Global Warming: Meaning, Causes, Effects and Ways to Reduce

Global Warming is defined as the increase in the earth’s atmospheric and oceanic temperatures, widely predicted to occur due to an increase in the greenhouse effect resulting from various reasons. The surface temperature of the earth is more than 0.74 degree Celsius higher than what it was 150 years ago and is expected to rise by a larger number in the next century. This phenomenon results in a lot of climatic changes in the earth, like the melting of snow, change in long-term weather patterns and so-on. Global warming thus results in a lot of undesirable changes in the pattern of the environment of the climate of our planet. In this article, we take look into the causes and consequences of global warming.


Historical Overview of Climate Change

The idea or the thought of climate change is not something that took birth all of a sudden. People from as back as the 19th century thought that climate could be affected by the activities of man.  A Swedish scientist in 1896 came forward with the initial explanation of the greenhouse effect.  During the 1930s, people realized that the US and North Atlantic region had warmed the planet significantly even before the 1950s. In the 1950s, the scientists started to look for techniques and calculations that could be used to analyze scientifically the climate change over the years. The scientists of the next decade developed mathematical models to explain the phenomenon of climate change.

One of the discoveries that happened during that very period was the realization that the level of certain other gases in the environment are increasing. They also related this to the climate change, and to the degradation of the ozone layer. As this became a topic of concern internationally among people, more research on the topic started to be initiated. In 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came into an opinion that the change in climate would depend on the policies that the governments choose to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. By the beginning of the 21st century, advancements in computer models and an abundance of data strengthened the assumption that human emissions are very likely to cause serious climate change. Over the years, as methods for scientific analysis and grew, the scientists and environmentalists started researching more on it, thus resulting on very concrete ideas about various concepts like “global warming”, “greenhouse effect”, “ozone layer depletion” etc.

Causes of Global Warming

The causes behind global warming are both natural as well as man-made.

  • As we know, the climate of our planet has been changing continuously, and the natural rotation of the Earth around the Sun causes changes in the intensity of sunlight received by the planet.
  • A major reason for global warming is the release of greenhouse gases. “Greenhouse gases” are those gases which like carbon dioxide, methane etc., which absorb a large amount of heat, thus leading to the overall heating of the atmosphere. Such gases trap the rays of the sun, preventing its escape from the earth’s surface, and this result in a significant increase in the temperature. The release of methane, a greenhouse gas, is a major contributor towards global warming. Methane is proved to be more effective than carbon dioxide by almost 20 times, in trapping the heat of the Sun. Methane gas is released through different activities such as through coal mining, from landfills, from explosions, etc.
  • Volcanic eruptions also cause global warming, as they release a huge amount of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere.
  • The extensive deforestation that has been taking place on the planet for a long time now is one of the major contributing factors towards global warming. As humans clear large areas of forest and cut down the significant number of trees and plants in order to produce paper and to construct houses and other buildings, more amount of carbon dioxide start getting concentrated in the atmosphere. The lack of trees and dense forests has been taken into account seriously by various international institutions that fight climate change. Yet, statistics show that a large amount of forest area is cleared every year to satisfy the greed of humans.
  • The large rise in industries and the modernization that came with the industrial revolution which gave birth to many machines that emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are also major reasons for global warming.
  • Another issue that leads to global warming is mining. Extensive mining results in the trapping of methane gas below the surface of the earth. Metals and mineral products are very common to our lifestyle now. It is estimated that from digging to delivery, mining products creates almost 5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
  • Another type of substances that contribute to climate change are chlorofluorocarbons. They are anthropogenic substances that get released into the atmosphere through various activities such as air-conditioning, refrigerating and so-on. The release of CFCs into the atmosphere results in an increase in the temperature and poses a serious threat to the ozone layer, contributing significantly to ozone layer depletion.

Effects of Global Warming

Global Warming causes instability in the overall condition of our planet. Some of the immediate consequences of global warming are:

  • Global warming results in significant changes in the climatic patterns. We have already started experiencing long hot summers and shorter, warmer winters. The intensity of the tropical storms has increased. It has also resulted in more frequent extreme climatic conditions like forest fires, droughts, floods etc.
  • One of the major consequences of global warming is the melting of snow and glaciers in the earth. It is observed that the melting of ice causes more global warming. This is because, as the ice melts, the ocean and land underneath the surface of the ice, would come up to the surface levels and release heat into the atmosphere. As both of those are darker in colour, they absorb more incoming radiation and then release heat into the atmosphere of Earth, and these results in more global warming.
  • The melting of glaciers also results in a rise in sea level and in more acidic oceans that result in death and disturbance of oceanic life. As the temperature gets warmer, the mass of the water expands, posing threat to low-lying islands and other places. The acidity in the oceans leads to effects like coral bleaching. It also becomes a reason for storms that are more intense in nature.
  • Global warming and its associated consequences have affected life on the planet very seriously. Every year, a huge number of organisms die due to changes in climate. As the climatic conditions get more intense, a lot of the organisms on earth find it difficult to exist and end up getting endangered or extinct. The huge increase in the temperature has also claimed a lot of human lives.

Ways to reduce global warming

A lot of our activities are linked with the emission of greenhouse gases, thus leading to global warming. Even taking small steps on a personal level can be effective in decreasing the rise in temperature of our planet. Some of the ways in which we can reduce global warming are:

  • By planting more trees, thereby reducing the effects of deforestation on the climate
  • Using more sustainable modes of transportation, thus reducing harmful emissions from automobiles
  • Reduce the burning of fossil fuels and plastics
  • Decrease the emission of chlorofluorocarbons by reducing the use of refrigerator, Air Conditioners etc.
  • By using renewable energy forms
  • Educating yourself and others around you regarding the need to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and actively taking part in afforestation activities
  • The United Nations have decided to combat climate change by reducing the possibilities of global warming, at the earliest. It is the 13th of the 17 goals on Sustainable Development that the UN is looking forward to achieve by 2030.
  • The UN Secretary-General has recently proposed six climate-positive actions for governments to be adopted worldwide. This includes:
  1. Green transition – decarbonization of all aspects of the economy
  2. Green jobs and sustainable & inclusive growth
  3. Green economy
  4. Investment in sustainable solutions
  5. Confronting all climate risks
  6. Cooperation among countries
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Student of Economics in Miranda House, University of Delhi. Interested in writing, reading, music, painting, public speaking, and debating.Aspiring Economist. A dreamer who loves the smiles and colours of the world.