Global warming is a serious issue that affects current and future generations. As climate change progresses, it also speeds up, and it becomes harder and harder to reverse the effects of it. For this reason, it is important that the young people of our world understand the fundamentals of global warming, what causes it, and how to prevent it. This page serves as a source of information for high school students whose schools have not provided them with sufficient information about global warming.
Causes of Global Warming
The Greenhouse Effect
- The sun radiates heat that is absorbed by the earth.
- This heat is radiated back out into the atmosphere.
- Some heat gets trapped by the greenhouse gases and is radiated back towards earth.
- This effect is good and contributes to the natural warming of the earth, but with the increased amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the effect has become stronger than it should be, causing extra warming
- This extra warming is creating many negative effects on earth.
(Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership)
Greenhouse Gases & Where They Come From
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) comes from burning coal and other fossil fuels.
- Methane (CH4) comes from microbes in oxygen-poor environments and agriculture of cattle and rice.
- Nitrous Oxide (N2O) comes from nitrogen fertilizers, tropical deforestation, and burning of fossil fuels.
- CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) come from aerosols and leakage from refrigeration equipment.
Did you know?
- Global temperature has increased by 1˚C in the last 100 years.
- More than twice as much CO2 has been released than can be found in the atmosphere.
- The rest is taken up by forests or dissolved in the oceans. This leads to increased acidity of oceans which kills off fish and coral reefs.
- If CO2 doubled in concentration in the atmosphere, we would see a 3˚C increase in temperature.
- The temperature at the north pole is estimated to increase by 6.5˚C by 2100.
- Global climate change will not only cause an increase in temperature, but it will also lead to changes in precipitation patterns, more extreme weather such as heat waves and dry spells, and more natural disasters such as big storms, wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
- Many of the poorest nations will be the greatest affected by global climate change.
- As the globe warms, ecosystems and species will naturally move north, disturbing the ecological stability of our planet.
Human Health Impacts
Global warming is already having various detrimental effects on human health. Here are some examples:
- More heat waves –> increased death, disease, and injury.
- More frequent droughts –> increased food/water shortages, diseases, and malnutrition.
- More frequent storms –> increased death, disease, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Sea level rise –> increased death, injury, and displacement.
What You Can Do
There are many ways that you can individually lessen the effects of climate change. But first, let’s identify the difference between mitigative actions and adaptive actions.
Mitigation: Taking steps to prevent climate change before it happens.
Adaptation: Responding to climate change issues after they have already occurred.
As climate change is exponentially increasing in intensity and rate, it is important that we take mitigative actions as opposed to adaptive ones. Here are some examples of mitigative actions you can take in order to fight global warming.
- Reduce your energy consumption: Turn off lights/reduce wattage and unplug chargers.
- Save water: Take shorter showers and don’t leave the sink running.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator- it’s good exercise too!
- Walk, ride a bike, or use public transit instead of driving.
- Don’t leave your car idling- you’re wasting money as well as polluting the air!
- Buy a reusable water bottle.
- Send e-mails instead of letters.
- Avoid unnecessary printing.
- Plant trees!
Most importantly, get your school involved! Talk to a teacher about starting an environmental club. This is a great way to raise awareness of the issue of global warming, get other people to help, and collaborate with your peers and teachers to fight global warming.