Understanding Climate Change

Learning about environmental issues is an ongoing process. There’s so much to learn, but information that’s clear and easy to understand is limited. Here’s a baseline of some of the main issues and terms you may encounter.

First off, what exactly is climate change?

By definition, climate change is a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

Greenhouse Effect

The name greenhouse effect is quite literal. Our atmosphere, particularly the stratosphere, acts as a greenhouse around the Earth, which means it’s keeping all of our emissions in, and allowing them to fester in our air.

Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases are gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation, such as carbon dioxide.

In other words, greenhouse gases are gases, whether natural or man made, that are emitted into our air and stay there. When frequent and in large quantities, they’re extremely dangerous to our ozone layer.

Ozone Layer Depletion

Ozone depletion describes the two distinct but related phenomenas that’ve been under observation since the late 1970s: the steady decline of approximately 4% of the ozone in the Earth’s stratosphere.

The two chemicals that contribute the most to ozone depletion are chlorine and bromine. Pollution of these chemicals causes chronic deterioration, which allows large amounts of ultraviolet B rays to reach Earth. This can cause skin cancer and cataracts in humans, and can harm animals as well.

Fossil Fuels

Although fossil fuels are outrightly problematic because of their non-sustainability, they are widely used and depended on by many industries.

The burning of gas, oil, and coal produces carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion. Rising sea levels and changes in vegetation growth have already occurred because of it.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is a gas that’s produced by respiration and burning carbon and organic compounds. It’s naturally present in our air and is absorbed by plants during photosynthesis.

Although it’s naturally occurring, it’s still dangerous to our environment. The ocean has absorbed approximately 50% of CO2 pollution released by burning fossil fuels. This results in ocean acidification, which is causing marine life to reduce in population, and coral reefs to diminish.

Methane

Methane is a colorless, odorless, and flammable gas. It’s released into our atmosphere naturally, mostly by wetlands and the oceans.

It has the potential to become the next trendy fuel source, but what people aren’t aware of is that it’s already causing an immense amount of pollution. Our agriculture industry is especially known for their reckless pollution. Livestock production as a whole accounts for approximately 35% of the total emissions of methane. That may not seem like a lot, but cows on their own produce 150 million gallons of methane daily.

Methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and has a far more damaging effect on our climate. It’s 25-100 times more destructive, and has a global warming potential 86 times higher than CO2 on a 20 year time frame.

Related

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