Man made climate change seems to be a term bandied about by everyone, the world over. As an American, living abroad, I feel well qualified to say that. Here in Scotland, people like to joke that global warming will just mean the weather will be a little less brutal. We’re optimistic that way. The truth is, between gale force winds and summer temperatures in the fifties Fahrenheit, a temperature rise sounds like a pretty good deal to us. But that’s not how climate change works. And, whether you believe in man made climate change or simply the long-term cycles of nature, rising global temperature is no joke.

Many nations of the world agree, and signed on to the the Paris Climate agreement, a compact to reduce greenhouse gasses and mitigate man made climate change to within a few degrees. But, we’ll get to more of that a little later.

Many have proposed ditching the old term “global warming” and renaming the phenomenon “global weirding.” From unseasonable weather to extreme climate events, the evidence is all around us: our planet’s weather is changing. This can mean unpredictable weather, shifting weather patterns, and natural disasters that are both worse and more frequent. It might mean things get warmer in some places. They might also get colder in others. And in others things might just get, well, intense.

Weather Wierding

Take the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the costliest hurricane season in recorded history, causing over $280 billion dollars in damage, and killing thousands. In addition to the three hurricanes that slammed into the east coast of the United States one after another — Harvey, Irma, and Maria — there were 10 more hurricanes and 17 storms large enough to merit a name. It was only the second season on record to have two category 5 hurricanes make landfall, and the only season where three hurricanes had an accumulated cyclone energy of 40.

If thats not weird enough for you, what about the 2017 California firestorm? This series of over 250 wildfires up and down the West coast of the United States burned hundreds of thousands of acres and forced over 90,000 people from their homes. Nature repeated its performance in 2018 and turned up the volume. 2018 was the deadliest and costliest fire season yet, with 8,527 fires that ate up nearly 2 million acres and caused $3.5 billionin damages alone.

Man Made?

But are these disasters due to man made climate change? NASA certainly thinks so. Numerous other scientific and governmental agencies agree, from the American Meteorological Society to the U.S. National Academy for Sciences. Whether you believe in man made climate change or not, though, it’s difficult to deny that change, all around us, is afoot.

A Man Made Response to Man Made Climate Change

The Paris Climate Agreement has, as its goal, to keep the global temperature to within two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The agreement also aims to help countries deal with the changes in climate that are already affecting us. But two degrees? How serious can that be? Turns out, it’s pretty serious.

Increase in global temperature

city with orange clouds

The surface temperature of the earth has risen by 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the latter part of the 19th century, according to NASA. This has resulted from an increase in CO2 and human emissions into the atmosphere, most of which took place during the last 35 years.

The Environmental Defense Fund is a US-based nonprofit organization known for advocating global warming and ecosystem restoration. They believe that man made climate change — specifically deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels — has caused this global temperature rise.

A global temperature rise of a few degrees doesn’t just mean it feels that few degrees hotter. It disrupts the natural order of the ecosystem. Rising temperatures mean more evaporation of ocean water, as well as warmer ocean water, and this spells disaster. As a result, we have more storms of all kinds, and those storms are more intense. In other parts of the world, there are longer and more frequent droughts. Storms and droughts bring other sorts of disaster, from floods to fires to mudslides, and more.

Ocean acidification

ocean

The ocean isn’t merely becoming warmer and evaporating. It’s also becoming more acidic — 30 percent more acidic. And human activity, specifically CO2 emissions, have made this happen. Acidification is killing off coral reefs and the plankton that feed fish and other sea animals. 252 million years ago, ocean acidifcation caused the largest ever mass-extinction. Some believe it may cause another one. And this is a direct result of man made climate change.

Warmer oceans, glacier retreats, and shrinking ice sheets

melted ice

Increased temperature has led to heat being absorbed into the oceans, the melting of the polar ice caps, and a decrease in mass in the ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic.

Melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have contributed to a 1.5 meter rise in the sea level around the world. Again, this doesn’t just mean that the ocean is a few feet deeper. Sea levels rise and the water gets warmer, too. This means the potential for disastrous flooding in coastal areas, along with an increase in storm events.

But is it man made climate change? Skeptics may disagree, but many scientists believe that human activity is directly to blame.

What do You Mean by Man Made?

Man made climate change comes down to human activity, specifically CO2 emissions. And as the earth’s population grows by leaps and bounds, these emissions grow by leaps and bounds as well.

The effects of population growth

population

Two hundred years ago, fewer than a billion people walked the earth. Now humanity is over seven billion people strong. By 2088, some predict the population will reach eleven billion. A larger population means more people sharing the Earth’s already-stretched resources — and these include fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels: fueling man made climate change

Scientists call carbon dioxide a “greenhouse gas.” What they mean is that CO2 and other greenhouse gasses like methane trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the earth’s temperature to rise worldwide. We release greenhouse gasses by burning fossil fuels for everyday activities like driving a car (or having a car deliver our online orders), flying in airplanes, and generating electricity. When we release these gasses, they don’t just go away. According to NASA, they stay in our atmosphere for a very, very long time. Fossil fuels are the primary cause of man made climate change.

What do Skeptics Say?

Although 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the global rise in temperatures is largely due to human activity, some people remain skeptical. Some argue that our climate has changed before — behold, the comings and goings of various ice ages. Others argue that more and stronger weather events are anomalies and therefore no big deal. And still others are ready to say that arguments for man made climate change are nothing more than scientists playing politics. Some argue that climate change exists, but not man made climate change.

What Do We Do Now?

Can one person solve the problem of man made climate change? Can one government? Probably not. This is one problem that’s going to take all of us. But there are some concrete, achievable ways that we can help.

Limit your meat consumption

The United Nations estimates that around 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from raising food animals. Other estimates put that number up as high as 51 percent. Beef accounts for a great deal of this number. By limiting — or, better yet, eliminating — meat consumption, you help to limit greenhouse gasses.

Turn your thermostat up (or down)

Of course people need to heat their homes in the winter. And more and more, deadly heat means air conditioning is a lifesaver. But outside of temperature extremes, it’s more environmentally friendly to put on a sweater (or take one off). Residential climate control burns fossil fuels at an alarming rate, and is another primary driver of man made climate change.

Shop local

Everyone loves ordering online. It’s so convenient, often you can find exactly what you want, and when packages rain from the sky, it can feel like your birthday all over again. But every delivery means another trip by a gas-powered vehicle. And that means more CO2 emissions than ever. More delivery vehicles also mean more traffic, congestion, and air pollution. Why not take the bus to a local store instead? You’ll help the environment, and you’ll help local businesses, too.

Support a carbon tax

Nobody likes taxes, but a carbon tax can be a powerful tool to help fight man made climate change. How? A carbon tax is a voluntary tax. That is, it taxes products and services according to the CO2 emissions that they produce. That means that when people choose low-carbon products and activities, the tax will be lower. However, when they choose high-carbon products and activities, they will pay more. By putting a price on things that result in high carbon release, it encourages people to buy less of them — and encourages manufacturers to find greener ways to bring their products to market.

Natural Shifts or Man Made Climate Change: Does it Matter?

Few people deny that our climate and weather are shifting. Is this part of Nature’s long-term pattern, or something that we’ve brought upon ourselves? Many would argue that the origin of the problem doesn’t actually matter. What matters is the problems that these changes are causing right now, around the world before our eyes. And whether or not these changes come down to human activity, as 97 percent of climate scientists agree, we have the power to predict, to plan, and to survive. But we have to act now.

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