Sustainable Living & Sustainable Lifestyle

Get the facts on global warming and what it means for you and your family in our quick guide.

Guide to Understanding Global Warming in 5 Minutes or Less

There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the topic of global warming and how the climate change phenomena came to be.  Discussions on these issues can often be related to great political debates and in some cases follow party lines.  We must also consider that some of the swirl is often conjured up by the popular media outlets, looking for an alarmist story that may bring about better ratings.  Let’s remove the debate and take out the swirl, instead we will just boil it down into a quick five minute guide that can help you understand the facts about global warming.

Global Warming and Climate Change is Not New

Global Warming Quick ReferenceOur planet has experienced climate change throughout history, seven different cycles of warming and cooling has been seen over the past 650 million years, according to a NASA report on the evidence of climate change.  These cycles have been attributed to the amount of solar energy the Earth receives or small variations of the planet’s orbit.  The modern era, in terms of the climate, started around 7,000 years ago when the last ice age ended and our planet has been warming ever since, though at a more rapid pace since industrialization took place.

The EPA has reported that over the last 100 years the Earth’s temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees (Fahrenheit) and projects the growth to be between 2 to 11.5 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the next 100 years.  Whether you agree with the prediction of growth or not, historical figures have been verified, which is where the environmentalist’s concerns begin.  Their concerns are based on the premise that even small changes in the average temperature of our planet can lead to potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.

The Argument of How Humankind is at Fault

Whether humans are to blame for the recent happenings surrounding climate change is the core debate that often stirs up the media and political battles.  Leaving those two aspects aside, let’s review how global warming occurs.  Understanding the “how” will often lead you to the path of the “why.”

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat inside the planet, since they block the ability to transfer infrared energy through the Earth’s atmosphere.  Based on this simple concept, increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause temperatures to increase, since the heat can’t escape.  Satellites such as the Aqua satellite, which was launched in 2002 and carried the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) facility instrument, have helped prove this concept with advanced measuring and imaging tools.

The most common greenhouse gas, for the purpose of our discussion, is carbon dioxide; it is one of the more measured gases and is attributed to many human behaviors, such as vehicle emissions and power generation.  In fact, this is where the term carbon footprint comes from, which loosely relates to how much new carbon dioxide an individual or entity is responsible for releasing into the atmosphere.  Based on research from ice cores and other recent measurements, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concludes that we are seeing a level of atmospheric carbon dioxide far exceeding recorded history, growing at an alarming speed.

The chart below was provided b NASA and helps give a visual example of how our carbon dioxide levels have grown over time.

NASA Global Warming Evidence

A Scientific Consensus Surrounding Global Warming

There is no scientific body of either local or international standing that rejects the findings that humans have had an effect on climate change.  This is found time and again through various surveys measuring scientific opinions on global warming.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is even quoted as saying “scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”

The next time a conversation around climate change unfolds you will now be better prepared to form your opinion on the information at hand.  It is the choices we make today that will ultimately shape the future, hopefully an informed choice will be the right one.


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