Increasing global temperatures have put certain species at risk of extinction.
The concept of global warming is labeled as a gradual increase in the overall temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. Global warming is generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’S), and other pollutants.
Depending on the time of the year, the Earth has average temperatures between 58-61 degrees.
Contrary to belief, the Earth is in fact a natural greenhouse. The energy absorbed by Earth from the sun, allows the surface and atmosphere to hold an average temperature of 58-61 degrees Fahrenheit. When the rays from the sun reach the Earth, they are either reflected back into space or absorbed by the gasses in the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth. Without the greenhouse effect, the Earth would be too cold to sustain human and plant life.
However, starting during the industrialization period, greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed. Scientists observe, human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation are the main culprits of global warming.
Science behind CO2
Carbon Dioxide forms when carbon molecules are oxidized. This oxidation occurs at high temperatures, for example when fossil fuels are burned. Since all fossil fuels (natural gas, coal, and petroleum) contain at least 50% of carbon, fossil fuels are primarily responsible for the increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In particular, the use of petroleum or oil used for transportation is linked to increased levels of atmospheric CO2.
According to the Earth System Research Laboratory, “chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are nontoxic, nonflammable chemicals containing atoms of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine. They are used in the manufacturing of aerosol sprays, blowing agents for foams and packing materials, as solvents, and as refrigerants”. CFC’s are responsible for the destruction of the Earth’s ozone layer.
Countries such as the U.S have taken action to ban aerosols. The National Geographic mentions, “About 90 percent of CFC’s currently in the atmosphere were emitted by industrialized countries in the Northern Hemisphere, including the United States and Europe. These countries banned CFC’s by 1996, and the amount of chlorine in the atmosphere is falling now.”
CFC’s are present during the manufacturing process of making aerosol sprays.
Global warming has a variety of negative effects on the planet such as ozone layer depletion, animal extinction, and climate change.
Over the recent years, climate change has been defined as a long-term change in global or regional climate patterns. In particular, this change was apparent from the mid to late 20th century up until now. Increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has attributed to climate change.
Although the concept of climate change is debatable to some, it is known that the global temperature has in fact increased. “Even small increases in Earth’s temperature caused by climate change can have severe effects. The Earth’s average temperature has gone up 1.4° F over the past century and is expected to rise as much as 11.5° F over the next century” (Takepart). Some of these effects are already present on Earth today.
Effects Behind Global Warming and Climate Change
- Rising sea levels due to the melting of the polar ice caps
- More severe and frequent storms and natural disasters
- Warming ocean temperatures
- Threats of extinction to wildlife
Unfortunately, scientists are unaware of the other possible effects that come with global warming and climate change.
Environmental Crisis: Ozone Layer Depletion
According to National Geographic, “The ozone layer is a belt of the naturally occurring gas “ozone.” It sits 9.3 to 18.6 miles (15 to 30 kilometers) above Earth, and serves as a shield from the harmful ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation emitted by the sun. Ozone is a highly reactive molecule that contains three oxygen atoms. It is constantly being formed and broken down in the high atmosphere, 6.2 to 31 miles (10 to 50 kilometers) above Earth, in the region called the stratosphere.”
Scientists are collecting measurements above the Antarctic circle where the “ozone hole” has been identified. This area has been significantly impacted by pollution. The National Geographic also states, “the region’s low-temperature climate speed up the conversion of CFC’s to chlorine”, in turn breaking down the ozone molecules.
A Dobson unit is a unit of measurement for the total amount of ozone in the atmosphere above a point on the Earth’s surface. One Dobson unit is equivalent to a layer of pure ozone 0.01 mm thick at standard temperature and pressure. The ozone “hole” is actually not a break in the ozone layer, but a decreased number of Dobson units in that particular space above the Antarctic circle.
On the website linked here, Time magazine includes a visual time lapse video of the Earth from space that shows the effects of climate change and global warming. Being aware of the difference between climate change and global warming is important. Reducing energy and water consumption and reusing or recycling materials can all have small, yet significant impacts on the levels of emissions if more people take action.