Global warming is the phenomenon of the increase in the average temperature of the air near the Earth’s surface caused by the accumulation of large amounts of polluting gases in the atmosphere.
This accumulation leads to a greater retention of solar heat irradiation on the earth’s surface.
Experts indicate that the Earth’s temperature has changed over almost all time scales.
This increase is also greatly influenced by human activities, mainly from the first Industrial Revolution.
Global warming effects
Experts on the subject always warn of the innumerable consequences of global warming for the planet. Some of the best known are:
Sea level rise and constant flooding in coastal areas
Global mean sea level is rising much faster off the US East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. And, according to experts, it has grown as much as 8 inches since 1880.
Global warming is now accelerating the rate of sea level rise, increasing flood risks for low-lying communities and high-risk coastal properties.
Longer and more constant forest fires
Due to rising temperatures , forest fire seasons are getting longer and more intense in some places like the United States and some European countries.
Higher spring and summer temperatures result in warmer, drier forests for longer periods, providing favorable conditions for wildfires to ignite and spread.
most destructive hurricanes
Although hurricanes are a natural part of our climate system, recent research indicates that their destructive power has grown since the 1970s, particularly in the North Atlantic region.
More frequent and intense heat waves
Dangerously hot weather is already happening more often than it was 60 years ago.
Scientists warn that heat waves may become more frequent and severe as global warming intensifies.
This increase in heat waves creates serious health risks and can lead to heat exhaustion and aggravate existing medical conditions.
Consequences for human health
Climate change has significant implications for our health.
The increase in temperature on the planet brings about some factors, such as the increase in air pollution that generates, for example, respiratory and dermatological allergies and the spread of diseases transmitted by insects.
Destruction of marine ecosystems
Higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, due to the burning of fossil fuels, are making the oceans warmer and more acidic.
These two factors threaten the survival of marine life. Corals, molluscs and phytoplankton, which are the base of the food chain, are particularly at risk.
Is it possible to prevent global warming?
There are big movements around the prevention and stagnation of global warming. Some world treaties have been established so that the pollution caused by humanity is diminished and so that an awareness of the matter occurs.
One of the best known agreements is the Montreal Protocol , which has been in force for 32 years, and which aims to unite the countries for the elimination of 31 substances that destroy the ozone layer.
This whole movement began when experts alerted the great political authorities regarding the risks that the environment and, consequently, humanity will suffer due to the increase in the planet’s temperature.
The greenhouse effect and global warming
Before understanding the causes of global warming, it is important to understand what the greenhouse effect is and how it occurs.
The greenhouse effect phenomenon is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface.
When the sun’s energy reaches Earth’s atmosphere, some of it is reflected back into space and the rest is absorbed and re-radiated by greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse gases include:
- Water steam;
- Carbon dioxide;
- Nitrous oxide;
- Some man-made chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
The absorbed energy heats the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface. This process keeps Earth’s temperature about 33° Celsius warmer than it otherwise would be, allowing life to exist on the planet.
Without that greenhouse effect process , the earth would reach -18° Celsius, which would not allow life to exist.
The problem we are facing now is that human activities are increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases.
Some of these activities are:
- The burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas;
- The Agriculture;
So how does Global Warming happen?
Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other polluting gases build up in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that return to the Earth’s surface.
Normally, that radiation would escape into space, but these pollutants, which can last for years or even centuries in the atmosphere, “trap” the heat and cause the planet to heat up.
The sun emits electromagnetic radiation in different wavelengths, transforming into energy of different intensities. The atmosphere works as a multi-layered shield that protects the Earth from dangerous solar radiation.
In this case, ozone is found in two different parts of our atmosphere:
- Ground-level or “ bad ” ozone is harmful to human health and a component of smog (a mixture of dust, fog, and polluting gases). It is found in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) and has nothing to do with the “ ozone hole ”.
- High-altitude or “ good ” ozone occurs in the stratosphere and is responsible for the vast majority of atmospheric ozone. The stratospheric ozone layer absorbs ultraviolet (UV) radiation, preventing dangerous UV rays from reaching the Earth’s surface and harm living organisms.
The Ozone Layer and Global Warming
UV rays cannot be seen or felt, but they are very powerful and change the chemical structure of molecules.
This same radiation plays little role in global warming because its amount is not enough to cause excess heat to be retained in the atmosphere.
But ozone depletion is also of concern, because it directly affects the health of humans and other living organisms.
Ozone destruction and global warming
Global warming is mainly caused by the excessive emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as stated above.
Carbon dioxide spreads around the planet like a blanket and is one of the main gases responsible for absorbing infrared radiation (felt as heat), which comprises most of the sun’s energy.
Ozone depletion occurs when chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are released into the atmosphere.
Ozone stays in the upper atmosphere and absorbs ultraviolet rays, another type of solar energy that is harmful to humans, animals, and plants.
CFCs cause chemical reactions that break down ozone molecules, reducing ozone’s ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation.