Climate Change and the Survival of the Human Race

Topics: Greenhouse gas, Climate change, Carbon dioxide Pages: 6 (1932 words) Published: April 17, 2014
Climate Change and the Survival of the Human Race
Climate change, often referred to as global warming, is a rising issue that has been further developed over recent years. To clarify, the term ‘climate change’ refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. Such changes include but are not limited to major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns occurring over several decades or longer. Therefore, the specific term ‘global warming’ is only one aspect of climate change and used when referring to recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth's surface. This steady rise in temperature is causing significant changes in weather and climate which is alarming because even small changes can create problems in our delicately balanced environment which will lead to challenges in our society. As a human race, we depend on the environment for fresh food, fresh water, and fresh air, so when there are complications with the balance of the environment, there are potential complications to our survival. It is becoming more and more evident that global warming is rapidly taking a toll on our earth. The effects can clearly be seen through increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice caps, and rising global average sea level. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century and will rise another two degrees (at the least) in the coming century. This temperature increase is primarily caused by the greenhouse effect which is caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Such greenhouse gasses include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (Climate Change 2007, 3). Water vapor, the most abundant greenhouse gas, leads to warmer temperatures, while warmer temperatures lead to the absorption of more water vapor, creating a spiral cycle. Increased water vapor not only leads to more humidity, clouds, and precipitation but also amplifies the effects of the other greenhouse gasses, potentially doubling the warming caused by increased carbon dioxide levels (Dunbar). Increased carbon dioxide is primarily due to the overuse of fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, and industry, but it can also build up because of land-use change and deforestation. Although carbon dioxide is naturally occurring, human activities have driven its levels way up, especially over recent years. Before the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide levels were about 270 parts per million (ppm). They rose to about 313 ppm by 1960, and then earlier this year, they reached 400 ppm (Platt). Another gas whose levels have been on the rise due to human activity is methane. Because of industry, agriculture, and waste management, it is more abundant in Earth’s atmosphere now than at any other time in the past 650,000 years (Environmental Protection Agency). Lastly, levels of nitrous oxide have increased 18% since the Industrial Revolution. This increase is primarily due to agriculture, transportation, and industry (Environmental Protection Agency). Together, these gasses linger in our atmosphere absorbing energy and in turn, slowing or preventing the loss of heat to space. By doing this, the gasses act like a blanket, making Earth warmer than it would otherwise be and thus increasing temperatures, melting snow and ice caps, and raising the sea level. All three of these results pose a threat to the survival of the human race. Any risk to the ecosystem is a risk to humanity. This is because our ecosystem is extraordinarily complex with an intricate balance. Under normal circumstances, it is able to produce and consume everything it needs in order to remain stable and provide for the rest of the system. Over the decades, however, our ecosystem is becoming more imbalanced and less stable. There are several reasons for...
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