Modern day climate change has been causing rising in temperature and arising new problems.
Despite the stereotype that they are one in the same, climate change is a product of global warming. Global warming is the Earth’s surface growing warming. The Earth has been warming exponentially due to a rise in greenhouse gases. The increasing greenhouse gases causes a mass amount of heat to be trapped on the Earth’s surface instead of escaping into space like it’s supposed to. This rising temperature of the planet we call home has a wide amount of effects, one of which is climate change.
“On average, Earth will become warmer,” NASA states in their report summarizing global warming and the effects it has. “Some regions may welcome warmer temperatures, but others may not. Warmer conditions will probably lead to more evaporation and precipitation overall, but individual regions will vary, some becoming wetter and others dryer.”
Weather conditions are changing and not for better. Many events that are very unusual to us are becoming the norm, such as long droughts, powerful hurricanes, and massive wildfires. Just in this year alone we have had twelve huge storms, five of which were hurricanes, and 52,303 wildfires.
“We used to talk about 100 year floods and 500 year floods and the probability of them getting that big,” says Ms. Akey, the AP Environmental Science teacher for Woodside High School. “but recently texas had a 300 year flood within four years, it’s just the probability of events such as this are so much more likely to have happen. Statistically we see an increase in the likelihood of intense storms. It’s not something that could happen, it’s happening.”
Global warming is playing a role in the changing weather patterns but has also been having a massive effect in the warming oceans.
“A stronger greenhouse effect will warm the oceans and partially melt glaciers and other ice, increasing sea level,” said NASA. “Ocean water also will expand if it warms, contributing further to sea level rise.”
The melting ice caps have caused rising sea levels, which, in turn, will soon cause a lasting effect on the land.
“In the next several decades, storm surges and high tides could combine with sea level rise and land subsidence to further increase flooding in many regions,” said NASA. “Sea level rise will continue past 2100 because the oceans take a very long time to respond to warmer conditions at the Earth’s surface. Ocean waters will therefore continue to warm and sea level will continue to rise for many centuries at rates equal to or higher than those of the current century.”
Rising sea levels have also caused the weather abnormalities.
In NASA’s report on global warming they predicted the effects on global warming on America. “Northeast: Heat waves, heavy downpours and sea level rise pose growing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.
Northwest: Changes in the timing of streamflow reduce water supplies for competing demands. Sea level rise, erosion, inundation, risks to infrastructure and increasing ocean acidity pose major threats. Increasing wildfire, insect outbreaks and tree diseases are causing widespread tree die-off.
Southeast: Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to the region’s economy and environment. Extreme heat will affect health, energy, agriculture and more. Decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts.
Midwest: Extreme heat, heavy downpours and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes
Southwest: Increased heat, drought and insect outbreaks, all linked to climate change, have increased wildfires. Declining water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, health impacts in cities due to heat, and flooding and erosion in coastal areas are additional concerns.”
Global warming has caused a wide variety of effects, whether it be insanely powerful hurricanes, scorching wildfires, or the rising oceans levels. All of these have had and/or are currently having an effect on humanity. There is no point of return, we simply must adjust to the changes in our climate from here onward.
More than 95% of Antarctica’s oldest ice has melted according to the 2018 Arctic Report Card released by the Arctic Program on December 11th. The annual report touches on all arctic conditions ranging from ice loss and temperature fluctuation, to microplastic pollution and health threats. The report card reveals that the Arctic is breaking air temperature highs from prior years and is in no state to return to its cold, frosty conditions of the past. New risks, such as the sharp decline in landfast ice, rose in 2018 and already existing threats, like the progressing melting of Antarctica’s thickest ice, worsen the Arctic environment.
Arctic tundra vegetation is enlarging and becoming greener with the warmer climate but herd population of Caribou and wild reindeer have declined by nearly 50% in the last two decades. The warming temperatures of the arctic pose a continuous trend of decreasing terrestrial snow coverage and an increase in summertime river discharge from melting of arctic ice.
The ice continues to grow thinner and melt sooner in Antarctica each year. 2018 marks the lowest percentage of ice older than just four years in the arctic seas at only 1%. For the past twelve years the lowest extents of ice coverage in satellite records have occured. Also landfast ice, or ice which grows in winter and attaches to land or shallow waters, has been declining since the 1970s subjecting towns to land erosion and separating the limited ice pack from land, threatening hunting.
Marine life faces death and indigestion from the plastic polluted Arctic Basin algo-toxin infected Bering and chukchi seas. The poisonous toxins have been found in seals, walruses, and whales this year. Plastic debris also continues to kill marine birds and arctic mammals by ingestion or entangling with marine life.
Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. In the last 600,000 years alone, there have been 7 cycles of glacier-based movement, the most recent ending roughly 7,000 years ago in the last Ice Age. Most of these changes are caused by small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives. This most recent trend, however, is not.
The current warming trend is alarming, not due to the existence of change itself, but because it is extremely likely to be the result of human activity since the early 1950s, and is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. This warming trend is occurring due to human actions and has resulted in in massive environmental and economic damage, yet governments have only put forth limited means of addressing it, as they are fearful of the extreme, ever-rising costs of directly combating it.
Most climate scientists agree the main cause of the current global warming trend is human expansion of the “greenhouse effect” - warming resulting from the atmosphere trapping heat radiating from Earth towards space.
On Earth, human activities are changing the natural greenhouse. Over the last century the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This happens because the coal or oil burning process combines carbon with oxygen in the air to make CO2. To a lesser extent, the clearing of land for agriculture, industry, and other human activities has increased concentrations of greenhouse gases.
In its Fifth Assessment Report, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world, concluded there’s a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet. The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. Meanwhile, the 2018 IPCC Climate Change Report asserts that, if not dealt with by 2030, the costs associated with climate change-induced weather could rise to as high as $54 trillion dollars, or roughly one-tenth of the total world’s wealth.
Global Warming is real, and will be highly damaging if left unchecked. However, nations across the world refuse to pay the costs of mitigating climate change. Global Warming is caused primarily by economic output - industry, transit, electricity, and agriculture. Industry includes greenhouse gas output by factories and other centers of production, vital to keeping citizens employed; transit includes cars, trucks, aircraft, and other vehicles that move people and goods across the world; electricity includes coal, oil, and gas power plants that produce power quickly and cheaply; and agriculture includes farm animals such as cows, who output so much methane from flatulence that a single cow affects climate change as much as a gasoline-powered car, operating all day.
For instance, the report says that heavy taxes or prices on carbon dioxide emissions — perhaps as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100 — would be required. Meanwhile, switching from fossil fuels to low-carbon sources of energy will cost $44 trillion between now and 2050, according to a report released in 2014 by the International Energy Agency. Another major report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2014 said that efforts to stabilize levels of greenhouse-gas emissions would require investments of about $13 trillion through 2030. It also noted that reducing emissions would reduce the rate of economic growth (as a result of such factors as higher energy prices). In 2012, the IEA estimate for the cost of switching to low-carbon energy was roughly $36 trillion. The IPCC report showed that continuing to hold off on reducing emissions could increase costs massively if emissions increase as predicted by 2030.
However, despite the economic costs of addressing climate change, governments are increasingly putting forth legislation to address it. According to the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute, the amount of legislation and regulations regarding climate change has increased massively.
“In early 2017, there were more than 1,200 laws and policies in the 164 countries represented in this report. This compares with around 60 climate laws in 1997. In the 20 years since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed, the number of climate change laws has increased by over a factor of 20. This translates into a doubling in the stock of climate laws globally every four to five years. There are only a handful of countries (Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Somalia and Sudan) that currently do not have any legislative instruments to directly address climate change.”
The most notable climate change agreements are the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The Kyoto Protocol is a binding agreement with fixed, united emissions targets, while the Paris Agreement is a voluntary successor to Kyoto, with each nation committing to their own figure reductions in the aim of reducing global warming to 2 degrees centigrade or less this century. Notably, the Paris Agreement is voluntary, meaning that nations can enter and withdraw at will. This was shown when the United States withdrew from the Agreement in 2017.
Overall political support for dealing with climate changer, despite the immense damages it could cause if untreated, is limited and flagging further.