*About Global Warming*

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*About Global Warming*

Postby imz » 10 Dec 2005, 02:01

Earth has warmed by about 1ºF over the past 100 years. But why? And how? Well, scientists are not exactly sure. The Earth could be getting warmer on its own, but many of the world's leading climate scientists think that things people do are helping to make the Earth warmer.

The Greenhouse Effect: Scientists are sure about the greenhouse effect. They know that greenhouse gases make the Earth warmer by trapping energy in the atmosphere.

Climate Change: Climate is the long-term average of a region's weather events lumped together. For example, it's possible that a winter day in Buffalo, New York, could be sunny and mild, but the average weather – the climate – tells us that Buffalo's winters will mainly be cold and include snow and rain. Climate change represents a change in these long-term weather patterns. They can become warmer or colder. Annual amounts of rainfall or snowfall can increase or decrease.

Global Warming: Global warming refers to an average increase in the Earth's temperature, which in turn causes changes in climate. A warmer Earth may lead to changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in sea level, and a wide range of impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans. When scientists talk about the issue of climate change, their concern is about global warming caused by human activities.

The greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases in the atmosphere (water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, for example) trap energy from the sun. Without these gases, heat would escape back into space and Earth’s average temperature would be about 60ºF colder. Because of how they warm our world, these gases are referred to as greenhouse gases.

Have you ever seen a greenhouse? Most greenhouses look like a small glass house. Greenhouses are used to grow plants, especially in the winter. Greenhouses work by trapping heat from the sun. The glass panels of the greenhouse let in light but keep heat from escaping. This causes the greenhouse to heat up, much like the inside of a car parked in sunlight, and keeps the plants warm enough to live in the winter.

The Earth’s atmosphere is all around us. It is the air that we breathe. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere behave much like the glass panes in a greenhouse. Sunlight enters the Earth's atmosphere, passing through the blanket of greenhouse gases. As it reaches the Earth's surface, land, water, and biosphere absorb the sunlight’s energy. Once absorbed, this energy is sent back into the atmosphere. Some of the energy passes back into space, but much of it remains trapped in the atmosphere by the greenhouse gases, causing our world to heat up.

Even a small increase in temperature over a long time can change the climate. When the climate changes, there may be big changes in the things that people depend on. These things include the level of the oceans and the places where we plant crops. They also include the air we breathe and the water we drink.

What Might Happen?: It is important to understand that scientists don't know for sure what global warming will bring. Some changes brought about by global warming will be good. If you live in a very cool climate, warmer temperatures might be welcome. Days and nights could be more comfortable and people in the area may be able to grow different and better crops than they could before. But it is also true that changes in some places will not be very good at all.

Climate change may affect people's health both directly and indirectly. It may alter the world's habitats and ecosystems – all living things are included in and rely on these places. Many of these places depend on a delicate balance of rainfall, temperature, and soil type. A rapid change in climate could upset this balance and seriously endanger many living things.

Global warming may make the sea level become higher. Why? Well, warmer weather makes glaciers melt. A glacier is a large sheet of ice that moves very, very slowly. Some melting glaciers add more water to the ocean. Warmer temperatures also make water expand. When water expands in the ocean, it takes up more space and the level of the sea rises. Global warming may make the Earth warmer in cold places. People living in these places may have a chance to grow crops in new areas. But global warming also might bring droughts to other places where we grow crops. In some parts of the world, people may not have enough to eat because they cannot grow the food that they need.

How can we make a difference?
Global warming may be a big problem, but there are many little things we can do to make a difference. If we try, most of us can do our part to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that we put into the atmosphere. Many greenhouse gases come from things we do every day. As we have learned, these greenhouse gases trap energy in the atmosphere and make the Earth warmer.

Read
Learning about the environment is very important. There are many good books that will help you learn. To get started, ask a teacher or a librarian for some suggestions. You also can look at the Links page to find other good web sites with information about the environment and climate change.

Save Electricity
Whenever we use electricity, we help put greenhouse gases into the air. By turning off lights, the television, and the computer when you are through with them, you can help a lot.

Bike, Bus, and Walk
You can save energy by sometimes taking the bus, riding a bike, or walking.

Talk to Your Family and Friends
Talk with your family and friends about global warming. Let them know what you've learned.

Plant Trees
Planting trees is fun and a great way to reduce greenhouse gases. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the air.

Recycle
Recycle cans, bottles, plastic bags, and newspapers. When you recycle, you send less trash to the landfill and you help save natural resources, like trees, oil, and elements such as aluminum.

When You Buy, Buy Cool Stuff
There are lots of ways we can improve the environment. One of the ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that we put into the air is to buy products that don't use as much energy. By conserving energy, we help reduce global warming and make the Earth a better place. Some products – like certain cars and stereos – are made specially to save energy

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