Climate Change Paper
Climate Change Paper
Climate change has been a controversial topic over the last twenty years and its prevalence in today’s society has made it a household term. In fact, scientists are not only certain climate change is a fact and is currently taking place, but are 95% sure it is caused by human action (Bennett, 2012). Scientists theorize that human actions, like the burning of fossil fuels, have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and as a result, have exacerbated the greenhouse effect which in turn has led to higher temperatures. These higher temperatures will have major and devastating effects on the planet and the living organisms that inhabit it. Global climate change is a dynamic and complex issue that is no longer an idea, but a reality. The awareness of climate change has grown year over year and has led to international policy and collaboration. As the effects of climate change became more of a reality, treaties and policies were voted and put into action on global scale, like the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol was an agreement between countries to protect the depleting ozone layer and to stem the greenhouse effect caused by the emission of chemical substances like chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. Scientists theorizes that chemicals like CFCs and carbon dioxide released through human behavior or actions is majorly contributing to global climate change. These behaviors negatively affect the different ecosystems of the world and can contribute to a rise in sea level, famine, extreme weather and drought. The Earth has gone through many periods of warming and cooling temperatures, but none that have lasted as long as the current warming the Earth is experiencing today. Human behaviors and actions have contributed to climate change since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution or when James Watt perfected the steam engine in the late 1780’s “and, inadvertently, changed the history of Earth” (Kolbert, 2005). Global climate change is the result of increasing the greenhouse effect. The energy projected from the sun passes through the earth’s atmosphere. The plants, soil, and other objects on the earth’s surface absorb parts of the energy projected by the sun. Other parts of the energy projected by the sun, is reflected back into the atmosphere, some is trapped by the atmosphere and is absorbed by particular gases and is used to heat the earth’s surface (The Greenhouse Effect, 2012). If these particulate gases, or greenhouse gases, increase, the world will get warmer and therefore, contribute to global climate change. The increase of greenhouse gases is primarily caused by human behaviors. The climate is changing and becoming warmer, mainly due to human actions such as burning fossil fuels. Common greenhouse gases emitted by burning fossil fuels are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. These chemicals trap more heat into the atmosphere than the earth can absorb and process. Fossil fuel is burned during energy production, burning of fuel in cars and airplanes, and industrial manufacturing. Carbon dioxide is one of the biggest chemical contributors to global warming and climate change. The burning of fossil fuel is adding more and more carbon into the atmosphere faster than the earth’s natural processes can remove it (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013). The human population is increasing year over year and therefore so will the burning of fossil fuels. Increasing amounts of emissions, especially carbon dioxide, due to human activities will contribute climate change and the consequences that will accompany it.
The impacts of global climate change are not limited to an increase in global temperature but can be seen in changing weather patterns, less snowpack, warmer ocean temperatures, and more droughts. Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide is causing the acidification of the ocean (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, n.d.). Ocean acidification is changing the chemistry of the ocean and is negatively affecting the aquatic life in the oceans. The earth’s air, water, and land are all interconnected and linked the earth’s climate. Climate change does not just affect one system, but causes consequences throughout all the earth’s systems and the ecosystems around the globe. For example, global climate change can affect the distribution of rainfall and lead to droughts in some parts of the world and flooding in others. Dry spells and droughts in certain areas of the planet can cause forest fires and lead to the production of more greenhouse gases. Another impact of increasing global temperatures is the rise in sea level. A rise in sea level will be attributed to the melting of glaciers and the polar ice caps (Newman, 2001). The coastal regions of the planet will be heavily effected by rising sea levels and will experience higher tides, flooding, and land erosion. These consequences can not only hurt communities of people, plants, and animals, but causing devastating economic effects due the damage caused by these impacts.
The southwestern section of the United States has been affected by global climate change and impacts can be observed in the Sonora Basin. The Sonora Basin encompasses the central to southern parts of the state of Arizona. Symptoms or signs of global warming include extreme and erratic weather, droughts and dry spells, and changing rain and snow patterns (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013). These impacts have been documented throughout the state of Arizona, and scientists are attributing these changes to climate change. Another observed sign of climate change is the accelerating temperature changes of “0.35 degrees Fahrenheit per decade over the last thirty five years” (The University of Arizona, 2012). Annual precipitation has decreased and evidence of the western jet stream that directs storms during the winter in the southwest has shifted northward (The University of Arizona, 2012). Other climate change observations have been documented from “the timing of flower blooms to the amount of water” to the decreasing snowpack to the consecutive number of days of temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The southwest consists of delicate ecosystems and habitats. The dramatic changes inflicted upon the balance of these delicate habitats and ecosystems have caused plants and animals to become threatened, and in some cases, endangered. It is safe to say that not only has the southwest become a victim of climate change, that the climate is particularly sensitive to it.
The days have passed when politicians and people could call climate change a passing idea or an unsubstantiated theory. Climate change is all around us, and is getting worse every year, and at a faster rate. The human race is at an awareness level where individuals can no longer deny the evidence substantiating global climate and need to stem or slow its effects before it’s too late. If climate change and carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase at the rate they are currently, the planet around us will cease to exist and change so dramatically that one would not be able to recognize what it has become. It is safe to say that change needed to happen years ago, but there is much that can be done now to help slow the effects of climate change. The countries of the world need to work together and collaborate on creating stricter policies and regulations to hold countries accountable for their particulate emissions and need to work together on creating dependable renewable sources of energy. Investing in solar energy, wind power, and hydro power now can help stop many of the emissions released into our atmosphere and help slow the effects of climate change. In the end, the only real hope the earth and its inhabitants have in stemming the eventual consequences of climate change is to work together on simple, affordable solutions that all countries can contribute to and implement.
Bennett, D. (2012, September). Scientists Are 95% Certain Humans Are Responsible for Climate Change. The Wire. Retrieved from http://www.thewire.com/global/2013/09/scientists-are-95-certain-humans-are-repsonsible-climate-change/69938/ The Greenhouse Effect. (2012). Retrieved from
http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=1A0305D5-1 Kolbert, E. (2005, May). The Climate of Man--III. New Yorker, 81(12), 52-63. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (n.d.). Ocean Acidification. Retrieved from http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification
Newman, E. I. (2001). Applied ecology & environmental management (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
The University of Arizona. (2012). Climate Change in the Southwest. Retrieved from http://www.climas.arizona.edu/sw-climate/climate-change
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). All About Carbon Dioxide. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/climatestudents/basics/today/carbon-dioxide.html U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). Signs of Climate Change. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/climatestudents/impacts/signs/index.html