Global Warming: It’s All Our Fault

By Dan Bertan ’17

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth report since 1990 on the impacts of climate change, possible causes, and effective solutions.  The first paper cited increases in the Earth’s temperature as “largely due to natural variability,” but the newest report gives scientific backing to the phenomena that everyone knew, but wished wasn’t true: it’s all our fault.

IPCC scientists declared human use of carbon dioxide as the “highly likely” cause of climate change.  The IPCC constitutes “highly likely” as over 95% probability.  While this information is far from surprising, the report’s findings reveal some disturbing news regarding the impact of our actions on the environment.

polar bear

The IPCC found that since 1800, carbon dioxide’s presence in the atmosphere has increased from 280 parts per million (ppm) to over 400 ppm in 2014, the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in a million years.  Additionally, the report broke down the sources of carbon dioxide.   The burning of fossil fuels has been by far the biggest contributor to the increase of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere.  In 2012, 38% of carbon dioxide produced came from generating electricity, 32% came from vehicle emissions, and the remaining 30% came from industrial processes, buildings, and other miscellaneous factors.

The potential effects of these findings are enormous.  The rapid increase in global temperature has already led to an increase in sea level, which is projected to increase even more.  This rise in sea level is a direct result of increased temperatures, which, in turn, have caused polar ice caps to melt.  The major concerns of rising sea levels are floods in coastal areas and the destruction of peoples’ homes.  However, of equal importance is the destruction of the ecosystems of arctic animals, such as penguins and polar bears.

Going forward, IPCC scientists hope that humans will reduce their carbon dioxide emissions dramatically.  In fact, they believe that fossil fuels will be phased out by 2100.  There are many clean alternatives to fossil fuels, including solar and wind energy, as well as nuclear fusion on Earth, which would provide the most cost- efficient form of clean energy.  The state of our atmosphere lies in our hands, and only we can fix the damage we have done to the ecosystem.



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