Causes of Global Warming
Despite the contention in the media about scientific debate over whether global warming is man-made (anthropogenic) or a naturally occurring phenomenon, the
widespread consensus in the scientific community is that global climate change is in fact being caused by humans. There are several different causes of global warming, however, but most are linked to human activity. This is especially true of humans that live in the industrialized countries of the world, and are privileged to enjoy technologies like the computer you're on now, the car you drive to work, and other activities that require a lot of energy. While some may try to blame nature for climate change, in fact, the view that global warming is
anthropogenic is that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], and every national academy of science of every industrialized nation supports this view, as well as over 30 scientific societies and private associations and academies who also agree with this idea.
Since the start of the industrial age, modern societies all over the world have continued to exponentially increase their reliance on technology made possible by fossil fuels to power everyday life. These everyday occurrences, like processing and transporting food, manufacturing and powering appliances, providing electricity to millions of residents all burn fossil fuels like coal and gas to function. Modern technologies, beginning with the burning of coal during the Industrial Revolution have all been contributing carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gases to the atmosphere for the past hundred years or so at an alarming rate. Now these are just a few of the main causes, if I listed every way in which we contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere I'd have to write a novel. Anyways, because of the exponential increase in these gases in the atmosphere, it's created a warming effect, explained further here, that the IPCC predicts will warm our planet by
1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius by 2100--and this is a moderate projection. While you may think it might be nice if the weather was a little hotter, the effects on our environment would be absolutely devastating. Even with a degree or two of warming, crop yields would shrink, disease would spread quicker, sea levels would rise, and the world would quite probably fall into a global recession.
Another major human cause of global warming is the mass production of animals for food, and especially cows. This is actually among the top three major causes of global warming.
Methane released from these mass-produced cow farms is contributing a large portion of the greenhouse gases that are released into our atmosphere each year. Yes, cow farts are a cause of global warming. It may sound ridiculous, but unfortunately it's an
undeniable truth. While there are cows in the wild naturally that would also produce methane, they would not exist in such huge, dense populations if it weren't for industrialized nations? lust for beef. So in the end, it's actually partially the fault of our insatiable appetite for meat that's helping to ruin our planet--think about that the next time you order a hamburger.
Above: Oil Refineries
are among the top contributors of greenhouse gases,
creating smog over city centres.
While the natural causes are rather few and far between, and indeed actually tend to balance out in the grand scheme of things, we can't have a balanced page here without discussing some of the
natural factors that contribute to global warming. One natural cause of global warming is the natural phenomenon of solar variation.
Solar variation is any kind of change in the amount of radiant energy given off by the Sun. This variation is usually very small however, and scientific results suggest that it has only changed by about 0.1% in the past 2000 years. While this may have been a small contributing factor in the current trend towards global warming, it is not something we can do anything about right now, and it's also not the most significant cause by any means.
Another natural cause of global climate change is the eruption of volcanoes here on Earth. This, combined with solar variation has likely caused some of the changes in weather and climate that have been taking place in the past 100 years or so, and are expected to continue and worsen if steps are not taken to remedy our situation. Volcanoes contribute in that they release harmful gases and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when they erupt. For years, they have been a natural contributor to acid rain. Volcanoes also release aerosols like those released from hairspray bottles, which are also damaging to the atmosphere. Large volcanic eruptions actually usually end up having a cooling effect on the climate, however, and are therefore generally a balancing force of nature and not a major cause of global warming.
To Wrap it Up
In conclusion, it's the human causes of global warming that are more serious, and will continue to escalate climate change unless we seriously pursue
alternative energies and more efficient ways of powering our lives. This does not mean we have to give up the technologies that make our lives so easy and manageable in modern societies, but it does mean we'll have to rethink how we build, manufacture and transport ourselves from place to place. In the end, that's a far lesser sacrifice than we'll have to make if even the optimistic predictions regarding global warming turn out to be right.