Effects of Global Warming

Yes, global warming is truly happening. Sadly, not may believe in this phenomenon. To further understand it better, though, here is a simple definition of global warming, along with its many repercussions. The average global temperature has been increasing over the past 50 years, which has increased at the fastest rate ever recorded in history. Scientists and experts argue that this trend is only accelerating, as traced by NASA’s 134-year record, showing that all but one of the 16 hottest years has occurred since 2000. Despite glaring scientific evidence, climate change deniers continue to argue that rising global temperatures have been “put on hold” or undergoing a “slowdown”. Several recent studies though, disproved this claim, including a paper published in 2015 on Science. Furthermore, scientists continue to assert that unless we restrain these global warming emissions, temperatures could rise up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of the century. The further effects of global warming can be disastrous. 

Effects of Global Warming

What are the causes of global warming? To illustrate clearly, global warming happens when CO2 (carbon dioxide), along with greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, gather in the atmosphere. Here, they absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Rather than escaping into space, the radiation stays because of the pollutants. The heat trapped in the atmosphere lasts for years, even centuries, which causes the planet to get significantly warmer.  This occurrence is more commonly known as the greenhouse effect

To further specific the causes of global warming, let us take a look into the situation of America. In the US, the burning of fossil fuels is necessary to make electricity, but remains to be the biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution, as it generates a whopping two billion tons of CO2 each year. This makes coal-burning power plants as the biggest polluters all over the world, followed closely by the transportation industry, which produces an equally destructive 1.7 billion tons of CO2 every year.

Why Should We Be Worried?

The earth is getting significantly hotter, yes, but why should we be worried? Well, for starters, the effects of global warming will be devastating to civilization as we know it. The effects of global warming will not only affect our surroundings, but our anatomies as human beings. Here is a thorough discussion of global warming and climate change effects, taken from various researches and scientific journals:

  • The case of temperature extremes and increase in average global temperature

One of the most obvious and immediate effects of global warming is the steady rise of temperatures all over the world. Since the beginning of record keeping in 1895, the hottest recorded year by NOAA and NASA data was 2016. That very year, the surface of the earth was 0.00 degrees C warmer than the average, and that is across the history of the entire 20th century. Before 2016, 2015 was the warmest recorded year. Prior to this was 2014 – in fact, as discussed above 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have happened since the year 2000. Scientists and experts continue to point to human activities as one of the primary cause of global warming. 

  • Our ice is melting

One of the chief indicators of climate change so far is ice melt. The coldest places on earth belonging to Europe, Asia, and North America have all recorded a trend of less snow cover, which has happened between the years of 1960 and 2015. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reveals that the permanently frozen ground has been reduced now; permafrost is now at 10% less than normal compared to its state in the early 1900s, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. The loss of ice does not only pertain to loss of scenic views; the thawing of permafrost poses many dangers. For one, it can cause landslides, as well as sudden collapse of land areas. Furthermore, a 2016 case shows that the melting of ice means the re-emergence of microbes, as seen when the thawing of reindeer carcasses in western Siberia caused an anthrax outbreak. 

However, one of the most dramatic and well-known effects of global warming is the reduction of sea ice in the Arctic. Simply put, without thick sea ice, less heat is reflected back into the atmosphere – more is absorbed in the relatively darker ocean, which only makes the cycle of melting persist even more. Glacial retreat is also one the most obvious global warming and climate change effects. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey show that a measly number of 25 glaciers covering 25 acres now remain in Montana's Glacier National Park, a site that used to boast a striking 150 glaciers. This trend is also seen in glacial areas all over the world. 

  • Rising sea levels 

This particular effect of global warming is happening due to two reasons, as argued by Rutgers’ Horton. One is that ice is melting, and tied to ice melting is the rise of sea levels. Where does the melted ice go? Straight to the ocean waters, of course. This expansion is the primary reason why our sea levels are rising, which is around 3 mm per year. Experts, however, argue that in the second half of this century, Greenland ice sheets and melting glaciers will play a significant role. The global mean sea level will continue to rise, and will very likely succeed current predictions. While the 3mm rise of sea level per year may not sound much, Horton argues that it will cause more devastating flooding and storm surges, especially in coastal areas.

  • Ocean acidification

And yet another effect of global warming, one that is seemingly out to get our incredibly beautiful marine life, is ocean acidification. What many do not realize is that our oceans absorb around 25% of the carbon dioxide that we produce each year, essentially making it a huge storage of carbon. But an ocean, as carbon sinks, changes its sea surface chemistry – when carbon dioxide is absorbed into the water, it dissolves into what we call carbonic acid. Not surprisingly, the end result is that the oceans become more acidic, which then upsets the already delicate pH balance that each and every organism depends on. Experts trace this trend back to the Industrial Revolution, where they have gathered that the oceans started becoming 30% more acidic, a rate of which have not been observed for over 300 million years. 

Naturally, this poses many dangers and consequences to our marine ecosystems, as well as billions of people depending on it for survival and food resource. The acidification of our oceans after the boom of the Industrial Revolution did not happen by chance. As we burn a more fossil fuels (one of the primary causes of global warming), carbon dioxide in our atmosphere increases in concentration, which would then drive global warming and climate change effects further – our air and sea temperatures only get warmer and warmer.

  • Fauna and flora

Global warming and climate change effects include changes in the Earth’s ecosystems, which is expected to be widespread and profound. The extent reaches to our fauna and flora, of course. Studies by the National Academy of Sciences show that majority of the species of animals and plants are either moving northward or to higher altitudes, all because of global warming. Most of these species cannot adapt to the warm climate, and moving towards the poles means comfortable temperatures, where they can thrive. However, the rate of climate change velocity proves to crawl at a faster rate than the process of migration, so what happens when global warming reaches these organisms? Scientists argue that many animals may not be able to compete with the new climate, and will thus face an evolutionary cul-de-sac. Moreover, warmer temperatures mean the return of the range of disease-carrying pathogens, which were once confined in the tropics – many plants and animals that were otherwise protected by climate will become susceptible to such diseases. If the causes of global warming are left unchecked, the Nature Climate Change argues that the results will be the disappearance of over a half of the Earth’s flora and a third of its fauna by 2080. Such effects will cause ripples. With ecosystems and food chains disturbed, the results will also severely diminish the chances of human survival. 

  • Social effects

Global warming and climate change effects are not confined to the natural world; projected consequences to human society is said to be even more shattering.

As we know, agricultural systems will suffer from a crippling blow. Although growing seasons in some areas will continue to expand, the combined occurrences of severe weather, drought, snow melt, the reemergence of pests, lower groundwater levels, and the loss of arable land will cause livestock shortages and crop failures. The effects will be felt worldwide, regardless of an area’s current climate. Moreover, North Carolina State University also points out that the carbon dioxide concentration continues to affect plant growth – though plants will continue to grow, the nutrients that we enjoy now will become scarce.

Food scarcity will happen, and this loss of food security is projected to result into a state of mayhem in the international food market. As famine sparks, food riots, civil unrest, and political stability will follow worldwide. The impacts on our health, of course, will be equally devastating. In addition to the growth of less nutritious food and scarcity, the effects of global warming on overall human health is expected to be serious. There is already an increase in diseases borne out of mosquitoes, as reported by the American Medical Association, which is the rise of dengue fever and malaria once more. Chronic diseases like asthma will also be dominant, along with the 2016 Zika virus. 

What can be done?

Addressing global warming and climate change will require more than a single solution, as unfortunately, there is no magic bullet. Nearly all of the solutions exist today, however, facts that many scientists and experts have been pointing out for years. Many of these solutions hinge on humans, particularly our behavior on how me produce and consume energy. These changes touch on many aspects of our lives, which include technology and policies, with the latter encouraging the less waste production and smarter consumption of our resources. For instance, wind and solar power can be harnessed instead of fossil fuels, and the transportation industry could improve the kind of energy is consumes. We can also bank on biofuels from organic waste, setting prices on carbon, and a tight priority must be placed on the protection of forests. All of these can prove to be potent ways of reducing our carbon footprints and the amount of carbon dioxide that is trapped in the atmosphere.

While efforts on halting the production of new greenhouses is critical, experts also emphasize the need to extract already existing CO2 in the atmosphere. Efforts are being made in response to this, such as the idea of “geoengineering”, a scheme which involves the spraying of sunlight-reflecting aerosols into the air. It can also be blocking the sun through a giant space mirror, although some of these methods have been dismissed due to potential environmental risks. Still, the fact remains: scientists are doing what they can to curb the effects of global warming, and it largely involves curbing the causes of global warming in the first place.

What we can do now is contribute in our own little ways and continue to speak up against root causes of many of our climate problems. Such effort could also mean joining the climate protests held all over the world, urging world leaders to finally listen to the facts and start doing something. After all, even with scientists working tirelessly to curb the impacts, without unity, our habitat will be left for nothing.

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