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Global Warming: A Cause and Effect

We’ve all heard the terms before: global warming and climate change. There has been a lot of talk about it recently and we are seeing the effects of it every day. Just look at this past winter in the northeastern United States. Average temperatures were above normal and there was barely any snow! Global warming and climate change are terms for the rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system that we have been observing in the past few decades and the effect that it’s having. We are seeing these effects all over the world, some areas being more affected than others and other predicted to become extremely affected in the future.

Causes

The Earth’s climate system can warm or cool in response to changes in external forces. External forces are actors that are outside of the climate system. These forces are both natural and human-made. An example of a natural external force is a change in atmospheric composition from solar luminosity or volcanic eruptions. Human-made external forces creating changes in atmospheric composition include increased concentrations of greenhouse gases from manmade objects such as cars and buildings.

The recent global warming that we are seeing is a result of human-made external forces. The introduction of cars, buildings, and other technologies in conjunction with population growth over the past few decades has significantly increased the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere. These emissions are just continuing to rise overtime as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and land-use change.

The effects of global warming and climate change

Rise in temperature: As we saw this past winter, specifically in the northeast of the United States with the lack of snow and freezing cold days, the average temperature of the Earth is rising. We are mostly seeing this warming at high northern latitudes and over land.

Sea level rise: The rising temperature is having a significant impact on the sea levels. We are seeing the ice caps and glaciers at the poles melting and the water flowing into the oceans. During the past 20 years alone we have seen the sea level rise significantly.

Long term effects: Scientists have been studying climate change closely. They have made many predictions about what we can expect to see in the future if we continue to keep up emitting greenhouse gases at the current rate. If sea levels continued to rise we would start to see coastal towns and cities disappear. In a process called post-glacial rebound, which happens when land masses are no longer depressed by the weight of ice, we could start to see increased cases of landslides and seismic and volcanic activity. Submarine landslides caused by warmer ocean water thawing ocean-floor permafrost could cause tsunamis. While we don’t know all of the consequences that global warming will have, we have a pretty good idea of the horrible things to expect if we don’t start to work on the issue now.

What we are doing and what we can do

Stay tuned! This blog post is part one of three. Global warming is clearly a big problem that needs to be addressed immediately. The next post will look at how New York City, as one of the largest and most populous cities in the world, is specifically contributing to global warming and climate change. The final post in this series will look at how we can slow down and even stop global warming, looking at the Atelier in New York City as an example.