Global Warming

There are two terms being used interchangeably: global warming and climate change. Global Warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s air and water since the mid-twentieth century. Climate Change refers to the dramatic changes in weather that results from this increase. Both terms are accurate – the average temperature of the earth has increased over the last century. The amount it continues to increase depends on how aggressively we fight it.

Climate change is used because some areas will be dryer, some wetter, some warmer, and some colder. In fact, disruption of the ocean’s circulation system could cause a “mini-ice age” in Europe. In other words, the impact on the planet will not be uniform and “climate change” reflects that concept more clearly than global warming, a term which leads people to believe that the temperatures will become uniformly warmer across the planet.

What are the effects of Global Warming?

Rising sea levels as the ice at the Arctic and Antarctica melts - water occupies more space than ice, and warmer water occupies more space than colder water. Therefore, as the planet heats up, the oceans will rise and there will be extensive flooding. Some island nations will disappear. In addition, there will be changes in salinity, oxygen levels, and water circulation. This will impact algae, plankton, fish, and life that depends on them.

The pattern and amount of rainfall will change. Some areas will be flooded, some deserts will expand. With the increase in sea surface temperature, hurricanes will be more intense. With dryer temperatures in some areas, forest fires will increase in frequency.

It is very likely that there will be more frequent hot days, hot nights, and heat waves. We are already noticing spring occurring earlier including egg laying and migration happening earlier in the year. Plants and animals are shifting toward the poles and to higher altitudes.

Some interesting facts

• Industrialization, deforestation, and pollution have greatly increased greenhouse gases that help trap heat near Earth's surface.

• These gases persist in the atmosphere for years

• Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing

• Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting

• Coral reefs, which are highly sensitive to small changes in water temperature, suffered the worst die-off ever recorded in 1998

• An increase in the number of extreme weather events, such as wildfires, heat waves, and hurricanes, is attributed in part to climate change

• The National Wildlife Federation considers global warming the greatest risk to wildlife today

• At some point, warming could become uncontrollable by creating a “positive feedback effect” where rising temperatures melt permafrost, releasing additional greenhouse gases by unlocking methane. Rising temperatures could free carbon trapped in sea ice.