What makes it hard for people to define what causes climate change is that our planet’s climate is subject to many natural influences. Its course around the Sun, variations in the activity of this same Sun, atmospheric movements, etc.
So what is the cause of global warming? Many experts agree that the causes of current global warming lie in human activities.
Over the millennia, our Earth has experienced sometimes significant climate changes. Like periods of global cooling. Ice ages that changed the face of our planet.
Even today, it has to deal with global climate change and the consequences of global warming. But unlike all the previous ones, the causes of this one, say the scientists, lie in human activities.
Main cause for global warming: human activity
Remember that our atmosphere naturally contains greenhouse gases — water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2), in particular — which help maintain a pleasant average temperature of 15°C.
When the level of these gases varies, the climate obviously changes accordingly. Human activities do not directly influence water vapor concentrations on a large scale. These depend a lot on the weather through a set of actions and feedback.
On the other hand, the researchers were able to observe that the amount of CO2 present in our atmosphere has increased sharply in recent decades.
Its concentration is now about 40% higher than it was at the beginning of the 20th century. This increase coincides with the beginning of the industrial age and the massive consumption of fossil fuels.
The fluorinated gases, used in our refrigerators and air conditioners, for example, and which are being gradually banned, have a heating power up to 23 thousand times greater than that of CO2. They also have their share of responsibility for global warming.
Greenhouse gases is what causes climate change
The combustion of oil, gas and coal — whether to produce electricity or heat or for industrial uses — is therefore regularly pointed out as the cause of current global warming.
This combustion, in fact, produces CO 2 that escapes into the atmosphere and increases the greenhouse effect, leading to an increase in temperature.
However, we must not forget to mention other causes of this global climate crisis. We can cite, thus, deforestation. Trees, in fact, in principle play a role in regulating the climate because they have the ability to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. But when they are cut, that carbon is released and, in turn, increases the greenhouse effect.
Another cause of global warming: intensive livestock and sheep ranching. Because these animals produce methane (CH4) in large amounts during digestion.
However, methane — also emitted by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels or even by the exploitation of rice fields — has a heating power 25 times greater than that of CO2.
The massive use of nitrogen fertilizers also harms the balance of our climate. They actually emit nitrous oxide (N2O) — like certain chemicals and like our cars-, a gas whose heating power is about 300 times that of CO2.
Climate change or climate disturbance in 2023?
The planet’s average global temperature increased by 1.1°C between 1850 and 2017. Climate change varies from region to region.
For example, the polar areas are heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world. Continuing the current trajectory of global warming, Arctic sea ice could completely disappear within a few decades.
According to one of the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports, global warming of more than 1.5°C would cause unprecedented climate change: desertification, precipitation intensity, etc.
These extreme weather events could become more frequent and have irreversible impacts on the environment.
Weather or climate: what’s the difference?
To understand the cause of global warming, it is important to distinguish between weather and climate:
The weather forecast indicates the weather at a given time and place, varying over short periods. Climate describes evolutions over longer periods and on a larger scale.
For example, a period of intense cold in a certain region does not jeopardize global warming.
To affirm this, it is necessary to be able to observe the increase of a climatic event (increase in the average temperature of the Earth, heavy rainfall, intense droughts, etc.) in a regular and significant way, over a long period in a specific region.
What is the cause of current global warming?
The greenhouse effect is the main natural cause of global warming.
Originally, it is a natural phenomenon that contributes to the maintenance of the average temperature level.
However, due to the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere linked to human activities, it is intensifying, causing global warming.
What is PPM when we talk in CO2?
The acronym “ppm” stands for “part per million”. It is a unit of measurement used to calculate the level of air pollution. It allows knowing the number of molecules of greenhouse gases present in one million molecules of air.
What are the consequences of global warming?
Climate change has an impact on all regions of the globe. Sea level rises as the polar ice shelves melt. Extreme weather events and precipitation are becoming more frequent, and these effects are likely to worsen in the coming decades.
Destruction of biodiversity and depletion of natural resources
Climate change and the loss of land due to rising waters, its impacts on agriculture and fisheries that affect food security, or even more frequent extreme weather episodes are forcing certain populations to migrate in order to survive.
All this causes tensions around available natural resources, including water, reinforcing inequalities between populations.
Fauna and flora are equally sensitive to these climate changes. While the vegetative cycles are accelerated and weakened, certain species are forced to migrate or adapt in order not to disappear.
Destruction of oceans and seas
Under the influence of melting ice due to global warming, the IPCC predicts a rise in average sea and ocean levels of 82 cm by 2100 if we do not reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
This sea level rise would have a strong impact on coastal areas around the world. The comprehensive expert report The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (2019) exposes the consequences of global warming on the oceans and cryosphere and its impacts on human societies and ecosystems.
The ocean is a carbon sink, meaning it absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and stores it. However, the accumulation of CO2 in the ocean changes its composition and causes acidification, which directly threatens its absorption capabilities.
How can we avoid global warming?
As this problem is monumental, the solution strategy also needs to be.
You can’t fix the world all alone by using less your car, when there’s countries with more cars than people still increasing CO2 emissions.
That’s why we need to support people who are actually doing something, like reforestation and animals protecation.
Hourglass project exists not only to discuss about climate change, but to help these groups who are fighting all alone to guarantee our present and future life.
Take a look in our planet healing program.