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Global Warming – The Facts

We all hear about it, all know the effects it’s having on our environment, but just what is global warming and do we really know all of the facts about it? Caused by the ‘greenhouse effect’ it is having a warming effect on the world’s average temperatures; and as the greenhouse gases accumulate, the Earth will continue to get warmer, which is what is resulting in the rapid climate change that are we are now witnessing.

The causes of global warming are due to Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which is one of the primary greenhouse gases. The increased amounts of CO2 that have been pumped into the atmosphere have been caused by the burning of fossil fuels (e.g. coal and oil) by power stations, cars and factories. They have also increased due to deforestation – as the wood dies in the forest, through things such as wood burning, the CO2 that they have taken in from the air is released back out into the atmosphere again. Equally, with fewer trees in forests, there is less CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere.

Emphasis has been placed on the energy used in homes as these are having a detrimental affect on the atmosphere. All the electricity we us to power our televisions, lights, computers and so on, is made primarily by the burning of coal. Additionally, when you drive to work in a morning you are also adding to the greenhouse affect, as cars are one of the major emitters of CO2.

What other gases contribute to the greenhouse effect?

Whilst CO2 is responsible for around half of the greenhouse effect, there are other gases that are contributing; these include methane, CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and nitrous oxide. Methane can be released in activities such as burning vegetation, coal-mining and oil exploration. However, the main source that releases methane into the atmosphere is agriculture.

Methane is emitted from paddy fields of rice and animals; cows are notorious for their production of methane due to their cud-chewing natures. The methane released into the atmosphere is only set to increase too; as the world’s population increases this will also mean an increase in agriculture. The alarming statistics can be seen in the fact that a 1% increase has been seen in the amount of methane in the atmosphere every single year since the 1960s, which is double the rate of CO2.

Nitrous oxide is produced through man-made processes, such as burning fossil fuels, burning forests, and nitrogenous fertilisers alongside natural processes such as animal and human excrement. This gas is currently responsible for 6% of the greenhouse effect.

CFCs are one of the most warming of gases as they are able to trap more heat. This type of gas is found in aerosols, fridges and air conditioners. Not only are they 10,000 times more efficient at trapping in heat than Carbon Dioxide, but they survive within the atmosphere for 110 years, 90 years longer than methane which survives just 10 years.

What are the effects of Global Warming?

Should the world continue to produce greenhouse gases at its current rate, there could be an average global temperature increase of around 1.5-4.5 degrees Celcius in just 18 years (2030).

This rise in temperature will be felt most predominantly in the pole areas of the Earth, with less affect in the tropics.

These potential increases in temperatures would make the worlds temperature higher than it has been for over 100,000 years. It will also be the fastest increase of temperature ever seen in history, with a smaller rise of just 3 degrees Celcius taking thousands upon thousands of years after the last ice age. Equally, if the temperatures continue to rise, it is thought that by the end of the next century the world may be too warm for human survival, reaching the temperatures that were on Earth when dinosaurs were around.

10 of the hottest years on record since the 1860’s have been witnessed in the past 15 years – so, maybe it’s time to use the roll-on deodorant, swap those lightbulbs for energy efficient ones and jump on your bike to work!

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