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Climate Change: Our Overcrowded World

Overpopulation and human habits have led to climate change, wreaking havoc on Planet Earth. New York Times writer Arthur H. Westing wrote, “Population is a double-barreled environmental problem—not only is population increasing; so are emissions per capita.” The overpopulation and amount of emissions per capita are leading to serious climate issues. According to Professor Ben Santers, the earth’s surface warmed by about .74°C per year over the last 100 years making the 20th century the warmest in the past 2 millenniums. Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) increased by roughly 30% since the 1850s and is now at higher levels than at any other time in the last 650,000 years (Santers). As Santers said, “there is natural a fluctuation in climate on Planet Earth, but humans have greatly sped up the process.” Greenhouse gases and fossil fuels damage the environment and pollute the atmosphere. Air pollution is a prime contributor to the climate change. Humans release greenhouse gases and fossil fuels just by engaging in routine tasks such as driving a car. Professor Santers said that “we have dug ourselves a hole” in the air pollution department. However, the damage can be undone. He says that if the world can become smart enough to “do the right thing,” future generations could inherit a cleaner and healthier planet.
As time progresses, scientists are beginning to understand more about how climate change affects Earth. The majority of the heating of the earth takes place in the northern hemisphere. To make these discoveries and observations, scientists are using what is called “fingerprint evidence,” meaning compiling rigorous statistics and making data comparisons (Santers). For example, over the last 35 years, the annual temperature rise in the sub-Arctic area has been three to five times as great as in the world as a whole—up to 5 degrees (The Change in the Weather 132).
Much of this heating is attributed to greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are gases in the atmosphere that allow most solar, short-wave radiation to pass through. They trap much of the long-wave radiation, causing the atmosphere to warm (Population Matters). Because the same process occurs in a greenhouse, this phenomenon is referred to as “the greenhouse effect.” The New York Times reported that “In 1970, when worldwide greenhouse gas emissions had just begun to transgress the sustainable capacity of the atmosphere, the world population was about 3.7 billion; today it’s about 6.9 billion — an increase of 86 percent. In that same period, worldwide emissions from fossil fuels rose from about 14 billion tons to an estimated 29 billion tons — an increase of 107 percent.” In an article in Scientific America, David Biello writes, “greenhouse gas is our biggest pollutant,” and blames the gases for the planet’s rapid heating. As the evidence of overpopulation effecting climate change came to light, scientific media originally called the process “global warming.” Today, the more accurate term is “climate change.”
The subject of “global warming” carries a lot of weight. It is often a sensitive topic. Detractors claim it is a fraudulent idea and, more or less, a myth. However, countless studies have revealed that global warming is a serious issue. During the studies, scientists determined that, in addition to the constant warming, “sea levels have risen by an average of 1.75mm per year over the last 100 years (Population Matters).” Satellite image measurements suggest that the rising sea level rate has increased to about 3.1mm per year (Population Matters). Thermal expansion of water causes the melting of glaciers and ice sheets, resulting in rising sea levels. Many environmental scientists conclude that the relatively recent spike in climate change is due to human activity and overpopulation.
In an interview with The Independent, Professor John Guillebaud said, “Unless we reduce the human population humanely through family planning, nature will do it for us through violence, epidemics or starvation.” For example, scientists have recently concluded that the downfall of the Maya civilization in 800 A.D. can be attributed to rapid population increase. Maya had reached a population of over 60,000 people and the land was not physically capable of supporting a society of that many people (World Geography Building a Global Perspective). The entire world is now facing a similar problem; there are too many people on the planet, which has taken a toll on the environment.
Humans have contributed to dramatic climate changes more so than any other factor. As society becomes more focused on manufacturing products quickly and cheaply, the corporate world loses sight of other, more important subjects such as the quality of air. Factories release carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which pollutes the air. For decades, factories produced massive amounts of carbon dioxide and did so without regard to the repercussions.
Fuel consumption is a huge contributor to climate change. Most cars emit carbon dioxide, which leaves the earth polluted and endangered. Years later, the consequences are showing up across the globe. Similarly, building construction has damaged the environment. During a speech at Kansas State University, General Michael Hayden said, “most growth will occur in countries least able to sustain it.” The Sri Lankan deforestation proves his theory correct. Deforestation is the act of cutting down forests (and destroying many natural habitats for animals in the process). Deforestation has become an environmental threat, especially in developing nations. In Sri Lanka during the 1990’s, two-thirds of a forest that formerly covered the country was destroyed in the process of erecting commercial sites and homes (World Geography Building a Global Perspective).
As a result of climate change, glaciers are beginning to melt. Glaciers act as reservoirs, often for entire countries. Environmental scientists predict that, within 20 years, the Peruvian glaciers will be completely melted, threating the water supply, and in turn, the lives of millions of people (Population Matters). Consequently, as sea levels rise and become dangerously close to the cities, towns and countries, resulting in floods that could potentially wipe out entire civilizations.
Climate change warps seasons and sometimes blurs the lines between them. For instance: climate change causes bizarre weather conditions creating droughts in some areas and flooding in others. Those weather conditions have led to serious famine, property and natural habitat destruction, and death. Extreme weather changes are likely to become more common if current air pollution and deforestation continue. Major climate changes are likely to become more common if current levels of overpopulation continue leading to air pollution and deforestation.
The overwhelming cause for the devastating climate change is overpopulation. This year, the world welcomed its 7th billion baby. However, birth control is a delicate human rights issue. The Chinese government has attempted to limit families to one child per home, thus creating tremendous hardship for the Chinese people. Because population control is such an intensely personal human rights issue, government, scientists and social organizations can do little other than to educate the public about the perils of overpopulation.
There are, however, steps individuals and corporations can undertake to prevent climate change from advancing even farther. The simple choice to use public transportation can reduce pollutants. Driving a fuel-efficient car emits less pollution into the air. Scientists are working on developing ways for factories to use more environmentally friendly materials and processes. There is no one single thing that the world can do, however, a sense of individual awareness and accountability can secure the planet’s health and restore its future.
Overpopulation has created a major a problem for the planet. As more children are born, industries are increasing production and thus, destroying the environment. In an interview with Science Daily, Dr. Charles A. Hall stated, “Overpopulation is the only problem.” He fantasized about a world in which there were only “100 million people –or better, 10 million” and claimed that, if that were the case, “we would have no other problems.” However, the aforementioned fantasy world does not exist; in fact, on October 31 2011, the world’s population reached an estimated 7 billion people (Science Daily). The overpopulation issues, and in turn, climate change issues, are resulting in a loss of biodiversity and changes in food productivity. Eventually, the planet will run out of natural resources that were once abundant. The responsibility for solving the issues of overpopulation and climate change lies in the hands of individuals, corporations and the governments of leading nations.

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