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Global Warming and Climate Change Global Warming and Climate Change

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Reverse Climate Change, reduce Global Warming and the hole in the Ozone Layer

To reverse the effects of climate change, reduce global warming and the hole in the ozone layer

Human activity has a massive impact on our atmosphere. Everyday, we pollute the atmosphere by putting emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons and other pollutants into the atmosphere.  These emissions change the balance of gases in the atmosphere, and cause climate change, global warming and degrade the ozone layer.  It up to all of us to reduce our emissions to reverse these effects.

The natural Greenhouse effect is actually good for us, but...

The average temperature on earth is about 15 degrees Celsius.  We keep warm because of the natural greenhouse effect: gases in the atmosphere (called greenhouse gases) trap the heat from the sun and maintain the earth at a relatively constant temperature.  There is variation, of course, around the earth, between seasons, and between days, but compared to other planets, the earth is at a relatively constant temperature. The natural greenhouse effect is something to be thankful for, because how warm or cool it is outside on average determines many things, including what animals and plants can live, the amount of moisture that falls, wind patterns and diseases that can thrive, to name just a few examples. The natural greenhouse effect keeps the world going. However, the impact that we, as humans, are collectively having on the atmosphere and the greenhouse effect is scary! A small change in the earth’s average temperature to make a big impact on the balance of the earth!

Carbon Dioxide is the main culprit; its levels in the atmosphere have drastically risen

There are several different greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and others, but the most important greenhouse gas caused by humans is carbon dioxide.  The concentration of carbon dioxide never exceeded 300 parts per million over the last 650,000 years, until recently!  The current concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is approximately 380 parts per million and rising.  Increased concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases means more energy from the sun is trapped in our atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change. 

So how much warmer has the earth become?

Since 1850, the average temperature of the earth has increase by about 1.7 degrees Celsius, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a global body of scientists established by the United Nations) warns that if concentrations exceed 440 parts per million then we will have increases of average temperature between 2.4 and 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century!  Most observers say that a 2 degrees rise in temperature will result in extreme climate change events and very damaging impacts. 

The impact of Global warming has been Climate Change

While on a cold winters day, a few degrees rise in the earth's temperature may seem like a good thing, it is not! Global warming refers to the overall average warming that is happening to the planet, but climate change refers to all the effects that are happening because of that warming, including more extreme weather events such as droughts, storms, hurricanes, heat waves and flooding. The climate is always changing, but as a result of human-driven global warming, the climate is changing very rapidly. Global warming leads to rapid changes in climate patterns and more extreme events, making for a dangerous combination.

The Kyoto Protocol is aimed at controlling carbon dioxide emissions

The Kyoto Protocol, which is part of the overarching United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, committed industrialized countries to reducing their emissions to various levels below 1990 levels, and has been signed by 186 nations around the world. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that the world must “avoid dangerous climate change”, because large, rapid changes in the climate are exactly that: dangerous.

The butterfly effect – a small change leads to massive consequences

Humans are very good at adapting, but rapid changes like the ones that we see from climate change will test our ability to adapt. The changes that you can see today will have very real consequences that affect us all in the future. In some senses, the climate is like a dial, with a small increase in temperature leading to progressively more and more impacts, but in other senses it is like a switch, where a small increase in temperature will lead to a massive change.  The difficulty is knowing when that will occur. 

It is better to deal with global warming now than later

Humanity essentially faces a choice: we can deal with global warming now, or we will have to deal with it later.  If we do not take steps to stop global warming now, the impacts of climate change will have a significant impact on humanity's future prosperity.  In 2006, Sir Nicolas Stern, an economist from Great Britain, released a report on the impact of climate change and global warming on the world economy.  The main conclusion of the Stern Report conclusion was that the gross domestic product of the world would be 20% lower due to climate change, unless we invest about 1% of our gross domestic product per year.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also estimates that in order to stabilize the carbon dioxide concentration at between 445 and 535 parts per million, it would result in a reduction of average annual GDP growth rates of less than 0.12%.  However, much of the investment in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions has other benefits, such as reduced air pollution, decreased energy costs, and increased energy security.  There may be an upfront cost, but taking action to stop global warming now will save us money in the long run. 

How you contribute to global warming – one person does make a difference!

Your everyday activities contribute to the increased concentration of greenhouse gases that cause global warming and climate change, whether those activities are at home, at work, or on the road.  Approximately 80% of emissions are from the production or use of energy, so reducing energy use a good way to stop global warming and climate change.  You will not be able to eliminate all of your greenhouse gas emissions, but the key is to know what you contribute and how to decrease your impact.  You can calculate your impact on climate change and reduce it today by using the calculator found at the safe climate weblink below. 

What’s with the hole in the ozone layer?

The ozone layer is the layer of the atmosphere that blocks ultraviolet rays from the sun, and it is critical to life on earth.  Without the ozone layer, there would be increased harmful ultraviolet radiation that would cause genetic damage to living creatures and organisms.  Ozone depleting substances, such as chlorofuorocarbons (CFCs), reduce the amount of ozone in the atmosphere and in 1985 a significant thinning, or hole, was discovered in the ozone layer over Antarctica.  The ozone hole prompted the Montreal Protocol to be signing in 1987, which committed nations world wide to phase out ozone depleting substances (currently 191 countries have signed the Montreal Protocol). We have been largely successful, although not completely: current emissions of ozone depleting substances is only 7% of the peak level in 1994!  This dramatic reduction demonstrates what is possible when the world decides to act together, and gives hope to stopping global warming.  

Hope is not lost: we can make a difference

Small actions can make a big difference in terms of your impact on the atmosphere. You can change your actions to take into account the impact on the climate and help others to do the same, helping to stop the impacts of climate change.  Making change in your life is all about choice.  For example, if every household in the U.S. replaced an average light bulb with an energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulb, it would prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to nearly 800,000 cars and save enough energy to light 2.5 million homes for a year.  That is just one small change, it all adds up! 

Consumer action – the ground swell of public support creates change at all levels

However, the global response to the climate change crisis will require all actors and sectors to take action: businesses, governments, institutions, and people like you.  Going green and living a more climate-friendly lifestyle in an important first step, but you also need to take those ideas to the companies, government and institutions that are make decisions everyday that affect greenhouse gas emissions.  You can make a difference by encouraging other sectors to take actions along with you, through campaigns or through your political system. 

Conclusions

Global warming is occurring and we must ensure that we avoid the most extreme impacts.  This is the challenge of our time and it is time to take on the challenge of going green!  To wait will only ensure that we pay a higher price in the future.  Going green is about making smarter choices; anyone can do it!  Go green, and be part of the global movement to stop global warming, climate change and the hole in the ozone layer.  

Submitted by Green on Aug 4, 2008