Fact 1: Most of the global rise in temperature since 1950 has been caused by human activity.
While there are some natural causes of climate change, such as volcanic eruptions, the main reason behind the current climate crisis is due to human activities. The main causes include:
- Burning fossil fuels for energy.
- Intensive animal husbandry and agriculture for meat and crop production.
- Deforestation to make room for other land uses.
All these activities release greenhouse gases, which retain heat in the atmosphere and cause global temperatures to rise.
Fact 2: The average temperature of Earth is determined by the greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse gases are gases that retain heat in the atmosphere. When the sun shines through the atmosphere, greenhouse gases absorb this radiation and prevent heat from leaving the atmosphere. This is known as the greenhouse effect.
Without greenhouse gases, the average temperature on Earth would be far too low for life on earth. However, an excess of greenhouse gases causes global warming. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide CO2, which is produced by burning fossil fuels, and methane (CH4), which comes from livestock.
Fact 3: The global temperature has risen by about 1° Celsius over the past century.
We may not notice much of this difference in our daily lives, but this rise in temperature has a significant impact on our planet. Temperatures continue to rise and the past five years have been collectively the warmest years to date. Countries around the world are currently working towards the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aim to keep the global temperature increase below 2° Celsius and possibly limit it to 1.5° Celsius.
Fact 4: The United States is the second largest contributor to CO2 emissions.
The US is home to only 4.4% of the world’s population, yet it is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. If everyone had the same lifestyle as in the US, four Earths would be needed to provide enough resources.
Fact 5: Arctic pack ice and glaciers are melting.
One of the most well-known facts about climate change is that the ice in the Arctic is melting.
In 1910, there were about 150 glaciers in the Glacier National Park in Montana. When they were counted again in 2017, the number had dropped to 26. This melting ice will lead to a rise in sea level.
Fact 6: The average sea level will rise by 0.5 to 1.5 metres before the end of the century.
As the oceans continue to warm up and land ice in Greenland, the South Pole and on mountain glaciers will continue to melt, sea levels will rise. This will affect countries around the world, particularly low-lying areas, as they are at high risk of flooding.
Fact 7: The destruction of the rainforest is a major cause of CO2 emissions.
Forests are ‘carbon sinks’ because they store carbon dioxide. When deforested occurs by human hands or forest fires, large amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. This contributes to the greenhouse effect.
Fact 8: Coral reefs are destroyed.
In the last 30 years, half of the world’s coral reefs have died. Human activity and the increased temperature have contributed significantly to the fading of the coral. When the water gets too hot, the algae that live in the coral migrate away. Algae are needed to provide the coral with energy. When the algae migrate, the coral fades and becomes vulnerable to disease. This also has consequences for the fish and other species that live in the coral reef.