Climate Change: The History, Scenario, and Future of our Planet

There has been consistent data which proves that global warming is a bitter reality in our lives and that loosening emission controls may bring irreversible consequences to our planet. We would be the most affected victims.

There’s still dark rhetoric regarding climate change, driven by political agendas and mere intuition, two elements that could not be the farthest from scientific procedures. But metrics on the planet’s situation are consistent: there are decades worth of data concerning air quality, and, above all, what the impacts of social evolution are on climate.

Science is solid on this: 97% of the world’s scientists, according to NASA, agree on the fact that there has been significant climate change on our planet and that we are to blame for it. The other 3%, who are mainly deniers of such claims (many of them relying on support of far-right leaders, such as the presidents of the United States and Brazil), are financed or connected to the oil, mining, and aviation industries or are lobbying for these sectors.

It is important to understand that there can’t be shallow and unfounded conclusions to this matter. The scientific community plays the largest role in fighting climate change and they are completely backed up by evidence, tests, and data generated using appropriate equipment designed specifically for this purpose. Several US bureaus responsible for the country’s strategy and defense, such as the Army, the EPA, and NASA already consider climate change to be anthropogenic (meaning caused by us, human beings) for over 30 years,despite the anti-environmentalist rhetoric of the current leader.

Global warming: from Ancient History to the Industrial Revolution

The Earth has always varied in  CO2 levels, between 100 and 300 ppm (parts per million). Our planet, however, was always able to self-regulate (while there was no interference from humanity), so these levels, at least for the past 8 million years, have fluctuated through a relatively simple process. Higher levels of CO2, like 300ppm, have led trees to capture this extra CO2 for photosynthesis, absorbing this gas from the atmosphere as part of its process to generate energy. Thus, Earth has gone through the cycle in the past millions of years:

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Nonetheless, everything started changing when the Industrial Revolution began in the XVIII Century.

Industrialization throughout the world expanded rapidly and brought serious consequences to the environment. We have never reached such alarming CO2 levels in our atmosphere before. Our first ancestors appeared around 3 million years ago, when the concentration of carbon dioxide in our planet oscillated between 100ppm and 300ppm. In 2020, CO2 levels are expected to reach 417ppm, the highest level in millions of years.

This significant raise brings two major consequences, the first of which is a worsening of the Greenhouse Effect. With lower CO2 concentration, sunlight is reflected by the Earth and dissipates in the universe. With high levels of CO2, it becomes much harder for light — as well as heat — to dissipate, thus it remains concentrated right here on Earth. And that has brought a worrisome second issue: the accelerated increase of global temperature.

A good analogy here is the human body. If we don’t have a fever, our body remains with a constant temperature or 36 degrees Celsius (or 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit), meaning that our body is perfectly regulated and there are no problems. But when our temperature increases a few degrees, our body is telling us that something is wrong and we need to rush to a hospital. It’s pretty much the same with our planet. In the past 10,000 years prior to the Industrial Revolution, the Earth’s temperature did not even go up one degree centigrade. In the last 300 years, temperature has already risen by more than one degree, which means that we’ve achieved something in 300 years that nature couldn’t in 10,000.

It is important to highlight that the temperature rises mentioned above are global averages. In tropical countries, the variation is not as volatile as it is in other countries, such as Northern Europe, Southern Argentina or South Africa. These higher latitude, temperate zones may be much more affected to the point that, while the global average temperature can be of two or three degrees higher, these places could reach up to 15 degrees hotter. A typical summer day, which historically would register 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), could be as hot as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit). Predictions state that around the year 2080, the tropical regions will become inhabitable and migratory impacts could be just as devastating, forcing the population in those mild areas to become highly concentrated.

What is the expected scenario?

There is a high probability that life on our planet would become as catastrophic as a Hollywood dystopian movie. Some scientists claim that the temperature rise would cause irreversible effects in which the self-regulatory system of our planet no longer functions properly.

The side effects brought by the constant increase in temperatures and the Greenhouse Effect could also raise temperatures in the oceans, especially due to the melting of polar caps. Cities on the shore, as well as entire groups of islands, could just vanish in the next 60 years. Food production would suffer major drops, from 30% to 50%. We’ve reached a point in which CO2 concentration could be as high as 600ppm by 2080 (or twice the amount our planet is used to managing).

Does it mean that we are doomed as human beings? Well, yes and no. Although predictions are dire, we must understand that we have time to react. If governments abide by what specialists say about the environment, if industries become more aware and reduce their absurd levels of CO2 emissions, if all societies unite in one single preservation movement, then there could be a chance for all of us. It is up to us to take the first step.

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