The Pressing Issue of Climate Change

The Pressing Issue of Climate Change

Isabelle Lee, Junior Reporter

A nation that many people didn’t know existed could be submerged soon. Kiribati, an island only six feet above sea level, is known for its sea life. According to Kelly Levin of the World Resources Institute, “Rising sea levels are likely to contaminate the island’s freshwater and harm its soil, which is not especially fertile for agriculture to begin with.” The highly valued fishing industry is at a greater risk because increasing temperatures are affecting the oceans. Global warming is the evil mastermind behind this seawater issue. Along with seawater changes, the unusually hot temperatures escalate the risk of wildfires, drought, violent hurricanes, and glaciers melting. Global warming is dangerous for our planet, and it is important to know what causes the unusual temperatures.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas and excessive concentrations in the atmosphere trap too much of the sun’s heat, causing global warming. As a result, unusually hot temperatures are produced. The heat affects several landforms. The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service stated the CO2 levels in May of 2020 reached 413 parts per million. That number is significant. The last time concentrations passed 400 parts per million was four million years ago.

 The World Meteorological Organization states the worldwide lockdowns hardly affected CO2 levels. Martin Siegert, the co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the environment at Imperial College London, says “We have put 100 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere in the last 60 years.” That’s not good. 

Although CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas, it is not the most influential. Two other types are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is produced by decomposing plants and is emitted from places like landfills or swamps. The Land Trust Alliance stated that a methane molecule has 25 times the amount of “global warming potential” than a CO2 molecule. Nitrous oxide is another dominant greenhouse gas. It is given off  by agricultural activity. According to the Land Trust Alliance, a single nitrous oxide molecule has a whopping 298 times the “global warming potential” of a single CO2 molecule. There are even more greenhouse gases, but these are the most well known.

At the beginning of 2020, raging wildfires were burning up Australia, charring an area almost half the size of California. Wildfires are fueled by two conditions: severe heat and drought. An analysis conducted by the World Weather Attribution explained in detail how rising temperatures are going to cause more fires. Scientists found heat and drought are linked to climate change, and with the increased temperatures, forests are becoming drier and won’t contain as much moisture. Also, extreme weather conditions triggering the fires have increased over 30% since 1990, and more will be ignited because the global temperature is predicted to rise 2 degrees (Celsius) more.

While this is all happening, organizations are trying to put a halt to these events. The Paris Agreement is a notable factor making an effort to prevent the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations. The Paris Agreement is a “legally binding international treaty on climate change.” In 2016, the agreement was signed and put into action, and 189 countries have joined the Paris Agreement. Their goal is to reduce emissions and work together to solve the consequences of climate change. The Paris Agreement is significant because nations are uniting to combat global warming using different plans. The countries are willing to put a stop to this by discussing different ways to prevent rising greenhouse gas emissions. Within the Paris Agreement, nations with an excess of resources are helping out less fortunate countries. While greenhouse gas emissions are rising everyday, low carbon solutions will help mitigate the output of CO2. 

With the near submersion of Kiribati and colossal wildfires in Australia, global warming has shown itself to be a massive issue. Without drastic changes and a significant reduction in the emission of greenhouse gasses, severe droughts, floods, fires, and food scarcity will become commonplace. Actions lead to consequences, and consequences are presenting themselves in the form of prolific conflagrations, melting icebergs, and rising sea levels. The time to act is now.