Is Climate Change Caused by Human Action
Are humans responsible for climate change? While it is evident that climate change is a result of different factors which when combined produce a hazardous effect, human action is considered to be the main cause of global warming. Numerous studies show that various human activities produce gas that traps heat which results in most of the increase in globally averaged temperatures. Clearly, atmospheric warming and cooling did not begin with people. It used to occur long before the rise of humankind through natural activities, such as volcanic eruptions, changes in the sun’s intensity and the already existing gas in the atmosphere that would trap heat. However, despite this assumption, humans are said to be the most significant contributors to climate change through activities that put too much carbon in the atmosphere. These activities include burning coal, oil, and gas, as well as cutting down trees. This paper examines how human beings contribute to climate change and how their actions have a greater effect on global warming. It also shows how the human action complements the natural forces of global warming to have a worse effect on climate change.
Scientific evidence shows that there are signs of human causes of carbon overload. Human beings burn fossil fuels such as coal and oil to generate the energy required in everyday life like electricity and vehicle movement. As this combustion of fossil fuels takes place, carbon dioxide (CO2) – which is the main by-product – is released into the atmosphere. Since CO2 allows the solar radiation from the sun to reach the earth but prevents the thermal radiation from the earth from leaving the atmosphere, it causes the greenhouse effect. The carbon molecules that arise from deforestation and fossil fuels are lighter in nature than the same molecules from other sources (Mesarović 261). Over the years, as scientists measure the quantity of these lighter molecules, they record their ever increasing weight. This occurrence is a sign that human action indeed causes climate change.
The current extent of global warming cannot be attributed to the natural changes alone. Scientists use a computer model when showing the future climate. While making this prediction, they first ensure that the model accurately reproduces the observed shifts in temperature. When the models incorporate only the natural climate drivers that were recorded, such as the intensity of the sun, they cannot give an accurate reproduction of the warming that occurred in the past fifty years (Longobardi et al. 7). However, when they also include the human-induced drivers in the models, the model gives an accurate projection of recent changes in temperatures not only in the atmosphere but also in the oceans. Additionally, when the scientists compare the natural and the human-prompted climatic drivers, they realize a significantly larger accumulation of carbon that results from the human sources than from the natural sources. This occurrence shows that human action is the greatest driver of climate change for the past fifty years.
The section of the atmosphere that contains the load of carbon is expanding. According to Longobardi et al., since a couple of decades ago, the layer of the atmosphere that borders the troposphere and the stratosphere has been rising (16). This phenomenon is suspected to be due to an increase in the carbon in the lower layers of the atmosphere, which keep collecting and expanding due to the insulated heat. That forces the atmospheric layer to shift upward since the CO2, and other gases are matter that has mass, weight and occupy space. Additionally, since less heat makes its way out into the upper atmosphere, it is probably cooling. Such differential would not be possible if the main climate driver were the sun. If this were the case, the solar radiation would heat both the upper and lower layers of the atmosphere. There is no way the solar changes would heat only one section and cool the other.
The study shows that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere had almost doubled from its concentration of about 280 ppm, in the pre-industrial era, to approximately 400 ppm in 2007 (Butos and Thomas 168). Scientists observe the chemical composition of this atmospheric CO2 and determine its source. Every carbon has six protons in its nucleus, yet there are numerous isotopes (which have different quantities of neutrons in their nuclei). If carbon isotopes are from various sources, they would either be heavier (with low negative value) or lighter (with a higher negative value). Carbon from natural source have a standard value “0” whereas those from fossil fuels have a value of between -20 and -32 (Longobardi et al. 23). Atmospheric carbon, on the other hand, has a value of between -5 and -9. However, atmospheric carbon is becoming lighter with time, a sign that carbon from human activities is increasing in the atmosphere.
The same natural and human activities that result in an increase in global warming at times act to bring about the exact opposite effect. The occurrence of natural phenomena, such as volcanic eruption, may at time emit some tiny particles deep into the stratosphere – a layer where the weather is typically determined. For instance, the 1883 volcanic eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia and the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines brought a significant downward effect on global warming (Kleppin et al. 7753). The particles released into the atmosphere collectively blocked the extreme rays of the sun from hitting the earth’s surface hence creating a cooling effect that lasted for several years.
Natural activities are not the only occurrences that can cause a downward effect on global warming. Deryugina and Olga argue that the much-criticized human activity of burning fossil fuels also has a role to play in limiting the adverse effects of climate change (12). When people burn these fuels, tiny particles are also released into the atmosphere. Just like the volcanic particles, some of these particles reflect the sun’s radiation back to space. On the other hand, other particles that are known to be elements of pollution, such as soot, absorb the sunlight. Although these soot particles, do not reflect, they lead to warming at just the local atmosphere level. Both types of human-generated particles reduce the amount of the sun’s energy reaching the earth’s surface. Were it not for these tiny particles, global warming would have been worse.
Both natural and human activities are responsible for the worrying climate change. No particular climate driver, whether natural or human, can be assumed to be the sole cause of global warming. However, human activities indeed play a big part in this drastically deteriorating issue. As the main inhabitants of this planet Earth, human beings ought to push for more effective measures to help preserve not just humankind but also the life of all existing species.
Butos, William N., and Thomas J. Mcquade. "Causes and Consequences of the Climate Science Boom." Independent Review 20.2 (2015): 165-196. Business Source Complete. Web. 10 May 2016.
Deryugina, Tatyana, and Olga Shurchkov. "The Effect of Information Provision on Public Consensus about Climate Change." Plos ONE 11.4 (2016): 1-14. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 May 2016.
Kleppin, Hannah, et al. "Stochastic Atmospheric Forcing As a Cause of Greenland Climate Transitions." Journal of Climate 28.19 (2015): 7741-7763. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 May 2016.
Longobardi, Patrick, et al. "Deforestation Induced Climate Change: Effects of Spatial Scale." Plos ONE 11.4 (2016): 1-34. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 May 2016.
Mesarović, Miodrag M. "Scientific Uncertainties Feed Scepticism on Climate Change." Thermal Science 19.(2015): S259-S278. Academic Search Premier. Web. 10 May 2016.