About Global Warming
Is global warming really bad?
Not necessarily. The planet actually needs to be warm enough to support life. Our planet does this through a protective layer of the atmosphere, which allows the earth to absorb the heat of sunlight.
This “greenhouse effect” sustains life, much in the same way that real glass greenhouses keep plants at a certain temperature in order for them to grow. Without this natural warming, the earth would plunge to below-freezing temperatures, and all life on earth as we know it would disappear!
However, too much of a good thing is always bad. Our planet is warming up too fast: we are burning fossil fuels, which contribute to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and which trap heat in the planet. Rising temperatures also mean that weather, our oceans, harvests, and human health, among many other things, will be adversely affected.
Is it global warming or climate change?
It depends on what you're talking about. When earth system researchers first started detecting the rise of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, they also saw that global temperatures were also rising. By the early 1980's, these scientists called this rise in temperature global warming, which they defined as the atmospheric response to rising levels of carbon dioxide on the planet.
Because of other factors, such as the location of a country on the planet, the dependence of certain countries on fossil fuels, and the amounts of land devoted to agriculture or industry, scientists knew that not every place on earth would warm at the same rate. They also knew that rising global temperatures would not be the only effect of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The increase in temperature, along with many other factors, has been found to change the weather in the short term, and climate in the long term. When researchers talk about climate change, they want to convey the idea that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere don't just change the global temperature: they can change our climate, our overall health, and our overall ability to live and survive.
Climate change, therefore, is a more holistic description of the problems that rising carbon dioxide levels can create.
Will the earth really disappear in a flood because of global warming?
We hope not! But current climate change models show that this might be more a Hollywood movie scenario than a plausible reality. One fear that scientists have is that if our planet warms by at least 3 °C more, then all the ice sheets of Greenland might collapse and raise the sea level by 6 meters. This collapse, however, will be slow, and will occur over the next hundreds of years.
It's cold where I am, so that means global warming is a myth, right?
When scientists say that the planet is warming, they don't mean that the planet will be hot every single day. Weather is more complex than that, and climate is even more complex.
What scientists mean is that global warming will bring more hot days than we've had. True, we will still have cold days, but they will be fewer.
What scientists also mean is that temperatures all over the world are actually going up, and often dramatically. These increasing temperatures are measured over long periods of time, from year to year, and for different places on the planet. The trends are the same: temperatures all over the world are increasing at an unprecedented rate. We are more likely to experience daily record highs instead of lows, and this tendency to have more hot days will increase as global warming continues.