Image courtesy of Paul Nicklen, National Geographic
There are many common misconceptions about climate change. Even more so considering climate change in and of itself is a normal part of our Earth’s natural cycle.
The fact of the matter today is that human lifestyles have interfered and disrupted this otherwise natural phenomenon. Due to enormous spikes in energy demand, agricultural production, population growth, and over-reliance on dirty fossil fuels, we as an industrialized civilization are pouring billions of tons of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.
The problem then, is that gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) linger around when their particles are in abundance. They don’t disappear into space or vanish into thin air. And because they linger, they clog up our Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, strong sunlight UV radiation can get into our airspace, but weaker infrared radiation emanating from the Earth can’t get out. This is known as the greenhouse effect — named after the glass greenhouses that rely on the same natural physics to grow flowers and other plants.
That’s why our planet is warming. When humans interfere at such a scale, it disrupts the natural ecological balance of other forms of life. Rising temperatures will destroy habitats before species are able to adapt. Melting polar ice caps will raise sea levels and displace hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Natural disasters like hurricanes will be more forceful and less predictable.
What are the biggest factors pushing more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere? There are four big ones:
- the burning of coal for electricity
- the burning of gasoline in automobiles
- methane emissions from agriculture
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