What is Global Warming?
“Global warming” is a type of climate change, or observed extreme changes in the Earth’s climate over time. The term illustrates dramatic increases in atmospheric and water temperatures experienced as a result of growing amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Humans are responsible for producing these gases via cars, electricity, and factories. The main products of these activities that are to blame for global warming are methane and carbon dioxide; as carbon dioxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbon compounds go farther and farther into the Earth’s atmosphere, they deplete the ozone layer.
Holes in the ozone allow harmful ultraviolet rays (that are usually deflected by the ozone layer) to make their way to lower levels of the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases absorb and give off radiation from the UV rays, contributing to extreme temperature conditions.
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Effects of Global Climate Change
Global warming has had extreme effects on the planet. Earth’s average surface temperature has been increasing; since the 1880s, temperature has increased by between 1 and 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. While this may sound like a small number, it has heavily impacted other aspects of our global ecosystem, and it is continuing to rise at a faster rate. Arctic ice is vanishing and glaciers are melting; as a result, polar bears, penguins, and other animals have begun to suffer.
The recent frequency of heat waves, intense tropical storms, and natural disasters has also been partially attributed to trends in global climate change. Extreme weather will most likely have a negative impact on crops and agriculture. As staple crops become scarcer, they will become more expensive. Such products include rice, wheat, corn, and soy, which are also utilized in animal feed; the result: prices of many other types of food will increase as well, making all food relatively more expensive.
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Climate Change: Legislation
The Kyoto Protocol is an international effort to combat global climate change. Developed at the “United Nations’ Convention on Climate Change” in 1997, this treaty is aimed at capping the number of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by holding nations accountable to their environmental impact commitments. 191 countries have signed and ratified the treaty. A notable exception to this list of countries, however, is the United States.
Perhaps the most well-known piece of legislation in the US related to climate change is the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act was created to decrease the number of air pollutants being released into the atmosphere, which would have a positive impact on air quality and contribute to the overall health of the population. Amendments have been made to the Clean Air Act over time to account for ozone depletion and acid rain. The US also utilizes and regularly modifies regulations on fuel, energy, and water use in order to help the environment.
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Combating Global Warming and Climate Change: Being Green
Today, the color green is synonymous with environmental friendliness. Governments, businesses, and individuals can all contribute towards mitigating climate change, and in many cases, all of these groups have been working hard to become “greener.” For example, some municipalities use monetary incentives to motivate their citizens to become more environmentally conscious. The federal government also has incentives in place for businesses and corporations to encourage them to reduce their carbon footprints. Along with these incentives, the government also uses taxes to discourage and penalize businesses that are particularly harmful to the environment.
Switching to renewable energy sources can help to protect the environment from damage that results from burning fossil fuels for energy. Scientific developments and the spread of wind, solar, and geothermal power are helping to make the world less carbon-dependent. These technologies also help by producing less methane in the process of providing energy. On the whole, these sources of energy are more sustainable and less harmful to the planet. There are, however, some sources of greenhouse gases that are harder for mankind to combat. For example, many animals emit methane from their bodies during food consumption and digestion-related processes.
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Climate Change: Carbon Footprints
“Carbon footprints” are used to measure the impact that certain individuals, products, and activities have on global warming. This metric attempts to quantify the amount of greenhouse gases that are being produced by each contributor. Greenhouse gases are comprised of many elements and compounds, but Carbon Dioxide is often used as a proxy for these elements in calculations and discussions related to carbon footprints.
Almost every activity that occurs in the course of a single day has some impact on the environment. Transportation, electricity, and manufacturing are examples of major areas where people, businesses, and countries can cut down on their carbon footprints. Understanding the size of carbon footprints and what contributes to them allows each participant in the global environment to take action to reduce it.
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