While it may seem that global warming has only recently received attention, it’s been a topic of debate for centuries. According to the American Institute of Physics, ancient Greeks as early as 1200 BCE argued whether draining swamps and clearing forests might impact rainfall.
By the late 1800s, scientists began to think about how humanity could affect the climate on a global scale, especially as standardized global weather data became available and showed annual increases after the Industrial Revolution.
In this article, we want to talk about what global warming is, what it means, and its causes and effects so that you can understand what’s happening when you hear it discussed on the news or in casual conversation with friends.
Global Warming Definition
At Palmetto, we define global warming as follows:
Global warming is a gradual, long-term increase in the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect where gasses from various human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, trap heat from solar radiation.
While there are conflicting opinions on the topic, a majority of scientists worldwide agree that global warming is very real and, if left unaddressed, could result in devastating effects for humanity. More than 99% of peer-reviewed scientific research acknowledges that humans are the major cause of this problem.
Causes of Global Warming
Global warming is typically attributed to the over-accumulation of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4) in the Earth's atmosphere. The excess GHGs can come from a variety of sources:
- Burning Fossil Fuels: Machinery that relies on coal, natural gas, or oil to run releases carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere.
- Deforestation: Deforestation removes the trees that act as a natural GHG filter, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into our atmosphere.
- Agricultural Practices: Modern farming accounts for more than 10% of all human-produced greenhouse gas emissions, largely due to livestock and rice cultivation.
- Consumer Goods: The energy used in the manufacturing and transportation of consumer goods leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
- Mining: Operations that rely on fossil fuels emit significant levels of GHGs.
- Waste Disposal: When plastics and other non-biodegradable waste decompose, it releases toxic gasses into the environment.
Effects of Global Warming
A scientific report published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlines the serious effects of global warming and global climate change as follows:
- Higher Temperatures: The average temperature on the Earth has increased by 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1900, and many scientists predict that this trend will continue due to global warming.
- Rising Sea Level: Sea levels along the United States coastline are projected to rise between 10 and 12 inches by 2050, which could destroy islands and coastal cities.
- Extreme Weather Events: Global warming has been linked to an increase in extreme weather events, such as floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes, which can cause deaths, famine, and disease.
- Plant and Animal Extinction: Rising global temperatures can cause parts of the planet to become uninhabitable for many native plant and animal species.
- Ocean Acidification: Because of escalating carbon dioxide emissions, oceans are becoming more acidic and harmful to marine life.
- Dirtier Air: Hotter temperatures lead to more smog, which can trigger respiratory problems and aggravate existing health conditions.
- Disappearing Polar Ice: When the water frozen in polar sea ice melts into the oceans, it can have a huge impact on rising sea levels and speed up the heating of Earth’s atmosphere.
Global Warming vs Climate Change
While some people use “global warming” and “climate change” interchangeably, they are technically two different terms that describe weather and climate and warrant their own definitions.
- Global warming is the rise in the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere.
- Climate change is the transition from one climatic state to another over an extended time frame – including temperature, precipitation, and wind patterns.
- Global warming is caused by the heat-trapping gasses that come from increased human activity.
- Climate change is caused by global warming and other climatic shifts that happen naturally.
How to Stop Global Warming
From adopting simple lifestyle changes to using green energy, here are some ways people can help slow or even reverse global warming:
- Use Renewable Energy: Using solar power, wind power, or other alternative energy sources can reduce your carbon footprint (and may lower your electricity bill).
- Recycle: Ensure that all waste materials, including paper, plastics, aluminum, and glass, are sent to your local recycling center or composted whenever possible.
- Use Less Power: Turn off lights and unplug appliances when they're not in use.
- Opt for Sustainable Transportation: Walk, bike, carpool, invest in an electric vehicle, or switch your daily commute to public transportation instead of driving a vehicle solo.
Global Warming and Your Environmental Impact
Our world is heating up. Because of global warming, temperatures are increasing and extreme weather is becoming more common. If we don't take preventative action now, future generations will be faced with warmer temperatures, as well as higher sea levels, extreme weather events, crop failures, extinctions, and other devastating effects.
You can help limit the impacts of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, cutting down on your energy consumption, and shifting away from fossil fuels. Better still, plant trees around your neighborhood, and join a movement that voices support for clean energy sources.
Solar energy is one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to power your home, as the energy produced doesn’t generate any greenhouse gases. Installing a solar panel system on your home has the added benefit of helping to lower your utility bills.
Are you ready to help save the environment from the effects of global warming by going solar? Get started today with Palmetto. Check out our free Solar Design and Savings Estimate Tool to see how much you could save with solar panels, including an estimate of your personal environmental impact.