The Basics of Climate Change and Evidence Supporting Its Validity
I’ll take “Hot Topics” for 400, Alex. Many refute it, scientists prove it. What is “climate change”? Ding, ding, ding!
Climate change is a hot topic throughout the world in today’s age. Although scientists largely agree that climate change is, in fact, reality, many people believe that human involvement has no effect on long-term, global weather and temperature shifts. Regardless of what you think whether climate change is real or not, most everyone besides scientists don’t fully understand the premise of and evidence behind the matter.
What is climate change?
To discuss climate change, we first must define climate: the average course or condition of weather at a place over a period of years as exhibited by temperature, wind velocity, and precipitation, per Merriam-Webster Dictionary. As such, climate change is the change of long-term weather patterns, in this case across the entirety of Earth.
What proof do we have for past climate change?
Because humans have only accurately recorded weather for less than 400 years, some may wonder how scientists assume today’s climate is shifting to never-before-seen conditions. In short form, scientists inspect ice.
Everything larger than individual atoms in our universe consists of neutrons, protons, and electrons. Elements — things like oxygen, nitrogen, or californium — have various isotopes, or forms of the same element with more or less neutrons.
Water has existed on Earth for billions of years, and is made of one part hydrogen, two parts oxygen. All oxygen contained in water is either oxygen-16 or oxygen-18, each number referring to the number of neutrons they contain. During colder periods, higher numbers of oxygen-16 remain in water than during warmer periods. During warmer periods, ocean water contains more oxygen-18.
Scientists inspect sea-floor calcium carbonate broken down from shelled crustaceans of yesteryears, which contains oxygen. They also look at ice from glaciers and other bodies of ice. Scientists have gapped millions of years of Earth’s history to chart oxygen-18’s prevalence in water.
Scientists also take carbon dioxide levels of past years into consideration. Using oxygen-18 dating, we know that today’s climate change is reaching levels never before seen. Carbon dioxide is higher than in past millions of years. These facts together — among others scientists have found — prove that climate change of today is downright dangerous.
How do we understand climate is changing rapidly today?
In the past 20 years, global sea levels have risen just short of 16 inches. In the 100 years before this recent 20-year period, sea levels rose only 8 inches.
Ice sheets near the North and South poles have shrunk at alarming rates. Glaciers are getting smaller. Extreme weather events have become more frequent. Snow cover around the world is decreasing.
With such overwhelming, extensive records of past and current climates, it’s hard to refute the existence of climate change.