By Samira Mehta
Earth is the only known habitable planet. A gassy envelope mostly of oxygen and nitrogen extends 300 miles above our surface. With this atmosphere, Mother Earth protects her 8.7 million species of life from the sun’s harmful rays and provides the air that we breathe. Gasses that vibrate in the atmosphere when exposed to heat trap the sun’s warmth: the greenhouse effect. A perfect equilibrium is established. Life cycles and nutrient cycles converge. Habitats, from rainforests to deserts, exist in harmony.
We humans have shifted the balance. In the mid-19th century, we industrialized. We changed from farming and making small numbers of goods to manufacturing. To power this new way of life, with all our factories and engines, we began burning massive amounts of fossil fuels and releasing gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitric oxide and other pollutants. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that human emissions of carbon dioxide are 58.2 trillion pounds per year. As the concentration of these greenhouse gases within Earth’s atmosphere rapidly increases, it traps more and more heat. The world is warming.
Although Earth naturally cycles between warm and cool climates over hundreds of thousands of years, this warming is changing the climate of the globe faster than ever before. All science points to the fact that this is human-induced.