Climate change has a variety of causes, both natural and man-made. However, the past two hundred years have seen changes to the climate occurring more rapidly than ever before. This is predominantly attributed to global warming which in turn was caused by the burning of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution. The subsequent discharge of greenhouse gases and particulate matter also cause a selection of associated processes which also contribute to climate change.
Scientists have used data from ice cores, and other resources to record the world’s climate for the past 800,000 years. This record shows the changes in temperature, rainfall and sea level that have happened within this time. This cycle of rising and fall is due to an intricate system of events such as solar activity, sea currents, polar ice caps, and atmospheric pressure gradients. Events like meteor strikes and volcanic eruptions have significant effects on the global climate and have been proven to trigger the onset of an ice age. While changes to Earth’s climate have always happened, the frequency of this change in the past two hundred years is alarming scientists and governments around the world.
Global warming has been linked to the rapid change in climate observed since the industrial revolution. The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases which subsequently trap more of the sun’s heat in the planet’s atmosphere. This increases global temperatures causing a selection of other impacts that may affect the climate. Among the most serious impacts of global warming is the melting of ice caps in the south and north poles. Both of them are important in regulating the planet’s climate by keeping polar albedo (the manifestation of solar energy back to space) and the ocean currents that affect major weather systems. As the ice melts heat is reflected, and the planet gets warmer. Fresh water entering the sea in massive volumes can also change ocean currents, further impacting weather systems leading to changes to the world’s climate.
Changes to the surface of the world’s land masses also have been shown to affect climate. Deforestation, urban development, and agricultural practices all change the quantity of the sun’s heat reflected or absorbed by the surface. The carbon cycle can be disrupted; leading to less atmospheric carbon being sequestered, further increasing global warming that contributes to climate change.
The burning of fossil fuels releases particulates into the air causing acid rain. The particles in the air may also reduce global warming by reflecting sunlight before it reaches the planet’s surface. This practice is referred to as global dimming and has really been proven to counteract the causes of climate change in some cases. Scientists have suggested purposely releasing sulfur particles into the stratosphere to increase the quantity of sunlight reflected back to space. Even though this would slow climate change, there are a lot of negative impacts, especially on the health of living animals from the high levels of particles in the air that they breathe.
Even though the world’s climate is affected by a complex system of natural processes, global warming is the principal cause of recent climate change. Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, therefore cutting greenhouse gas generation is the most significant action that people can take to minimize climate change.