Global Warming describes a gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. This is permanently changing the Earths climate forever. The primary cause of global warming is from humans, mostly burning of fossil fuels to drive cars, generating electricity, and operating our homes and businesses. Global Warming is very real, and it is occurring every day.
The changes are small, so far, but they are expected to grow and speed up. Within the next fifty to one hundred years, the earth may be hotter than it has been in the past million years. As oceans warm and glaciers melt, land and cities along coasts may be flooded. Heat and drought may cause forests to die and food crops to fail. Global warming will affect weather everywhere, plants and animals everywhere, people everywhere.
One major cause of global warming is the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas that were formed from the remains of plant material deposited during the earth’s Carboniferous period. We have known for only a few thousand years that coal, oil, and natural gas can be burned to provide energy. It was not until the mid-1800s, however, that we began to burn very large quantities of these fossil fuels. The worldwide consumption of fossil fuel has increased dramatically.
Unfortunately, burning fossil fuels is not the only thing that we humans are doing to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In many parts of the world today, forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Enormous numbers of trees are being cut down, both to provide timber and to clear the land for farming or ranching. In order to clear forests for agriculture, people cut down and burn all the trees in the area. When the flames die down, nothing is left but acres of blackened, lifeless countryside. The fire destroys all the plants and kills or drives off the animals. Because there has been little attempt to replant trees in deforested areas, the world’s forests are disappearing very quickly.
There are a number of things that we can do to prepare for the changes that are coming. If we act now, perhaps we can “soften the blow” of the greenhouse effect. If we can reduce the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere, we probably can slow the rate of global warming and climate. In the future, the weather could change much more dramatically from year to year than it does now. As global warming alters habitats, many kinds of animals will be on the move, but all sorts of barriers will stand between them and a new place to live. To help animals get around these barriers, it might be necessary to set up migration corridors that connect natural areas with one another. Without human intervention, many kinds of plants also may not survive as the earth’s climate changes. Forests, in particular, may need our help. If climate changes come rapidly, few tree species will be able to spread into new areas fast enough to keep up with changing conditions.