Global Warming. Climate Change. Call it what you like. The reality is that most of us can agree that it’s happening (even if we can’t agree on the cause or what the overall impact to the planet and society will be although most scientists are daunted). One thing it’s hard to ignore though is that our societal love affair with consumerism and “stuff” is hurting the planet in one way or another. It’s impossible to separate that addictive consumerism entirely from climate change. The next time that you’re debating stopping at the mall for a toke from the consumer pipe, consider the ten following facts about global warming!
Fact One: Global Warming Started in the 1700s
It may seem as though you’ve just started hearing about global warming fairly recently, but the process actually began with the advent of the industrial revolution in the 1700s. That’s when humans began using (and emitting from) more fossil fuels due to the coal, oil and gas used to run factories. The later advent of cars and trucks (and trains and planes) only added to it. Global warming isn’t new (by human history standards). It’s actually quite old.
Fact Two: The Amount of CO2 in the Atmosphere is Undeniable
Even the most ardent denier of climate change can’t argue with one simple number. There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than there has been at any point in the last 800,000 years. That has to mean something (and in this case it means a shifting planet).
Fact Three: Waterworld May be More Than Just a (Great) Bad Movie
Yes, we all watched that movie mostly for the tortured love affair between a woman and a man with gills, but the reality may not be as far off as you think. In the last century, sea levels have risen almost seven inches after having not changed at all in a statistically significant way for over 2000 years. In addition to the reality that some island nations and coast lines may simply disappear if this trend continues, the change in the ocean landscape impacts the future of thousands of species of animals and plants meaning the tapestry of life itself.
Pro Tip: The change in the world’s waters that is causing coral and underwater creatures to face extinction is called ocean acidification. You can learn about what it is here.
Fact Four: Global Warming Impacts Your Favorite Beverages
And foods, but people are often more passionate about beverages. The changes in climate, rainfall, and temperature are increasing the costs of whiskey, beer, coffee and tea. If a lost planet for future generations doesn’t make your head spin, think about paying $10 each for a latte or a beer.
Fact Five: Al Gore Did Not Invent Global Warming
He didn’t invent the internet either. The term global warming was probably first used in its modern sense on August 8, 1975 in a science paper by Wally Broecker in the journal Science called “Are we on the brink of a pronounced global warming?” Climate change is actually probably a more appropriate term though since, as recent events have shown, global warming doesn’t necessarily mean hotter.
Fact Six: Bring on the Plague
There are plenty of reasons why diseases spread more quickly and more aggressively in contemporary society. Start with excessive population and uninhibited and speedy travel. Then work your way down from there while throwing in a dose of questionable food production processes. But a gradual heating and moistening of the world actually plays a role as well. There’s a reason that so many diseases thrive in hotter, wetter climates. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the average temperature in the U.S. has increased two degrees Fahrenheit and precipitation has increased by five percent in the last fifty years.
Fact Seven: Book Your Trip to Glacier National Park Now
Things are melting, and that’s simply a fact. An excellent example is Glacier National Park in Montana. In 1910, just over a century ago, the park had a hundred and fifty glaciers. It now has twenty seven. Twenty seven! And in the northern hemisphere, tracked thaws are now happening a full week earlier and tracked freezes begin a full week later.
Fact Eight: 2040 is the Telling Year
The current prediction is that the arctic may have its first entirely ice-free summer by the year 2040. That’s great news if you’re looking to expand tropical beach destinations in the world, but not such great news if you’re a polar bear or concerned about extreme weather worldwide.
Fact Nine: Climate Change Increases Asthma
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Climate change leads to more smog in the air and also triggers plants to produce even more pollen. This is particularly hard on children, and statistics show more children with asthma now than ever before.
Fact Ten: Taller Mountains
This one may be a boon if you love tall, majestic mountain ranges (or skiing). Climate change actually makes mountain ranges taller, according to LiveScience. As the glaciers that were literally pushing mountains down into the ground melt, the mountains are “springing back” to full size. Insert your own dirty joke here.
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Photo Credit: Mark Rain via Flickr