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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

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The serious effects of global warming [column] | Local Voices … – LNP | LancasterOnline

Some people like to argue that the bitter cold “proves” there is no global warming. In fact, the opposite is true.

Global warming is most severe in the polar regions. The reason is that the water and soil absorb heat, while ice reflects it. The melting at the poles is accelerated as there is more exposed water and less ice.

Technically, Antarctica is a desert, since it gets fewer than 10 inches of precipitation a year, so the melting is not being replenished by fresh snow. This global warming affects the jet stream, causing it to move farther south and allowing cold Arctic air into the southern United States. This also contributes to the excessive snowfalls, droughts, storms, record-high summer temperatures and wildfires we have experienced in recent years.

According to NASA, “The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.”

Sea levels have risen 6.7 inches in the last century, and the last decade’s rise is nearly double that of the last century. NASA also states that the Earth has warmed since 1880, with 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and Arctic sea ice have all decreased. Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere in the world.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30%.

“Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities,” NASA states.

Global warming is caused by so-called greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere. These gases work like the windshield in a car on a warm day. Solar heat is allowed in but, due to the change in wavelength, much of the radiated heat cannot pass back out and is reflected back to the Earth by the greenhouse layer, thus raising the temperature.

But do greenhouse gases cause an increase in global temperature? The evidence is in the atmosphere of our “sister” planet, Venus. Venus has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide that reflects heat back to the planet surface, creating a surface temperature of 900 degrees. Conversely, if Earth had no greenhouse gases, our planet would be too cold for life.

Scientists can determine the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and the temperatures of past centuries by taking core samples of ice from the polar ice caps and analyzing the trapped bubbles of air. They have identified a direct correlation between atmospheric greenhouse gases and the Earth’s temperature.

In the past 30 years, greenhouse gases in our air have increased sharply every year. There are two major causes for this increase. First: Our factories, power plants, automobiles and even cows are releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The second factor is that humans are destroying the Earth’s rainforests — which remove carbon dioxide from the air — at an alarming rate. We are removing green spaces to make way for our large cities and highways.

As a result of these two factors, carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has reached a dangerous level. The United States is the No. 2 contributor to this increase, and China is No. 1.

Another problem that is rarely discussed is the melting of permafrost (soil that is always frozen). We don’t yet know what might be contained in permafrost that has been frozen for millions of years — but it might contain viruses and bacteria that humans are defenseless against. Tropical diseases may be seen farther north than in the past.

We know that ocean levels are rising, but that is only one of the problems facing our Earth. About 90% of fresh water is contained in the ice on our planet. As this water melts, it decreases the salinity of the ocean, affecting sea life and decreasing ocean temperatures. Coral reefs (a living organism) are especially sensitive to any change in seawater, and these reefs are dying at an alarming rate.

The Gulf Stream is weakening, as well. The Gulf Stream affects temperatures in Florida and the eastern United States and makes Western Europe warmer than it would be without it. Other ocean currents are being affected similarly.

All of these factors are intertwined in creating these significant climate changes. We don’t really know what the entire impact will be on our planet, but it may well be catastrophic.

To ignore the facts and do nothing will ensure that future generations will end up living in a world far worse than we can even imagine. We owe it to them to do something about global warming and climate change now, before it is too late.

Commander Robert B. Hirsch, Navy (retired), resides in Lancaster Township. He has teaching certifications in both Earth science and environmental science. 

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