If left unaddressed, the current signs of climate change will progress into more devastating, permanent effects that will dramatically change our way of life.
Here’s a rundown of the dramatic problems we now face, and why we need solutions, not more debate.
I am concerned about the connection these changes have with climate change, and I believe we can’t ignore the evidence or climate change science any longer. Misinformation and political debate surround this topic, despite consensus among respected scientific societies including the American Meteorological Society, the U.S. These greenhouse gases cloak Earth like a blanket and allow shortwave radiation from the sun to pass through the atmosphere and warm the planet. Without the right mix of greenhouse gases, Earth would be too cold to support life.Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases are now causing the planet to get warmer.
This current warming is primarily the result of human actions, especially the release of carbon dioxide when humans burn carbon-based fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas). In 2009, the level reached 390 ppm — substantially higher than any time in the past 800,000 years. Unless we make drastic adjustments, these changes will make Earth a more hostile place to live. What follows are the signs that climate change is already affecting the planet we live on, and the changes we can expect if global warming continues unchecked.Sea Level RiseRising sea levels are due to thermal expansion of ocean water and melting of continental ice, primarily in Greenland and western Antarctica. On a beach with a gentle slope of 1 degree, this 8-inch increase would move the shoreline inland almost 40 feet, leaving low-lying areas more vulnerable to floods and hurricane damage.If we continue our current rate of fossil fuel use, scientists predict sea level will rise at least 3 feet by the end of the 21st century.

Coastal plains, such as those along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, are at the highest risk, along with the major river deltas such as that of the Mississippi River. Because of this feedback loop, within only a few decades, the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in the summer for the first time in 55 million years.Because of global warming and higher ocean temperatures, scientists report that plumes of methane (natural gas) are now rising from the Arctic Ocean.
As long as it remains cold and under enough pressure, methane is stably stored in the ocean floor, and some estimates suggest there is more methane in the ocean floor than in all of Earth’s fossil fuel reservoirs.
Permafrost extends over about 20 percent of the planet’s land surface (mainly in the subarctic and arctic regions of North America, Asia and Europe) and can be up to 4,900 feet deep.
When permafrost melts, it also releases methane into the atmosphere and causes land surfaces to collapse — toppling buildings and buckling roads.
The meltwater from the Himalayan and Tibetan Plateau glaciers, for example, provide fresh water for the people of India, China and most of Southeast Asia. One of the principal glaciers feeding the Yangtze River in China has retreated more than half a mile in just over a decade.In the northwestern United States, much of the fresh water comes from the rapidly disappearing glaciers of Mt.
Today it has 25.Forest FiresAs they grow, trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store an enormous amount of organic carbon. In June 2008 alone, lightning strikes triggered 1,700 forest fires in California, resulting in millions of burned acres.Insect-Borne DiseasesIn the past, deep winter freezes controlled the populations of many destructive insects. Now, winters are short and mild enough for the larvae of the pine bark beetle, as one example, to overwinter farther north. This beetle has destroyed more than 35 million acres of forest in British Columbia, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, has recently crossed the Continental Divide into the forests of Alberta, and is heading toward the Great Lakes, leaving behind dead trees that fuel yet more forest fires.Another example is the mosquito, which now enjoys an extended geographic range thanks to higher global temperatures.

Mosquitoes harbor disease-causing viruses such as dengue fever, malaria and West Nile virus. Warmer weather means more mosquitoes bite more people and animals in more places around the globe, resulting in more cases of these diseases. El Salvador alone reported 22,000 cases of dengue fever in 2008, 20 times the number in 2003.Extreme WeatherIn recent years, we have seen increased numbers of hurricanes, more severe winter weather, massive floods, heat waves and droughts throughout the world.
While weather is not a direct indication of climate change, the accumulating increase in severe weather signals an overall climate shift that’s creating powerful storms more frequently. As changes begin, they trigger feedback loops that advance climate change at faster and faster rates.
We can continue business as usual and hope for the best, or we can end our current dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels and move to a renewable energy economy with solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal systems. If the shift to a renewable energy economy is to be successful, the United States must be the leader.

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