Scientists are able to learn about past global temperatures and climates through geological research. This often involves identifying changes to land formations that have occurred over time. For instance, the last ice age can be observed due to studying how land formations were changed due to glaciers. Fossilized remains can also be an indicator of climate change; if a fossil from an animal that could only survive in a tropical environment is found throughout a certain region, carbon dating the fossil will indicate when the area would have been warmer.
Much of the current climate change is believed to be due to pollution and the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect refers to the layer of pollution that covers the earth. The reason this causes climate change in the form of global warming is that the earth gets all of its energy from the sun. The sunlight hits the earth, making it warmer, but generally the energy is able to also escape back into the earth’s atmosphere. However, if pollution covers an area, the sunlight will remain trapped, creating a warming trend. More energy enters the earth’s atmosphere than escapes it. This is what creates what is called the greenhouse effect, because this is the same mechanism that keeps the inside of a greenhouse warm. Sunlight enters, but is trapped and unable to escape.
The role that greenhouse gases have in current climate change is that they function as a layer trapping in heat. These gases are often produced in factories and other forms of industrial waste. Most forms of energy that rely on fossil fuels produce some sort of waste, and when this is released into the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect is created. These pollutive gases come from smokestacks, from automobiles, and from other types of manufacturing that largely rely on coal or oil to produce. In the long run, however, this damages the environment and causes the climate to change over time.
One piece of data that NASA shows to highlight climate change is data relating to the shrinking ice sheets in both Greenland and Antarctica, which are normally covered with thick sheets of ice. According to the NASA website (2018), both Greenland and Antarctica lost over 150 cubic kilometers, or around 36 miles, of per year during much of the last decade. The amount that is melting is large enough to be observable from space, as the amount of ice coverage in both Greenland and the Antarctic is visibly shrinking. This means that the temperatures are rising, because this amount of ice will only melt if climate change is occurring. If it were not occurring, the amount of ice might grow or shrink a little each year, but not on the scale it has been shrinking.
Climate change and global warming do not mean the same thing; global warming indicates that the world is becoming warmer, but climate change refers to the overall weather instability that occurs as a result. In my area, the expected impact of climate change is that droughts will continue to occur, and there will be less rainfall and snowfall over time. In turn, this will upset the ecosystem because both plant and animal life will suffer from the lack of moisture. If the trend continues, water will become increasingly scarce, and this might cause problems for the human population.
Overall, climate change has been proven by science, and unless something is done about it, this problem will not go away by itself. This is why it is important to research new forms of energy, because the current energy sources we use often end up hurting the planet.
- NASA. (2018). Climate Change Evidence. Accessible at http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/