In this article, we will be looking at the different causes of global warming. You will gain an insight into the natural and man-made causes of climate change. This process is arguably one of the most important issues affecting our planet today.
We can attribute the main cause of global warming to the greenhouse effect. But what actually is the greenhouse effect? Well, it’s a process where greenhouse gases within the earth’s atmosphere trap heat radiating from earth towards space. This process reduces the level of solar radiation that bounces off the earth’s surface and heads back into space. As a result of this, scientists have observed a change in the earth’s climate – with global temperatures rising.
Greenhouse gases (such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) are vital to our existence. Without them, our planet would not be able to support life as we know it. The problem is that human activity has artificially increased the levels of greenhouse gases contained within the earth’s atmosphere.
Most climate scientists agree that human activity is the main cause of the expansion of the greenhouse effect. We will now look at the different contributing factors towards the greenhouse effect and climate change.
The Burning of Fossil Fuels
When we burn fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and gas), we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This process is a prime example of how humans are artificially influencing the greenhouse effect.
Since the industrial revolution, we have seen a dramatic increase in the levels of fossil fuels that we burn. Scientists consider electricity production and transportation to be the biggest contributors to carbon pollution. It is only in recent times that we have come to understand the consequences of fossil fuel consumption. As a result, we are now generating more electricity from renewable sources than ever before. This change in habit is helping to mitigate one of the key causes of global warming.
Trees and plants help to regulate our climate. They do this by absorbing carbon dioxide in the air and releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. When deforestation occurs, there are fewer trees and plants to carry out this process.
Population increases mean that we now consume more raw materials than ever before. Timber is a valuable material used all over the world. Unfortunately, this timber needs to come from somewhere, and so deforestation occurs. As a result of this, we end up with more carbon dioxide and less oxygen in the atmosphere. This reduces the positive effect that forests can have on our planet.
Deforestation can also occur naturally as a result of forest fires. Such fires can reduce entire forests to ashes in a matter of hours. This process releases significant quantities of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere in the process. Most of these fires are caused by lightning strikes, but some are started as a result of human activity. This human activity can be either intentionally or unintentionally. Arsonists, poor land clearing practices and campfires are key examples of how human activity can cause forest fires.
Whilst deforestation is a significant cause of global warming, there are ways in which we can mitigate the effects of it. Many logging companies now engage in a sustainable practice where they plant more trees than they chop down. This not only helps the environment but also helps to ensure their business model is sustainable. By planting more trees than they chop down, logging companies have guaranteed a future supply of timber.
Farming has a bigger impact on climate change than you might think. Intensive cattle farming produces significant quantities of methane. This is a hydrocarbon gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect. Crop farming can also contribute to deforestation, with land needing to be cleared to make way for fields.
Linked with agriculture is the production and use of fertilizers. These products release nitrous oxide into the atmosphere – another greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Similar to our section on deforestation, urban development can be a cause of global warming. This occurs as a result of land needing to be cleared. The land in question might otherwise have been able to absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the atmosphere.
Sustainable urban development practices can help to reduce the impact that this process has on climate change. Environmentalists often prefer the re-development of wasteland over the development of the countryside. Trees, bushes, and shrubs can also be planted in urban areas. This process replaces any that construction companies might have chopped down during development.
With population levels increasing, so does the size of our landfill sites. The waste that we bury in landfill sites produces methane as it decomposes. As mentioned previously, methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
A change in our own attitudes towards waste can help to curb landfill expansion. We can reduce waste in landfill by consuming less of what we don’t need and recycling more of what we use. As a result of this, we can help to reduce the level of greenhouse gases contained within the earth’s atmosphere.
Volcanoes can have a significant impact on climate change. Major eruptions launch large amounts of volcanic gases into the atmosphere. Contained within these gases are significant levels of carbon dioxide – a key ingredient of greenhouse gases.
When it comes to volcanoes, it’s not all bad news though. Volcanic eruptions also release large quantities of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. This is a gas that can actually help to cool our planet.