Climate change. It’s a term repeatedly used in this day and age with the general consensus being it’s an issue that we must face together. However it’s understood by many that not enough is being done to prevent and stop it from happening. It has gotten to a point were if we don’t act now we may regret it for the rest of our lives.
What is climate change?
Firstly it’s important to note that the term ‘climate’ is misunderstood, usually being mixed with the word ‘weather’. Climate differs from weather in that climates are measured over a much longer period of time; whereas weather can simply be measured day by day or year by year. Different areas and regions have different climates and climate measures more than just temperature. In fact climate is a measure of: seasonal temperatures, rainfall averages and wind patterns.
Now the question arises. What is climate change exactly? Put simply, climate change refers to the alterations of the average weather in a place over many years. Generally climate change causes extreme weather, meaning that it may cause weather to be unpredictable. We have noticed that climate change causes a higher frequency of natural hazards such as hurricanes, floods, wind storms and heavy rainfall. In effect it has also made it harder to grow crops in areas which rely on farming, as rainfall is unexpected and can’t be predicted. 1
Effect of climate change in polar environments
Warming global temperatures caused by climate change have meant ice sheets and glaciers are melting at an accelerated pace, causing sea levels to rise in different parts of the planet. Alongside the expansion of water due to a rise in global temperatures, an excess of water levels has begun to damage coastlines of a variety of islands and countries, due to increased flooding and erosion.
What causes climate change?
Currently, it is believed that human activity is the largest cause of climate change. This is for example by burning fossil fuels (such as oil and coal). Burning such fuels causes the release of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. These gases end up staying in the earth’s atmosphere as they trap the sun’s rays. This rises the average temperature of the earth, also known as global warming.
Where does it all come from?
Did you know that 40% of US carbon dioxide emissions stem from electricity production, and 93% of this electricity production stem from burning coal? According to the EPA coal-fired power plants, municipal and medical waste incineration account for two-thirds of U.S. mercury emissions.2
EPA reports state that 33% of the US emissions come from the transportation of people and goods. 2
Farming on an industrial level and ranching releases a large amount of methane and CO2 into the atmosphere. Farming actually is a contribution to 40% of worldwide methane emissions and 20% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. 2
Fertilisers for crops tend to be nitrogen rich. When used in plants these can become nitrogen oxides, which can trap heat up to 300 times more than carbon dioxide. 62% of nitrous oxides come from agricultural by-products. 2
Deforestation is the process of cutting down trees in order to build things, make paper and for fuel usage. This causes an increase of carbon dioxide emissions by:
- Releasing carbon dioxide during the deforestation process
- Decreasing the amount of carbon dioxide trees can take from the atmosphere as a part of their living process. 2
Garbage remains release methane and nitrous oxide gases, especially when decomposing. Approximately 18% of methane gas in our atmosphere comes from the disposal and treatment processes of waste. 2
Volcanoes expel large amounts of carbon dioxide whenever an eruption occurs. Volcanoes have an overall small effect on global warming, and contrary to a popular belief, an eruption causes short term global cooling as the ash released tends to reflect a lot of solar energy. 2
Climate change is natural – it was meant to happen, slowly, over hundreds of thousands of years. However these factors have caused an acceleration of climate change, at a much faster rate. Global warming is something that is slowly being taken seriously, as more and more people are realising what will happen in the future if we don’t take action now. Countries are putting many acts and plans into action: in the UK, for example, will no longer use coal to generate electricity from October 2024. They have also put into place clean air zones in many major cities, to promote more environmentally-friendly cars and promote people to use other means of transport which cause less damage to the environment. It is about time that we act together to prevent climate change from accelerating further, to save the planet we live in.