We hear a bunch about climate change, global warming, and rising sea level; but do you know what these terms actually mean? Do you know where they originated? Do you know the different opinions and sides of this particular conversation? I seriously didn’t until a couple of months ago. After talking with a friend of mine and visiting a class on biodiversity, I realized that there was a ton of information about climate change that I didn’t know about. Now, I do believe that this is an important issue; but it’s important to note that many don’t believe this is an actual issue. To many, including myself, climate change is a problem that will set back our ability to help restore the natural balance in our planet. Leading to an increase in natural disasters, rising sea level, and other issues concerning our planet.
Climate change is a change in global or regional climate patterns. More specifically, it has been a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels. The popular belief is that these fossil fuels are man made and a big reason for the increase in hurricanes, wind storms, snow storms. However, many believe that climate change is natural, and there is nothing we should do to help stabilize the global and regional climate patterns because doesn't need to be stabilized. When someone says that Climate Change isn’t real, they are explaining that they don’t believe that these changes in climate patterns are an issue. (Check out more information on both sides at ProandCon.com.) This may be the less popular side of the debate, but many still believe in it.
So, why is it important to show both sides? It’s important because you will probably encounter people who don’t believe that climate change is a result of human activity- namely, the use of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gases. No matter how many times you want to yell and scream at them, it’s important to understand that change doesn't come from anger. As yourself, will all of that yelling and screaming actually make them change their mind, or just stress you out? This is especially important if you have a friend, family member, or someone else in your life that you have to be around on a daily basis. Very similar to when talking with people about Zero Waste, take a deep breath and do your research!
Did you know that the term Climate Change goes all the way back to the 1800’s. In 1896 to be specific, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius was the first to suggest that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming. Before plastic, factory farms, and oil spills had become daily news, Arrhenius had already known that the use of fossil fuels would cause severe issues for our planet. He and Thomas Chamberlin calculated that human activities could warm the earth by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This research was a by-product of research that was being conducted on whether carbon dioxide would explain the causes of the great Ice Ages. However, it has been said that this wasn't verified until 1987.
Unfortunately, after these discoveries, the topic of climate change wasn’t talked about for a long time. It was during this time that many thought that human influences were insignificant compared to natural forces, something that many still believe today. It was also believed that the oceans were great carbon sinks that they would automatically cancel out our pollution. I don’t believe that many feel like this is true anymore, however, people do deny climate change as it is seen as a natural force that we can’t do anything to prevent from occuring. Despite all of our fossil fuels imitation, it was going to occur because that’s what mother nature has planned for us.
In the 1940’s there were developments in infrared spectroscopy that measured long-wave radiation. At the time, it was proven that increasing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide resulted in more absorption and warm up the planet. It was also discovered that water vapor adsorbed totally different types of radiation than carbon dioxide. In 1955, Gilbert Plass concluded that adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere would actually trap the infrared radiation that was getting reflected off the earth’s surface and back out into space. In the 1950’s and early 60’s, Charles Keeling used the most modern technologies to produce concentration curves for atmospheric CO2 in Antarctica and Mauna Loa in Hawaii. These curves have become one of the major icons of global warming. They showed a downward trend of global annual temperature from the 1940’s to the 70’s. At the same time ocean sediment research revealed that there has been no less than 32 cold-warm cycles in the last 2.5 million years. As a result, many began to fear that the development of a new ice age might be near. Many believed that the media and scientists ignored the date of the 50’s and 60’s in favor of global cooling.
In the 1980’s, it was acknowledged that the climate was warmer than any period since 1880. The greenhouse effect theory was named and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was founded by the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. People began to question the theory of an upcoming ice age, especially in the late 80’s when the curves began to increase so steeply that the global warming theory became headline news. Environmental NGO’s started to advocate global environmental protection to prevent further warming. This press gained an interest in the topic of global warming. However, it seems like nothing has really changed.
In the 90’s, many scientists started to question the greenhouse effect theory, because of some uncertainties in the data and model outcomes. Cooling trends were not explained by the global warming data and satellites showed completely different temperatures recorded from the initial ones. The idea began to grow that global warming models had overestimated the warming trend of the past 100 years. Currently, this idea is being widely debated by scientists, politicians, and people all around the world. That is why many don’t believe that Climate Change is an issue. What if you ask them about their thoughts on the amount of trash the produce. Would they like to limit their trash as much as they possibly can? The majority of people would think that this a good idea. Especially since many cities and towns around the United States don’t have curbside garbage or recycling.
By limiting your and others’ trash/consumption, you are not buying into capitalism, which part of what perpetuates the consumption of fossil fuels that negatively impact our planet. If you encounter someone who doesn’t know a ton about Climate Change and are wondering why people don’t believe that this is an issue, you have the research to explain the other side of the debate. You are also able to have a very well-researched debate on this issue that is more than just trying to tell them that we have to save our planet. I am not telling you to agree or believe in their point of view, or to even support it. I believe that by exploring the other side, we are more likely to have constructive conversations with people about these issues and show others that we have explored the two main sides to the argument/debate. In layman's terms, if you listen to the climate deniers/ skeptics, in return they are most likely to listen to you.
I also want to add that this will allow you to become more passionate about the topic of Climate Change. I had no idea that this term began in the 1800’s. As a result, I have continued to do more research on the scientific papers and research that had come out during that time and compare it to the type of research that is coming out today. This has allowed me to continue finding research that supports and possibly contradicts the point of view- which is that Climate Change is an artificial man made issue that has increased the amount of hurricanes, storms, and other natural disasters. This will help me strengthen my argument when it comes to discussing this particular topics with people who don’t have the same opinions and point of view.
Here are a list of websites that will be more helpful in your research on Climate Change and the ever evolving debate.