If you turn on the news, read a newspaper or magazine, or surf the internet, you will see article after article about Global Warming. So what is Global Warming and why should we care? Scientists say that the earth’s temperature has been slowly rising. A few degrees doesn’t sound like much but the impact it has been having on the environment is clearly visible:
• polar ice caps are melting
• sea levels are rising
• huge lakes that sustain human and animal life are drying up
• animals are on the brink of extinction from depletion of ecosystems
• huge storms seem to be popping up everywhere
• an increase in forest fires
• greater spread of diseases
Some people argue that Global Warming is just a typical weather pattern that occurs every so often and we should not be concerned about it. Most scientists say it is real and believe it is being caused my human activity on the planet. What exactly is Global Warming and can we do anything to stop it or at least slow it down? Scientists believe it is being caused by the greenhouse effect.
The Earth receives energy from the Sun in the form of visible light. This light is absorbed at the Earth’s surface, and re-radiated as thermal radiation. Some of this thermal radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere, and re-radiated both upwards and downwards; that radiated downwards is absorbed by the Earth’s surface. Thus the presence of the atmosphere results in the surface receiving more radiation than it would were the atmosphere absent; and it is thus warmer than it would otherwise be.
The gases that surround our planet create a natural greenhouse much like the ones you see that grow plants. They keep warmth in which helps to warm our planet and without them our planet would be much colder. It is believed that burning fossil fuel and clearing vast areas of land has caused an increase in the concentration of these gases which is forcing more heat to the earth. The earth’s population continues to grow which in turn means more vehicles on the roads, more travelling, more electricity needs, more food to produce, more pollution and more factories.
These climate changes affect the whole planet. Australia has a dry climate but has recently been experiencing tremendous heat waves causing greater drought. Ecosystems are being threatened and long term damages are expected to coral reefs, ocean coastlines, rain forests, wetlands, and even alpine areas. Scientists and some world leaders argue about whether Global Warming is real or just a hoax to raise food and gas prices. Yet the evidence is hard to ignore and steps need to be taken now.
If nothing is done now then what will be left for our children and grandchildren? It is our responsibility to make changes now. One simple step we can take is to start using alternative energy and more energy efficient cars and appliances. Just changing the traditional light bulbs in your home to energy efficient bulbs makes a huge difference. We need to all do our part to save the planet NOW!
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