Global warming, sometimes referred to as climate change, refers to the gradual changes in weather patterns and weather-related events and trends, over a period of time. However, while such climate change is a relatively normal, very gradual phenomenon, the state of the modern planet Earth is actually causing such effects to accelerate at an alarming pace, leaving humans in a dangerous, vulnerable position.
This dangerous degree of climate change has been most evident since the mid-1900’s. Most of this has occurred due to the actions and effects of human beings, such as the burning of harmful fossil fuels and the increasing rate of deforestation across the world. Part of the global warming trend is something called global dimming, referring to the high concentrations of harmful atmospheric aerosols, which are actually so dense that they have blocked a significant degree of sunlight from entering the earth’s atmosphere. While this has somewhat of a cooling effect, it does not detract from the dangers posed by such manmade interferences with the natural universe and its functioning.
Projections have indicated that, during the 21st century, the temperature of the surface of the earth is expected to rise by up to 6.4 degrees Celsius. This has enormous negative implications on agriculture, natural vegetation, deserts, the survival capabilities of plants and animals, and so on. It will cause the sea level to rise as snow and ice melt at a faster pace and will change the weather patterns significantly. The amount of food currently being produced will decrease as fauna and flora struggle to survive. There will be fewer trees, translating to less Oxygen and more Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere, which will, in turn, cause the oceans and rain to become more acidic. There is no doubt, then, that we have the responsibility to do all we can to prevent global warming, even on small, individual levels.
Some of the main causes of global warming are:
- Greenhouse gases – there are naturally occurring greenhouse gases, such as water vapour, Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Ozone. These have a normal warming effect on the earth. However, the concentrations of these gases are now higher than ever before, mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels (which produces Carbon Dioxide) and deforestation, which has compromised the amount of Oxygen being produced. Another major cause is the massive increase in population numbers, which has forced the change of land use and even more deforestation to cater to an increased need for living space.
- Aerosols and soot – aerosols are produced by human pollutants as well as by volcanoes. The burning of fossil fuels also produces aerosols. These create a layer that prevents sunlight from permeating it completely and having access to the earth’s surface. This interferes with the way that sunlight is radiated and even changes the number and size of the rain droplets in the clouds. Soot can be airborne or solid deposits, which means that it can either cool the atmosphere by reflecting the sun’s rays or warm it by dispersing onto natural regions, particularly in the arctic areas.
There are several things that we, as residents of the earth, can do to reduce the increase and effects of global warming:
This is done by reducing the amount of products that you use (e.g. plastic bags, water, electricity, and so on), reusing as much as possible (e.g. using bath water for gardening purposes) and recycling paper, plastic and tin. Statistics show that, by simply recycling half of what you would ordinarily discard, you will save up to nearly 1100 kilograms or 2400 pounds of Carbon Dioxide every year.
Heat and air-conditioning is another area in which it is important to use less. Always opt for warmer clothing in winter and open windows in summer before resorting to artificial temperature control. This will reduce the amount of energy you use and save both money and electricity.
SEE THE LIGHT
Replace your regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs, which last longer and use far less energy. These also emit less heat.
THE DRIVING FORCE
Motor vehicles are one of the greatest contributors to harmful emissions and pollutants. By carpooling, using public transport or even exploring walking and cycling as viable options, you will save a huge amount of energy while preventing pollution.
While driving, you can still play an important role by keeping your car as efficient as possible. This means making sure your tires are inflated sufficiently, not abusing your air-conditioning unit, and not speeding unnecessarily.
When shopping, look for products and services that take the environment into account. Always opt for eco-friendly packaging, and free-range meats.
PLANT A TREE
Trees produce Oxygen and create a healthy ecology. They invite and accommodate birds and insects and provide valuable shade and fruits. They also absorb Carbon Dioxide. In fact, one tree alone will absorb approximately a ton of this harmful gas during its lifetime!
Get reports from your utility company so that you are informed and prepared to be able to make the changes in your water and energy consumption, where necessary.
SPREAD THE WORD
Be the friend that is always talking green. Encourage those around you to save, save, save so that they can also feel the rewards of conserving the planet.
Image Courtesy of Simple Green Living