It’s the year 2050. Global weather patterns are erratic. Hurricanes and droughts battle each other in different regions across the globe. The temperature of the USA has risen 6 degrees Fahrenheit - an small number that controls almost every aspect of the ecosystem and human life. In the United States, staggering heat waves cripple the summers. Downpours and flooding continue to increase in both severity and frequency. Shoreline regions including Miami, who witnessed the effects of rising sea levels almost 40 years earlier, are desperate for solutions to the floods sweeping away their cities. Another 50 years and coral reefs across the planet teeter on the edge of extinction due to rising water temperatures. The loss of coral reefs sends the oceanic ecosystems toppling one by one. Fishing industries suffer; economies crumble. Overhead, the atmosphere is thick with the byproducts of human achievements over two centuries old.
Climate change is a real issue, and it is not one to brush aside. Every corner of the globe experiences its damage to infrastructure, human health, ecosystems, food supplies, economies, and land masses. Alas, the human race has already passed the point of no return. Due to the longevity of greenhouse gases, atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations would increase for hundreds of years into the future even if emissions stopped today. There is no denying that climate change has taken root. All we can do is aim to reverse the effects of this global issue before they rise to new extremes.
Climate change is caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas provides electricity and other services to the world. Nevertheless, this process produces gases which accumulate in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide create a thick layer of greenhouses gases. Ordinarily, Earth absorbs energy from the sun while the atmosphere traps some of this energy as it reflects off the Earth's surface. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, less heat is able to escape the atmosphere, resulting in climate change.
Today, the situation has hardly improved. With so many regions of the world relying on energy sources for modern amenities, fossil fuels will continue to be harnessed. Therefore, the quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has peaked. The current carbon dioxide level is higher than it has been for the past 800,000 years. Quantities of nitrous oxide have risen approximately 20% since the Industrial Revolution. While naysayers may claim that climate change is the result of increasing energy outputs from the sun itself, the converse is actually true. In the past 11-year cycle, solar output has been lower than it was in the mid-20th century, indicating that the cause of climate change is not natural, but a result of human activity.
The results of this warming world are grim. Patterns of precipitation will become severe and erratic. Coral environments which filter ocean water will suffer and eventually become extinct. Rising sea levels of up to four feet will swallow whole islands and coastlines, wiping them off the map.
There are a few ways to combat this issue, but they are often expensive and underfunded. Primarily, the world needs to begin using renewable sources of energy. Solar, geothermal, wind, tide, and even nuclear energy can produce electricity for the modern world. For the majority of top greenhouse gas emitters of the globe, these technologies are available. In 2014, the top five major emitters contributed towards two thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. The USA, taking second in this ranking, has the resources to become a non-fossil fuel nation, yet few actions have been taken towards this goal. If the United States does not set a standard for how climate change should be addressed, who will?
Climate change is an issue that affects all of us. If we do not act soon, we will be facing a future where there are no coral reefs and ocean life is thinning, where flooding and droughts are severe, where the human race is fighting for its survival against inhospitable climates.
Our planet and the livelihood of the human race depends on global efforts today.