It seems like no matter where you turn, there are talks of global warming. What is global warming? Who caused it? How? What does it mean for the future? Unfortunately, this topic produces more questions than answers. No matter the debates that take place now on this topic, the future will be affected from slight climatic changes.
First, people need to realize global warming isn’t a new idea. The Earth has been going through warm and cold cycles since its creation some 6 billion years ago. These natural fluctuations occur as a result of differences in solar radiation and composition of the atmosphere. Human activity did not cause global warming; rather our presence is merely aiding this natural process. Before people begin to discuss the affects of climate change, they need to understand the basic energy flow mechanisms of the Earth.
Due to the axis of rotation, the Earth receives more direct radiation at the equator than the poles. This creates surplus energy at low latitudes (equator), and deficit energy at high latitudes (poles). The Earth acts as a totally balanced unit, with millions of highly complex and intertwined parts working together. In trying to balance the energy, there are transfers of energy (heat) toward the poles and colder air back to the equator. This, along with the Coriolis Effect, is what causes winds and storms. The oceans also serve as transporters of energy, and are critical in predicting climate change.
Now lets suppose all variables stay the same. The day is still the same length, the continents and oceans are in the same spot, the basic principles of physics and atmospheric dynamics still apply, and so on. Now, we raise the temperature of the Earth 1 Degree Celsius (about 2 degrees Fahrenheit). Now there is surplus energy, and the Earth needs to adjust itself. How is this done? By magnifying the processes that are already in place. Surface winds become stronger, while storms become more powerful. There will be redistributions of precipitation, causing periodical flooding and drought throughout the world. Dew-points will rise, allowing thunderstorms to become more powerful and drop more rain. Lakes will remain warmer longer, causing increased lake-effect precipitation. Melting fresh water ice could have a major impact on the delicate salinity of ocean currents. There are thousands of processes that will be altered, and each one will affect the next.
How about the affects on humans? Places that produce a certain crop may become at risk of conditions not suitable for growth. People who not only utilize the land to survive but sell crops world wide will be at a loss. Will there be massive starvation? Will some places become so uninhabitable that millions of people will have to move? Land and space is a resource, and with the relocation of millions comes the problem of running out of room. Will there be new world wars fought over water and not oil?
There is the other side of the coin. There has been research done that suggests a slight warming of the planet can have a surprisingly reversed effect. Basically, there’s a chance global warming could lead to drastic cooling: an ice age. While this is only a theory, it needs to be taken into account if plans are to be made for the relocation of millions of people.
The Earth will do what the Earth needs to do in order to remained balance, whether humans are here or not. Slight increases in global temperatures will mean drastic changes in what we known as sensible weather. Mankind’s ability to adapt will be the saving point when the time comes of a new Earth. As for now, only theories and questions can be put forward.