Global warming is a hot-button issue, eliciting passionate reactions from both believers and non-believers. The phrase \”global warming\” itself might be one of the problems. The effects of the buildup of harmful chemicals in the atmosphere contribute to warming, but it also manifests in increasingly extreme weather, including blizzards and ice storms. A more appropriate term to use instead is climate change. The amount of American citizens who believe that climate change is a real phenomenon has increased by 10% since last year, up to 83%. While the true nature of how climate change is affected by various chemicals requires a chemistry degree to fully grasp, the causes and effects of these chemicals can be seen plainly in our world today. The EPA has created a report on climate change indicators in the United States to help citizens build awareness of the issue of climate change as well as a basic understanding of the science behind it.
The Earth naturally absorbs energy from the sun, though most is reflected back into space. Greenhouse gases, which normally exist in the atmosphere, trap some of the energy, keeping the surface of the Earth warm. These greenhouse gases make life possible, keeping the surface of the planet warm even when the sun is not shining directly on it. The past 100 years, however, have seen a marked increase in the amount of greenhouse gases as well as their composition, resulting in new, man-made gases entering the atmosphere and increasing the amount of energy maintained on the surface of the Earth. Carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas, is being produced in massive amounts by humans when they burn fossil fuels while industrial, agricultural, and waste management contribute to increased buildup of methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. Many of these gases stay in the atmosphere for decades or centuries at a time, making their long-term buildup a massive problem for the Earth.
The increase in heat on the surface of the Earth causes many negative climate change effects. Ocean water temperatures have increased by a full one degree Fahrenheit since 1970, contributing to decreasing populations of many marine species, including the phytoplankton that generates 70% of the Earth\’s oxygen. Other marine life being affected includes coral reefs, with a documented die-off rate of 70% in 1998. Forests have been hit hard by climate change, too, affecting the biodiversity of forest life and changing the ranges in which specific species of trees can grow. This, in turn, affects timber production, water quality and wildlife. Human health, too, has not gone unscathed. Increases in average temperatures have led to more extreme heat waves in the summer, increasing the risk to those with heart problems, asthma, the elderly, the very young and the homeless. This extreme weather also manifests itself in increasing amounts of massive thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes, all of which are extremely hazardous to human health.
Most Americans agree that climate change is real and is being produced by humans. It\’s also easy to see the effects of climate change and scientists are constantly working on delving further into the issue, finding more information on the causes and providing avenues of correction. Preventing the production of new greenhouse gas emissions is the most attainable goal that will, arguably, have the largest impact in years to come. By reducing power consumption, decreasing reliance on automobiles and imposing restrictions on businesses, America can reduce its contribution to greenhouse gases by at least half. If this goal is met, the Earth could warm by as little as 2.5 degree Fahrenheit instead of the 10 degrees it will rise if nothing is done.