The great challenge of humanity
Climate change is a phenomenon that encompasses a set of transformations in the Earth's atmosphere, directly related to the increase in temperature on it. Although the planet has experienced different physical and chemical alterations in its atmosphere naturally over time, changes caused by human activities have been observed.
Scientists attribute the rise in global temperature since the mid-20th century to an increase in the "greenhouse effect" caused by humans. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that occurs when the atmosphere traps heat that the Earth radiates back into space.
Certain gases in the atmosphere allow ultraviolet radiation to pass through, but absorb infrared radiation, also known as heat, these gases are known as greenhouse gases. Once the sun's ultraviolet rays reach the earth's surface, they heat it up and this heat is radiated out into space, but greenhouse gases block their escape, absorb this heat and radiate it back towards earth.
This greenhouse effect is vital for life on Earth as we know it, it is thanks to this phenomenon that the planet maintains the optimum temperature for the living beings that inhabit it. The greenhouse effect began to be a problem when humans began to increase the concentration of these greenhouse gases, especially with the use of fossil fuels.
Some gases attributed to the greenhouse effect
Water vapor (H2O): It is the most abundant greenhouse gas, but it is not a cause of climate change since it reacts to the weather. Water vapor increases when the atmosphere warms, but so does cloud formation and precipitation, becoming liquid again.
Carbon dioxide (CO2): It is a minor but very important component of the atmosphere, it is generated naturally by processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions, but it is also released by human activities such as deforestation, changes in land use and the burning of fuels. fossils. Humans have increased the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by 48% since the industrial revolution and today there is the highest concentration of atmospheric CO2 in the last 650,000 years (417 ppm measured in April 2022). After water vapor, it is the most abundant greenhouse gas and, unlike water vapor, it remains in the atmosphere for a long time, making it the main cause of climate change.
Methane (CH4): Like carbon dioxide, it is produced by both natural processes and human activities, such as waste decomposition in dumps and landfills, agriculture (such as rice crops), as well as ruminant digestion and in the management of livestock manure. Methane traps even more heat than carbon dioxide, but it is also much less abundant in our atmosphere.
By increasing the concentration of gases like CO2 and CH4 we are changing the natural greenhouse effect of the atmosphere, which is causing the Earth to get hotter on average.
The increase in temperature causes a greater amount of evaporation and precipitation, which causes some regions to become drier, while in others there are floods.
This rise in temperature also warms the ocean, which has absorbed 90% of the heat caused by our emissions into the atmosphere. This causes the melting of sea ice which increases the sea level. Water also expands when heated, which also contributes to sea level rise.
Rising ocean temperatures also endanger the safety of coastal populations, as tropical cyclones, such as tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes, derive their energy from warm water on the ocean surface. Increasing the heat in the ocean causes hurricanes to become larger, stronger, slower and with more associated rainfall, thus generating more catastrophic flooding.
The increase in carbon dioxide in particular has effects outside of the greenhouse effect. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of all the CO2 we emit, when this compound comes into contact with water (H2O) it forms carbonic acid (H2CO3), making the ocean more and more acidic. Ocean acidification mainly affects all creatures that form shells, shells or skeletons, such as mollusks, crustaceans and corals, since it prevents them from forming correctly, making them more vulnerable to predators or preventing their growth.
High temperatures make extreme weather events, such as prolonged droughts, floods and heat waves, increasingly common, which endangers people's health, but can also cause crop losses, also endangering the way of life of agricultural producers and the food security of people.
What can we do?
Future predictions indicate that to avoid the worst global impacts of climate change we must reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 45% before 2030, and to achieve this we must start now. You can contribute by reducing your energy consumption, using energy from renewable sources and sustainable means of transport, such as cycling, using more public transport instead of using a private car and reducing your consumption of imported meats, but the best way to combat climate change is to keep talking and sharing information about it.