Lately the Earth is facing many ecological problems that are not only getting worse each day but we can already feel their impact on our lives. All ecological problems are connected and influence each other. And without doubt we can say that one of the most serious threats we face is Climate change – Global warming.
The Basics about global warming
When we start talking about climate change, first we need to know what is causing it. Simply said planet warms up because carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants are collecting in the atmosphere like a blanket, trapping the sun’s heat. One might say that maybe fluctuations in temperatures are natural and people activity is not to blame. But our part in this process is undoubtful – in general global warming started to get worse with the beginning of industrial revolution but over the past 50 years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. Moreover experts think that the trend is accelerating: the 10 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990.
We can use also examples of U.S. and Europe. Scientists say that unless the emissions causing climate change are curbed, average U.S. temperatures could be 3 to 9 degrees higher by the end of this century. Similar situation is occurring in Europe. The last decade was the warmest one on record with the temperature 1.3° C warmer than the pre-industrial average. Various expert´s predictions show that Europe could be 2.5–4° C warmer in the later part of the 21st Century, compared to the 1961–1990 average.
The picture on the left shows us the rate of global warming from 1850 to 2010. We can clearly see that the temperature is slowly rising. There are events that can influence the temperature as well as the human activity. One of them are volcanic eruptions and we can see that the eruption of El Niňo caused visible rise of temperature.
And what country is the largest source of global warming pollution? The United States. Though Americans make up just 4 percent of the world’s population, they produce 25% of the carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel burning — by far the largest share of any country.
Consequences of global warming
As I already stated climate change is a complex phenomenon. Its full-scale impacts are hard to predict in advance. But we know that its consequences are widespread and serious. Here are some examples of areas that are noticably changing due to global warming:
Heat waves have increased in frequency and length. It caused tens of thousands of deaths over the last decade and the probability is high that this number will increase in the future unless societies adapt. On the other hand cold-related deaths are decreasing in many countries. Precipitation is decreasing in southern regions and on the contrary it is increasing in northern Europe. With higher volume of precipitation also increases river flooding. Following pictures show us The Enterprise Bridge. It passes over a section of Lake Oroville in 2011 (left) and 2014 (right) in Oroville, California, which is experiencing “exceptional” drought.
The Arctic is warming faster than other regions. Record low sea ice was observed in the Arctic in 2007, 2011 and 2012, falling to half the minimum seen in the 1980s. Melting of the Greenland ice sheet has doubled since the 1990s, losing an average of 250 billion tonnes of mass every year between 2005 and 2009.
Another sign of global warming is also the retreat of mountain glaciers. Very good example of this is Kilimanjaro. Comparing the left picture from 1993 and the right picture taken 7 years later, we can see that the glacier has shrunk to its minimum size.
Sea levels are rising, raising the risk of coastal flooding during storm events. Global average sea level has risen by 1.7 mm a year in the 20th century, and by 3 mm a year in recent decades. Many studies have measured widespread changes in plant and animal characteristics. For example, plants are flowering earlier in the year. Other animals and plants are moving northward or uphill as their habitats get warmer.
There are two main ways of mitigating the climate change: cutting pollution and expanding clean energy. Transitioning to a clean energy economy will bring new jobs and reduce air pollution. The good news is that there are some practical ways of improving the today´s situation already. In the run of time new technologies were invented to make cars run cleaner and burn less gas, power plants were modernized and generate electricity from nonpolluting sources. Very helpful is also cutting our electricity use through energy efficiency. The real question is if we are ready to put these solutions to use.