The science behind what causes climate change is vast and sometimes complicated, as are the varying degrees of opinions as to its validity. Most scientists feel certain that climate change is both a naturally-occurring phenomenon, evident throughout the history of our planet, as well as an event made worse by recent human activity. Others are not so sure humankind has had any part in it, or at least can make any difference in stopping it from progressing.
All of this scientific debate and confusion had made the topic one of the most pressing questions of our era.
Imagine a greenhouse during the winter. Sunlight comes through the glass, warming the inside of the greenhouse, despite the cold outside. This is because the sun heats the inside of the greenhouse, its soil and plants faster than the heat can escape.
The same is true of the Earth's atmosphere. Our atmosphere traps most of the sun's energy within natural gases and radiates it back to us; this is what makes our planet warmer than other planets. Without this natural "greenhouse effect" our planet would be an average of 60 degrees colder and uninhabitable.
During the past 200 hundred years (since the Industrial Age), the amount of gases trapped within our atmosphere has increased between 18-148% as our dependence on fossil fuels has risen. An increase of these gases means more heat is trapped within our atmosphere, slowly rising the global temperature and potentially making our planet uninhabitable.
Here is a list of the many different natural occurrences that scientists say contribute to climate changes:
According to a Gallup poll, 48% of those surveyed feel the seriousness of global warming is "generally exaggerated".
Here is a partial list of the possible contributions made by man to climate change:
There is little doubt that our planet's temperature is slowly rising. There is also little doubt that there is an increase in greenhouse gases. But as to why this is happening and if there is anything we can do to stop or reverse it, is difficult to know with certainty.
Throughout history, science has repeatedly changed its mind as more information becomes accessible or interpretable. Centuries, even decades, from now we will likely know more about what causes climate change than we do today. Therefore, it may be considered impossible to know precisely what causes climate change now.
But what we can know is how we feel about the treatment of our planet and its resources - do we agree with deforestation or habitat destruction, a dependence on inefficient fossil fuels or a wasteful, disposable lifestyle? We can make changes to those practices, not because of what causes climate change, and regardless of whether our actions will or will not have a serious impact on climate change in the future.
We can live a sustainable lifestyle, not out of fear, but because we believe it's the right thing to do.
Knowing the facts and theories behind what causes climate change is great to help you formulate your own reasons for sustainable living, but the most important part is not where you stand on the issue; it's what you do to make a difference.
If you're ready to get started, I'd recommend the following Steps first:
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