What is Global Warming?
Global Warming is one of the terms used to describe the way the Earth’s climate has changed in the last hundred years or so, most significantly as a result of human activity. Our climate naturally exhibits long cycles of temperature and moisture, but it is clear that since the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s the Earth has been changing at a rate faster than humans or other life forms may be able to accommodate. The Earth has warmed by 1.4 degrees F (0.8 degrees C) in the past century, primarily because of the gases we pump into the atmosphere when we extract and burn fossil fuels — mainly coal, oil, and natural gas — to drive our cars, heat our houses, power our appliances, and manufacture things.
The Greenhouse Effect
The unique composition of gases in Earth’s atmosphere is what makes it the only planet in our solar system that currently supports life. Certain of these gases — carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, and a few others — trap sunlight and inhibit its radiation back to space as heat. This is called the Greenhouse Effect, because it is just like the glass in a greenhouse trapping sunlight and keeping the plants inside warm. The burning and extraction of fossil fuels emits these greenhouse gases and has increased their amounts in the atmosphere, thus enhancing the greenhouse effect and throwing off the energy balance of the Earth.
Global warming does not mean that each year is hotter than the last, or that every place on Earth is warmer than usual all the time. But by disrupting key climate drivers like ocean currents, global warming is changing the conditions in different places on Earth in different ways. It is creating many worrisome effects, from the melting of polar ice caps and inland glaciers, to rising sea levels, flooding in some areas and drought in others, loss of habitats, and more extreme weather events.
What Can We Do?
We cannot stop global warming because the CO2 we have already emitted will linger in the atmosphere for centuries. Before the Industrial Revolution the atmospheric CO2 level was stable at 280 parts per million (ppm). In 2013 we reached 400 ppm. If we take measures now to bring the level down to no more than 350 ppm we can restore the Earth’s energy balance. However, if we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate, we will likely reach a tipping point, beyond which climate change will accelerate out of control. This is why a global consensus has emerged that we must begin to reduce our CO2 emissions immediately.
We can help slow the rate of global warming by urging our governments and corporations to support alternatives to fossil fuels and adhere to stricter controls on pollution, by creating greater awareness of the issue among our fellow Earth-
dwellers, and by changing our own habits. Each and every one of us can make a difference by using less electricity and heat in our homes, by using alternative sources of energy when we can, by driving less, buying local products, and just generally consuming less stuff. We can change our lifestyle in many creative ways that will help the planet — and maybe enhance our lives, too. Kids are the most innovative members of our society, and The Global Warming Express was created by kids to share such ideas with other kids –because KIDS CHANGE THE WORLD!