Imagine a future where storms, droughts, and floods are much more destructive and much more common than they are today. In this foreseeable future, the world's ecosystems have altered significantly with polar bears and many other animals extinct and others migrating across the globe. Diseases exist in areas they had never been before. Many experts believe this future could become a reality if humans do not slow down the current global warming problem.
Global warming is caused by humans burning fossil fuels like coal and oil. Burning these fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and other gases – known as “greenhouse gases” – trap some of the sun's heat in Earth's atmosphere. This process is called the “greenhouse effect” because it acts as a greenhouse in the manner in which it retains heat. This is what keeps Earth at a livable temperature. However, as more greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere, more heat is trapped, warming the Earth more than what naturally occurs. As humans burn fossil fuels to meet their energy demands, the Earth faces serious problems.
Global warming causes huge amounts of climate change around the globe. Glaciers and ice sheets are melting at the poles, raising sea levels. This is creating problems for coastal settlements. Natural disasters like floods, droughts, and hurricanes will become more common and more severe. The changes in climate will also affect animals and ecosystems. Some animal species may become extinct while others move across the globe to new areas where they can survive. This migration could cause the spread of diseases. For instance, mosquitoes will be able to carry diseases such as malaria and the Zika virus to many more areas. Global warming isn't a simple matter of a slightly warmer planet: it is causing a series of serious problems that will only get worse unless people do something about it.
There are alternative energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gases. Many of these energy sources are also renewable, unlike fossil fuels. This means that there is an unlimited supply of them. Solar power, for instance, makes energy from sunlight usable for humans. Hydroelectric power harnesses the force of rivers. Similarly, wave energy utilizes ocean waves. Wind energy converts energy from wind into electricity using turbines. These energy sources and others are being used more and more as the effects of fossil fuels become clearer, but much more needs to be done. Although each has their downsides, they are much cleaner power sources than fossil fuels.
Many things need to be done to stop global warming, which has already started affecting the Earth. Drastically reducing the use of the fossil fuels that currently power most of the world and replacing them with renewable energy sources is vital to preserving Earth's environments and climate. Although this task is daunting, efforts are already underway to adopt these green energy sources. If they are successful, they could prevent climate change from escalating to even more extreme levels.
[Source: climatekids.nasa.gov, National Geographic, Renewable Resources Coalition]