(ORDO NEWS) — Global warming is an increase in the average temperature around the world that has been going on since at least the beginning of record keeping in 1880.
Here are the figures given by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Between 1880 and 1980, the global annual temperature increased by an average of 0.07 C per decade.
Since 1981, the growth rate has accelerated to 0.18 C per decade. This has resulted in an overall increase in global average temperature of 2 C today compared to the pre-industrial era.
So far, 2016 is the hottest year on record. 2019 and 2020 were fractions of a degree cooler than 2016. In 2020, the average global temperature over land and oceans was 0.98 C warmer than the 20th century average of 13.9 C.
What causes global warming?
In short, people. The burning of fossil fuels has released greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which trap the sun’s heat and increase surface and air temperatures. Global warming is synonymous with climate change.
The hydrocarbons in the fuels burned warm the planet through the greenhouse effect, which results from the interaction between the Earth’s atmosphere and incoming solar radiation.
How do greenhouse gases cause warming?
The combustion of fossil fuels such as coal and oil releases water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), ozone and nitrous oxide (N2O), which are considered major greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is now the most common greenhouse gas.
According to an analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2016 CO2 accounted for 81.6% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US.
CO2 enters the atmosphere in various ways. The burning of fossil fuels releases CO2 and is by far humanity’s biggest contribution to the emissions that warm the globe.
What are the consequences of global warming?
Global warming means more than just warming itself. While the global average is getting hotter, this increase in temperature can have paradoxical consequences: for example, more frequent and severe blizzards, melting ice, the drying up of already dry areas, extreme weather events, and disruption of the delicate balance of the oceans.
Perhaps the most visible effect of global warming to date is the melting of glaciers. Ice sheets have been retreating since the end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago, but warming hastened their demise.
A 2016 study found that global warming caused the recent retreat of glaciers with a 99% chance. Glacier National Park in the US state of Montana had 150 glaciers in the late 1800s.
As of 2015, when the last full survey was conducted, there were 26. The loss of glaciers can lead to loss of life – when the ice dams holding back glacial lakes destabilize and collapse, or when avalanches caused by unstable ice bury villages.
Many already dry areas are expected to become even drier as the weather warms. The scientists found that the main driving force behind this phenomenon was an increase in water evaporation from hotter and hotter soil. Most of the precipitation that falls in these arid regions will disappear.
Hurricanes and typhoons are expected to become more intense as the planet warms. Hotter oceans evaporate more moisture, which is what drives these storms.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that even if the world diversifies its energy sources and moves to a lower fossil fuel economy (known as the A1B scenario), tropical cyclones are likely to be 11% more intense. This means more wind and water damage on vulnerable coastlines.
Some of the most immediate effects of global warming are hidden underwater. The oceans act as carbon sinks, which means they absorb carbon dioxide. This is good for the atmosphere, but not good for the marine ecosystem.
When carbon dioxide reacts with seawater, the pH of the water decreases (that is, it becomes more acidic) in a process known as ocean acidification. This increased acidity corrodes the shells and calcium carbonate skeletons on which many marine organisms depend for their survival. According to NOAA, these creatures include clams and corals.
Corals in particular are considered a coal mine canary for climate change in the oceans. Marine scientists have noted alarming levels of coral bleaching—that is, corals are crowding out symbiotic algae that provide them with nutrients and give them vibrant colors.
Bleaching occurs when corals are stressed, and high temperatures can be stressors. In 2016 and 2017, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia was repeatedly bleached. Corals can survive bleaching, but its repeated episodes make survival less and less likely.
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