Climate Change: Fact or Fiction

Weather can be defined as the state of the atmosphere including movements of energy like wind and precipitation. Climate is the generally prevailing weather patterns of a region. The climate of a region is made up of the different weather patterns. The weather patterns are usually repetitive according to the seasons. Where I’m from in southwest Nebraska it snows in the winter, rains in the spring, and is hot in the summer. The question is, has the weather and climate always been like this in Nebraska? We have proof that climate has changed in the past.

Seventy million years ago there may have not been any ice on the North Pole. The region was most likely covered in forest. The amazing part of this hypothesis is that without the polar ice caps the ocean levels would be around seventy meter higher than they are now. Scientist also know that the world was in its most recent ice age about 2. 6 million years ago. If the North Pole went from forest to ice sixty-eight million years, obviously the world has seen drastic changes before. This raises the question of whether or not this could happen to us again.

Could the increases in temperature that everybody attributes to global warming just be a natural cycle of the planets climate? Most people think not. The logical answer for the steady increase in temperature is global warming due to the “Greenhouse Effect”. The Greenhouse Effect is caused by an increase in the concentration of “greenhouse gasses” in the atmosphere. Some of the most dominate greenhouse gasses are Carbon dioxide, Methane, Nitrous oxide, and Water vapor. Some people might argue that these gasses are found naturally in the atmosphere.

The concentration of the gasses could be increasing due to natural factors. The atmosphere may be holding these gasses in for an unknown reason, or the environment may be producing higher concentrations naturally. This theory is unlikely according to data recorded in past years. Ice cores show that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased dramatically since the industrial revolution. It’s no coincidence that global warming started becoming noticeable the same time humans started harvesting fossil fuels.

Burning, mining, and processing fossil fuels are the main cause of the increase in gas releases. According to Peter Singers book One World, the scientific evidence that human activities are changing the climate of our planet has been studied by the IPCC in order to provide policy makers with an authoritative view of climate change and its causes. (Pg. 15) The “Third Assessment Report” released by the IPCC in 2001 found that our planet has shown clear signs of warming over the past century.

Since 1960 snow and ice cover has decreased by about ten percent, and mountain glaciers are in retreat everywhere except near the poles. Paralleling the changes in the climate is an unprecedented increase in the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. This increase is produced by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, the clearing of vegetation, and in the case of methane, cattle and rice production. Not for at least the last four-hundred and twenty years has there been so much carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Pg. 15-16) What will happen if we continue to emit increasing amounts of gasses into the atmosphere, and global warming continues to increase? According to the Third Assessment Report, between 1990 and 2100, average global temperatures will rise by at least 1. 4°C, and by as much as 5. 8°C. Although these average rises in temperature might seem small, even a 1°C rise in the average temperature would be greater than any change that has occurred in a single century in the past ten-thousand years.

Moreover, some regional changes will be more extreme and are much more difficult to predict. (Pg. 16-17) If the average temperature of a major agricultural region was to rise 5°C all the dominant crops in the area may not be suited for the region anymore and major economic downfall could result. Now that everybody in the world is aware of the cause of global warming, the question arises, what are we supposed to do? I believe the best and most effective answer to that question is reduce the amount of energy that we use.

The first and simplest step is to reduce your power consumption. Creating power is one of the largest uses of fossil fuels which means the less power made, the less fossil fuels used. Everybody can use less power by simply turning off lights and unplugging appliances when not in use. Most appliances continue to consume power even after they have been turned off, if everybody just unplugged their electronics or switched off the power strip energy would become a lot more sustainable. Another huge problem with the world is automobiles.

While most people love their cars and don’t want to lose the freedom to go anywhere their thoughts might be changed when they look at all the negatives cars produce. First, is all the time, energy, and resources used to make a car. Most car parts are made from expendable ores and minerals and then shipped across the globe. This not only uses up mineral reserves in the production of the parts but consumes large amounts of petroleum energy in the transportation process. Then, as everybody knows all these cars consume huge amounts of energy in the form of gas every day, this will deplete our oil supply in no time.

Cars also need roads to drive on. Roads are the leading consumer of the United States mineral resources, and the take up very large amounts of space in cities and agricultural areas. People in cities can ride the bus and everybody can ride the train on long distance trips. If we could all cut the amount we drive in half the sustainability of many of the world’s resources would increase dramatically. Turning off your lights and taking the bus aren’t the only way people can reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses they contribute.

Factories produce a large amount of pollutants every day. Factory products can also contribute to atmospheric pollution because everything made requires resources to be produced. And after a product is used up it becomes waste and must be disposed of in some way. We can lower the amount of waste that is being put into landfills by buying goods that aren’t over packaged. Many goods are jazzed up with large and fancy packaging but in the end people just throw the package away. If the same product can be purchased in a smaller package it will cost less and take up less space as waste.

Consumers should try to buy fresh produce from local stores. While fresh goods are not usually over packaged, buying local also helps to cut down on the amount of transportation and the energy wasted while the item was stored in large warehouses. Another step in the environmental preservation process is to recycle everything possible. This is more easily said than done for most people but it is becoming easier and more convenient all the time. Recycling bins are popping up all over in convenient locations and the incentives to recycle are getting greater all the time.

It isn’t that hard to separate easily recyclable materials like cans and bottles in your home and take them to the proper recycling center. Another easy was to recycle is take your plastic shopping bags back for recycling or get a reusable bag. If resources are conserved, then naturally the amount of gasses being released into the atmosphere will be decreased. In conclusion, global warming is a major global problem. If a sufficient remedy isn’t found soon enough the world may never be the same. Finding a means to curve the rise of global warming is easier than most people think.

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