How is the environment changing? Many scientists believe the most important environmental issue of our time is anthropogenic (human-caused) global climate change.
Climatologist Wallace Broeker stated the “climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.” We assume our climate is stable but our actions may be stirring it to dramatic and sudden changes.
Throughout the centuries, we know the climate shifts somewhat; however, we usually suspect very little changes during our lifetime.
Is Our Environment Changing?
Thoughts on whether humans might alter the world climate is not a new concept. In 1859, John Tyndall described the greenhouse effect when he measured the infrared absorption of a variety of gases.
In addition, in 1895, the Nobel Prize winner for his work in chemistry, Svante Arrhenius, predicted that global warming could be caused from releases of carbon dioxide from burning coal.
Earth’s climate is very complex. Climate scientists around the world collaborated in collecting and sharing data in order to make models that describe how our climate system works. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a collaboration of governments from 130 countries. Their goal is to review scientific evidence on the causes and effects of human-caused climate change.
Evidence That Our Environment Is Changing
The following are observed effects and expectations:
- Rising sea levels — In the past century, sea levels have risen worldwide roughly six to eight inches. Close to one-quarter of this increase is due to melting glaciers.
- More storms – Storms have become more damaging and stronger. We are experiencing extreme snowfall, rainfall, hurricane frequency, and more. Our warming oceans and forceful atmospheric circulation are having an effect on the weather around the globe.
- Disappearing ice – Ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula are breaking up and rapidly disappearing. Greenland’s ice is also melting at an accelerating rate.
- Wildlife and pests – Biologists report that animals and plants are extending their range into new territory or breeding earlier.
- Coral reefs – Coral reefs are “bleaching.” They are losing the colorful algae they rely on for survival. Reefs are threatened by over-fishing, pollution, and other stressors.
Why Are There Disputes Over Climate Evidence?
There are disputes pertaining to climate change evidence, issues, and concerns.
Part of the reason people dispute that our environment is changing due to human activity is the lack of information.
People also feel threatened when forced to make changes — we tend to dispute it or ignore it rather than acknowledge it.
Another reason is that most people tend to look at one or two major events, like especially cold or snowy winters in their local area, rather than how scientists observe trends in data.
Television commentators, newspapers, and talk radio sell more and get a larger audience by broadcasting colorful opinions from those who oppose and dispute climate change.
Land. Water. Fire. Ice.
These elements are basic ingredients that make up planet Earth.
Take a moment to admire the magnificent spectacle of our stunning home planet from the perspective of space.
Produced by our colleagues at NASA’s Global Climate Change website http://climate.nasa.gov/
Find Out What You Can Do
Allocate a little time for yourself to read material, view photos and videos; visit websites that provide facts and evidence that the environment is changing.
Find out what you can do to help sustain our changing environment.