What Environmental Science Taught Me About Global Warming

What Environmental Science Taught Me About Global Warming

Understanding these facts will give you the upper hand in a global warming debate or conversation.

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Although I believed in global warming and its impacts prior to taking the Environmental Science course at FSU, there is so much that I have learned about climate change and the science behind the politics of what is affecting our world. It's important to be aware of how we affect our environment, especially when this is what we leave behind for our children and grandchildren.

1. Global warming is not the same thing as climate change.

Climate change is a long term change in the overall average weather patterns on Earth. Global warming is one aspect of climate change which specifically concerns the increase of the surface temperature of the Earth. Although both terms seem similar, when discussing the global changes occurring, it is important to understand the difference and effects that each term refer to.

2. How the greenhouse gas effect works.

When the solar energy goes through the atmosphere, some of the energy is absorbed by the Earth's surface and the rest is reflected back into the atmosphere as heat. The heat that is reflected back into the atmosphere is meant to reach space but greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane absorb the heat and radiate it back onto the Earth's which slowly increases the overall temperature of its surface. The greenhouse gas effect is due to the burning of fossil fuels and if it is not regulated, the Earth's climate will continue to increase.

3. Whether anthropogenic activity is causing global warming.

Anthropogenic effects are those that are caused by human activities such as exploiting fossil fuels, farming, and deforestation. These activities are increasing carbon dioxide and gaseous levels in the oceans and atmosphere which is disrupting natural climate cycles globally and ultimately furthering global warming.

4. Why people don’t believe in global warming and why they are wrong.

The Earth has gone through many Milankovitch cycles which are natural recurring cycles in which there are cold and warm periods due to the Earth's tilt and other variations that alters the distribution of solar radiation on earth. Although the Earth has experienced natural climate changes in the far past, the carbon dioxide and other gaseous levels have never been as high as they are present day. People often confuse the natural climate changes the Earth experiences to be the reason for current global warming without considering the greenhouse effect and anthropogenic activity which is increasing the factors related to these changes.

5. The impacts of global warming.

If the anthropogenic activity that is inducing further global warming is not contained, drinking water will become scarce along with food because livestock and crops will not be able to survive due to changing climate conditions. Biodiversity and wildlife in certain regions will be threatened due to changes in their habitats. The landscape and future of the Earth's inhabitants are at risk because of the effects of climate change.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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The Flint Water Crisis Is Affecting More People Than We Know, Including The Unborn

Flint is not the only city with water pipes contaminated with lead. At 40 weeks pregnant, I have to worry about the lead in my home’s water.

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Many Americans are familiar with the atrocities in Flint, Michigan. Flint received nationwide coverage when it was revealed that residents were being restricted access to clean water and were exposed to water contaminated with lead for many years. After the state discovered the lead, the residents were left with the contaminated water and still have it years later.

I have watched many documentaries on Flint like "Here's to Flint" and "Fahrenheit 11/9." The scenes from the documentaries are haunting and much resemble a war-torn, third world country. I was especially surprised when I received a letter in the mail from Chicago's Department of Water Management. The letter looked like nothing special and had been placed in a pile of junk mail that none of my roommate's wanted to read. I eventually went through the mail and was shocked at what I read. The letter casually says that my home uses a water meter and water meters activate lead in pipes.

It continued to say that most homes in Chicago test under the U.S. EPA's benchmark level for lead in drinking, however, 17.2% percent exceed it.

As a pregnant woman, this is horrifying news. I had been pregnant for months drinking and cooking with contaminated water before reading this letter. Drinking water contaminated with lead has long term effects for the whole family. For example, it affects the brain and nervous system development in children and increases the risks of things like kidney damage and high blood pressure in adults. The CDC itself says that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood.

I especially remember a scene in "Fahrenheit 11/9" where they talk about the effects lead has on the babies born to pregnant women who consumed it. It can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. There are pregnancy complications like low birth weight, premature delivery, preeclampsia.

Babies whose mother consumed lead water have been reported to have behavioral problems, lower IQs, and learning disabilities.

My own home soon resembled that of a developing country. I had stacks and stacks of water bottles. I have to use these bottles for everything. Just like residents of Flint, I have to brush my teeth with water bottles. I have to go through about five water bottles to boil water to cook. If I am out of water bottles, I just have to wait it out because the alternative is not worth it.

Having to worry about lead in the water is very stressful. Along with all the other stresses of pregnancy, I have to stress about accidentally poisoning my baby. I know that I have to take precautions in my own home, but am unsure where else is contaminated. I don't know where is safe. I don't know who else received the same letter I did, but ignored it as junk mail.

I recently had a house guest stay from another state. He asked why our water had an odd smell. I had to casually tell him not to mind that, it's just the lead in our water. I find it very disheartening that the city, state, and country don't prioritize the health and safety of its pregnant women, babies, or children. It is sincerely unfortunate how things like access to clean drinking water in America are just a luxury.

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