The scientists have been proving, news articles have been publicising, Greta Thunberg has been crying – global warming is one of the greatest and urgent threat of our generation. But what exactly is global warming and how are we contributing to it? To begin to understand the causes of global warming, we need to start from the atmosphere.

Here, in the atmosphere

The atmosphere is one of the greatest assets of Mother Earth. It is composed of different types of gases, many of which are crucial in supporting life on Earth. To avoid being long winded, we will be focusing on the feature of the atmosphere that is most relevant in the context of global warming: The greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect refers to the ability of some gases that are present in the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), to trap some of the sun’s radiation. The trapped energy keeps the Earth nice and warm, suitable for living organisms to survive. This effect is named as such as it is likened to the glass of greenhouses, which also traps heat to keep the greenhouses warm for the plants.

A layer of greenhouse gases – primarily water vapour, and including much smaller amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – act as a thermal blanket for the Earth, absorbing heat and warming the surface to a life supporting average of 15 °C.

No prizes for gas-ing

That’s right, for all the damage we are doing to the atmosphere, we are the biggest losers for putting Mother Nature through global warming. But what did we do to the atmosphere exactly?

We are amplifying the greenhouse effect by contributing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Too much of a good thing makes it bad. Wearing a layer of a jacket in an air-conditioned room feels nice and warm. Wear a few more layers of jacket and you will be feeling the heat too!!

On Earth, increased human activities is generating too much greenhouse gases too quickly. Our lifestyles have been contributing large amount of greenhouse gases.

Examples of human activities producing greenhouse gases.

From the air-condition we enjoy while watching dramas on the tv, to the beef we dip in our sukiyaki, and the vehicle that is shipping our next set of Korean skincare we ordered online, we directly or indirectly contribute to activities that produce greenhouse gases everyday without even realising!!

With more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, more heat is trapped; when more heat is trapped, the global temperature increases. Before you think increase in temperatures just means less sweaters and more sweating, it is much more than that. Increased temperatures have led to melting polar caps, which leads to rising sea levels, causing floods.

Ice caps melting and increasing the sea level

Global warming also leads to climate change. Climate change refers to the shift in weather patterns all around the world and before you think it just means less sweater and more sweating, it is much more than that. Climate change has brought about more unexpected weather patterns and natural disasters, such as the merciless wildfire in Australia that took place in Jan.

Let’s clear the air, once and for all

Sorry to have put you through the depressing truth of the state of our atmosphere. But not all hope is lost. There are increasing efforts to reduce carbon footprints and carbon emissions through technological advancements, lifestyle changes and more. Electronic cars do not produce carbon dioxide like conventional car engines do, plant-based diets lower the demand for livestock rearing, the exploration of cleaner sources of energy such as solar or wind energy reduce the generate harmful gases as byproducts of energy production.

It is unlikely that we can undo our mistakes, but we can make sure that we don’t make any more from now. There are many ways all of us can play our part in our everyday lives to save Mother Nature so we can continue to enjoy what she has to offer to us.