You can’t escape the topic of changing weather conditions these days. We’re either experiencing or reading about extreme conditions in one form or another:
- Severe hurricanes
- Extreme snowstorms
- Heatwaves and drought conditions
- Rising oceans
- Increased incidents of air pollution
But even with all the inescapable evidence of our changing environment, the question remains:
Is it global climate change, or global warming?
Climate Change vs. Global Warming
Since the dawning of the industrial revolution of the late 1700’s through the mid 1800’s, mankind has found increasingly efficient (and profitable) methods of producing goods utilizing automated processes and machinery.
The problem is – these modern methods and equipment require energy to make them run, resulting in the burning of fossil fuels to operate plants and to transport goods produced. Along with our cherished trucks and automobiles, the result has been excessive amounts of pollutants and greenhouse gasses being dumped into the unsuspecting environment.
Eventually, the compounded impact of these gasses has taken its toll on Earth’s climate, which is what we’re experiencing today. Until recent years, the term “global warming” was used to describe the phenomenon, based on the observation that ocean temperatures were rising, and year-to-year temperatures were gradually heading up, as well.
Climate scientists now officially agree overwhelmingly (97%) that climate change not only exists, but that it is anthropogenic in nature (manmade). The scientific “Consensus on consensus” presents the collaborative opinion that humankind’s activities are a primary cause of these extreme shifts in our environment.
The “global warming vs. climate change” shift was a recognition that the changing environment can result not only in disappearing ice and snow masses and rising ocean temperatures, but may also result in other extreme weather events such as severe snow storms and intense hurricanes.
So What are the Causes of Climate Change?
While naysayers have for decades pointed to instances of sporadic cold temperatures, blizzards, and even winter hurricanes in denial of global warming, the scientific evidence of climate change is now undeniable.
As recently as March 2017, NASA climate change scientists discovered an unprecedented record low level of sea level ice in both the Arctic and Antarctica.
Droughts and desertification (expansion of desert-like conditions) have resulted in loss of acreage for farming and producing essential crops for human consumption and raising livestock.
Wildfires in California have destroyed thousands of acres, along with many homes and businesses, fueled by dry underbrush and powerful winds that spread flames quickly.
As evidence of environmental conditions expands, it has become much more accurate to describe the phenomenon as climate change vs. global warming.
Some primary causes of climate change are inherent in modern lifestyles and manufacturing processes:
- Generation of electricity from plants powered by fossil fuels such as coal and oil
- Automobile and truck emissions
- Greenhouse gasses emitted by agricultural and industrial processes
Although there are now regulatory controls in place in some countries that limit the volume of pollutants that are “acceptable” from power plants and industrial sites, there are many developing countries that still pay little heed to such concerns.
Car and truck manufacturers are now closely regulated by such agencies as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for pollutants that internal combustion engines may leave behind. Manufacturing plants that release particles into the atmosphere are similarly regulated in the application of devices such as “scrubbers” that capture pollutants before they can be expelled into the environment.
But not all countries are as focused on environmental issues, especially those where economic development is their primary concern/
What Can We Do About It?
One of the key areas that environmentalists and climate scientists focus on for combating climate change is alternative energy solutions. Energy-efficient products such as appliances and electric or hybrid vehicles are now important factors in consumer purchases.
Most developed countries are seeing a significant increase in the development and use of solar energy. U.S. homeowners and businesses are taking advantage of the unlimited availability of clean power, with increasingly efficient and cost-effective panels. Even utility companies are harnessing the sun’s power to generate significant levels of electricity for entire communities.
China is also investing heavily in solar energy, with an expectation of providing economic growth and 13 million jobs in the renewable energy market. This transforms the energy dilemma into a financial opportunity.
In some areas, wind power is a realistic alternative to fossil fuel-burning power plants. Wind turbines are much more efficient than in the past, and excess power generated can be stored in battery arrays for use when there is reduced wind availability.
Utilizing the head sources that occur naturally beneath the Earth’s surface can be an effective energy source. Many homes already utilize this energy resource for both heating and cooling.
Efficiency and reliability of battery-powered or electric/hybrid vehicles have increased demand for such automobiles in recent years. No longer utilized only for urban commuting, even all-electric automobiles are now capable of cruising ranges of 300 miles and more.
International energy pacts such as the Paris Agreement signify the recognition of many nations that the time has come for real energy solutions to combat climate change.
With commitment from nations and individuals, and focus and direction from the scientific community, perhaps we have an opportunity to reverse the negative impact we’ve had on our planet.