CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF THE GLOBAL EMERGENCY
Article Written by Fiona Huang
Climate change refers to the long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. Shifts in climate patterns may be natural; natural causes of climate change include solar cycle variations and volcanic eruptions, etc. However, human activities since the 1800s have significantly altered our environment and expedited fatal effects of climate change.
The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, generates greenhouse gas emissions that act as a large wool blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and raising the Earth’s temperatures. Greenhouse gasses, including carbon dioxide and methane, are also released from deforestation and garbage landfills. Most, if not all, sectors of human civilization — our energy use, transportation, building construction, agricultural practices, product manufacturing and more — are emitters of greenhouse gasses. The effects of global warming are evident from the increase in average temperatures of the Earth’s atmosphere and its oceans, which has also directly contributed to sea level rise; ice loss at Earth’s poles and in mountain glaciers; changes in the frequency and severity of climate extremes; habitat loss; and species extinction, to name but a few.
To put the effects into perspective, global temperatures have reached record-breaking levels with 2016, 2019 and 2020 ranking the top three warmest years on record. Earth’s average surface temperature has also risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century and greenhouse gas concentrations are at their highest levels in 2 million years. Thousands of scientists and government reviewers agreed that limiting global temperature increases to no more than 1.5°C would help maintain a livable climate and avoid the worst climate extremes. However, based on current trends and national climate plans (or the lack thereof), global warming is projected to increase by 2.7°C by 2100.
Additionally, polar ice caps and glaciers around the world have seen tremendous reductions. Greenland has lost an average of 279 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2019, and Antarctica has lost about 148 billion tons of ice per year. Glaciers — from the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska, and Africa — have and still are significantly retreating which is not only crucially impacting our world’s biodiversity but also risking the exposure to viruses and diseases that were previously dormant in permafrost.
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