Global Climate Change

by Michelle Gachelin - Social Studies

What is causing Global Climate Change? What do I need to know to understand the causes?

The main cause of Global Climate Change is the Greenhouse Effect, where greenhouse gasses like methane and carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere, making Earth hotter. This is worsening because of humans burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. The burning of fossil fuels like coal is relevant because the combustion of coal makes emissions, and that leads to increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The more greenhouse gases there are in the atmosphere, the hotter the Earth gets.

What is the evidence that Global Climate Change is real?

We know that Global Climate Change is real - and that it's getting worse - because the atmospheric carbon dioxide level is higher than ever before. In 2016, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level was at 400 parts per million, whereas for centuries, it had never been over about 300 ppm. Earth's temperature is also increasing by about 1 degree Celsius every year. Additionally, the number of record high temperature events in the US has been increasing and the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing since 1950. Furthermore, increased heat and therefore drier atmosphere can amplify and prolong wildfires. In 2015, wildfires burned a record-breaking 10.1 million acres in the U.S. This was the biggest year documented since 1960.

However, there are more effects to Global Climate Change than warming temperatures, like rising ocean levels, melting ice and glacier retreat, increasing ocean acidity, stronger storms, intense rainfall, and an increasing level of carbon dioxide absorbed by oceans. For example, ocean level has risen 6.7 inches in the last 100 years and Greenland has lost 150-250 cubic kilometers of ice every year from 2002 to 2016. Since the Industrial Revolution, ocean acidity has increased by 30%. The US has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events. Finally, the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.

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What does the scientific community identify as consequences of Global Climate Change? How will different regions of America and the world be impacted?

By the end of the century, what have been once-in-20-year extreme heat days (one-day events) are predicted to occur every two or three years. Also, in the next 100 years, global temperature will have increased by between 2.5-10 degrees F. Moreover, if we don't decrease the amount of carbon dioxide we are producing, future atmospheric carbon dioxide will be high enough to lower ocean surface pH to 7.8 by the year 2100. A pH that low could dissolve coral skeletons and may cause reefs to fall apart, as well as endanger many other marine organisms (causing a chain reaction with predators). Studies project global sea level to rise by another 1 to 4 feet by 2100, with changes in ice sheets expected to account for 1.2 to 8 inches of sea level rise by the end of this century.

Finally, global average annual precipitation through the end of the century is predicted to increase, although changes in the amount and intensity of precipitation will vary significantly by region.

In the northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast of the U.S., higher temperatures would mean threatened forests, agriculture and wildlife and have an impact on human health (because of the additional pests and disease). In the northwest, northeast, and southeast, sea level rise would threaten the infrastructure. Additionally, the midwest, southwest and southeast will be affected with hotter summers, more droughts, and competition for water (especially the southwest). Finally, the southeast will be affected by increased hurricane intensity and in the tropical islands, coral reefs will die because of the warm water and acid ocean (see previous paragraph).

What can be done about it?

To help lessen the effects of Global Climate Change, individuals should recycle and use water more efficiently by repairing any toilet and faucet leaks. Saving water helps because it takes a lot of energy to treat water and make it safe to use. We could also turn off our lights and save energy, because most of the energy that we use at home and at school comes from fossil fuels. Industries and businesses could reduce the sources of greenhouse gases (the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil). This is called mitigation (reducing emissions by stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere). The government could also take action by making new laws and policies to save energy and protect the environment. For example, on December 12, 2015, President Obama and other world leaders secured a global agreement to combat climate change.


Additional information:

Dickie, Gloria. "2015 Wildfires Burned a Record-breaking 10.1 Million Acres."High Country News. N.p., 11 Jan. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016

"Ice Calving." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

"Coral Bleaching." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Mar. 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.


Beck, Jefferson. Operation IceBridge. Digital image. The Why Files. N.p., 22 May 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

Bleached and healthy fire coral in Bermuda. Digital image. Popular Science. Mary Beth Griggs, 8 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

Carlos, Brandi. Firefighters Battle the Lake Fire in California. Digital image.NBC News. N.p., 22 June 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.