We hear a lot about global warming these days. But really, what is it? Put simply, since the middle of the 20th century scientists and researchers noticed a definite increase in the average temperature near the surface of the earth, namely in the oceans and in the air near the surface of the planet. This temperature increase is believed to be caused by burning of large amounts of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. Upon burning fossil fuels release gasses into the atmosphere. These gasses are called ‘greenhouse gasses’ because they have a similar effect on earth as a greenhouse has, namely the gasses trap the radiant heat from the sun close to the surface of the earth, making it difficult for the extra heat to escape.
Deforestation, the cutting down of trees, contributes to the effects of global warming. Living trees and other vegetation remove carbon from the atmosphere, (carbon dioxide) and release oxygen through the process of photosynthesis, a crucial part of the earth’s healthy functioning. The fewer trees the more carbon remains in the atmosphere, a major component of greenhouse gasses.
It is feared that as a result of continued global warming the sea level will rise and weather patterns will change, creating more extreme weather conditions, and perhaps contributing to the extinction of more vulnerable species, and unknown changes in agricultural yields.
Many of the effects of global warming are still uncertain, but international efforts are being made to try and stop and even reverse the global warming trend as a prudent measure of caution.