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  • Writer's pictureJenni Foshey

What is the Climate Crisis?

Introduction

The climate crisis is the new and closely related term to climate change. I’m sure most have heard of the term climate change. It’s all over social media, the news, and in schools- or, at least it should be. Climate change is now being called the climate crisis because of how threatening, soon, and scary it’s effects are.


Climate change refers to the changing of Earth’s global climate to a drastic extreme that affects all life. Climate change is NOT the same as global warming and is NOT the same as weather. Unlike weather, climate change is defined as the change of Earth’s climate (average temperature) over a long-time frame (decades; not days, months, or years).


Weather refers to weather in a local/generalized region that is solely based on weather (whether it’s cloudy, sunny, hot, or cold). Weather is what you look up on your phone to determine whether you should wear a sweater or bring an umbrella. Weather does not refer to long periods of time like climate change does.


Global warming is a leading factor of climate change. These two terms are not synonyms, however. It is not correct to say, “it’s cold out today, therefore global warming isn’t real”, or something along those terms. Global warming occurs when natural gases in Earth’s atmosphere are abnormal or disrupted (Change, C., 2001). Global warming has both natural and human causes, which will be discussed later.



What causes Climate Change?

As stated before, global warming is a leading factor of climate change. The causes of global warming (and climate change) are listed below.

Natural: 

- Volcanoes

- Changes in solar radiation

(Ring et al., 2012)


Human-caused:

- Rapid human population growth

- Industrialization

- Agricultural development and modern animal agriculture

- Deforestation 

- Burning of fossil fuels


**The burning of fossil fuels release greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4) absorb radiation from Earth’s surface and trap it as heat in Earth’s atmosphere. (Methane is heavily associated with animal agriculture, which will be discussed in further detail in a future blog post). Greenhouse gases are not bad. In fact, they are essential for plant growth, maintain a healthy atmosphere, and allow life on earth to survive (Change, C., 2001). However, too much of them can be detrimental (which is the current problem Earth faces). 



Effects of Climate Change

- Rising sea levels (melting ice sheets)

- More frequent and more violent storms (specifically tropical storms) 

- Drought 

- Floods 

- Increased wildfires 

- Overall global warming (remember, this is a global increase in temperature) 

- Ocean acidification 

- Changing characteristics of seasons (which effects migration, mating patterns, and circadian rhythms of organisms- this can lead to extinction)

- Desertification 

- Extinction of species 


Increasing global average temperature by just one degree Celsius can have serious threats to the Earth and everything on it. You may ask, “It’s only one degree. Who cares?” A while ago, I heard the perfect analogy…When we are sick, a slight increase in our body temperature has visible effects. We get a fever, may sweat, and overall not feel good. This is our body saying that something is wrong. And, this is exactly what the Earth does. Increasing the global average temperature by just one degree can result in all of the effects listed above. 





Can the Climate Crisis be solved?

Sources like Solomon et al. (2009) and others state that climate change is irreversible. As humans, we have done far too much damage to the planet to see a significant change in our lifetimes. Apparently, even if all global emissions were put to a stop today, climate change and global warming would continue for years to come (Solomon et al., 2009).


There is a lot to consider when thinking of ways to combat or slow down the speed of climate change. How will organisms adopt (if at all)? How will companies deal with the changing climate? How can companies switch to more renewable methods of production? For this, we already know how companies can be more eco-friendly. But, are enough companies putting forth effort to reduce their environmental harm and carbon footprint? What economic factors are involved? Will humans adapt to a different (less wasteful, less consumer-based) lifestyle? Will wealthier countries step up to help poorer countries that are more affected by climate change (which is primarily caused by wealthier countries)?


Can climate change be stopped? The quick answer is no, but it can be slowed down. 

So…if we can’t stop it, why are so many people trying to be eco-friendly, donating to various environmental and wildlife organizations, and putting so much effort into fighting climate change? 


There is a long answer to this question, but here are a few reasons: 

- People like to help slow down the process and potentially stop it by helping in any way they can

- Doing good deeds gives a sense of hope and making a difference

- People feel responsible to preserve the Earth for future generations 

- People feel responsible to fix the problem, since humans were the ones who caused it 

- It is not fair that animals, plants, and ecosystems should suffer if there are little things we can do to make a difference (whether short term or long term) 




Upcoming Event: Global Climate Strike

This blog was inspired by the upcoming event, Global Climate Strike. There will be strikes all around the globe to protest against the climate crisis and demand change. For more info and to see where and how you can get involved, click this link: Global Climate Strike.


This movement was started by Greta Thunberg last year. She protested alone, which inspired students worldwide to do the same. She is very professional, intelligent, and determined. Watch her speech to the French Parliament here


 

References

Change, C. (2001). Climate change. Synthesis report.


Ring, M. J., Lindner, D., Cross, E. F., & Schlesinger, M. E. (2012). Causes of the global warming observed since the 19th century. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 2(04), 401.


Solomon, S., Plattner, G. K., Knutti, R., & Friedlingstein, P. (2009). Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences, 106(6), 1704-1709.

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