Global warming refers to the long-term increase in Earth's average surface temperature primarily caused by human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and others, trap heat from the sun within the Earth's atmosphere, leading to the greenhouse effect.
Human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), deforestation, industrial processes, and agricultural practices, have significantly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This enhanced greenhouse effect intensifies the natural greenhouse effect and contributes to global warming.
The consequences of global warming are far-reaching and include:
- Rising Temperatures: Average global temperatures have been increasing over the past century and are projected to continue rising. This leads to heatwaves, higher surface and ocean temperatures, and impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity.
- Melting Glaciers and Polar Ice: As temperatures increase, glaciers and ice caps melt at an accelerated rate, contributing to rising sea levels. The melting of polar ice sheets, such as those in Antarctica and Greenland, can have severe implications for coastal communities.
- Sea Level Rise: As a result of melting ice and the thermal expansion of seawater, global sea levels are rising. This poses a significant threat to low-lying coastal areas, increasing the risk of flooding, erosion, and saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources.
- Extreme Weather Events: Global warming can lead to more frequent and severe extreme weather events, including hurricanes, droughts, floods, and wildfires. These events can cause widespread damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and ecosystems, as well as pose risks to human lives.
- Disruption of Ecosystems: Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can disrupt ecosystems and alter the distribution and behavior of plant and animal species. This can lead to shifts in habitats, species extinction, and imbalances in ecological interactions.
- Socioeconomic Impacts: Global warming can have significant socioeconomic impacts, including threats to food security, water resources, human health, and economic stability. Disadvantaged communities, especially in developing countries, are often more vulnerable to these effects.
Addressing global warming requires collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to cleaner and renewable energy sources, promote sustainable practices and adapt to the changes already occurring. International agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, aim to mitigate global warming and limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.