Climate change is an extraordinarily important issue today. It affects everyone — or it will in the coming years. It is in turn worrisome just how many people believe this phenomenon is a myth. Despite all the evidence in favor of this happening, many people refuse to believe it is happening, or if they admit it, they deny that it is manmade. I intend to lay out the evidence and put to rest the idea that climate change is a myth.
I will start by specifying the difference between global warming and climate change, because I hear a lot that global warming cannot be possible because some places are getting colder. That is true; some places are getting cooler. Global warming was the original term, when understanding of the situation was more primitive. Climate change is the real term for the phenomena.
First, I will go over the concept. Every year, we produce over 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is released into the atmosphere. The concept of climate change is that the 400+ parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is trapping heat from the sun over the surface of the planet instead of escaping back into space. This is called the greenhouse effect. Because of this phenomenon, the assumption is made that there should be a correlation between an increase in carbon dioxide and a change in temperature. Because of the complexity in the Earth’s climate, changes would not happen evenly, and some places will cool instead of warm.
This is the reason scientists made predictions about climate change decades ago. They still continue to make them. Some predictions have been wrong, while others have been correct. Knowledge of the subject was not as extensive years ago, but today we have access to more technology and more data.
Using ice core samples, one can study the melt patterns and the air bubbles trapped within them to get an idea of the planet’s climate in past years. From studying the melt patterns, it is possible to tell the average temperatures of the planet throughout the past. 15 million years ago, the planet was significantly warmer than it is today. Sea levels were also around 100 feet higher than they are today.
The Earth has a natural cycle of heating and cooling. “For the past million years,” the OSS Foundation says, “this has occurred over and over again at approximately 100,000 year intervals. About 80-90,000 years of ice age with about 10-20,000 years of warm period, give or take some thousands of years.” The following graphs of historical temperatures show a very clear cycle over millions of years.
We are currently at a time in this cycle when the planet should naturally warm. And, of course, it is. The average global temperature is 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was a century ago. According to NOAA, “Since 1880, surface temperature has risen at an average pace of 0.13°F (0.07°C) every 10 years for a net warming of 1.71°F (0.95°C) through 2016.” The rate of this increase in the average temperature over 40 year periods increases to 0.25 ± 0.05 °C (1σ) per decade by 2020.
However, there is a significant deviation from the natural cycle happening today. In the natural cycle, the increase in carbon dioxide lags behind the increase in temperature. Today, it leads it. 15 million years ago, when Earth was warmer, carbon dioxide levels were similar to today’s levels. Are they related? The evidence says that they are, because there is no other explanation for the increase in carbon dioxide.
As I stated earlier, we as a species produce over 40 billion tons of the gas every year, along with other chemicals that we release into the environment. Yes, animals, volcanic activity, and other chemical processes on the planet produce it, but they produce it to nowhere near the extent humans do with fossil fuels.
Sea levels have risen 6.7 inches over the last century. As the air and the oceans heat up, glaciers and ice caps start to melt. “Large ice formations, like glaciers and the polar ice caps, naturally melt back a bit each summer,” National Geographic says. “In the winter, snows, primarily from evaporated seawater, are generally sufficient to balance out the melting.” The ice naturally melts, but it is offset by more freezing that happens later. However, as the planet heats up, this cycle is put out of balance. “This imbalance results in a significant net gain in the ratio of runoff to ocean evaporation, causing sea levels to rise.”
National Geographic admits that this is not an exact science, but many predictions expect this rise in sea levels to accelerate. Oceans are expected to rise 11-38 inches by 2100, which obviously has a large margin of error. What is known for certain, though, is that ice is melting at an extraordinary rate. Between 1979 to 2007, the Greenland ice sheet shrunk by 30%. In 1910, Glacier National Park had 150 glaciers. Today, it has less than 30, and those have shrunk by two-thirds. Snows on Kilimanjaro have melted more than 80%.
There is no denying that the climate on Earth is changing. While disputes remain about whether or not it is caused by human activity, I believe I have presented a sufficient that a) the rate of change is too atypical to be considered part of the natural cycle, and b) human activity can and has been enough to precipitate these changes. Climate change is real, and human activity is the main cause. Now we must do something about it.
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