Blog Action Day 2009: Global Warming

I like to take part in these yearly posts about different topics that Blog Action Day promotes and hosts. This year’s topic is Global Warming.

What is Global Warming?

In short, it’s what its name says, a global warming. The average temperature on the earth’s surface is gradually increasing, and that is causing other problems, such as the day-to-day weather being awkward for the season, the level of the seas increasing due to ice melting, and so on.

The Planet Is Heating Up—and Fast

Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are drying, and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It’s becoming clear that humans have caused most of the past century’s warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than in the last 650,000 years.

We call the result global warming, but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth’s climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. As the Earth spins each day, the new heat swirls with it, picking up moisture over the oceans, rising here, settling there. It’s changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely upon.1

What causes Global Warming?

There are several factors that should be taken into account, but the main processes that should be mentioned are2:

  • Greenhouse gases: The greenhouse effect is the process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by gases in the atmosphere warm a planet’s lower atmosphere and surface. The major greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone. These gases contribute in different amounts to the effect.
    Human activity has increased greatly since the Industrial Revolution, and with it the amount of gases in the atmosphere.
  • Aerosols and soot: Aerosols created by volcanoes and pollutants scatter and absorb solar radiations, having a slightly cooling effect. They also make the clouds have more and smaller droplets, making in fact the cloud a more effective reflector or solar radiation.
    Soot, on the other hand can both have a cooling and a warming effect. Atmospheric soot aerosols directly absorb solar radiation, which heats the atmosphere and cools the surface. When deposited, it can directly heat the surface.
  • Solar variation: Variations in solar output have been in the past responsible for climate changes.

What are the effects of Global Warming?

There are so many that it’s hard to begin. I’ll try to point out the ones I find most important3

  • Effects on the weather, such as extreme weather, increased precipitation, bigger areas affected by drought.
  • Glacier retreat and disappearance.
  • Sea level rises, temperature of oceans increases, acidification of the waters, oxygen depletion.

Effectively, the climate change that global warming is triggering can make the coastal lines recede, and take with them many towns and making people migrate. It can also make food production hard, since increased storms mean a harder time for crops. Drinking water reserves will shrink, with the acidification of all waters. The list goes on and on.

What can we do to slow down / stop Global Warming?

There are many things that we as individuals can do to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. My favorites are4:

  • Using energy saving lamps. They take a bit longer to reach full light, but they save a ton of money and energy.
  • Using recycled paper, non chlorine bleached is even better!
  • Adjusting the thermostat: our heating is set rather “cold” (we wear jackets inside the house), and we don’t have airco at home. If we did, it’d be set for 25ºC!
  • We shower instead of taking baths. And our average showers are short.
  • We try to buy produce locally, but sometimes it’s just impossible. I’ll still buy the produce that has been grown closer to home even if it’s a tad more expensive.
  • Skip the packaging and plastic bags as much as you can. Have you tried making your own fabric produce bags? Make sure to always carry a fabric shopping bag with you, that way you don’t have to accept plastic bags when you do some impromptu shopping.
  • If available, use gas / electricity companies that guarantee their energy comes from renewable sources. Might not be the cheapest, but you’ll be happy.
  • Use public transport, bike or walk when possible.
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle. The classic and basic three Rs are never out of place. Be it for trash, or anything in your home.
  • Become a vegetarian! Even just one day a week, and you’ll reduce your carbon dioxide emissions in 170 kg a year.
  • Do yourself a favor and help protect our planet from Global Warming. Go look for more tips on what you can do.

  1. Visit National Geographic for the full article.
  2. Source: Wikipedia, taken with a grain of salt
  3. You can find an extensive article over at Wikipedia! Yep.
  4. For more ideas, visit Stop Global Warming and take action yourself!
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