By Adaline Bisese
In 2007 Japan experienced dense smog in its cities and rural areas. The smog smothered citizens causing symptoms from burning eyes to coughing. Twelve years later, the smog has subsided, but its effects are ever present.
Smog, a combination of smoke and fog, covers areas globally. It happens when chemicals are released into the air during the burning of fossil fuels. The gases accumulate under certain weather conditions. These gases are often invisible to the human eye under most conditions and are made of the same gases known as ‘greenhouse gases.’
Greenhouse gases are gases emitted from the burning of fossil fuels as well as other natural processes. The most common gases in the atmosphere are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Where the gases originate from and the amounts present vary. Carbon dioxide accounts for about eighty-one percent of the total emissions as of 2016. Carbon dioxide is often a result of the burning of fossil fuels, timber products, and solid waste. It is used during photosynthesis by plants, but it has become excessively abundant in recent years as industrialization and demand for mass produced commodities increases. After carbon dioxide, ten percent of the gases are methane. The abundance of methane in the atmosphere is mostly a result of the agricultural industry. It originates from the decay of organic materials and livestock which has been increasing as the the world’s demand for meat and poultry products grows. As of 2016, Nitrous oxide accounts for six percent of the total greenhouse emissions. This gas is a result of the same processes of methane. The last gas is actually a group of gases called fluorinated gases produced during industrial processes. They account for only about three percent.
Although the majority of greenhouse gases come from human production and use of fossil fuels, a small percentage does come from natural occurrences. Volcanoes, when erupting emit toxic gases. The position of the earth relative to the sun, sun spots, and solar winds also play a role in the recent warming of the earth. The total emissions from natural sources are only partially to blame for the recent rise in temperature as they only account for about two percent of the total gases in the atmosphere.
The earth has gone through periods of warmth and cold over millennials. One of the most well known times of change was the Ice Age, which began around 20,000 years ago. An ice age is a cold period on earth where a large part of the planet is covered by ice. In recent years, the glaciers that have, in the past, covered the northern and southern poles of the earth, are melting. This melting is partly due to greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases retain the heat of the sun within the earth’s atmosphere so that life on earth can thrive. Without greenhouse gases, the earth would be considerably colder. In fact the temperature would be an average of sixty degrees cooler. Since the industrial revolution, emission of gases that make up what are called greenhouse gases have risen steadily and continue to accumulate.
The buildup of greenhouse gases from humans’ overuse of fossil fuels has lead to an increase in global temperature. On average, the earth’s temperature has risen one degree in the past decades. One degree doesn’t seem to be a considerable change, but one degree has affected the environment. One of the known changes has been a continual rise in sea level. Glaciers are melting at faster rates than ever recorded in human history. Greenland and Antarctica are losing chunks of their glaciers as they disintegrate into the warming oceans. The melting over the past three decades has caused the level of the oceans to rise one hundredth of an inch each.
In the future, sea levels are projected to rise as much as twenty six inches. By the year 2100, coastal cities might be submerged. Millions of people will be displaced. The destruction will cost countries trillions of dollars in repairs. A slight rise and fall in sea level is inevitable, but large scale change does not have to be.
The best way to help the planet is limiting the amount of fossil fuels each individual uses. Reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released can help regulate the changing temperature. Therefore, instead of driving separately and emitting two to three times the necessary carbon dioxide, try to carpool with others to work, school, or a public event. Attempt to limit the support of international companies that refuse to closely follow environmental guidelines, or ones that manufacture products using large amounts of fossil fuels. Lastly, raising awareness regarding climate change and its effects on the planet is imperative to inspire action.
It is pertinent to acknowledge the state of the changing climate. Only once the residences living on the planet correct their ways can the earth continue to thrive for generations to come.