An in-depth investigation of the fundamental mechanisms underlying dynamic changes on planet Earth is a high priority for research in the natural sciences. A key question for such areas is the study of the processes that lead to a change in the habitual order of life, which has the potential to affect not only natural animal and plant communities but also human populations. Thus, one reason for a comprehensive study of planetary dynamics is determined by the desire to discover in advance the vector of modifications and, if permissible, to change it in order to preserve the possibility of a comfortable life on Earth.
There is no doubt that human industrial activities — whether chemical synthesis, industrial production, or garbage disposal — affect the planet in significant ways. This applies to all spheres of life: the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, the lithosphere, but in particular, changes are evident in climatic conditions. The problem of global climate warming has become one of the central themes of the past decade, as an increasing number of researchers, environmentalists, and stakeholders become involved in the environmental security of the Earth. This paper summarizes and elaborates on the available information regarding global climate warming and seeks to identify the main causes of this phenomenon.
Serious concern about global climate change on the planet has historically been defined by two factors at once. First, the development of humanity’s industrial consciousness has predictably given rise to obvious questions of awareness and responsibility for human-made effects and resource consumption. The increase in the carbon footprint, the growth of landfills, and toxic industries were reasons for increased interest in the consequences of such actions. On the other hand, humanity has observed that over some time, average annual temperatures have been slowly getting higher. For the majority of modern people, it no longer seems surprising that in some regions, cold and snowy winters have gradually turned into snowless, warm seasons. In this context, it is of great research interest to look at the numbers that support the hypotheses about global warming.
The effect of positive climate dynamics can be seen in the retrospective analysis of data. Thus, it is of paramount importance to discuss ocean surface temperatures and ocean glacier areas, the most prominent factors of global temperature increase. According to Tiseo, over the past 139 years, the average annual surface temperature of the oceans has increased 70-fold, as depicted in Figure 1A (Tiseo). On the other hand, the author points out that the area of sea ice in the northern hemisphere has become 10% smaller in only 39 years (see Figure 1B). Finally, it is reasonable to assume that land temperatures also became markedly higher during these periods. Indeed, Tiseo demonstrates that each successive decade, from 1910 to 2019, was on average warmer than the previous one, with an absolute difference of three times between the interval boundaries (see Figure 1B). It follows that the temperature increase problem associated with climate dynamics in the last century is substantial and can be quantified by such statistics. In this context, it is legitimate to clarify whether these kinds of changes are not a natural component of the life of the biosphere on a larger scale.
Analysis of Previous Episodes
Climate change may be of concern because even the statistics cited clearly show trends of linearly increasing temperature characteristics and related effects over the previous hundred years. It is worth recognizing that these fluctuations have been possible throughout the Earth’s existence, and it is possible to verify this through an in-depth study of iron rocks that change in appearance and properties depending on environmental conditions. Thus, scientists of the Netherlands-Switzerland group have shown that even 2.5 billion years ago, the Earth’s climate was characterized by periodic oscillations caused by Milankovitch astronomical cycles (Lantink et al. 369). These principles correspond to changes in the shape of the planet’s orbit and its orientation around the axis, and thus in the amount of sunlight hitting the surface.
A more obvious episode of climate change and its legitimate consequences is the dinosaurs’ demise, which occurred over 180 million years ago. As a result of an average annual temperature increase of seven degrees, the lives of many giant reptiles that had dominated the planet for many thousands of years were interrupted (Slater et al. 462). Biochemical and geophysical instrumental methods have detected the consequences of such changes not only for land but also for water: this concerns the distribution of dead oxygen zones in the oceanic water column (Berwyn). The search for an answer to the question of the possible causes of the two cases of climate change mentioned above leads expectedly to the conclusion that human activity does not affect these processes, which appear to be a natural component of the existence of the biosphere.
The Search for Causes
Research into the causes of global climate warming must be comprehensive and inclusive, taking into account, among others, the potentially negative effect of anthropogenic activities by the human community. Nevertheless, the core of climate dynamics consists of natural mechanisms that have little dependence on the industry. Volcanic activity, solar radiation intensity, ozone shell thinning, and the chemical evolution of atmospheric layers are central predictors of mean annual temperature rise. Moreover, forest fires, including peat flames, are the traditional sources of intensified emissions of carbon dioxide, a product of the combustion of organic molecules, into the atmosphere. The second side of this phenomenon is a sharp decrease in the number of plant producers capable of utilizing atmospheric oxygen. Other contributions to climate dynamics come from the activities of living organisms, excluding humans, as well as from oceanic effects involved in feeding the Earth’s atmosphere with vaporous water. It is easy to see that most of the natural factors can be directly influenced by human activity.
Although difficult to admit, anthropogenic impacts on planets have been closely associated with the acceleration of global warming. Planet Earth has experienced similar episodes throughout its existence, but it is the industrial industry that has actively influenced the intensification of temperature rise. Inadequate release of gaseous carbon dioxide, combined with ill-conceived resource consumption, is the determinant of the greenhouse effect, causing a concentration of heat on the planet’s surface (Denchak). Carbon dioxide is a classic product of most chemical industries, including the synthesis of electricity and fuel from natural resources. In addition, gas molecules are produced during automobile emissions and when livestock is increased. Tiseo has shown that over the past twenty years, industrial carbon dioxide emissions have steadily increased, reaching an all-time high of 35.81 billion cubic tons of output (see Figure 2). From this, it is possible to see the tendency for the amount of emitted gas to increase and thus have a greater impact on the effect of global warming.
The agricultural sector is the second largest contributor to global climate warming. Large numbers of cattle, which continue to increase in response to humanity’s growing nutritional needs, are associated with, among others, large-scale methane emissions. In the pre-industrial period, its amount was balanced by natural mechanisms of the environment, but with the beginning of the industrial age, the concentration of CH4 in the atmosphere has increased on average by 259% (WMO). The situation is complicated by the fact that the chemical nature of methane is such that the greenhouse effect of the gas is 23 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. In addition, the use of fertilizers is indirectly connected with the emission of gaseous products of nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, and fluorine into the atmosphere. As a result, the Earth’s protective layers thicken and therefore allow less heat to pass outward. The factors described have the potential to modify life on the planet significantly.
Consequences of Global Warming
The hypothetical impact of an increase in the Earth’s temperature characteristics can be seen from four different angles. Many predictions have been made, and according to Irfan, by 2050, if trends continue, the average annual temperature of most regions in the USA will rise by 4-6 degrees (Figure 3). For the oceans, these dynamics will cause water levels to rise and all glacial zones to melt. For the land, warming will cause more frequent forest fires and the death of entire ecosystems. For the atmosphere, there will be an increase in the frequency of extreme natural events combined with increased rainfall. Finally, for humans, all of the above effects can be fatal and bring serious health problems or even death.
Summarizing the above, it is important to note that the problem of a warming climate — although it was a natural component of the biosphere — is becoming a significant challenge for the planet. These effects can be seen in statistical studies of climate through the dynamics of the ocean, glaciers, and land temperatures. Human activity continues to intensify the warming processes, especially through the emission of industrial carbon dioxide and methane. However, warming is also triggered by natural factors, including volcanic eruptions and solar activity. The consequences of a warming climate will be felt at all levels of the biosphere and could lead to entire ecosystems’ death.
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