Understanding Climate Change

Climate change is the acceleration of a natural occurrence called the greenhouse effect. This greenhouse effect is caused when greenhouse gases (GHGs), mainly carbon dioxide, trap heat reflected from the Earth’s surface. Think of having a warm blanket on a cold night. Your body heat is trapped in the blanket, which warms you up. These GHGs get trapped by plants, then become released again when a fire comes and burns the plants away. Through this cycle, the planet has kept a balance where there is always the perfect amount of GHGs in the atmosphere.

When animals eat plants, the carbon in the plant gets stored in the animal. When the animal dies, the carcass is buried along with the carbon. Over thousands and thousands of years this carbon gets pressurized and becomes coal.

To create electricity, people dig up coal and burn it in a power plant. It is called a fossil fuel because it is formed literally from the fossils of prehistoric animals. The carbon and the energy stored in it fly up a huge barrel and past a generator. Energy pushes the generator and is converted into electricity. Although this method has been used for many years, it actually supports the instability of our planet. Remember the balance I was talking about before? This is achieved only because carbon dioxide is replaced in the atmosphere at the same rate as it is taken out. When humans release too much carbon dioxide, the planet gets warmer.

There are many other activities which release GHGs in excessive amounts, such as driving, manufacturing, creating plastic, deforestation, among others.

Some people say climate change isn’t real because the area that they live in is getting colder. This is a great argument, except that greenhouse gases are not evenly spread across the atmosphere. Let’s say that So-and-So’s state has been burning a lot of coal lately. The atmosphere and air heats up and rises. Cool air rushed in to replace it, bringing along clouds. These clouds build up and suddenly it rains spontaneously. This shows that climate change is real. It not only heats the planet up, but in some areas makes the weather sporadic and disrupts the natural climate in which plants, animals, and even people have become accustomed to. Some might say this is not a big deal, but it is. This “strange weather” phenomenon makes hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires more likely to happen. Additionally, many sports are in danger. Snow sports will be greatly reduced due to rising temperatures and melting snow. Soccer and tennis will be hard to play in some areas due to either rainy, freezing, or scalding conditions. Stronger winds will create bigger waves which will increase the likelihood of drowning.

It is too late to reverse climate change or its effects. Over time, the planet will heal. But this will only happen if you do something about it.

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