If steps are not taken, climate models predict that the average temperature at the Earth's surface could increase from 3.2 to 7.2 °F by the year 2100. While the earth’s surface does have natural temperature fluctuations, this change would be larger than any trend in the last 10,000 years. Scientific consensus as well as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have concluded that it is “very likely” this increase in temperature is man-made. Most largely attribute the cause to the Greenhouse Effect. Whatever the cause; global warming has become a global problem.
The Greenhouse Effect
A century and a half of industrialization: the burning of ever-greater quantities of oil, gasoline, and coal; the cutting of forests; and the practice of certain farming methods have increased the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. The greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the earth by trapping and reflecting infrared radiation and the raising the earth’s surface temperature. This increase in earth’s surface temperature is already causing measurable, visible effects and is predicted to cause things far more impactful than those effects seen today.
Impacts of Climate Change
Increasing global temperatures are causing the earth’s glaciers and permanent ice fields to melt, sea levels to rise, and a change in global climate. This global climate change will alter cloud cover, the amount and pattern of precipitation, as well as wind patterns. Here’s a quick list of some of the major projected effects:
The severity and frequency of storms are predicted to increase along the continents coastlines. Increasing sea levels will cause salt-water intrusion in populace areas as well as contaminate underground water sources and reduce the quantity and quality of freshwater supplies.
Food and Crops
Interior areas of the continents, like the US grain belt, are likely to dry. Tropical and sub-tropical areas which rely on dryland farming techniques will see a significant reduction in crops yields. Crops that are currently near climate threshold (e.g. wine grapes in California) are likely to suffer decreases in yields and quality.
Impacts to Plants and Animals
Climate Change is already having a significant effect on plant and animal species around the world exhibited by changing reproduction and migration patterns as well as movement of the geographic range of species. Global warming along with other environmental stresses are predicted to cause the future extinction of a significant percentage of the world’s endangered species.
Climate Change is predicted to pose substantial threats to human health in the coming decades. Increased temperatures will put at risk the elderly, the poor, and those in urban areas during extremely hot periods. Global warming will produce conditions including increased rainfall and flooding suited to spread of infectious diseases. Insect-borne diseases like malaria are also expected to spread as the range for carrier inspects expands.
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