Our planet is baking. The burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and farming are just some of the causes leading to the global temperature warming up at an alarming rate together with the greenhouse effect. The last decade was the warmest ever recorded with the average global temperature rising by 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. This article explains global warming, highlights the causes of the greenhouse effect, and provides a number of facts and statistics related to global warming.
What is Global Warming?
Our planet’s climate has changed throughout history. The last 650,000 years have been marked by seven major cycles of climate warming and cooling. The modern climate era began about 11,700 years ago when the last ice age ended abruptly. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration of United States (NASA) reports that these changes in the Earth’s climate can be attributed to variations in the planet’s orbit in relation to the sun.
In the context of modern climate changes, global warming refers to the gradual increase in average global temperatures as a result of human activities such as the burning of fossil fuel, deforestation, and farming. Since the pre-industrial period, the average global temperature has increased by about 1 degree Celsius and is currently rising by 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade. The Paris Agreement on climate change aims to limit global warming to below 1.5 – 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
What causes global warming?
The main driver of global warming is considered to be the greenhouse effect which refers to the process in which some gases that are released into the Earth’s atmosphere trap the sun’s heat and prevent this from escaping back into space. Many greenhouse gases occur naturally on our planet but some are generated by human activity. These are some of the causes of global warming:
- Burning fossil fuels – the burning of coal, natural gas, and oil leads to the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) into the atmosphere
- Deforestation – humans have cleared vast areas of vegetation for farming, urban development, and infrastructure. Trees play an extremely important role in climate regulation as they absorb CO2 and release oxygen back into the atmosphere
- Agriculture and farming – livestock release large amounts of methane, a gas with greenhouse properties. Moreover, various fertilizers containing nitrogen produce nitrous oxide emissions
- Fluorinated gases – that are used for refrigerants, air-conditioning or heat pump equipment once released into the atmosphere have a very strong warming effect, often 23,000 times greater than CO2.
Global warming facts & statistics
- The last decade (2011-2020) was the warmest ever recorded with the average global temperature reaching 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2019
- The Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass losing an average of 279 billion tons and 148 billion tons of ice per year respectively between 1993 – 2019
- About 64% of all greenhouse emissions come from just 10 countries while the 100 countries releasing the least are only responsible for 3.6% of all emissions
- China, the European Union, and the United States are the top three greenhouse gas emitters in the world, producing 41.5% of total global emissions
- Around 30% of the global population is exposed to deadly heatwaves more than 20 days a year
- About 11% of all greenhouse emissions caused by humans are due to deforestation
- While nature is extremely effective at storing CO2 and fighting global warming, nature-based solutions receive only 3% of all climate funding.
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