Clearing up all your global warming doubts.

We hear about it everywhere, but what exactly is global warming, and how do we do our part to help? We’ve answered some of your most common questions here so that you can stay in the know.

What is global warming?

In simple words, global warming is the increase in average global temperature since the Industrial Revolution. This long-term heating of the Earth’s climate system is primarily because of human activities like burning fuels. The temperature of Earth has risen by 0.2° Celsius (0.36° Fahrenheit) every decade since the 1800s.

What causes it?

Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere. These gases, called greenhouse gases (GHGs), exist naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere and keep its surface warm enough to support life. Without GHGS, the Earth’s average temperature would instantly drop to an inhospitable zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Human activities such as burning fossil fuels to power motor vehicles, homes, and factories generate and release higher amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Higher concentrations of these greenhouse gases trap more heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing a human-caused rise in global temperatures, aka global warming.

What’s climate change? Does global warming cause it?

These terms are often used interchangeably, but climate change generally refers to continual changes in average weather, while global warming refers to a rise in the Earth’s average temperature.

Climate change can refer to the natural fluctuations in the Earth’s temperature and climate between cold and warm periods. However, the climate change occurring over the last fifty years is due to human activity. The Earth’s surface should’ve been cooling slightly by natural factors in the past years, but the increased burning of fossil fuels has caused global warming instead.

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Does global warming cause ozone layer depletion?

Emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere certainly can affect the depletion of the ozone layer through atmospheric interaction. Heat-trapping gases create the cooling conditions in the atmosphere that accelerate ozone depletion, so yes, it does.

What does global warming have to do with severe weather like droughts, snowstorms, and hurricanes?

Rising global temperatures increase the likelihood of storms, floods, wildfires, droughts, etc. In warmer weather, the atmosphere collects, retains, and drops more water, which causes precipitation patterns to change. This often results in fierce single-day storms that destroy property and lead to loss of life.

Global warming also causes warmer sea temperatures because most of the heat trapped in the Earth’s surface is absorbed by oceans. Warmer sea temperatures increase the chances of hurricanes forming. Because of human-caused global warming, we now face an increased possibility of them occurring.

Despite global warming causing a spike in storms and hurricanes, not all severe weather conditions are caused by global warming. Nonetheless, scientists are confident that the higher average global temperatures are increasing the likelihood and severity of extreme weather.

A polar bear tests the strength of thin sea ice in the Arctic in 2015, Mario Hoppman

Does global warming affect the sea level?

Global warming is causing sea levels to rise in two ways:

  • Glaciers and icebergs are melting and adding water to the ocean;
  • Thermal expansion, causing the volume of the sea to expand as the weather gets warmer.

Currently, the ocean level is increasing at the rate of around one-eighth of an inch per year. This might not seem very alarming at first glance, but it is a growing threat to coastal communities and villages. It also puts groundwater at the risk of being intruded on by salt water from the oceans.

What does the production of meat and dairy products have to do with climate change?

Raising livestock for meat, eggs, and milk creates a huge carbon footprint. It generates 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the second-highest source of emissions, more significant than all transportation combined. Livestock contributes to climate change directly and indirectly—directly through their digestive processes and indirectly due to the vegetation that is cleared to make space for them.

What’s a carbon footprint? How can I reduce mine?

Carbon footprint refers to the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere due to the activities of an individual, household, or corporation. The more fossil fuels are used during an activity, the bigger the carbon footprint. For example, driving a car emits a bigger carbon footprint than cycling to cover the same distance.

You can actively reduce your carbon footprint in the following ways:

  • Consume local, seasonal products.
  • Limit consumption of meat and dairy products.
  • Use public transport or a battery-electric car.
  • Buy more sustainable fashion.
  • Use renewable energy.

Does global warming affect our health somehow?

Rising global temperatures can cause higher chances of various heart-related diseases, such as heat-strokes and heat exhaustion. These temperatures also increase the ozone concentration, which can damage lung tissues and cause complications for people with asthma or lung diseases. Climate change can also intensify food-borne and water-borne disorders. Other health impacts include gastrointestinal conditions, like diarrhea, and adverse effects on the body’s respiratory and nervous systems.

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How do renewable sources of energy help us?

It can play a vital role in energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy sources come from natural resources like sunlight, water, wind and plant matter. In contrast, non-renewable sources, or fossil fuels, come from limited sources that can’t be refilled easily—because of this, using renewable energy minimizes carbon pollution. It has a much lower impact on the environment.

It’s abundant, reduces carbon emissions, and we can use it without interruption, but the technology used to harness it can be expensive.

What are big corporations doing to address global warming?

Now more than ever, large companies need to take action to help save our planet before it’s too late. Thankfully, large corporations across the globe are making the shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy. More than 1,000 companies have stepped up and signed a letter to endorse the Paris Agreement on fighting climate change. And as of this year, corporations like Mattel, Google, Nike, and LEGO have been actively setting sustainability goals and making changes to reduce their carbon footprint—like LEGO’s decision to introduce sustainable bricks made from recycled plastic.

Is the UN doing anything to combat climate change?

The United Nations has been instrumental in our joint efforts to combat climate change and solve global environmental problems. It’s adopted a new 10-year Climate Action Plan to modify its operations to achieve at least a 45% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and source 80% of its electricity from renewable sources. They’re also actively tackling global issues like ozone layer depletion, toxic waste disposal, deforestation, species loss, and air and water pollution.

‘What is Climate Change?’ | United Nations

Can we really address global warming before it’s too late?

Even though climate change is a pressing problem that can’t ever fully be resolved, we can change how it impacts us in the future. By investing in renewable energy, people, communities, and governments can make a difference in reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere. This will help minimize the consequences of climate change for the present and future generations. We know what needs to be done, and we’re moving in the right direction!

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Global Warming/Climate Change Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), EESI