Effects of Climate Change on the Arctic

Climate Change

Climate change is one of the most widely debated topics today, due to global temperatures rising at unprecedented levels that this planet has ever seen. Global temperatures have been warming by approximately 0.6 degrees C during the last three decades (Sommer, 2010). And according to the IPCC, if this continues at the present rate, global temperatures may rise by 6 degrees C by 2100! (IPCC, 2007).

Source: Green Peace

What is causing the Global Climate Change? (The Greenhouse Effect)

The rise in global temperatures is due to an imbalance between heat energy emitted from the surface of the Earth and incoming solar radiation (Shuman, 2010). When solar radiation enters the Earth, some of it is absorbed by the Earth, and the rest is reflected back to space. However, some heat energy becomes trapped due to the presence of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere (Shuman, 2010). Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane absorb heat and radiate it back to the Earth, resulting in the warming of the lower atmosphere.

Source: The Saskatchewan Environmental Society

With this process in mind, it is obvious to see that increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere would lead to an increase in the average global temperatures. However, recent human activities have done just that, due to the burning of fossil fuels to help sustain our global population of 7 billion people (IPCC, 2007). For instance, since the industrial revolution, the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased by about 35%, and it is going to take a number of decades for concentrations to decline if, efforts to correct this problem are taken NOW. This is because excess carbon dioxide can persist in the atmosphere for centuries (IPCC, 2007).

Source: The Knowledge Freeway

In order to tackle this issue, the Kyoto Protocol was created, to reduce global emissions to about 5 percent below 1990 levels for the years 2008-2012 (O'Neill, 2002). Instead, the emissions rose to double-digit levels, and only two nations, Germany and the UK, actually met the target goals (O'Neill, 2002). According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2000, the U.S. emitted about 10 percent more CO2 than in 1990 (O'Neill, 2002).

Source: Green Peace