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Global Climate Change and Human Activity

Updated on July 2, 2015

Global climate change or global warming is the increase in the Earth’s average temperature. Climate, over a long time period, is the average weather in a particular region. The climate can have an effect on a number of environmental factors including wildlife and vegetation growth. Greenhouse gases contribute to the greenhouse effect, which is the natural warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is being increasingly distributed into the atmosphere through human activity, speeding up the Earth’s natural warming process. Because these gases stay in the Earth’s atmosphere for hundreds of years and are being released into the atmosphere at an increasingly rate, it is causing the Earth to warm more than usual, thus, impacting the climate. Why have scientist closed the case and are now pointing the finger at human activity? It is “primarily by two actions: Burning fossil fuels, with a smaller contribution from clear cutting forests, known as deforestation” (EDF).

Natural & Human Greenhouse Effect

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However, there are those that disagree with human activity being a contributing factor to global climate change. Many believe that global climate change or warming is a natural phenomenon. “The Fraser Institute quotes a survey in which 9 of 10 climatologists agreed that scientific evidence indicates variations in global temperature are likely to be naturally occurring and cyclical over very long periods of time. After all, the global climate has changed radically during periods long before humans entered the scene” (Mysteries of Nature). People and organizations like the Fraser Institute believe that since there has been a period of warming in the past; the rise in the Earth’s temperature is natural. This belief is rooted in warming periods such as the Mediaeval Warm Period, which occurred at a time when humans had no way of emitting greenhouse gases, other than burning wood to make fires to keep warm. Other instances in the past where global climate change existed was during the Ice Age when the Earth experienced a prolonged cooling. The sun is also a factor as to why human activity is not a contributing factor because “every two centuries or so, the sun's magnetism drops to very low levels for several decades. In addition to changes in the sun, volcanic activity can affect climate. The eruption of large volcanoes can raise enough dust into the stratosphere to help cool things off. Studies have shown that when dust levels are low, global annual temperatures tend to be high, and when dust levels are high, temperatures appear to be lower” (Mysteries of Nature).

So, why are humans being blamed if past occurrences have proven that global climate change is a natural phenomenon? It has never been confirmed by any official that global climate change is a direct result of human activity. It has been confirmed that human activity is contributing to the natural processes of the Earth, thus increasing the Earth’s natural warming phenomenon. In fact, the “2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, reveals that global warming is driven by 99.999% humans” (Kokic, Howden & Crimp). How? The extraction and burning of petroleum or coal releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases into the atmosphere, and even though carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases are naturally emitted into the atmosphere. Human activity is adding to the already naturally occurring emission of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide.

Why our Earth System is Warming

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Plants and trees are already natural producers and absorbers of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. One can look at trees and plants as air filters. However, with activities such as deforestation, large amounts of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide are being emitted back into the atmosphere. This means the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases that trees and plants are filtering are being emitted back into the atmosphere in a larger amount. This type of activity has contributed to the increase of global temperatures since the Industrial Era. Since the Industrial Era, “human activities have contributed to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In addition, human activities contribute to climate change by altering the concentration of aerosols and clouds cover. The greatest contribution has been fossil fuels that release C02 into the atmosphere. The impact of human activities on the climate is much higher than that of natural processes” (Slave & Carmen).

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Whenever humans burn gas, coal and oil to drive cars and generate electricity carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere, trapping heat. In today’s day in age nearly everything a human purchases and consumes involves the use of fossil fuels. Driving cars, flying planes, the use of trains all use energy. The more energy that humans use; the more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere, and the more global temperatures rise. Even the production and consumption of food is a contributing human activity. “The food industry, especially the meat industry, is one of the primary sources of greenhouse gases, according to some recent studies. Eating food that is shipped long distances adds to greenhouse gas emissions. Eating beef and drinking milk also adds to greenhouse gases, since cows emit significant amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas even more potent than carbon” (Planet Save).

Being that almost every daily activity a human partakes in contributes to global warming, what can humans do to slow down the process or limit the amount of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere? Humans can take simple actions such as turning off electronics when not in use, replacing regular light bulbs with green light bulbs, watching water consumption, and most importantly recycling. In addition, purchasing fuel efficient vehicles, obtaining regular tune-ups and oil changes, checking tire pressure, and carpooling can also help to lessen the amount of carbon dioxides and greenhouse gases that are emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Global Warming: WorldWide Flooding

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    • BruceDPrice profile image

      Bruce Deitrick Price 23 months ago from Virginia Beach, Va.

      Okay, I'll be the cynic. The main human activity I see connected to so-called global warming is a tendency to lie. A professor named Michael Mann lied when he concocted the hockey stick metaphor. If global warming is real, why did he have to lie?

      Just last week, the local paper claimed that we broke a record set more than 110 years ago. Do you realize that 110 years ago we had hardly any cars, air conditioners, or engines of any kind. The land was basically covered by vegetation. So now you have to allow for the heat island effect, that is, locally induced warming by all the local machinery. So when you measure the temperature in the old locations, you would expect the temperature to be at least 5° warmer. Yet, after 100 years of this, all we can do is tie or break the old record by 1°. Do you see what this means? We didn't break any records. You have a heat island effect around every city so you can't take your temperature measurements there. You have to take them up in the atmosphere or out in the countryside. Then you might have to conclude that the temperature is actually cooler now. OMG.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Great overview on a depressing topic.

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