Contrary to popular belief, there is substantial scientific research on the reality of climate change. However, the perception of the topic and the prevalence of misinformation can make it difficult to differentiate between truth and fiction. The impacts of global warming on our daily lives are becoming more and more apparent, and the patterns in climate change are manifesting in many ways.
Answering the Question, “What Is Climate Change?”
The term “climate change” refers to the gradual shift in standard weather conditions experienced on a global or regional scale.
It is commonly used to describe the dramatic shifts in global temperatures and weather patterns since the late 1800s. The climatic change results from the growing use of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Trends in Climate Change Are Getting Worse
As time has progressed in this century, the effects of human activity and development on Earth have become increasingly apparent. Our planet has merely stood by as an impartial witness, as human activity has resulted in denser cityscapes, the spread of suburbia, and the merging of once-wild landscapes.
Every day, as individuals, communities, and governments, we make decisions that have far-reaching effects on our natural environments. And the outcome is not always what it seems to be.
Clear Indicators of a Climate Emergency
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth report does not pull punches when addressing people’s terrible impact on the world. The report’s executive summary states, “It is obvious that human activity has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.” Consider these seven glaring and catastrophic consequences of global warming.
1. Arctic Sea Ice Cover Is Shrinking
On average, sea ice has shrunk by 3.2% every decade during the previous three decades. The sea ice cover decreases to its yearly minimum in September and then gradually increases throughout winter. The 13.4% annual decline in minimum September coverage is even more alarming, with 2016 marking a new low.
The lowest daily extent of sea ice occurred between October 2016 and January 2017, perhaps due to record-warm temperatures in the Arctic. The December 2016 Arctic Report Card revealed a range of records, including temperature.
2. Carbon Dioxide Levels Are at an All-Time High
The Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii has monitored the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since the late 1950s, found that the concentration has risen to over 417 parts per million between February and March 2021.
The pre-industrial level was 278 ppm; therefore, the current human-caused increase in atmospheric CO2 levels are halfway to double that value compared to the years 1750–1800.
The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere varies with the seasons, but a drop in emissions in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to projections that the yearly concentration will be 416.3 ppm in 2023.
More than three million years ago, when sea levels were several meters higher, and trees grew at the outh Pole, the Earth’s atmosphere had that much CO2.
3. Increased Humidity
Increased humidity improves the amount of water vapor in the air, making hot temperatures feel stickier. Water vapor is integral to the water cycle and helps sustain the planet’s natural greenhouse effect. As water vapor increases, air conditioners must work much harder to keep us cool. Consequently, increased energy consumption can exacerbate climate change.
4. Heat Waves Are Becoming Increasingly Frequent and Severe
Recent wildfires in Australia, California, and Europe show that climate change is causing more frequent and severe heat waves.
Extreme heat events that occurred once every ten years between 1850 and 1900 currently occur 2.8 times per decade and would occur 4.1 times per decade if the planet warms 1.5C. Now, they are more likely to happen 4.8 times every 50 years. After 1.5 degrees Celsius, they will happen 8.6 times every 50 years.
Climate change is also increasing the frequency of extreme rainfall. Heavy rain in one day used to happen only once every ten years 150 years ago. Now, it happens 1.3 times every ten years. If the world warms by 1.5 degrees Celsius, the multiplier is 1.5 times. As frequency increases, so do severity – we should expect hotter and wetter weather occurrences.
5. Rising Heat Levels in the Ocean’s Atmosphere
Temperature increases in the oceans mirror those over land. When the air temperature exceeds the water’s surface, more water evaporates. It’s not only that there’s more water vapor in the air, which causes an increase in temperature; it can also cause intense rainfall and fuel storms if the correct conditions are met.
6. The Snowfall Is Gradually Diminishing
Snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere is decreasing, according to satellite data. Snow is significant because it helps control how much energy the Earth gets from the sun. Snow and ice, with their light colors, reflect this heat into space, helping to keep Earth cool.
As snow and ice melt, they are replaced by dark land and ocean, which both absorb energy. In the last 30 years, more snow and ice have melted than many scientists predicted, indicating that the Earth receives more solar energy than it envisages.
7. Rising Sea Levels
Since 1900, the global sea level has risen at a pace of 0.04 to 0.10 inches per year, according to historical evidence. NASA estimates the current rate to be 0.13 inches per year, indicating rapid acceleration.
Thermal expansion due to rising seawater temperatures and the extra water from melting land ice, such as glaciers, are the primary causes of the rise.
Increases in seasonal and nuisance floods and greater storm surges are all possible results of a higher global average sea level. Increased sea levels are hazardous to human coastal infrastructure, freshwater supplies, and ecosystem functions like natural water filtration.
Climate Change Myths
Despite solid scientific consensus, climate change has become politically charged and divisive. It has led to the dissemination of certain unrealistic information on the subject. Listed below are some of the more widespread misperceptions about global warming.
1. MYTH: Plants Love CO2
For climate change deniers, a frequent misconception is that higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere benefit plants. This, like all significant simplifications, seems reasonable at first. As plants breathe CO2, more should be better for growth, right? The truth is more complex.
Yes, plant growth accelerated in the ’80s and ’90s, but those days are behind us. With more CO2, temperatures rise, and weather variations can impair plant growth. Carbon dioxide is essential for plant growth, but so is water, and unfortunately, droughts are growing more frequently and harshly. Recent research demonstrates that elevated CO2 harms plants.
2. MYTH: Humans Can’t Cause Climate Change
Some believe human activity doesn’t affect the climate; thus, they don’t have to change their conduct, which seems appealing initially.
Further analysis shows that human-made greenhouse gasses are to blame. A panel of 1,300 scientists and climate specialists from various countries say there’s a 95% chance that human-made greenhouse gasses cause climate change.
Human activity releases 100 times more CO2 than volcanoes, and all-natural factors combined would account for a minuscule proportion of global temperature fluctuations.
However, greenhouse gasses produced by humans suit the facts precisely. Without any doubt, climate change is the direct outcome of human activity.
3. Myth: Clean Energy Is Pricey or Unreliable
Energy is the most significant source of greenhouse gases. Adopting renewable energy sources like the Sun, wind, and hydropower is fundamental to our survival and growth as a species. Some skeptics argue green energy sources are too expensive or unreliable.
Clean energy technology has gotten cheaper and more reliable. Green energy costs more upfront than typical fossil fuels, but they pay for themselves over time.
The Signs Are Clear – It’s Time to Take Action
Even while climate change is a worldwide issue, there are numerous things you can do right now to lessen the personal contribution to the problem. Taking shorter, more active commutes, eating less meat and more veggies, and supporting local farmers are all great, low-effort methods to aid the cause. It’s how much you spend on those matters and where.
Crowdsourced Explorer, the author of this post, is committed to helping people learn about the state of the environment all over the world. Learn about the challenges your fellow global citizens face, ranging from hurricanes to pollution.