Global Warming is the gradual increase in the overall temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. It begins with a phenomenon called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect occurs when there is an interaction between Earth’s atmosphere and the radiation from the sun. Sunlight shines onto the Earth’s surface, and is absorbed and radiated back into the atmosphere as heat. The gases within the Earth’s atmosphere are able to absorb about 90% of this heat, warming to a life-sustaining temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit. The greenhouse effect is made up of three primary atmospheric gases called “greenhouse gases”. They include carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4). An increase in these greenhouse gases causes a rise in Earth’s temperature and has the potential to greatly impact life on the planet.
Due to the increase of greenhouse gases and rising temperature, Earth’s remaining ice sheets are beginning to melt, causing sea levels to rise at an alarming rate. In addition, climate change has become more evident with longer heat waves, frequent droughts, heavier rainfall, and more powerful hurricanes. This extreme weather can alter a variety of ecosystems, causing extinction of different plant and animal species.
Scientists have found that human activity is the main contributor of global warming through the burning of fossil fuels. Coal-burning power plants are Earths largest polluters, generating about two billion tons of CO2 each year. Transportation comes in a close second, generating about 1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions a year. In addition, deforestation releases nearly a billion tons of CO2 back into the atmosphere.
There are many steps that can be taken to reduce the effects of global warming. The most important would be utilizing clean energy over the burning of fossil fuels. The development of clean energy including solar, wind and geothermal energy, has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of pollutants that are released into the atmosphere. Even taking little steps as simple as carpooling or walking, purchasing vehicles with low emission, lowering the thermostat, purchasing energy-efficient lightbulbs, or turning off and unplugging electrical devices can contribute to reducing our carbon footprint.