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Global warming is the long-term heating of Earth’s climate system observed since the pre-industrial period (between 1850 and 1900) due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere. The term is frequently used interchangeably with the term climate change, though the latter refers to both human- and naturally produced warming and the effects it has on our planet. It is most commonly measured as the average increase in Earth’s global surface temperature.
It occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally this radiation would escape into space, but these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter.
Since the pre-industrial period, human activities are estimated to have increased Earth’s global average temperature by about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), a number that is currently increasing by 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.
Climate change (or global warming) not only causing the rise of average global temperatures, but also causing extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising sea level (due to the melting of glaciers), and a range of other impacts. All of those changes are emerging as humans continue to add heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely on.
Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air (could either be indoor and outdoor) which are detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), each year air pollution is responsible for nearly seven million deaths around the globe.
Nine out of ten human beings currently breathe air that exceeds the WHO’s guideline limits for pollutants, with those living in low- and middle-income countries suffering the most. After the United States established the Clean Air Act in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)was authorized to safeguard public health by regulating the emissions of these harmful air pollutants.
Since some air pollutants are extremely poisonous and inhaling them can increase the risk of having health problems, the finding of multiple studies have indicated that certain groups such as people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children are especialy vulnerable to air pollution. As a result, supporting countries to address air pollution has become one of the most critical missions of the World Health Organization (WHO) over the past serveral decades.
Newer scientific studies have shown that some pollutants can harm public health and welfare even at very low levels. EPA in recent years revised standards for five of the six common pollutants subject to national air quality standards. EPA made the standards more protective because new, peer-reviewed scientific studies showed that existing standards were not adequate to protect public health and the environment.
Deforestation is the purposeful clearing of forested land. Forests play a critical role in mitigating climate change because they act as a carbon sink—soaking up carbon dioxide that would otherwise be free in the atmosphere and contribute to ongoing changes in climate patterns.
However, due to human activities, much of the forested land have been razed to make space for agriculture and animal grazing, and to obtain wood for fuel, manufacturing, and construction since the 20th Century.
Deforestation is a particular concern in tropical rain forests because these forests are home to much of the world’s biodiversity. Around 80% of the world's land-based species (such as elephants and rhinos) depend on forests. In the Amazon for instance, around 17% of the forest has been lost over the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching. Deforestation in this region is particularly rampant near more populated areas, roads and rivers, but even remote areas have been encroached upon when valuable mahogany, gold, and oil are discovered.
As a result of deforestation, landscapes around the world were greatly altered. According to the World Bank, an estimates of about 3.9 million square miles (10 million square km) in forested land have been lost since the beginning of the 20th century. In the past 25 years, forests shrank by 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square km) — an area bigger than the size of South Africa. There's also a study conducted by The Guardian indicating that every second, a chunk of forest equivalent to the size of a soccer field is lost.
Wildfires are often caused by human activity or a natural phenomenon such as lightning, and they can happen at any time or anywhere. In 50% of wildfires recorded, it is not known how they started.
According to multiple studies, ecosystems with hotter and drier conditions are more likely to be affected by wildfires. These dangerous fires spread quickly and can devastate not only wildfire and natural areas, but also communities.
Wildfires also simultaneously impact weather and the climate by releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter into the atmosphere. Resulting air pollution can cause a range of health issues, including respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Another significant health effect of wildfires is on mental health and psychosocial well-being.
In terms of the negative effects on our life, wildfires can disrupt transportation, communications, power and gas services, and water supply. They also lead to a deterioration of the air quality, and loss of property, crops, resources, animals and people.
Feel free to take a look at this Wildfire Safety Guide from Cutter Law to learn more.