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Global Warming

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Global Warming

The climate is changing. The earth is warming up, and there is now overwhelming scientific consensus that it is happening, and human-induced. With global warming on the increase and species and their habitats on the decrease, chances for ecosystems to adapt naturally are diminishing. Many are agreed that climate change may be one of the greatest threats facing the planet. Recent years show increasing temperatures in various regions, and increasing extremities in weather patterns. Research has shown that air pollutants from fossil fuel use make clouds reflect more of the sun’s rays back into space. This leads to an effect known as global dimming whereby less heat and energy reaches the earth. At first, it sounds like an ironic savior to climate change problems. However, it is believed that global dimming caused the droughts in Ethiopia in the 1970s and 80s where millions died, because the northern hemisphere oceans were not warm enough to allow rain formation. Global dimming is also hiding the true power of global warming.

For many years, large, influential businesses and governments have been against the idea of global warming. Many have poured a lot of resources into discrediting what has generally been accepted for a long time as real. Now, the mainstream is generally worried about climate change impacts and the discourse seems to have shifted accordingly. Even some businesses that once engaged in disinformation campaigns have changed their opinions, some even requesting governments for regulation and direction on this issue. However, a few influential companies and organizations are still attempting to undermine climate change action and concerns.

The essence of the issue is this. Climate changes naturally all the time, partly in predictable cycles, and partly in unpredictable shorter rhythms and rapid episodic shifts, some of the causes of which remain unknown. We are fortunate that our modern societies have developed during the last 10,000 years of benignly warm, interglacial climate. But for more than 90 percent of the last two million years, the climate has been colder, and generally much colder, than today. The reality of the climate record is that a sudden natural cooling is far more to be feared, and will do infinitely more social and economic damage, than the late 20th century phase of gentle warming. The single human activity that is most likely to have a large impact on the climate is the burning of "fossil fuels" such as coal, oil and gas. These fuels contain carbon. Burning them makes carbon dioxide gas. Since the early 1800s, when people began burning large amounts of coal and oil, the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere has increased by nearly 30%, and average global temperature appears to have risen between 1Ð'o and 2Ð'oF.Carbon dioxide gas traps solar heat in the atmosphere, partly in the same way as glass traps solar heat in a sunroom or a greenhouse. For this reason, carbon dioxide is sometimes called a "greenhouse gas." As more carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere, solar heat has more trouble getting out. The result is that, if everything else stayed unchanged, the average temperature of the atmosphere would increase. As people burn more fossil fuel for energy they add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. If this goes on long enough, the average temperature of the atmosphere will almost certainly rise.

If global warming occurs, not every day or every place will be warmer. But on average most places will be warmer. This will cause changes in the amount and pattern of rain and snow, in the length of growing seasons, in the frequency and severity of storms, and in sea level. Farms, forests, and plants and animals in the natural environment, will all be affected. Carbon dioxide is not the only gas released by human activities that can cause warming. Human emissions of methane and nitrous oxide together contribute almost half as much warming.

Not all things that enter the atmosphere cause warming. Dust from volcanoes and from human activities, can reflect sunlight and cool the earth. Coal and oil contain sulfur. When they are burned the sulfur is transformed into fine particles in the atmosphere. This sulfur pollution contributes to various environmental problems. Most scientists think that sulfur particles cool the planet. In the northern hemisphere, this cooling has partly canceled some of the warming that should have come from the growing concentrations of greenhouse gases. However, since emissions of greenhouse gases continue to grow, and most countries are working hard to reduce emissions of sulfur air pollution, this canceling will probably not continue in the future. In that case, the average temperature may rise more rapidly. Many people confuse the hole in the ozone layer with climate change.



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