Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)
The world’s scientists tell us that we have just a few years to turn around the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst effects. Projected impacts include increased intensity of hurricanes; the long-term destabilization of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, leading to much greater sea level rise; the acidification of the world’s oceans; and a vastly increased rate of species extinction. Wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon could collapse under the weight of just a few more degrees.
Continued climate change will result in regional scarcities of water, food, and land, which can lead to human conflict and political instability—posing greater national security risk to the U.S. More intense storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires will result in costly property, agricultural, and infrastructure losses, while projected sea-level rise could force migrations out of coastal areas and result in hundreds of millions of global climate refugees by the end of the century. Additionally, more frequent and intense heat waves, a rise in the spread of infectious diseases, and poorer urban air quality will pose serious public health threats. The total projected economic costs from these impacts are extraordinary.
Climate change is already here. It is already affecting our natural environment, our national security and our quality of life and these warning signs are plain to see. The 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1990. Mountain glaciers are receding on every continent and the sea ice is melting. The seas have begun a slow but menacing rise, encroaching upon coastal cities in every nation where populations are concentrated.
We can—and must—act urgently if we are to limit and eventually halt the impacts of climate change on human communities and natural ecosystems. The greater the magnitude and rate of warming, the greater the chances are for devastating and irreversible changes in the Earth’s climate system. Even by acting today to reduce our emissions from cars, power plants, land use, and other sources, we will see some degree of continued warming for a period of time because past emissions will stay in the atmosphere for decades or more.
The window for effective action is closing fast and responding to the climate crisis will take commitment and ingenuity. The actions we take in the next several years will determine the kind of world future generations will inherit.
Alternatively, you can check out online universities offering courses on environmental studies to learn more about the effects of climate change.
The Earth is naturally insulated by a delicate balance of heat-trapping (or “greenhouse”) gases in the atmosphere. When the sun shines on the Earth, some of that heat is absorbed, keeping Earth warm enough to support life. However, over the last century, humans have been releasing more and more carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere when we burn fuels and cut down forests. These additional gases have altered the composition of our atmosphere, trapping more heat than is possible for the Earth to sustain and maintain the current natural balance amongst its ecosystems. The result is human-caused global warming, which brings serious threats from flooding to the spread of disease to the disruption of agriculture in many parts of the world.
The science behind global warming is often portrayed as enormously complex, but some of it is quite simple. It begins with the energy that radiates from the sun, which gives us light and warmth. As some of this energy radiates back toward space as heat, a portion is absorbed by a delicate balance of heat-trapping (or “greenhouse”) gases in the atmosphere that create an insulating layer. Without the temperature control of this greenhouse effect, the Earth’s average surface temperature would be 0°F (-18°C), a temperature so low that the Earth would be frozen and could not sustain human life as we know it.
The most abundant of the greenhouse gases is water vapor. In addition, there are other powerful greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide. Each of these is a natural part of the never-ending cycle of life, death, and decomposition on Earth. But since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, humans have been pumping out more and more of these and other greenhouse gases. Scientists are clear: human activities are contributing to global warming by adding large amounts of heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. Our fossil fuel use is the main source of these gases. Every time we drive a car, use electricity from coal-fired power plants, or heat our homes with oil or natural gas, we release carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the air. The second most important addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere is related to deforestation, mainly in the tropics, as well as other land-use changes.
The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now 380 parts-per-million (ppm), 100 ppm higher than at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. And, as a result of the build up of gases, the temperature is beginning to rise. Adults today have already felt the average global temperature rise more than a full degree Fahrenheit (0.8°C) during our lifetimes. We expect another degree F by 2020 due to past emissions. Based on modeling by an international body of experts studying the climate crisis, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the temperature could increase by more than 7°F (4°C) by the end of the century in the absence of meaningful efforts to rein in global warming pollution.
Throughout history, people have been a powerful force for positive change. That’s because when people unite and call for action, change isn’t just possible, it’s inevitable. But no single person stormed the beaches of Normandy or ended slavery, and no single person will stop global warming. When we solve the climate crisis, it will be because all of us worked together to get it done. It will be because we, along with our neighbors, co-workers, and friends around the world, took a stand and demanded that our leaders make stopping global warming a top priority.
In order to create the kind of large-scale change required to stop climate change, we need our elected leaders to implement policies and pass laws that promote renewable energy and support energy efficiency. We need companies to publicly support these policies and improve their business operations and product offerings.
The good news is that we are already five million strong and have begun to make our voices heard. However, there is still more work to be done to ensure that the future will become safer and cleaner for the next generation. If we’re going to solve the climate crisis, it’s going to take all of us working together, and our work begins right here at home in America.
For more information on how to take action to urge our elected leaders to support bold action to protect our climate and put us on the path to a clean energy future, visit Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES) , where you can learn how to be wiser, write a letter or op-ed for your local paper, or volunteer on the CCRES campaign.
Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)
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