Global climate change has been part of our planet’s history for hundreds of millions of years. Major changes had led to the extinction of ninety-nine percent of all organisms that inhabited Earth since the beginning of time. It is now accepted that the extinction of the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago was the result of a strike by a huge meteor which triggered numerous volcanic eruptions. This created a thick, dark cloud that enveloped the planet; causing temperatures to drastically drop. Plants were the first to die, followed by herbivorous dinosaurs, then finally, the carnivorous dinosaurs. A series of ice ages over the past two million years resulted in much of the planet being covered by thick sheets of ice. The last ice age ended less than ten thousand years ago. Recent monitoring of the polar ice caps and remaining glaciers has shown a significant increase in the rate at which they are melting, as a result of a slow, but steady increase of the the Earth’s surface temperature. There are several reasons for this, and all can be attributed to human behavior.
First, there has been the exponential increase in human population. There were a total of one billion people in 1800; two billion by 1930; three billion by 1960; four billion by 1975; five billion by 1987; and six billion by 1999. This rapid population growth resulted in the clearing of millions of acres of land for homes and farms. Much of the wood that was produced was used to build homes and furniture, but much of it was burned, as well. This created a huge release of carbon dioxide, the major component of greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere.
Second, there has been the huge production of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. Interestingly, this usage began at the start of the Industrial Revolution at the start of the nineteenth century; the same time that Earth’s human population began its exponential growth. Since 1800, humans have contributed thousands of coal-burning electric power plants and factories, as well as over a billion internal combustion vehicles. Pollution levels have greatly increased over the past twenty years, as industrialization has steadily increased in developing nations as India, and the People’s Republic of China.
There are some who completely attribute global climate change to recurring climatic cycles. It is difficult, however, to ignore the impact of the human race toward the recent global climate changes that have been observed over the past several decades.