In the past several years, there has been an evident continuous rise in the Earth’s temperature. During the 20th century, the temperature of the planet rose to an average of 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.6 degree Celsius. In the Earth’s history, there has been a continuous change in climate but the recent changes are attributed to humans. The last century was the first time that humans became the main cause of a change in climate.
Climate Change in Earlier Times
In the last 650,000 years, there have been significant changes in the Earth’s natural condition that resulted to climate changes. There have been seven cycles of advance and retreat in our glaciers. It was 7,000 years ago when the last ice age abruptly ended. After this, the modern climate era began. It is also the mark of the beginning of human civilization. During these times, the climate changes were a result of very small variations in the orbit of the Earth, which resulted to a change in the amount of energy from the sun the planet receives.
Climate Change 100 Years Ago
The last 100 years has witnessed the active participation of humans in increasing the planet’s temperature significantly. During the latter part of 19th century, people from different parts of the world learned how to burn natural gas, oil and coal, which are used to power vehicles, factories and homes. The amount of these fossil fuels that are being burned has dramatically increased in the succeeding years. Today, majority of the world heavily relies on fossil fuels to supply for energy needs.
When fossil fuels are burned, a huge amount of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a gas that effectively traps heat, which is the main reason why the climate changes. In general, gases that trap heat are called greenhouse gases. Our atmosphere has greenhouse gases to keep the planet warm. However, humans contribute to it in very large amounts that cause the temperature to rise continuously.
Other Causes of Climate Change
Aside from burning of fossil fuels, there have been also many human activities that make the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere much higher. These activities include heating homes, driving cars, converting forests to subdivisions, and running big factories.
If there will be continuous emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, there will be a change in the Earth’s temperature that can be higher than that of the 20th century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC has predicted that there will be an increase of 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius or 3.2 to 7.2 Fahrenheit in the temperature during the current century.
The years 2001 to 2010 was recorded as the warmest decade in the Earth’s history. In the United States, 7 out of its top 10 warmest years all occurred in 1990 and the succeeding years. The effect of the higher temperature is seen on the rise in global sea level. During the last century, there has been a rise of 6.7 inches or 17 centimeters in the global sea level. However, the last decade’s rate is almost double of the last century.