There have been numerous famous speeches, documentaries, debates, and discussions over the controversial topics of climate change and of the need for renewable energy sources, but it can no longer be denied that climate change is a very real phenomenon that none of us is exempt from experiencing. Though its extent is still not verifiable, it is very obvious and apparent that climate change plays a role in our everyday lives and it will continue to play a part in people’s lives for many generations to come. Climate change has truly become an important factor in how we can live our lives. Therefore, it is essential that we fully understand just exactly what climate change is and the role that we play in aggravating or mitigating its consequences.
What is Climate Change?
Climate is defined as the state and condition of an environment in terms of atmosphere, temperature, rain, humidity, and other factors. This is different compared to weather because weather only refers to the short term, daily conditions of an environment, while climate refers to the long term conditions extended over a period of time. From this definition of climate, climate change, sometimes known as “global warming” (though this is not a completely accurate name), can be defined as the shifting of environmental factors on a more permanent, long term basis, dealing in terms of seasons instead of just simply days.
Debates on whether or not we humans have brought about or worsened climate change, whether we can realistically do anything to prevent it or not, and whether or not it even exists, have raged on over the past couple of years with some questions leading to even more questions. The scientific community, however, has gathered enough evidence to sufficiently say that climate change is a very real problem. Evidence to support this includes changing sea levels, receding icebergs and glaciers, and changing agricultural patterns, to name a few.
Causes of Climate Change
Climate change is caused by a
combination of a wide variety of factors which can be divided into two
categories, allowing us to see the scale of climate change and the scope of
what our actions can do. As such, climate change is caused by either natural
factors or man-made factors.
Our planet, by its nature, is constantly in motion, be it literally when it goes on its axis, or on a much smaller sense with the intricate and delicate workings of Earth’s environment, and therefore, is consistently changing. This dynamic of the Earth, while it has given us what we need to live, can also be the start of some of the causes of climate change.
As previously mentioned, Earth itself goes on an axis, which usually has a set angle of 23.5 degrees. Any slight change or tilt of this angle can lead to tiny but ultimately important changes in our climate. Our ocean waters bring with it a lot of heat absorbed from the sun. If the ocean current becomes different, then the heat it carries goes to different places as well, which contributes to the changing climate. The eruptions of volcanoes also introduce a surplus of gas, ash, and dust which can play a factor in the climate of not only the immediate area, but also in other areas near or distant to it. Finally, the sun itself can be a factor of climate change. Sometimes, it can simply shine too brightly and there is nothing we can do about the rays it sends to us.
However, despite these many natural causes of climate change, the effect humanity has on the Earth’s climate cannot be understated. Numerous irreversible wounds have been inflicted on our planet through the advancements of civilization, by way of technology and industrialization.
Among the many man-made causes of climate change, the foremost is almost certainly greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are gases which absorb and give off heat and radiation given by the sun. In the past, the heat and radiation from the sun simply escaped out of our atmosphere. Presently, however, greenhouse gases trap the heat and radiation in our atmosphere and reintroduce these into our ecosystems. Needless to say, the effects on our climate are devastating. We humans created these greenhouse gases through our dependence on and use of fossil fuels (factories, transportation, and many other everyday things in our lives) and the cutting down of trees which we used to rely on to absorb and purify the polluted air. Another contributor to these gases is the methane that is produced when we dispose of our trash and waste irresponsibly, such as by way of incineration.
Effects of Climate Change
The most immediate effect of climate change is that it will cause temperatures to rise on a global scale. This means that, generally, the world will be a hotter place. The increased heat will accelerate the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps, which will then cause sea levels to rise. The new sea levels will, in turn, affect the physical make-up of terrains, even swallowing up the lower lying islands and bodies of land. The combination of these changes can lead to severe and extreme changes in weather, which, in turn, will also directly affect all living life forms, whether they are plants, animals, or humans.
How Can I Help?
Though things may seem bleak, it is not too late for us to at least slow down the rate of climate change, which will give us more time to better prepare ourselves and find innovative solutions. The most helpful thing we can do now is to reduce the amount of pollution and green house gases that we use. We can achieve this through the use of renewable energy.
Renewable energy refers to sources of energy that can be found in our environment and will not run out because it naturally replenishes and replaces itself. Renewable energy is also practically harmless to our environment which is why it is important that we try to find and use it as much as we can. Examples of renewable energy include solar power (which includes solar heating-cooling and micro-inverters) and naturally occurring resources (such as natural gas), as well as things that we improve upon and use to our advantage through our technology (for example wind turbines and clean coal).
Though technology may have been the biggest culprit in crimes against the Earth, it may also be our best ally that will aid us in conquering climate change. Our current technology has given us useful tools such as renewable energy, solar power, micro-inverters, clean coal, solar heating-cooling, wind turbines, and natural gas. With quantum leaps in the field of renewable energy, the future holds the promise that we may yet win the battle against climate change.