In the article, “Climate change: How do we know?”, the author discusses just how prominent of the effects of global warming are today, specifically the effects that CO2 has played in getting us to where we are. The overall warming trend of the planet has been due to the result of human activity over the past years, specifically the increase in the levels of greenhouse gases being released into the environment.
Greenhouse gases are those that are released into the environment and trap the heat radiated by the sun, causing the warming effect that has led to the intense climate change we are experiencing. One of these very effective greenhouse gases is Carbon Dioxide. As shown in the chart attached to this article, CO2 levels, in units of parts per million, have reached new and astonishing levels where our planet is currently. Prior to 1950, the highest the CO2 levels ever reached was around 300 parts/million. However, today levels have reached numbers as high as 400 parts/million.
Everyday effects of global warming have been seen in the global temperature rise, of approximately 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century. In addition, there is the warming oceans, the shrinking ice sheets, the glacial retreat, the decreased snow cover, the rise in sea level, and many others.
Overall, this increase in CO2 levels, along with other greenhouse gases, proves to be resulting in a number of detrimental effects to our planet.
Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide rates are now higher than at any point in the last 800,000 years. According to a study conducted by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere has not been this high since Earth’s average temperature ranged from 2-3 degrees Celsius, which is equivalent to 3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Because Carbon Dioxide is a gas that absorbs heat, it also releases this heat gradually over time. As more fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are burned annually for energy, the CO2 is being released at a higher rate, thus heating up the earth more quickly, and contributing to climate change. The NOAA predicts that this increase in atmospheric CO2 is likely responsible for two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing Earth’s temperature to rise.
Throughout the NOAA’s report, they explained how Carbon Dioxide plays an interesting role in Earth’s system because it dissolves into the ocean. When CO2 reacts with these molecules of water, it produces Carbonic Acid, which lowers the ocean’s pH. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ocean’s pH has shifted from 8.21 to 8.10. This ocean acidification drop of approximately 0.1 is extremely vital in the survival of marine life. This very small change in pH creates a 30 percent increase of acidity to the ocean.
Ocean acidification goes into the idea of measurements we had previously discussed in class. Looking from an outside perspective, without knowing the consequences, we would assume that a 0.1 acidity increase is virtually nothing. However, it’s effect is more detrimental than we think. The 30 percent acidity increase makes it more difficult for marine life to extract calcium from the water to build their shells and skeletons. Therefore, through our study of scales and measurements, the context of each situation is extremely important when analyzing sustainability issues.
Source: Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide