Global warming. Climate change. Although it goes by various names and takes different forms, global warming is a very real issue ubiquitous to all parts of the Earth. Originally, it was thought that global warming was the consistent heating of the Earth over time, as a result of pollution and greenhouse gasses. Although this is partly true, there is much more to the issue than appears at first glance. Let’s explore the various types and causes of global warming.
One major issue that is becoming increasingly well-known is called the Greenhouse Effect. Greenhouse gasses, like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane are the root of this problem. Although these are naturally occurring to some degree, they attract energy from sunlight as it passes into the atmosphere. Further, they block Earth from radiating its heat into space. Thus, greenhouse gasses serve as an insulator for the planet — trapping in heat. This causes Earth to be warmer than it should be, and is a major cause of climate change.
This issue is only getting worse, as more and more greenhouse gasses are being added into the atmosphere through human activity. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 18th century, human activities have been contributing to greenhouse gas levels, and in turn climate change. Factories, cars, and other processes emit carbon dioxide and other gasses into the environment. This increases levels to higher than normal, and is really when the gasses start to be a problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the surface temperature on the Earth has been increasing.
Solar activity is another issue that contributes to global warming. Shifts in how much solar energy reaches the Earth, stemming primarily from changes in the Earth’s orbit, can affect the surface temperature as well. It can cause warming, during high intensity solar periods, or sometimes even cooling during periods of lower intensity. This extreme fluctuation of temperature is not healthy for the environment, and further causes problems associated with global warming.
The Earth’s reflectivity is another issue that leads to global warming. In particular, sunlight can either pass through the atmosphere, reach the surface and get absorbed, or get reflected by light surfaces with a high albedo. In addition to surface color, small particles in the atmosphere called aerosols can have an effect on reflectivity as well. Lighter aerosols, like volcanic debris, serve to cool the Earth by reflecting sun. Contrarily, darker aerosols absorb sunlight and further heat the Earth. All of these parts work together, contributing to global warming.