To understand climate change, you must first know what climate is. Climate is the usual weather of a place. Climate could also be different for different seasons. Earth’s climate is when you combine all the climates around the world together. Climate change is a change in the usual weather found in a place (Dunbar, Nasa.gov.). Many things can be a cause to climate change.
CO2 has contributed more to climate change than any other cause between 1950 and 2011. Deforestation is a huge component to the amount of CO2 emitted into the Atmosphere. Forest absorb greenhouse gases, and produce oxygen for humans and animals to breath. “Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities” (“What Is Climate Change?”).
The total Emissions in 2015 equaled 6,587 Million Metric Tons of CO2. In 2015 alone, CO2 accounted for approximately 82.2% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Carbon dioxide is naturally already present in the atmosphere; it is a part of the earths carbon cycle. Carbon dioxide is naturally removed from the atmosphere when it is absorbed by plants as part of the biological carbon cycle. Human activities are changing/altering this cycle by adding more CO2 to the atmosphere. The main human activity that emits CO2 into the atmosphere is the use of fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gases) for transportation and energy. Electricity is a large source of energy in the United States and is used to power homes, businesses, and industries. In 2015, the use of fossil fuels to produce electricity was the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S., accounting for about 35 percent of total CO2 emissions and 29 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. burning coal produces more CO2 than natural gases or oil. The use of fossil fuels such as gasoline for transportation was the second largest source of CO2 emissions in 2015, accounting for approximately 32 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions and 26 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Many industries emit CO2 through fossil fuel combustion. Global carbon emissions from fossil fuel usage were 9.795 gigatons in 2014 alone (35.9 GtCO2 of carbon dioxide). Fossil fuel emissions were 0.6% above emissions in 2013 and approximately 60% above emissions in 1990. “Fossil fuel emissions (including cement production) accounted for about 91% of total CO2 emissions from human sources in 2014” (“Global Carbon Emissions”). The 2014 level of CO2 in the atmosphere was 43% above the level when the Industrial Revolution started in 1750. to fully assess the threat of global warming, we must demand action from our elected officials to support and implement a set of climate solutions.
A solution would be to expand the use of renewable energy sources that are cleaner and move away from nonrenewable energy sources that cause more harm to our environment.” Burning coal pollutes our environment with toxins, produces a quarter of US global warming emissions, and accounts for a whopping 80 percent of all carbon emissions produced by power generation nationwide.”, (“Smart Energy Solutions: Decrease Coal Use.”). there are approximately 1,964,460 coal plants operational today. To decrease our reliance on coal, we need to replace them with reliable clean energy sources.
Wind power is very cost-effective. Land-based utility-scale wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today that doesn’t severely damage our environment. Wind power cost between two and six cents per kilowatt-hour. “Wind creates jobs. The U.S. wind sector employed more than 100,000 workers in 2016, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics named wind turbine technician the fastest growing American job of the decade” (“Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy”). Wind energy alternative has an annual economic impact of about $20 billion in just the U.S. alone. It is a clean fuel source. Wind energy does not pollute the atmosphere with toxic chemicals such as coal or natural gases like power plants that emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, causing human health problems and economic damages. Wind turbines do not produce atmospheric emissions that cause smog, or greenhouse gases. Wind is also a domestic source of energy. Over the past 10 years, wind power capacity in the United States alone increased an average of about 30% per year, and wind now has the largest renewable generation capacity of all renewables in the United States. Wind turbines can be built on existing ranches or farms. This benefits the economy in most rural areas, where the best wind sites are found.
The clean carbon plan would help put a limit on the amount of carbon companies can emit. “The Clean Power Plan establishes state-by-state targets for carbon emissions reductions, and it offers a flexible framework under which states may meet those targets” (“The Clean Power Plan: A Climate Game Changer”). This plan provides for many options to reduce carbon emissions and determines state emissions reduction targets by estimating the extent to which states can take advantage of each of them. States can also join together in multi-state compacts to find the lowest cost options for reducing their own carbon emissions, including emissions trading programs.
The opposing side may state that climate change is due earth’s natural causes non-related to human activity. One of the most known explanations is that climate change is due to the variations in the amount of sunlight that hits earth’s surface. “Variations in the Sun itself have alternately increased and decreased the amount of solar energy reaching Earth. Volcanic eruptions have generated particles that reflect sunlight, brightening the planet and cooling the climate” (“Global Warming: Feature Articles”,4). Volcanic activity has also increased greenhouse gases over the years, contributing to global warming episodes.
Deforestation is also a crucial factor in global climate change. “forests all over the globe are, naturally, so-called ‘carbon sinks’, or areas of natural environment such as oceans that can take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen.” (How Does Deforestation Affect Climate Change?).
Forests are vital for human and animal lives. Forests absorb greenhouse gases that fuel climate change, keep soil moist by blocking the sun, absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Forests cover about 30% of the world’s land area. It is estimated that due to cutting and burning of forests every year, more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. If the current rate of deforestation continues, there will sadly be no more rainforests in approximately 100 years. Some of the main causes of deforestation are: production of wood and timber for essential need such as building homes or furniture, farmland for agricultural growth, and urbanization which is necessary because of our increasing population. Solutions to deforestation is one of the most cost-effective ways of stopping climate change. Companies can make an impact by introducing “No Deforestation” policies that help clean up their supply chains. This would mean having to hold their employers responsible for producing goods in ways that contribute to deforestation. Companies should also set realistic targets to maximize the use of recycled wood, pulp, and paper in their products. Globally, we need commitments to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in developing nations. Forests for Climate is one of the many ways to make that happen. “Forests for Climate is an innovative proposal for an international funding mechanism to protect tropical forests. Under this initiative, developing countries with tropical forests can make commitments to protecting their forests in exchange for the opportunity to receive funding for capacity-building efforts and national-level reductions in deforestation emissions.” (“Solutions to Deforestation”). This provides an incentive for developing countries to continually improve and implement their forest protection programs. Reforestation is the restoration of forests that have been reduced by fire or felling. It involves selecting and dedicating large tracts of land mainly for cultivating forests. In local communities and urban centers, it can be done around market areas, in wildlife reserves, within city parks, or large areas of land.
The opposing side could argue that the “greenhouse effect” causes the atmosphere to retain heat and that this could be a natural cause of climate change. The United States EPA states, “When sunlight reaches Earth’s surface, it can either be reflected back into space or absorbed by Earth. Once absorbed, the planet releases some of the energy back into the atmosphere as heat (also called infrared radiation)” (“Causes of Climate Change”). Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vaper prevent the loss of heat to space. GHGs act like a blanket, making Earth warmer than it would be. This process is what is known as the “greenhouse effect”. Over the last several hundred thousand years, CO2 levels varied in sync with the glacial cycles. During warm periods knows as “interglacial periods” CO2 levels were high. During cool periods known as “glacial periods” CO2 levels were lower. The temperature of the earth’s surface can cause changes in the natural sinks of these gases, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
“Climate feedbacks amplify or reduce direct warming and cooling effects. They do not change the planet’s temperature directly” (“Causes of Climate Change”). Positive feedbacks are feedbacks that amplify the changes. Negative feedbacks are feedbacks that counteract the changes. Water Vapor causes a positive feedback. As the earth’s temperature rises, the ability of the air to hold water vapor and the rate of evaporation rise. This increases the amount of water vaper in the air. This leads to further warming. The melting of the arctic sea is another positive feedback. The loss of ice exposes the underlying sea surface which is darker and absorbs more sunlight than ice. `Negative feedbacks sound like they would be the ones to contribute to global warming, but they do just the opposite.
Some types of clouds can cause negative feedback. Warming temperatures can increase the reflectivity of certain clouds, reflecting even more sunlight back into space. This cools the surface of the earth. Other types of clouds contribute a positive feedback.
With all things considered and the evidence that has been analyzed, I believe that climate change is a result of mankind. I believe that before the industrial revolution natural causes were a leading factor of climate change but now that urbanization and modernization are key factors in the development of our society, mankind is the largest factor in climate change. If we do not help put a stop to the excessive amounts of CO2 being released into the atmosphere, and the deforestation of our forests, I fear that in the next 200 years the earth will be uninhabitable.