Climate Change: What You Need to Know

By Emma Galbraith

Of all the environmental issues that our planet faces in the modern day, climate change is one of the biggest and most urgent problems. From the health of the global population to the methods in which we obtain heat and electricity, it affects and is affected by many aspects of our daily lives. Most people are aware of its existence and of the fact that it is bad, but there is a lot of misinformation regarding what exactly climate change is and how the planet is being affected by it. With a proper understanding of climate change, we can work on doing small but important things to help reverse this terrible issue.

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct  measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased  since the Industrial Revolution.  (Source: [[LINK||http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/icecore/||NOAA]])

Some people argue that climate change is a myth or is a lot less dangerous and unnatural than it is portrayed. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been fluctuating naturally for hundreds of thousands of years, so some people think that this is just another natural period of high carbon dioxide concentration. However, scientific evidence, research, and statistics show clear evidence that this particular fluctuation of global temperatures is very different than the rest. The graph above created by the National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA) shows the approximate levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide from the past 800,000 years. It shows a gradual trend of rising and falling levels, but the period of the Industrial Revolution saw a sudden rise in carbon dioxide, and recent times have seen a tremendous, abnormal spike. The increased use of machinery and fossil fuels that stemmed from the Industrial Revolution and continues today caused carbon dioxide levels to skyrocket past any natural levels recorded before industrialization. This confirms that climate change is not a natural change in climate; it is a result of human activity that releases unnaturally large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Climate change affects many aspects of our society and the environment. The increased global temperatures melt sea ice, which raises the sea level and poses a threat of flooding to coastal cities. Increased temperatures also create a faster rate of water evaporation, leading to drought. The abnormal atmospheric conditions cause stronger storms and hurricanes. Many ecosystems, most notably coral reefs, are being affected by the abnormal climate conditions, and a lot of organisms might not be able to adapt to the changes in their environment fast enough.

You don’t have to be an ecologist to help make an impact against climate change. One of the biggest ways to help is to conserve energy. Power plants that burn fossil fuels for electricity are one of the biggest sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, so unplugging electronics not in use, taking colder showers, and turning off lights in empty rooms are great ways to lessen your energy consumption. You can also switch to a renewable energy source, such as solar power, that doesn’t require the release of carbon dioxide. Climate change may seem like a daunting problem with no hope of solving it, but if everyone does their part, we can get Earth’s climate back on track.

Photo credit: NASA’s Global Climate Change website

For more information:

U.S. Global Change Research Program

Climate Change Myths: WWF

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Emma Galbraith

Emma Galbraith is the Editor of Arts & Culture at The Deliberator. In her free time, she likes to read books and research how humanity can solve climate change.

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