Climate change is arguably one of the most pressing issues of our time, with human-caused global warming being its primary culprit. In order to better understand the burden of responsibility we have in producing this phenomenon, it is important to first identify the human causes of global warming before exploring the impact that it has had and could have on our planet.
One of the most evident causes of global warming is the burning of fossil fuels, namely coal, oil, and natural gas. These energy sources, commonly utilized for electricity production, industrial processes, transportation, and heating, are releasing vast amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, trapping heat, and as a result creating a blanket of warming. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2018, these emissions accounted for 81% of total United States greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. On a global level, a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed that global CO2 emissions from the energy system showed its largest increase in nearly a decade.
In addition to fossil fuel burning, the second cause of global warming is deforestation. To make room for livestock, cash crops, urban and suburban development, trees are are being removed at an alarming rate. Without the tree’s ability to naturally remove CO2 from the atmosphere, the temperature is rising. In the Amazon rainforest, for example, deforestation widely occurs to pave way for big agricultural industries, therefore releasing stored carbon dioxide and more into the atmosphere. Moreover, to add to the problem black carbon emissions, caused by fires, diesel engines, and stoves, are also a large contributor to the accelerated warming of the environment, as they absorb and radiate the sun’s energy and also cause photochemical smog.
Although we are justifiably focused on natural causes of global warming and the devastating effects that it has produced, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions and melting ice, it cannot be denied that human behavior is largely responsible for driving the temperature higher each passing year. It is this global consumption that has not only caused the problem of global warming, but is also continuing to fuel it, affecting even the most remote and untouched parts of the world.
As our understanding of global warming continues to spread, so too does the urgency to act. Solutions proposed to reverse this crisis include replacing fossil fuel energy sources with renewable energy sources, reducing pollution from vehicles and other machinery, maintaining forested areas, and implementing energy efficiency measures. Scientists and policy makers agree that humanity had the technological and financial capabilities to prevent global warming if we are willing to take them.
It is now up to us to take the necessary steps to protect our planet, not only for ourselves but for the generations to come, understanding that our decisions and actions have real-world implications and can not simply be overlooked. We must recognize that global warming is a global issue that requires a systematic global response, and the time for action is now.