By Kelsey Barr
Global warming has been a topic of discussion over the last few years. The big talk is if it is truly a real thing or something that is made up and made to make us worry. Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in weather phenomena’s such as snow, floods, hurricanes, and droughts. The debate is if the cause of these events is a natural process or not. The way our planet is warmed is by the sun; the sun’s heat rays are absorbed by greenhouse gasses, and become trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gasses, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane. If there were no greenhouse gasses, we would see little to no rays being absorbed by the Earth, causing it to be cold. However, the question we must ask is, are we absorbing too much of the sun’s rays and are we causing an issue with our manufacturing, transportation, and electricity use? If global warming is real, then our environment is in danger.
To understand global warming, we must first understand the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect happens when rays from the sun, often called energy, hit the earth’s surface. They pass through our atmosphere and some are reflected back into space. However, with our burning of fossil fuels, we are putting more carbon dioxide and methane gasses into the atmosphere. That is preventing the reflection of the sun’s rays from being reflected back into space, because the gas traps the heat within (NASA). The rising temperatures and the gas trapping are causing extreme climate changes on Earth.
It’s important to note that climate change and global warming are two different things. Global warming refers to long-term trends of rising average global temperatures. Climate change is exactly what it means. It is the changes in the global climate which results in an increase temperature over the whole globe. Climate change tracks the precipitation patterns, heat waves, and other extreme weather patterns. Greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming, which is causing climate change. (Skepticalscience)
This brings us back to the greenhouse gases. According to the EPA, Carbon dioxide makes up over 50% of the greenhouse gases. It can also be found naturally in the environment and is not a threat to the environment if given in small doses. It is a part of the Earth’s carbon cycle, which is the natural circulation of carbon among the atmosphere, soil, plants, animals, and the ocean. Carbon dioxide can come from burning fossil fuels to help produce electricity, burning gasoline to run vehicles, and some industrial or manufacturing process, like producing cement. Carbon dioxide stays in our atmosphere from 50 to a thousand years. From 1990 to 2012, the carbon dioxide emission increased about 5% (EPA). The increase was due to many long term and short term factors, including public growth, energy prices, behavior changes, and temperatures. The EPA predicts that the carbon dioxide emissions will rise almost 2% between 2005 and 2020. The next highest greenhouse gas we have is methane. Methane comes from landfills, production and transportation of natural gas, coal mining, and raising live stock. Methane stays in our atmosphere for 12 years. However, even though methane’s time on earth is shorter, it is much more effective at trapping radiation that carbon dioxide.
Over 60% of the methane emissions come from human activities, which is much more than carbon dioxide. The good thing is that emissions in the United States have decreased by almost 11% from 1990 and 2012. This is from the decrease of exploration and production of natural gas and petroleum products, however there was an increase of emission from sources with agricultural activities, but not enough to raise all methane emissions. If we stay on this track we will keep decreasing, but if we make significant changes we will decrease even more.(EPA)....