What Climate Change is: Global Warming at a Glance

The Greenhouse Effect

Earth’s atmosphere holds certain gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur hexafluoride and ozone that trap ultraviolet rays from the sun. While trapped, these gases hold the sun’s heat.

acadiaThe process of the sun’s rays heating up inside the glass house is the greenhouse effect. This is supposed to happen, but we’re producing too much greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases in our planet’s stratosphere and troposphere characterize climate change by warming the Earth.

How the Greenhouse Effect Heats Up the Earth

According to NASA and the EPA, with the help of greenhouse gases, the Earth’s atmosphere stores infrared (thermal energy) from the sun. Too much greenhouse gas and it heats the earth too much. NASA has stated that since 1880 (Industrial Age), the atmosphere’s temperature has increased by .8℃.

Because of the global temperature increasing, the ice sheets are melting (1). Because the ice sheets are melting, the sea-levels are rising (2). The ocean is also warming up (3). In 2016, the last time NASA measured the sea-level it was 81.2 mm. That’s a 3.4 mm rate of change! That means the sea levels are rising 3.4 millimeters each year.*

What are Fossil Fuels?

Fossil fuels are what we use for our cars, planes, boats, tanker-trucks, et cetera. According to Science Daily, after hundreds of millions of years of decomposition, the carbon in organic tissues congeal into a hydrocarbon deposit, which is then made into fossil fuels.

Like many other societies, our nation is fossil fuel dependent.

Between the stratosphere and the troposphere lies the ozone layer. The ozone protects the Earth below by soaking up ultraviolet rays. However, because some ozone are chemical reactions from our pollutants, ozone is very bad for life (Newman 2016).

The Earth’s Atmosphere

There are several layers of Earth’s atmosphere. The outermost one is the exosphere. Ionosphere is the second-outermost layer where ions and electrons gather. The third-outermost layer is the thermosphere and the fourth-outermost layer is the mesosphere, in which fallen meters get destroyed. The second-outermost layer is the stratosphere and the closest layer to us is the troposphere (Zell 2013).

“Good” Ozone

Most of the ozone layer is in the stratosphere where oxygen atoms (O2), which are naturally two atoms stuck together (its diatomic), get split into one atom. These lone oxygen atoms can join other unaccompanied atoms or unite with the diatomic oxygen making O3, which is ozone. Ozone traps ultraviolet rays from the sun (Newman 2013).

“Bad” Ozone

Vaporous ground-level ozone are from our fossil fuels and other carbon-branched chemicals. Because it’s in the troposphere, it’s very close to humans and other organisms. This ozone can cause lung and throat inflammation in organisms making it hard for people who have asthma to breathe (Newman 2013).

Both types of ozone trap ultraviolet rays as well as toxic gases escaping from our industrial civilization.

What’s Happening

The greenhouse effect, which involves gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur hexafluoride and ozone, characterizes global warming and climate change by warming the earth. The greenhouse effect can only happen in our atmosphere or an atmosphere like it. According to NASA and the EPA, the sun hits the greenhouse-gas-filled atmosphere trapping infrared or thermal energy from the sun. Too much greenhouse gas and it heats the earth too much (4,5).


NASA has stated that since 1880, the atmosphere’s temperature has increased by .8℃ (6).

As claimed by ECO Coalition and National Geographic, factories puff gas into the atmosphere such as the nitrogen oxides (NOx ) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) that mixes with the water vapor to create nitric acid and sulfuric acid (7,8). Acid rain is bad for life. Most plants can’t stand a pH other than 7 or a 6, which is neutral. As confirmed by this journal article by D. Stoyanova, plants have a cuticle or an epidermal layer covering protecting them from harm. Low pH can damage this cuticle increasing the rate of infection and dehydration in both plants and fungi.

The Damage Made by Climate Change

In this journal article (1989) by B. Holma, animals, including us, when breathing in acid rain, create mucus in the lungs. For aquatic animals, this journal article (2003) by Ledy K and associates, details how acid rain is worst because they can’t away from it.

Speaking of aquatic life, acid rain can damage coral reefs. As shown on the WWF Global website, coral reefs are the exoskeleton of cnidaria and are the habitat to 25% of the ocean wildlife (9). Coral reefs are vital to the ocean’s ecosystem harboring most of the diversity. According to the EPA, climate change causes ocean acidification and increased ocean temperature, which decimate coral reefs (10). Coral reefs have a relationship with a photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae. Rising sea levels, overfishing, bleaching, explosive fishing, dragging, and dropping cyanide causes coral reef and zooxanthellae damage.

Ocean acidification just doesn’t affect coral reefs, but as shown by Nature.com, damages to mollusks and crustaceans too (11,12).

It’s Not About You

Climate change, acid rain, and coral reef decimation isn’t caused by you alone but by the system we adopt. We can prevent the polar ice caps from melting, extreme weather patterns, and other major impacts of climate change. We can prevent harmful fishing and coral decimation. It’s about creating a system that involves caring about life.

*Measurements taken September 2016.


  1. Zell, H. (2015, July 31). Earth’s Atmospheric Layers. Retrieved May 01, 2016, from http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/science/atmosphere-layers2.html
  2. Causes of Climate Change. (2016, February 23). Retrieved August 28 2016, from https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html
  3. Shaftel, H. (2016, April 27). Land ice | NASA Global Climate Change. Retrieved August 29, 2016 from http://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/land-ice/
  4. McKissick, K. (2016, April 11). Climate Kids NASA’s Eyes on the Earth. Retrieved May 01, 2016, from http://climatekids.nasa.gov/ocean/
  5. Newman, P. A. (2013, September 25). What is Ozone? Retrieved August 31, 2016, from http://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/
  6. Science Daily (2016). “Fossil Fuel.” Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
  7. Shaftel, H. (2016, May 20). Climate change causes: A blanket around the Earth. Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016 from http://climate.nasa.gov/causes/
  8. Causes of Climate Change. (2016, February 23). Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016, from https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html
  9. Dunbar, B. (2011, December 08). Paleoclimate Record Points Toward Potential Rapid Climate Changes. Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016, from http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/rapid-change-feature.html
  10. Air Pollution Caused by Industries. (n.d.). Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016 , from http://www.ecocoalition.org/air-pollution-caused-by-industries
  11. Acid Rain Facts, Acid Rain Information, Acid Rain Pictures, Acid Rain Effects – National Geographic. (n.d.). Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016 , from http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/acid-rain-overview/
  12. Coral reefs. (n.d.). Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016, from http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/coasts/coral_reefs/
  13. Climate Change Indicators in the United States. (n.d.). Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016, from https://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/oceans/sea-surface-temp.html
  14. Rodolfo-Metalpa, R. (2011, April 12). Coral and mollusc resistance to ocean acidification adversely affected by warming. Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016, from http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v1/n6/full/nclimate1200.html
  15. CO2 Science. (n.d.). Retrieved Sept. 18, 2016, from http://www.co2science.org/subject/o/summaries/acidcrustaceans.php


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