Volume 18 Issue 28
The average global temperature has been rising at an alarming rate for about two centuries now. Of course, this is not the hottest the Earth has ever been; during the time of the dinosaurs, the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were much higher. One does have to consider though, how hot our planet can become while remaining habitable for humans.
The Industrial Revolution, beginning in the early to mid-1800s, started at a faster rate of climate change also known as Global Warming. As our global society has grown more technologically advanced, our reliance on fossil fuels has raised the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. The pre-industrial revolution CO2 level was about 280 parts per million. During the Industrial Revolution, coal began to be used as a fuel for machinery. The introduction of oil and gas later on also contributed a large number of emissions, especially in the 20th century.
Global temperature has risen a good amount within the past century especially, but global warming as a term may be misleading to some. Bringing a snowball to the Senate does not prove global warming false. Global warming leads to more extreme weather, such as an increase in the number and severity of hurricanes, and even winter storms. It also has a more gradual effect. Glaciers and ice caps are melting in warmer times of the year and at a faster rate than normal, and the colder times of year are not enough to make up for the damage. The average temperature of our oceans, which absorb much of the increased heat, have risen by about .3 degrees. Considering the fact that oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, that represents an enormous amount of energy being absorbed.
In recent years, many governments have put measures into place to reduce their carbon footprints. This has helped lead to a slow-down in the rate of global warming, enough so that many people have called it a “pause”. This is incorrect because the global temperature is still increasing, albeit at a slower rate.
Around 2036, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere will reach 560 parts per million, double the Pre-Industrial Revolution level. This will cause the world to cross a climate threshold, leading to even greater environmental issues. The slow-down may give us a few more years to correct our behaviors, but only a few.
The slowdown in the rate of global warming shows us that although we may not be able to totally reverse the damage we have caused; our efforts thus far have not been in vain. Now is the time for radical changes in policy. As individuals, we can do our best at reducing our own emissions and make more environmentally sound decisions, but it can only go so far. It’s time we held governments and corporations to the same standard we hold our citizens. We need to move toward clean energy as a society, and quickly. At this point, the possibility of making Earth uninhabitable for humans is not a matter of if, but when.
Michael E. Mann, Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036, Scientific American, April 1, 2014
Global climate change – Vital Signs of the Planet, https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
Holly Shaftel -editor, July 2, 2018