The earth has become warmer by 0.74 degrees centigrade since the end of the 19th century, and the rate at which it is warming has doubled every decade in the last 50 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Certain areas of the world are more sensitive to global warming than others. The Arctic, in particular, is dramatically affected and, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, is “Volcano facts’ canary in the coal mine" -- a barometer for the planet as a whole.
The Greenhouse Effect
The natural -- and necessary -- process called the greenhouse effect causes certain gases to be trapped in the earth's atmosphere and keeps the planet at temperatures we can comfortably live in. The term "greenhouse" is used because heat is trapped in the same way as in an everyday backyard greenhouse. The sun's heat can enter the atmosphere but it can't escape, and it keeps the planet at an average temperature of 57 degrees Fahrenheit. But fossil fuel burning and deforestation are enhancing the greenhouse effect, sending global temperatures too high.
Human energy consumption is upsetting the natural balance of greenhouse gases and is one of the causes of Global warming facts. The main greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane; they help keep us warm enough by preventing the planet's heat from escaping back into space. If too much greenhouse gas is trapped, however, the earth will become too hot and less habitable for many life forms. Various human activities are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere; the more we fell trees, generate waste and create landfills, the hotter the planet will become.
According to the international environmental commentator Stephen Leahy, the Arctic is "ground zero for climate change" and temperatures are rising faster there than anywhere else on earth. By the end of the century, the Arctic will have ice-free summers and the ocean will be exposed to the sun for the first time in thousands of years. In 2000, the 3000-year-old largest block of ice in the Arctic started to crack open. By 2002 it had split completely through, and it continues to disintegrate daily. Wildlife, plants and native people have already been affected by the consequent loss of the ice shelf's natural freshwater lake and ecosystem.
Humans burn too many fossil fuels -- coal, natural gas and oil -- and so create extra carbon dioxide. Mining for coal and oil allows methane, another greenhouse gas, to escape. Methane exists naturally in the ground, and as soon as the earth is dug up, it is released into the air. Trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, but humans are cutting them down by the thousand. Overpopulation is another major man-made cause of global warming. The more people on earth, the more food, energy and agriculture is needed. Sustaining all of this is fossil fuel combustion to support the infrastructures. The more people on the planet, the more carbon dioxide is produced and the bigger the greenhouse effect.
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