The Beginning • The Earth was formed 4,6 billion years ago and its temperature has always been changing. But since the 19th century, its temperature has been changing rapidly, and it becomes apparent that human beings, not nature, are causing this. This process is known as global warming.
Ever since people started burning coal to produce energy, gas emissions have been constantly increasing, as new technologies have been based on these principles. The Earth is now hotter than in the last millennium.
The Ice Caps • The melting ice caps are the most visible effects of global warming. The more ice caps melt, the more the worldwide ocean levels rise, and many continents could be flooded.
Apart from the rising oceans, other problems could be the extinction of polar species, such as polar bears, penguins and seals, and the simple fact that if we don’t have glaciers to reflect the sun’s energy, our oceans will heat up and melt the ice caps even faster.
This is the Triftgletscher glacier, in Switzerland. Ever since 1948, it has been melting slowly, but the full effects were only noticed when a large part of it disappeared from 2002 to 2003.
Meteorological Extremes • Global warming can cause extreme meteorological conditions worldwide. While natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes have been taking place since the beginning of the Earth, they are intensifying and becoming more frequent with global warming.
Among these hurricanes is Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes of all time and the sixth biggest hurricane in history, which killed 1836 people in 2005.
Floods have increased in recent years. Hard rains and an increase in overall water levels threaten not only people’s houses, but also entire countries.
Wildfires have also increased, as high temperatures cause forests and fields to become dry and catch on fire. Once these are out of control, they can destroy everything in their path.
Major problems of pollution • Burning fossil fuels causes air pollution. Gases from cars, factories and even cigarettes all contain greenhouse effect gases that cause smog and acid rains. Smog is a dense cloud of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and other noxious gases that cause permanent lesions to the lungs. It also causes lethargy, migraines, stress and asthma.
The greenhouse effect, discovered in 1896 is the heating of a planet due to the presence of an atmosphere containing gases that absorb the Sun’s heat. Thus, these gases trap heat within the atmosphere.
Global warming is considered by some scientists to be an enhanced greenhouse effect.
Factories are polluting our air, our soil and our waters more than ever before. Factory pollution is considered as the number one source of pollution in the world.
Overpopulation • Overpopulation is one of the most important factors of global warming. More people means more demand for fuels, food and energy, and thus, fresh water supplies run even lower, world hunger continues and fossil fuel usage increases even further.
Other effects of overpopulation include: deforestation to acommodate larger urban areas, which inevitably leads to mass extinctions, pollution increasing even more, increased chances of disease pandemics, poverty and starvation.
The list continues: low life expectancies, poor hygienic conditions, restrictive laws, and finally, increased levels of warfare.
Diseases • As a result of global warming, the odds of massive pandemics have increased. Not only do higher water levels allow for some waterborne diseases (cholera, typhoid fever), but insect-borne diseases such as malaria (which may be spreading as far north as the United Kingdom and Scandinavia) and encephalitis can spread to other areas due to higher temperatures.
Mass extinctions • Since the dawn of man, and Earth itself, plant and animal species have always been disappearing. But now, species all around the Earth are disappearing a thousand times faster than they should be. The destruction of animal habitats, can lead to extreme meteorological conditions, higher temperatures, and animal extinctions in the first place. Over 16000 plant and animal species are, at this very moment, in danger of extinction.
What can we do? • If we do not act now, our planet could soon become a barren wasteland. Here is a list of things that we can do to prevent this possibility.
Using alternative ways of transportation • Exhaust gases from cars produce almost a quarter of all CO2 released in the atmosphere. As more and more people buy their own cars, greenhouse gas emissions increase. If we use public transportation, bicycles, or just walk, we can help decrease these emissions.
Support alternative energies • Engineers are designing amazing new energies and fuels for our vehicles. We can support them by buying their products, such as hybrid cars, and other revolutionary new vehicles.
Save energy • Many people underestimate the importance of using less electricity, when in fact it’s the first thing we should do. Using a fluorescent light-bulb can save 135 kilograms of CO2 every year. Other small things, such as completely shutting down or even unplugging television sets and other electronic devices.
Save water • Saving water allows for the energy that goes into collecting it and cleaning it to be saved. Even the smallest drop of water can help fight against global warming.
The end • The fate of our planet depends on us solving our climate problems. If we don’t reduce quantities of greenhouse gases and start using renewable energies, we might lose our planet for good.