How big of a problem is climate change?


Climate change is a major issue currently occurring in the world. Climate change or, global warming is shifts in the weather patterns due to gas emissions by humans. Warming occurs when gases get trapped in earth's atmosphere and trap heat,  preventing it from escaping. These gas emissions causing global warming have many negative side effects that no one has a solution to. These side effects are becoming significantly worse as time goes on. At this rate, if no solutions are found, humans will be the reason for extinction of certain animals, contamination of food and water, and life will become more difficult. Climate change is a big problem in the world and something needs to be done about it before it's too late.

Climate change has always occurred on earth but humans have rapidly increased the rate at which it happens. According to NASA the ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ranged from 180-300 parts per million, and now the amount of carbon dioxide is at almost 400 parts per million. Also according to the Environmental Protection Agency, humans are the leading cause in global warming ever since the industrial revolution and agricultural revolution. Carbon dioxide is not the only gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. Gasses such as methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, tropospheric ozone, and fluorinated gases are the main greenhouse gasses.

One of the effects of climate change is the increase in global average temperature. Scientists have predicted that temperatures will rise anywhere from 2.5 to 10 degrees fahrenheit over the next century. The average surface temperature increased 2.05 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. As previously stated, greenhouse gases get trapped in the earth's atmosphere and act like a shield preventing heat from escaping earth and being reflected back into space, so it warms the earth. This increase in temperature is what causes many other issues and really affects the environment. One of which is having longer frost-free seasons, and longer warmer seasons.

One of the effects of the rising temperatures is melting of the cryosphere. Which is the earth's frozen water, glaciers, sea ice, ice sheets, ice caps, frozen ground etc. Glaciers are melting almost everywhere around the world including places like the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska, and Africa. Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades. Melting of all this ice also creates many different problems. The melting ice will increase sea levels, meaning more water, and less ice. Water absorbs more heat than ice, so when the ice melts, there will be more water to absorb heat which will then melt more ice. And if the ice on lakes and rivers are melting completely, it is melting and breaking a lot sooner than it would normally do so. Overall snow cover is also decreasing and melting sooner than it should along with ice.

The melting ice will increase sea levels. Sea levels have increased about 8 inches in the past century, however a majority has come from the last 20 years. Higher sea levels will also begin to decrease land mass, and increase flooding. Not only the melting of ice will increase sea level, the oceans temperature itself will increase the volume of the ocean and increase sea level. In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in relatively high population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms. In urban settings and coastlines, sea level can be a threat to infrastructure for jobs and industries. Roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants, landfills, etc. are all at risk to be damaged by and increase in sea level. Sea level being further upshore will also allow for hurricanes/tropical storms to move further inland than normal. The saltwater from the ocean can also contaminate aquifers and contaminate drinking water.

The oceans temperature is also increasing making them more acidic as the oceans store around 90% of earth's energy. The increasing temperature in the ocean stresses the algae that provides color and nutrients to coral, so coral will begin to lose color and die. Overall, the top 100 meters of ocean increased .6 degrees, since 1969, and the higher acidity will begin to dissolve the shells of many sea creatures. The acidity of oceans has increased 30 to 40% in the past two decades.

The melting ice is also a threat to many arctic animals including polar bears. Walruses, penguins, seals, and more. All these animals depend on colder weather and sea ice to survive, but the temperature is increasing and the ice in melting. The range for where some plants and animals thrive are expanding due to the increasing climate and trees are flowering sooner than normal. 

Climate change also causes many weather extremes and changes in weather changes. These extremes include wildfires, droughts, flooding, storms, hurricanes, heatwaves, etc. There is also an increase in temperatures for record highs, record lows, and increased rainfall. In 2011-2012 the amount of intense heat waves have tripled the long term average. Higher temperatures reduce the amount of moisture in plants and soil, which results in hotter summer, and without rain causes a drought. However, climate change can also increase rainfall. Over the past 3-5 decades, heavy rainfall has been becoming heavier and more frequent. This heavy rain along with any tropical storms and sea levels can cause flooding which can do a lot of damage to infrastructure and agriculture. Worldwide, from 1980 to 2009, flooding affected more than 2.8 billion people, and took the lives of more than half a million. Ever since the 1980’s the frequency, intensity, and duration of hurricanes have increased due to increased surface temperature of the ocean. Other extreme weather like winter storms, tornados, hail, and thunderstorms have also increased in intensity and frequency over the past 70 years since the 1950’s.

Droughts and flooding will significantly hurt agriculture and the ability to grow crops as weather patterns will begin to become more unpredictable. When in a drought, crops and trees have less of a defence, and can't defend themselves against pests and diseases which can kill them. Along with the drought longer summers and mild winters mean more tree killing insects.  If plants and crops dont die from a drought, the reduced water supply will stunt plant growth and decrease nutritional value.

Another effect of climate change in polluted air from all of the greenhouse gases. Higher temperatures along with the greenhouse gasses will create more smog. Which can also be caused by an increased amount of wildfires. Smog is very unhealthy as it irritates lungs and can cause many health complications that include issues with the heart and the lungs. Smog is also a problem for the environment. Smog can cause acid rain, eutrophication, affect wildlife, and damage crops and plants. Acid rain is precipitation that has nitric and sulfuric acids in it. This acid rain comes in precipitation (rain, snow, fog) or dry precipitation (gas, particles). Acid rain damages trees and plants, and makes soil and bodies of water more acidic. Eutrophication occurs when a body of water has an excessive amount of nutrients and minerals. These nutrients increase the growth of algae and other plant life which decrease the amount of oxygen for fish and other marine life eventually killing them. Polluted air contributes to birth defects, reproductive failure, and disease in animals. Polluted air will also give animals medical issues similar to humans.

All of these effects will affect countries differently, based on how advanced they are, where they are located, and what their climate is currently like. More industrially advanced countries are a bigger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than less industrially advanced countries. However the effects of climate change will affect everyone the same and less advanced countries will have a harder time defending themselves from the effects. Places like China, the United States, India, Japan, Germany, Russia are the places that create the most carbon emissions.

Climate change is a very serious issue that people need to find a solution to. There are many negative effects occurring on the environment that are only going to get worse as time goes on. If no solutions are found these issues will keep getting worse and will eventually get to a point where the damage is done and the problem can no longer be resolved. Climate change is a bigger issue than some people put it out to be and people should understand how big of a problem it really is.

 

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