• Kira Lichtenfeld

The Basics of Climate Change

I was very fortunate to be able to spend my first many summers that I can remember in the Bay Area in California, where I first developed my love of nature. Over the past several years, I have been able to expand this love by traveling and participating in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and white-water rafting. I have always loved nature and always felt a need to protect it. When I was 14, I saw my first whale breach. It was a life-changing experience and further solidified my commitment to preserving the planet.

For me, helping the planet began with educating myself about the causes of climate change. The greenhouse gas effect, the natural heating of Earth by heat trapping gases in the atmosphere, is the main driver of the climate crisis. Energy enters the atmosphere in the form of light from the sun, and greenhouse gasses absorb the outgoing heat and radiate it back towards the Earth's surface. This phenomenon is actually one of the things that allows for life on our planet, by trapping heat it keeps the atmosphere at a livable temperature. However, our problem now is that there is too much greenhouse gas build-up.

Carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and is produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels. Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas. It is produced from agricultural activities, especially livestock farming, and is about 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, meaning that it can absorb and hold 84 times more heat. Other greenhouse gasses include nitrous oxide, produced from agricultural activities, and fluorinated gases, emitted by industrial processes.

Whistler glacier
Photo I took in Whistler, BC near a glacier

There are many severe impacts that come along with the climate crisis. For example, the temperatures of our oceans are rising dramatically. Oceans are a carbon sink, meaning that they absorb much of the carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. They actually absorb 93% of the excess heat caused by greenhouse gasses. This intense increase in temperature can lead to bleaching corals, ocean acidification, and many other issues for marine life. Rising ocean temperature also leads to sea level rise. Sea level rise is a substantial problem globally because most of the major world cities are located on the coasts, and could be underwater in the next century. Other impacts include extreme weather, extreme heat, ice melt, habitat loss, and so much more.

This information may seem devastating or depressing to you, as it sometimes has for me, but there are many reasons to be hopeful. There are numerous realistic and possible solutions at the government, corporate, and personal levels.

Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming posts about more impacts and solutions.

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