Friday, April 09, 2010
What are the causes of climate change?
Earth is a very special planet – it is close enough to the sun to receive a lot of energy, but far enough not to be scorched. It is in what you might call the "goldilocks zone", where the conditions are just right for life as we know it.
To help keep these conditions just right, our planet is wrapped in a layer of greenhouse gases.
This layer keeps the globe warm like a blanket, shielding it from the cold universe – commonly referred to as the greenhouse effect. While not being the most potent greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver for the greenhouse effect.
And this is where we have a problem.
The cause of climate change is the unlimited burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas to satisfy our hunger for energy.
Fossil fuels are in essence plant matter from many millions of years ago, and they contain CO2. The abundant CO2 trapped in this plant matter has been locked away for millennia until the start of the industrial revolution.
We are now releasing this CO2 at an ever-increasing rate (around 28 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere just last year) and the layer of greenhouse gas gets thicker. This in turn makes the Earth warmer and it means that the conditions under which humanity has thrived are rapidly changing.