Anthropogenic change (otherwise known as anthropogenic climate change) refers to the emission of greenhouse gases that occur specifically as a result of human activity. There are a number of ways in which humans all over the globe release extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn is having a huge affect on the climate as a whole, as well as other aspects of the natural world including the quality of animal, plant and human life.
Although there are some that deny anthropogenic climate change is real, it has been consistently proven by scientists that the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere is the highest it has been in years, and it just keeps increasing. Besides carbon dioxide, the amount of water vapor, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere has increased exponentially and continues to do so as a direct result of human activity.
One of the big questions in the climate change debate: Are humans any smarter than frogs in a pot? If you put a frog in a pot and slowly turn up the heat, it won’t jump out. Instead, it will enjoy the nice warm bath until it is cooked to death. We humans seem to be doing pretty much the same thing.
~ Jeff Goodell
According to ScienceDaily, “A comprehensive analysis of peer-reviewed articles on the topic of global warming and climate change has revealed an overwhelming consensus among scientists that recent warming is human-caused.” There is evidence that modification of the environment by man-made activities may result in global climate change. Man-made activities like deforestation, mining and burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, land use change, industrial processes, and waste cause greenhouse gas emissions. Post industrial era, there has been significant increase in the emission of greenhouse gases that does not stem from natural mechanisms which may result in change in average surface temperature and changes to the frequency of extreme events including storms and hurricanes.
Sun shines and its rays hit the Earth’s surface. During night, the Earth cools down and releases the heat. While some of the heat escapes back into the space thereby cooling the planet, the greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere absorb rest of the heat and emit it back towards the Earth resulting in increased CO2 emissions. The anthropogenic climate change suggests that increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is raising global temperatures. The four primary greenhouse gases (GHG’s) are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapor.
How Humans Contribute to Climate Change?
There are a number of ways in which humans contribute to climate change each and every day. Although many of these ways are ones that we have become used it, it is essential that we start to try and find alternatives so that we can start to reverse climate change and save the planet from further destruction.
- Burning Fossil Fuels
One of the biggest contributing factors to climate change – and one that is completely caused by humans alone – is the burning of fossil fuels. In order to heat our homes, drive our cars and power our electronic devices, we need to burn coal, gas or oil in large quantities. These fossil fuels are made of carbon dioxide that has, for many millions of years, been sitting in the earth, but that is now being released back into the air. This is directly causing an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air which is causing all sorts of problems, including global warming.
Because methane gas is a greenhouse gas – which means that it traps heat from the sun into the Earth’s atmosphere – emitting it in high quantities into the air can mean a huge change in the climate. Farming is one of the ways in which it is emitted. Nowadays, we have many millions of cows on farms all over the world that are used to feed our ever growing population. These cows release methane gas into the atmosphere and, whilst several thousand cows would not make much difference, because we now breed so many all over the world, they are starting to contribute to climate change as a direct result of the interference of humans.
Although this problem was a lot more pressing during the ‘90s, it is still a problem for the climate today. Aerosols are very small particles that are naturally present in the atmosphere. However, the amount of aerosols present in the air today is much higher than before humans started burning fossil fuels. Now, more and more aerosols contain black carbon, organic compounds and even sulfur compounds. This means that more and more chemicals are present in the air that not only we breathe, but that other animals and plants respire, which is causing a lot of difficulties for species all over the globe.
- Use of Fertilizers
In order to improve our crop yield year upon year to cope with the increasing population, we use chemical fertilizers on our farmland in order to make our food sources more plentiful. However, these fertilizers, which are often very dangerous to ingest for humans and animals alike, are making their way into our atmosphere, meaning that we are starting to breathe them in. Additionally, fertilizers often contain a lot of nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas that is causing the average temperature of the surface of the Earth to rise steadily over the years.
How Can we Reverse the Effects of Anthropogenic Climate Change?
Luckily, a lot of the damage we have done to the environment can be reversed if we start being more aware of the impact of the things we are doing such as burning fossil fuels and farming. While we cannot necessarily just stop driving cars, farming cattle or using fertilizers, for instance, we can start to limit our use and change some of our other habits in order to reduce the rate of climate change.
- Use Renewable Sources of Energy
While gas, oil and coal still remain our best options for producing energy for very many reasons, we can start to limit the amount we use. Until we invent a car that can run just on solar power or on water, for instance, we are going to need to use petrol, but that does not mean that we cannot use solar power to heat our homes or boil our kettles. Many countries all around the world are starting to use wind power which is clean and renewable, and, while the subject of nuclear power is still fairly sore, it does actually provide a relatively safe and clean alternative to fossil fuels.
- Alternative Farming Methods
While we do still need to feed the people of the Earth, we could start to farm in a more climate friendly way. At the moment, a lot of the production from cattle – both milk and meat – goes to waste. Either we need to start putting these products to good use or we need to cut down on the amount that we produce. By buying less beef each week and a couple of pints less of milk, we can soon shift the demand for these products and make sure that the farming of cows is cut down.
- Eat Locally and Seasonally
Eating food that has been produced locally can drastically reduce your carbon footprint. A huge amount of the food that we consume has been flown many thousands of miles all over the globe. Tomatoes, for instance, do not grow in winter, and therefore have to be imported from Spain and other hotter countries. By eating seasonally and locally, we are reducing the amount of energy that is spent flying those sorts of products halfway across the globe.
- Be More Energy Efficient
Unfortunately, not all countries around the world are the moment offer viable renewable energy alternatives to coal, gas and oil. However, everyone can still do their bit to reduce their carbon footprint by limiting their use of things such as cars and by living in a more energy efficient way. This means switching lights off when leaving a room and either not driving to work or care-sharing with coworkers. There are a great many ways in which to become more energy efficient and thus reduce the amount of fossil fuels that are burned, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
- Throw Fewer Things Away and Recycle
Paper, plastic, metal and many other household ‘garbage’ can easily be recycled. Recycling a tin can, for instance, takes less amount of energy than making a new one, and paper can be recycled quite a few times before it needs to be thrown away. Trying to reduce your waste and trying to recycle as much as possible not only means that fewer products such as plastic (which take many thousands of years to break down) get put into the ground and continue to be used in circulation.