Global warming is destroying wildlife, the environment and the human race. Due to unsustainable human activity, such as coal burning, plastic production and transportation, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than ever before. A study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uncovered that over 75% of the greenhouse gases causing global warming is made up of purely carbon dioxide produced by human activity (2014). These activities which contribute mostly to this increase in carbon dioxide levels include transportation, industry, electricity production and agriculture. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) provides research showing that electricity production and transportation contribute to nearly 60% of greenhouse gas emissions (2017). The releasing of greenhouse gases is a natural process which allows the greenhouse effect to take place, however the enhanced greenhouse effect, or global warming, is not a natural cycle and is resulting in the destruction of the earth. The greenhouse effect is when heat from the sun reaches earth and is let in through the planet’s atmosphere. As heat is reflected of the surface of the earth, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere help keep some of the heat in, but still lets the adequate amount pass back out. The enhanced greenhouse effect is similar, except due to more fossil fuels in the atmosphere, the heat which enters through the atmosphere is completely trapped in by gases. This results in the earth’s rising temperatures, or climate change. Since the Industrial revolution, modern inventions and machinery which burns these fossil fuels has caused a dramatic increase in the harmful gases released into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide levels have been rapidly increasing since and rates are growing faster by the decade. Research by The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration showed that the heating influence of all major greenhouse gases combined has increased by 41% since 1990 (R.Lindsay, 2018). Thus, human activities are the cause of the enhanced greenhouse effect which is rapidly destroying the planet.
Global warming obviously affects the earth’s atmosphere through the rising temperatures as a result of excess carbon emissions. Due to this disturbance in the atmosphere, the lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere are all affected. Higher temperatures are resulting in the severely rapid melting of ice, causing sea levels to rise and habitats to be destroyed. In the last decade, Antarctica’s ice mass loss rate has tripled (NASA, 2019). Along with other icy regions melting, this has caused oceans to rise an average of 3 inches since 1992, with some regions rising over 9 inches (NASA, 2019). Rising sea levels depletes the land mass available for land-dwelling species to inhabit and also diminishes the ideal habitats many marine species due to changes in temperature and acidity. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also causes ocean acidification due to the carbon dissolving into the seawater and lowering its pH. Research has showed that since the Industrial revolution, the ocean’s pH levels have declined from 8.21 to 8.10, meaning a 30% rise in acidity levels (R.Lindsay, 2018). This impacts marine life because the raised acidity interferes with marine species’ ability to extract calcium from the water and construct healthy shells and skeletons. Furthermore, the world’s oceans are heating up along with the air temperature. NASA claimed that recent research has shown an increase in ocean temperatures of over 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the top 700 metres of the ocean (NASA, 2019). This means that certain locations in the ocean are no longer suitable for specific marine species, forcing them to adapt or move in order to thrive. Another effect of warmer oceans is the increased frequency of more severe storms and disasters, which can destroy wildlife and their habitats. Ice core drilling has also uncovered that most of the heating due to carbon emissions has taken place in the past 35 years, with 2016 being the hottest year on record, closely followed by 2015, 2017 and 2018 (NASA, 2019). Due to this disruption of habitats, UNESCO claims that by the year 2100, more than half of the world’s marine species may be extinct (N.A, 2017). Pollution due to carbon emissions also deteriorates air quality, directly impacting air breathing species such as humans, plants and birds. The World Health Organisation stated that poor outdoor air quality caused approximately 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016 (C.Nunez, 2019).
Climate change and its many consequences are not only affecting the environment, but also disturbing humans socially and economically. Negative environmental outcomes of global warming such as melting ice, extreme storms and air pollution are affecting populations around the world. Melting ice resulting in ocean levels rising is a significant issue for society as many low-altitude locations around the world are being slowly flooded by seawater, forcing towns and cities to adapt and move to avoid sinking. Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh is sinking at a rapid rate of more than 5 inches each decade, posing serious threat to the coastal communities (M.Hickman, 2019). On top of rising sea levels, an increase in major storms threatens the world socially and economically. Business Insider stated that the United States spent more money on natural disaster recovery in 2017 than any other year in history, with approximately $306 billion dollars’ worth of damage (J.Berke, 2018). Studies show that this increasing cost of damage and severity of social impacts of natural disasters is part of continuing trend which is growing worse and worse. To reduce the impacts of climate change, more sustainable practices must be used in industrial and agricultural sectors. According to the International Labour Organisation, 18 million jobs in energy production can be created simply by achieving sustainability in that sector. The transition to a more sustainable future in terms of agriculture, energy production and industry would benefit the human race as well as save the environment.
Energy efficient, sustainable technology is a key part of finding a solution to global warming and reducing its impacts. A study provided by the USEPA showed that electricity production contributed to nearly a third of the world’s carbon emissions causing global warming, meaning that reducing the greenhouse gases generated by energy production would be an ideal way of tackling climate change. An article by Geoscience Australia (2019) states that the majority of Australia’s electricity comes from coal, oil and gas, which are the most unsustainable and environmentally destructive energy sources available. On top of this, coal burning is extremely inefficient, as 70% of the electricity produced is lost at the power station, and a further 10% is lost when this energy is transported along power lines (R.Lawrence, 2012). This demonstrates how unsustainable Australia’s energy production sector currently is, and how much it could be changed in order to achieve a healthier planet. A particularly effective way of producing electricity is through a fuel cell generator which uses simple, efficient and sustainable methods of generating electricity in a small box. This would be more ideal and effective than other renewable resources such as solar power, wind power and hydroelectricity which all rely on certain environmental conditions. These generators, such as the BlueGen fuel cell, do not require any specific conditions and are extremely efficient. This generator lets households and businesses produce their electricity independently, rather than relying on the expensive and inefficient energy from the grid. The BlueGen, produced by a Melbourne based Australian company, works by piling 204 small fuel cells inside the generator, to make a small film stack. The tiny fuel cells use a thin ceramic conductor sheet in between two metallic catalysts to separate hydrogens and carbons (filtered out as waste gas) from the electrons which are carried away as an electric current. This chemical reaction occurs inside the generator when it is heated to 750 degrees Celsius. This efficient, coal free electric current produces 1.5 kilowatts of energy hour, enough for two average family homes each year. For hot water supply, just one generator heats 200L of hot water per day, and runs on simply natural gas and air. Compared to the current energy production systems, which burn coal, oil and other harmful gases which contribute to global warming, fuel cell generators are a much more sustainable and efficient. Implementing these generators into society would dramatically decrease the impacts of climate change by lowering carbon emissions from the energy sector.
Along with introducing ways of energy efficient, sustainable electricity production, other measures should be taken to ensure global warming is not the end of the planet. Plastic production plays a major part in fossil fuel emissions, due to the huge amount of plastics produced. Due to society’s consumerism, disposable plastics are mass produced, leading to air and ocean pollution. On top of this, large scale farming practices are highly unsustainable and could be changed to benefit the planet. The impacts of climate change on society and the earth is obvious, and science and technology must be implemented for a more sustainable and healthy future.