making life possible. Without the greenhouse effect, the warmth provided by the sun would just bounce off the surface of the globe. That energy would radiate away and be lost into outer space, leaving our world far too cold for life to exist as we know it. We depend on the greenhouse effect for our lives, but,- we have to care for it as well..
“Global warming has many effects on climate change, including the melting of ice caps, glaciers, as well as rising sea levels, just to name a few.”
Because the greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon, when human activities add too much greenhouse gas to the atmosphere, like the carbon monoxide and methane we discussed, the naturally occurring effect is increased too much. This is the result we call global warming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is extremely likely that human activity became the dominant cause of global warming between 1951 and 2010. Of the aforementioned human activities contributing to global warming, the extracting and burning of fossil fuels is considered by many to be the principal cause. In fact, NASA estimates that humans have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution began, mostly as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. A global effort and initiative towards low-carbon renewable energy is critical in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
Another factor relating to global warming is Deforestation. Deforestation is what occurs when large strands of trees are cut down to make room for urban development and industries, or to make room for crops, or to make room for animals to graze. Many of us can agree that it’s a sad day when large numbers of trees have to be cut down,- but how is it relevant here? How is deforestation a contributing factor to global warming? The answer is that trees absorb carbon dioxide, mitigating and partially offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the human activity of burning fossil fuels. This is called “carbon sequestration,” and is defined as the capture and storage of excess carbon dioxide. Since trees play an important role in carbon sequestration, our forests are considered “carbon sinks” that remove and store harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Tropical trees by themselves are estimated to provide a large share of the climate mitigation that’s needed to offset climate change! But deforestation not only removes the vegetation we need for removing carbon dioxide from the air, but the act of clearing the forests by burning them actually does the opposite. It releases it: the smoke from burning trees contains greenhouse gases, including carbon that has been stored inside the trees for all the years they were growing! The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations tells us that deforestation is the second-leading cause of climate change.
“In addition to the melting of icecaps, global warming contributes to the destruction of the most important habitat of all,- the planet..”
While it’s true that agricultural incentives are heavily involved in encouraging deforestation, but in addition to the deforestation that occurs to make room for the crops and animals, there is yet another aspect of agriculture that contributes to global warming,- and that is that the fertilizers used on the crops emit the greenhouse gas, methane. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the animal agriculture sector, which includes the production of feed crops, the manufacturing of fertilizer, as well as the shipment of meat, eggs, and milk, is a primary contributor of green house gas emissions. This includes methane emissions directly from the livestock, carbon emissions resulting from the transport, and the decay of organic waste including manure used as fertilizer.
The issues involved with global warming are inextricably intertwined and complex,- forever linked with the challenges of providing transportation for, and feeding, an ever-growing population. Global warming has a multi-faceted relationship with our actions and our environment, finally resulting in a variety of different effects on climate change. These effects of include an impact on both rainfall and weather patterns, including extreme weather events ranging from heat waves, to droughts, to hurricanes, the melting of ice caps and glaciers, and the rising of sea levels, just to name a few. Solving the global warming problem by replacing fossil fuels with clean energy, and improving our agricultural practices are arguably some of the most daunting challenges the human race has ever faced. But yet,.. are the answers all here? Right before our eyes??
“Global warming contributes to the drying out of vegetation, resulting in forest fires, desertification, and loss of habitat and biodiversity.”
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Established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to assess available scientific, technical, and socio-economic information in the field of climate change. Links to full-text papers, meeting schedule, speeches and press releases, and an information center offering data viewed as statistics, graphically, and by map.
Vital Signs of the Planet: Global Climate Change and Global Warming. Current news and data streams about global warming and climate change. This NASA website is based on the evidence, causes, effects, and solutions of climate change.
The greenhouse effect is a process that occurs when gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap the Sun’s heat. This process makes Earth much warmer than it would be without an atmosphere. The greenhouse effect is one of the things that makes Earth a comfortable place to live.
Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. This section provides information on emissions and removals of the main greenhouse gases to and from the atmosphere.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security.
Key points, articles, pros and cons, and resources regarding climate change.
Reports on the science of climate change, its impacts and possible mitigation strategies. Collection of indicators, reports, links, data sets and targets on climate change.
Discover how researchers study climate change; examine the latest scientific data on this global problem. From the US National Science Foundation.
A directory of descriptions of data sets of relevance to global change research. The GCMD database covers climate change, agriculture, the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere and oceans, geology, geography, and human dimensions of global change.
Online newsletter concerning issues on and about the UN’s convention on long term weather change. Page includes list of meetings and the background behind the Kyoto Protocol.
Scientific research, links, educational resources, U.S. national assessment of the potential consequences of climate variability and change.