I am not going to lie, but two months ago I did not know what “climate change” was nor did I care much about it. What I do know is that our home planet has changed compared from 15 years ago; I do not like the changes. 20 years ago, winter in December was beautiful with a lot of snow. I have this group picture of my family, I think it was back in the year 2000, where we’re laying on 7-foot snow. Today, snowfall in New York City is very minimal and that is quite sad to me. Some people hate the snow, but imagine never having snow again 50 years from now? It’ll be worse for future generations because they won’t get to experience the snow, especially for the Christmas holiday. Well, we can help by being more aware and doing something about it. I thank my professor, Dr. Reginald Blake, for enlightening me on how climate change is important and how our anthropogenic tendencies drive climate change. According to the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), humans are the main cause.
The term, “anthropogenic tendencies drive climate change,” means that human activity contributes to climate change and there are many factors which affect our climate. One of these factors is, according to Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), known as radiative forcing which “include changes in greenhouse gases, small airborne particles (aerosols), and the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface.” CSSR stated that “…In the industrial era, human activities have been, and are increasingly, the dominant cause of climate warming…” and that these activities have extremely exceeded the natural factors affecting climate change. Not only are human activities a major part of climate change, but also the tremendous growth of the human population is an issue as well as it increases fossil fuel use to support them.
According to IPCC, “human activities result in emissions of four principal greenhouse gases…” which includes carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and the halocarbons. During the industrial era, these gases amassed in the atmosphere and have continued to increase due to human activity. IPCC stated that fossil fuel use in “transportation, building heating and cooling and the manufacture of cement and other goods” has increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with deforestation also being a culprit. Methane has increased due to agriculture, natural gas distribution, and landfills. Fertilizer usage and the burning of fossil fuels produces nitrous oxide. The concentrations of halocarbon gases have increased mostly due to human activity. Ozone is a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere that is repeatedly produced and destroyed by chemical reactions. The ozone has increased through the release of gases in the troposphere, these gases include carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxide which chemically react together to produce the ozone. The release of halocarbons have destroyed the ozone in the stratosphere which has caused a hole over Antarctica. Human activity also has indirect influence over climate change too. If human activities are causing the climate to become warmer, there will be less water vapor produced due to chemical destruction in the stratosphere. Water vapor is the “most abundant and important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere” as stated by IPCC. Surface mining and industrial processes have increased aerosols in the atmosphere. Aerosols are categorized by composition like sulfate, black carbon, organic, nitrate, dust, and sea salt.
As I mentioned above, we have caused a lot of damage going back to the industrial era. Everyone needs to understand that climate change isn’t simply a part of nature and realize the part human activities have played.
- IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
- Fahey, D.W., S.J. Doherty, K.A. Hibbard, A. Romanou, and P.C. Taylor, 2017: Physical drivers of climate change. In: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 73-113, doi: 10.7930/J0513WCR.
- Earle, S. (2015). Physical geology. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.