Earth has warmed and cooled again, and the climate has changed countless times throughout its long history. These natural occurrences were attributed to the planet receiving more or less sunlight with subtle shifts in its orbit, atmospheric or surface changes, or fluctuations of the sun’s energy. But in the last couple of centuries, another force has significantly begun to influence the Earth’s climate: humanity. The current climatic warming is happening much faster than past warming events.
With increasing evidence that it is already causing significant and harmful effects to our climate, our communities, and our health, the term “global warming” has been making headlines more than ever. Despite its popularity in the news, you might be struggling to understand what exactly global warming is, what it means for you, and why you should even care.
NASA’s Earth Observatory describes global warming as the abnormal rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature over the past century primarily due to the greenhouse gases released as people burn fossil fuels. To put this swift increase into perspective, the global average surface temperature rose 0.6 to 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.1 to 1.6° F) between 1906 and 2005, and the actual rate of temperature increase has almost doubled in the last 50 years. Even more alarming than that is that temperatures are certain to continue going up.
To truly understand how global warming works, you must understand the greenhouse effect, and distinguish the difference between the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and the enhanced greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the Earth’s surface. This occurs when the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere. Some of it is reflected back to space and the rest is absorbed and re-radiated by greenhouse gases (including water vapor, carbon dioxide [CO2], methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and other artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]). The energy that gets absorbed heats the atmosphere and Earth’s surface. This entire process maintains the planet’s temperature at approximately 33 degrees Celsius warmer than it would otherwise be, sustaining life on Earth.
The enhanced greenhouse effect is what scientists are concerned about and what has happened over the last 250 years. Humans have been artificially raising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at an alarming rate (primarily by burning fossil fuels, but also from cutting down carbon-absorbing forests). In fact, since the Industrial Revolution began in 1750, carbon dioxide levels have increased nearly 38 percent as of 2009 and methane levels have increased 148 percent. The atmosphere today contains more greenhouse gas molecules, so more of the infrared energy emitted by the surface ends up being absorbed by the atmosphere. The Earth’s surface temperature rises due to excess energy from a warmer atmosphere radiating back down to the surface.
Now that you more or less understand the scientific process, you can understand how climate changes in response to global warming could negatively impact our planet. Below we have outlined some (but certainly not all) of the top implications of global warming to help you understand how it could affect you and your family personally, the community, and the entire planet.
- Strong scientific evidence shows that global warming is increasing certain types of weather events, including:
- Accelerating sea level rise and coastal flooding caused by the majority of the world’s glaciers melting faster than they can be replenished by new snow and ice
- Heavier precipitation and flooding
- More frequent and intense heat waves with dangerously hot weather that can also have significant consequences for crop and meat production
- Higher intensity and more destructive force hurricanes
- Longer and more damaging wildfire seasons
- Climate change has significant implications for our health, such as air pollution and amplified allergy seasons
- Increased pressure on water supplies caused by severe droughts
- Higher concentrations of CO2 (due to the burning of fossil fuels) in the atmosphere makes the ocean warmer and more acidic which can threaten the survival of marine life (particularly corals, shellfish, and phytoplankton)
- The death of tens of millions of trees due to the climate-driven killing of tree insects, wildfires, and stress from drought
- A changing climate affects the range of plants and animals, changing their behavior and causing disruptions up and down the food chain. Many species’ habitats are also affected (i.e. polar bears)
These are only some of the many negative impacts of global warming and climate change. Hopefully, by now you understand how it affects your world and are even wondering what you can to help combat it. As a collective effort, in order to effectively address global warming, we must all drastically reduce the amount of heat-trapping emissions that we’re emitting into the atmosphere. On an individual level, we can each help by taking steps to reduce our own personal carbon footprint. Some of these actions include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Supporting the generation of renewable energy (either directly or by opting for a supplier that has environmentally-conscious energy solutions, like Kiwi Energy).
- Opting for eco-friendly modes of transportation like cycling, walking, using public transit, or carpooling in order to reduce the fuel you consume in transport
- Being more energy conscious and efficient (some basic tips for doing this are by upgrading the lighting in your home to LED bulbs, insulating and sealing your home, turning off lights that are not in use, unplug electronics or use a smart strip to minimize standby power consumption and proper maintenance of your thermostat)
- Reduce the amount of garbage that you throw away that will end up in landfills
- Reduce your food footprint by eating locally produced, organic food, minimizing your beef and dairy consumption, and composting your food waste
- Minimize purchases of new products, particularly resource-intensive, heavy, or heavily-packaged products
Next to fossil fuels, deforestation is also a big contributor to global warming. In fact, tropical deforestation accounts for about 10 percent of the world’s heat-trapping emissions. Reducing tropical deforestation can significantly lower global warming emissions and plays an integral role in a comprehensive long-term solution to global warming.
Global warming is real. The Earth is warming quickly, and we are the cause. The next steps of what we do about it are completely up to us. These are some actions we can take in our daily lives to reduce the number of carbon emissions we are each responsible for.
Kiwi Energy is committed to sustainability, environmental protection, and helping you reduce your carbon footprint. By providing innovative energy solutions for electricity and gas supply, we focus on environmentally conscious products and we support organizations and groups running environmentally friendly projects through the Ecogold Environmental Fund, including Wild Forests and Fauna, and Earthwatch Institute. For every new customer acquired by Kiwi Energy, a portion of the proceeds are donated to the fund.
We’re also very passionate about helping combat deforestation. In fact, our natural gas plan, Zero Gas, is 100% matched with Green-e Climate Certified Carbon Offsets, which Kiwi Energy purchases to ensure that the carbon emissions caused by a customer’s gas usage are offset from projects that encourage forestry and avoid carbon dioxide emissions.
Be sure to follow our tips for reducing your environmental impact and help create a more sustainable future for our planet. Playing your part to combat global warming and sign up for Kiwi Energy today.