According to the BBC, and several other sources, the world is nearly one degree warmer than it was before the 1900s. The global average temperature for the first 10 months of 2018 was 0.98C above the levels of 1850-1900.
Being one degree warmer might not sound like a problem, but if no action is taken, the world may experience a number of catastrophic events. For example, sea levels will rise and the ability to grow crops may be endangered.
Keep reading to find out the causes of climate change and what you can do to help stop it.
What Is Climate Change?
Climate means the general weather conditions of a place. For example, some locations have cold climates in winter and warm up during the summer months. While there are also locations where year-round the temperatures are similar and warm, or cold.
Climate change refers to a significant change in a location’s average weather conditions, over several decades. For example, weather conditions may become colder, warmer, wetter, or drier. The weather can change and be very unpredictable, however, climate change is a term that is focused on the long-term changes of weather.
Climate change and global warming are often used interchangeably as terms. However, global warming is only one aspect of climate change. Global warming means the rise in the average global temperature.
What Are the Causes of Climate Change?
The earth’s climate system cools the planet, when energy from the sun is reflected back into space and when the earth’s atmosphere releases energy. The planet warms when incoming energy from the sun is absorbed by the earth and when atmospheric gases stop heat from being released (which is known as the greenhouse effect).
In essence, there are both natural causes of climate change and human causes of climate change. But what are the main climate change causes?
1. Burning Fossil Fuels
The number one contributing human cause of climate change is burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels such as gas, oil, and coal all contain carbon dioxide, which when abstracted from the earth and burnt releases more carbon dioxide.
A lot of the main causes of climate change are due to human activity. Deforestation, for example, reduces the number of trees, which are known for storing carbon dioxide. When there are fewer trees, carbon dioxide can build up in the atmosphere at faster rates.
When trees are burnt, they also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The increased carbon dioxide adds to the greenhouse effect and warms up the planet.
Growing crops and rearing animals also contribute to greenhouse gases in the air. Animals, such as cows, produce methane, which is a more harmful gas to the environment than carbon dioxide.
Growing crops organically isn’t too much of a problem in terms of gases, however, a lot of crops are grown with fertilizers. These fertilizers contain nitrous oxide, which is even more harmful to the environment than methane. It’s estimated that nitrous oxide is almost 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
4. Milankovitch Cycles
Human activity isn’t the only thing at play when it comes to climate change. However, scientists believe that human activity is the driving factor as to why we are seeing significant changes in weather. Natural cycles such as Milankovitch cycles can also play a role in the changes.
Milankovitch cycles refer to the changes as the earth travels around the sun, the path and tilt of the axis can change. This affects the amount of sunlight that the earth is exposed to. Milankovitch cycles are known to take place over tens or hundreds of thousands of years, so scientists believe it’s unlikely that this is causing the climate change that we’re seeing now.
5. El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
Another natural cycle that can play a role in climate change is ENSO. This is where there is a pattern in changes to water temperature in the Pacific Ocean. In the El Niño year, global temperatures warm-up and during the La Niña year, the temperature cools down again.
Scientists know that these patterns only affect global temperature for months of years, which is why this is another natural cycle that probably isn’t contributing to the current climate change.
6. Solar Irradiance
Another natural cause of climate change is known as solar irradiance. In the past, solar irradiance has changed the energy from the sun which has affected the temperature of the earth.
However, if this was currently occurring, the entire atmosphere of the earth would warm up. Scientists aren’t finding that be to the case, it’s only the bottom layer that is warming, which means solar irradiance probably isn’t playing a role in the current warming.
Volcanic eruptions can both cool and warm earth, due to the aerosol particles that cool earth and the carbon dioxide that is released (which warms the earth). Volcanoes produce less carbon dioxide than humans do, so again, this natural occurrence isn’t thought to be the primary reason for climate change.
What Can I Do to Help Stop Climate Change?
There are several small changes that you can make to your lifestyle and diet that can help stop climate change. The first and most impactful thing you can do is consume less meat and where possible eat locally sourced produce. Meat such as beef, lamb, and farmed prawns and fish, have high carbon footprints, which means that they emit more greenhouse gas.
You can also ditch transport that consumes a lot of fuel, for example, where possible walk or cycle for short distances. This will also help to make you feel better and get your recommended amount of exercise. You can also switch flying for public transport such as trains and buses.
Another simple change you can make is to reduce your shower times and turn off electricity sources when you aren’t using them. Even if you shorten your shower by 2 minutes, this might help to save 10 gallons of water. Turning off your electricity when you aren’t using it can help to save the planet and also your wallet.
If you’re looking for other ways you can prevent global warming and climate change, have a look at this article, all about how to save our environment.
Act Now and Protect Our Future
The quicker we act the more chance we have of protecting the planet and saving it for future generations. Educate yourself on the causes of climate change and follow our advice on how you can minimize your own greenhouse gases.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the main causes of climate change, why not check out some of our other environmental articles to see what you can do to help stop climate change?
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