If there is global warming then will there also be global climate changes?
Questions we should ask ourselves: Is global warming happening?
If yes, then: Why is this warming taking place, what are the causes? Are they natural or are they man made?
We could then ask: What impact will this warming have on the climate globally?
And also: Is there anything we can do, as a global community or individually, to stop the warming, slow it down, or reverse it?
The biggest question of all:
Can we, the most successful species on the planet ever, allow ourselves to be ignorant and not take action, one way or the other? Can we allow ourselves to leave behind something different than we received? (Would we do that we anything else in life that we receive?)
So what is global warming
Global warming is the gradual increase of the earth and ocean temperature as a result of the build up of certain gases which trap heat in the atmosphere. These heat-trapping gases, also called greenhouse gases, occur naturally and are produced naturally in certain areas of the planet, but they are also produced in very large quantities through the use of fossil fuels.
One reason it is difficult to pinpoint if global warming and climate change is taking place is that it is a slow process, and a process that has occurred many times before man came on the scene.
Should I be concerned about this
And so what if the ice caps are melting? I am nowhere near an ice cap. What does that have to do with me?
This should be obvious. What happens on one side of the globe affects people on the other side. Most of us strongly believe that, when it comes to politics and economics, and it is as true for the climate as well.
We also know that a natural phenomenon, such as an earthquake, can take place in mid-ocean and kill tens of thousands of people at distances of thousands of miles (such as the December 2005 tsunami).
Eruptions of major volcanoes have profound impact, not only on the people in its vicinity, but also on people far away and the climate even on the other side of the globe.
At the end of the Gulf War in the Middle East in 1991 many of the oil wells in Kuwait were put on fire deliberately. The emissions from these fires caused major climate changes in many parts of the world.
The Earth gets warm and there is Life
The earth is warmed by the sun. The sun's activities and the earth's position to the sun have a direct natural effect on our climate.
In addition to the general heat coming from the sun, there are also sunspots generated on the sun's surface. These sunspots are areas with increased magnetic activity and seem to be the cause of sun flares and mass ejections. When earth is in the path of these flares, enormous waves of additional heat and magnetism impact our planet. The results can be higher temperatures, when other elements that control our climate are disappearing, such as certain protective layers in the atmosphere.
The earth's orbit around the sun is elliptical, and so there are times when the earth is closer to the sun than others. When that occurs, it's normal to have an increase in the world's temperatures.
The earth is kept warm by gases in the atmosphere. These gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well as water vapor, prohibit heat from escaping into space. If our atmosphere contains none of these gases, our planet would be a very cold place. The question being debated is if there actually is an increase in these green house gases that then trap more heat, and so cause climate change.
These gases are created naturally from wetlands and the arctic tundra. Plants in other parts of the world use these gases and in exchange give out oxygen, a gas that we need for breathing.
How does Global Warming Affect the Climate
Average temperatures world wide will rise. There is no consensus among scientists as to how much. But even a small rise can have vast impact on our environment.
With more heat in the atmosphere the temperature of the oceans will go up. This in turn will impact the ice caps, as well as hot water eco-systems. At the ice caps the glaciers will begin to melt. Some say this has already started.
As the water in the oceans heats up it will absorb less and less CO2 (carbon dioxide), thus contributing further to global warming. The ice caps and the oceans have a very important part in the balancing of global climate. Fewer ice caps … less reflection of sunlight … more heat stays in. Warmer oceans … less reflection … more heat stays in. Inland glaciers will also feel the effect and melt.
As the ice caps and inland glaciers melt, water levels will rise. This will put low-lying coastal areas under threat of flooding.
As the water temperature changes, it will influence the frequency and the ferocity of hurricanes and tornadoes.
As ocean temperatures go up, finely balanced underwater ecosystems may not be able to survive, such as coral reefs in tropical areas, thus affecting the whole oceanic eco-system.
As ocean temperatures go up, there will be less rain in hot dry climate zones. This means longer and more devastating droughts. These areas will be more susceptible to wild fires. Deserts will expand, and whole eco-systems will be threatened.
As inland glaciers melt, the flow in the rivers coming off them will increase, causing floods.
Have Climate changes happened before
Climate changes have occurred and will continue to occur naturally. They occur when there is a change in global temperatures due to the influences mentioned above. This influences ocean temperatures, precipitation, deforestation and the migration of wildlife. Relatively recent examples of climate changes are the ice ages and the periods in between; the last ice age ending some 10,000 years ago.
How much do we humans as a species influence this process of global warming
As we have seen greenhouse gasses occur naturally as part of the balancing of earth's temperature.
Does human activity increase the concentration of these gasses in the atmosphere? Since everything on this planet has an affect on everything else, I think it is safe to say that human activity plays a role. We have to decide how much. Since the dawn of human history we have influenced our environment. We have dried up swamps, cut down trees to such an extent that forests vanished, we have expanded agricultural land at the cost of natural resources, we have mined and drilled and what not.
From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution our impact on nature has dramatically increased. Being so successful a species we have even increased in numbers to the detriment of other species.
In the natural world trees absorb carbon dioxide and other gases and exude oxygen, the gas we need in order to breathe. The burning of fossil fuels in transportation, industry, and power plants produce carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gasses in quantities larger than natural.
Since more and more forests are being cut down, especially the rain forests, there are less trees to absorb the carbon dioxide, again resulting in a rise in general greenhouse gas content in the atmosphere.
Is this a double indemnity
Is it possible that earth is going through a period of natural warming?
Is it possible that the activity of man is affecting the planet?
What are we up against
The above scenario may seem frightening and depressing. Frightening enough to make us do something, depressing if we don't do anything. As stated global warming and climate change is a very slow process and has been going on for eons.
We don't have all the facts, though a majority believes it is happening. Within a period of global warming, there could be shorter periods of cooling, off-setting the warming to some extent. Such shorter intervals can also be misleading, making some believe that global warming is just in the mind of a few crisis loving scientists or politicians.
Obviously we cannot change the natural causes, such as the earth's orbit around the sun and the sun flares. But we can have an impact on the man-made causes. Just as we may have caused an aggravation of warming, we can also take an active role in reducing continued aggravation.
The question here is: Can we allow ourselves NOT to take such action?
Do we as top predator, or the most successful species, have a responsibility for what happened, and what will happen?
What actions can we take, as individuals or as societies, or both?
If there is just an inkling of possibility that we may be causing some of this, shouldn't we do something about it?
Answer some of these questions will come in further articles as well as information on how we can make a difference. Some of the information will be for societies to take action on, but there is so much each and every one can do on a small scale, and many small rivers can make a big one.