Are you concerned about climate change? This is a question asked by people around the world as weather conditions become more extreme and cause more damage to areas inhabited by people, plants, and animals. Is human activity the cause of climate change? If so, what effect will this have on the planet? If the climate is actually changing, is there anything that we can do about it?
Scientists believe global warming is caused by human activity, and this leads to climate change. As fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and gas are burned to produce energy, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere. These CO2 emissions have a direct impact on air temperature by absorbing and retaining more energy from the sun. This is also known as the "Greenhouse Effect." Scientists have detected a measurable increase in both CO2 emissions and in the average air temperatures around the world over the last 100 years. The relationship between the two is clear, but ignoring the effects of global warming could have devastating consequences.
Worldwide, increasing air temperatures have resulted in more precipitation in some areas while other areas have become drier. The severity of strong storms and high winds has increased. Ice that normally remains intact year round at the north pole is melting, creating more open water which absorbs more heat. Permafrost in Canada and Greenland is also showing signs of melting. All of these events indicate a warming planet.
Meanwhile, climate change skeptics argue that a warming planet is not the result of human activity but due to other, natural causes. Some attribute a warming planet to increased solar activity; others admit that current weather conditions are noticeably different from normal patterns, but that this variability is due entirely to the natural rhythms of the planet. Some critics even go so far as to say that the scientists and the politicians who claim that climate change is a threat simply want to profit from efforts to curb it. Unfortunately, those most resistant to climate change theories live in the industrialized areas of the world that create the most pollution from greenhouse gases.
While the science is debated, the prudent thing to do now is to develop alternatives to coal and gas consumption. Not only does this improve air quality, it also becomes a source for new jobs and clean industries that produce solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Additionally, the construction industry has seen a boom in recent years of new, dense housing located closer to places where people work. It has also been shown that corporations and consumers can save money by recycling, by reusing once-discarded materials, and by reducing waste. Actions taken to reduce a carbon footprint become a "win" for all who are involved.
Ultimately, the truth of the situation will be revealed. Scientists acknowledge that the Earth's climate naturally changes over long durations of time; however, careful measurements of air and soil samples show that human activity has greatly accelerated climactic changes in a short amount of time. The planet is now covered with cities, highways, machines, and human beings whose activities are directly impacting the environment. To say that the presence of nearly seven billion people does not have an impact on the Earth's ecosystem is to live in denial of the facts and the evidence that prove the Earth's climate is, indeed, changing.
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Now you try it. Read the paragraphs above. If you have a microphone, you can record your voice and compare it to my voice.
Check your comprehension. Choose one answer for each question. Answers are below.
1. Where does solar energy come from?
A. electricity B. the sun C. the wind D. the ground
2. What is an example of a fossil fuel?
A. coal B. oil C. gas D. all of the above
3. What are some things that scientists monitor to show that the Earth is becoming warmer?
A. soil and air B. water C. people D. all of the above
4. How many people now live on the planet?
A. five billion B. six million C. almost seven billion
5. What is the abbreviation for carbon dioxide?
A. CO B. C2O C. CBO D. CO2
(Answers: 1. B; 2. D 3. A; 4. C; 5. D)
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