By Stephanie Lingenfelter
Editor in Chief
The earth is naturally deteriorating, but that’s picking up speed due to factors such as global warming. Global warming is defined as the current increase in temperature of the Earth’s surface (both land and water) as well as its atmosphere, according to the What’s Your Impact organization. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) shows that 16 of the past 17 years have made the highest temperatures in NASA’s 134-year records.
WCHS earth and space science teacher Ryan Love explained how global warming, or climate change, works in a way better understood.
“Climate and weather differ in that weather is the condition of the atmosphere at a given time, whereas a simple definition of climate is the average over a long period of time. So climate change is when the long term averages are changing,” Love said.
According to the NRDC, global warming is caused by an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide traps more heat than oxygen, so the it causes the increase of heat in the atmosphere. This is causing the glaciers, where 68.7 percent of earth’s freshwater is stored according to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), to melt into the oceans and become saltwater. Only 3 percent of the water found on earth is fresh, so losing freshwater can be detrimental. The long and costly process of desalination, removing salt from water to make it fresh, further proves the negative impact of global warming.
The melting of the glaciers is also causing a rise in sea level that will eventually cause some cities to go underwater. Increased levels of pollution in the air caused by global warming is also worsening human health and making things like allergies worse, while also destroying natural habitats that could lead thousands of species into extinction. These rises in temperature naturally occur, but the problem is they are occurring at an increased rate due to human activity. According to Love, the burning of fossil fuels is one of the bigger factors causing global warming.
“The burning of fossil fuels appears to be a major source. This releases carbon into the atmosphere that was taken in by plants millions of years ago,” Love said.
According to the NRDC, another major factor is deforestation. Plants release oxygen for humans and other animals to breathe in, while the humans and other animals release carbon dioxide for the plants to perform photosynthesis, looping back to oxygen to animals. The problem with deforestation is there are less plants to take in the carbon dioxide released, causing further increases in the carbon dioxide in the air. According to the Rainforest Foundation, rainforests used to cover 14 percent of earth’s surface, but now only cover six percent.
Love explained that small changes have a huge impact, but education is helping prevent global warming from continuing.
“Small changes in the climate can create large problems for the organisms that live on a planet. Stopping it may not be an option. If that is the case, slowing it down or preparing for it is what we can focus on, [but] through education people are becoming more aware of their carbon footprint,” Love said.
There is no way to stop global warming, but it can be slowed down so that the earth can maintain life for years to come. Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty (COTAP) says people can do things like recycle, carpool and turn off the lights and other appliances when they are not in use to save energy. Junior Reese Krajewski says she recycles whenever she can.
“I reduce my negative impact on the environment by recycling any cardboard and plastic that I have in my house,” Krajewski said.
WCHS tries to reduce its global footprint by recycling. The special education department gathers the recycling and is helping the planet and giving it more years of life. According to King County, recycling 600,000 pieces of paper saves $16,000.
According to National Geographic, scientists are working on different fuels and technology in airplanes and cars to reduce their release of fossil fuels as well as a way to remove harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (a nearly impossible task). According to Howstuffworks, if all deforestation stopped and new trees were planted with everyone using environmentally friendly energy sources, it could still take up to 1,000 years for the Earth to get somewhat close to how it was. It is up to humans to do their part to stop the destruction of this beautiful planet. Whether it be through recycling or carpooling, everything makes a difference.