The Science of Global Climate Change


Carter Fournier, Staff Writer

Over the past few years you may have heard a back and forth argument fuming over whether the planet is getting warmer and changing due to humanity’s use of fossil fuels. This article will explain the science of global climate change. The current consensus from scientists is that climate change is happening and is almost certainly caused by humans.


According to NASA for over 400,000 years the carbon dioxide level in the earth’s atmosphere has never been above around 300 ppm (parts per million). Today the Carbon level in earth’s atmosphere is now 400 ppm and skyrocketing that has only started happening as the world started industrializing and using fossil fuels like coal and oil that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when they are burned for energy or fuel. There has been climate change in the past but never this quickly. Natural changing of the climate takes thousands of years. This has happened in less than a couple hundred and scientists say there is an over 95% chance that this climate change is caused by us.


So what are the signs and how do they know? The first big sign is global temperature rise. The planet’s average temperature has risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit since industrialization started in the late 19th century. Also 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have happened since 2001 including 2016 where 8 out of the 12 months where the warmest months on record from Jan-Sep not including June. The global temperatures rising has caused the second sign of global climate change caused by humans. Warming oceans. The average temp of the Earth’s oceans top 2300 feet has risen by 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit also according to NASA. This ocean warming has caused ice sheets to start decreasing in mass. Meaning they are melting and the ice sheets size is considerable smaller than 50 years ago. Glaciers are also retreating around the world. Now there have been news articles talking about how the ice sheets in the Antarctic are actually increasing is size in some small places but that is because when ice (which is fresh water) melts and runs off into the ocean the salinity of the ocean around the ice goes down. The less salty water then freezes over because less salty water can freeze at a higher temp then salty water can.


Also keep in mind that in this weather the sea ice will grow and melt seasonally but the general trend is an increase in temperatures during both winter and summer months as well as in the ocean water around the ice sheets.  Some Scientists also believe that the cold Antarctic winds play a very crucial role in keeping the Antarctic cool but the arctic on the other side of the globe is seeing the melting of ice at an unprecedented rate. So much so that new shipping lanes are being created by the loss of ice as arctic shipping lanes are much faster and more direct. Ships just couldn’t get into these parts of the arctic until recently. Shipping companies may take advantage of this as time continues.


Climate change is also affecting species of plants and animals around the world. Polar bears in the arctic are suffering from habitat loss as the ice melts in 2008 the United States listed them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Here in Minnesota the EPA has stated that climate change is likely to change the composition of forests. Certain tree species in MN like Black Spruce, Quaking Aspen, and Balsam Fir may decline while trees like Oak, Hickory and Pine may become more numerous in the North Woods. Many other species may struggle to adapt to climate change around the world. As the earth changes so dramatically weather events like droughts, floods, and storms may become more numerous and increase in severity this is already been happening around the world and a UN report in 2011 says there is at least a 66 percent chance that it is due to an increase in carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere. The issue of climate change is an ongoing one and although scientists are almost certain that it exists research is ongoing and more information and effects will be known in the future as time goes on and as the effects of climate change become more pronounced than it is today. Many scientists and leaders around the world believe that climate change will be the defining issue of the next 100 years and will affect everyone in some way.