Global warming is a phrase that most of us are now familiar with since it was brought to the media forefront with Vice President Al Gore’s book and subsequent movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Fluctuations in the Earth's temperature are inevitable due to decades-long ocean cycles.
But a growing body of scientific evidence indicates that since 1950...
the world's climate has been warming, primarily as a result of fossil fuel emissions and heavy deforestation around the world. Such activity adds to the atmosphere's invisible blanket of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases. The long-term warming trend over the last century has been well-established, and scientists immersed in studying the climate are projecting substantial disruption in water supplies, agriculture, ecosystems and coastal communities.
The Global Carbon Project's latest figures show that CO2 concentration levels have risen to 385 parts per million, far more than anticipated. In order to cap the increase in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) strongly suggests that countries should aim to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations at between 350 and 400 parts per million.
These figures and strategies to cap emissions will be a major point of discussion from December 7-18 at the international climate summit in Copenhagen. At an earlier United Nations conference, leaders have agreed that they will work toward an interim political declaration on climate change that stops short of a binding international treaty. Delegates are expected to pledge to complete work on a treaty next year in hopes of putting in place a new global agreement on fighting climate change.
China is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The United States while second, has less than 5% of the world’s population, but produces one-quarter of all greenhouse gases. At the international climate summit in Copenhagen, President Obama will tell the delegates that the United States intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions “in the range of” 17% below 2005 levels by the year 2020 and 83% by 2050.
While climate scientists agree the world is warming due to man’s activities, there are still large areas of conflict over how certain we can be about the predictions. Although we don’t know about the future, we are witnessing the melting of almost all the glaciers on earth, some slowly and others at an alarming rate. Countries, like Chile and Peru that are almost totally dependent on their glaciers for drinking water, are facing the prospect of very low to no water in less than 20 years. In essence, we should see climate change as “an insurance problem” – where we don’t know what will happen but acknowledge there are serious threats to human populations around the world. Further, entire habitats and their animals and plants are on the brink of disruption and demise. Many scientists and leaders throughout the world are advising action to be taken now. But what can be done at the local level to help alleviate such global peril?
Individual choices can have an impact on global climate change. Reducing your family's heat-trapping emissions does not mean forgoing modern conveniences; it means making smart choices, using energy-efficient products, and renewable technologies such as solar. The sun’s energy can be used to heat water, create electricity, and even run a solar air conditioner. Solar technologies require an additional investment up front, but with the government incentives currently offered, such investments can pay for themselves in a few years and give you decades of free electricity. Despite the enormity of the climate crisis, it is the individual choices and actions that will collectively make a difference in changing the future of global warming.
These choices are good for the wallet and good for the globe.