Q:

What does global warming mean?

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Quick Answer

Global warming is the process by which the Earth’s average atmospheric temperature increases over time. The Earth has experienced both global warming and cooling during its 4.5-billion-year history. However, the current rate of temperature increase exceeds that which occurred in the past. Many scientists suspect that the accelerated rate of temperature increase is the result of human behavior.

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The primary driving force behind global warming is the change in the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. By burning hydrocarbons, humans release elevated levels of carbon dioxide into the air. As the atmosphere’s carbon concentration goes up, the planet retains more of the heat from the sun. The process works similarly to the way a greenhouse does, which is why scientists refer to carbon dioxide as a “greenhouse gas.” Carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas, but it is the most important one for humans to monitor. Methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases also contribute to global warming.

Rising temperatures cause a variety of effects on the planet. While a few of these effects are beneficial, most are detrimental to the current balance of nature. For example, rising carbon dioxide levels may cause plants to grow more quickly, but the accompanying rise in temperature may cause the polar ice caps to melt, raising the global sea level.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Where did global warming come from?

    A:

    The National Wildlife Federation explains that global warming is thought to be caused by the greenhouse effect, which is the result of certain gases in the atmosphere trapping the heat of the sun and preventing it from radiating back into space. There are many gases responsible for this effect, including water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane. Artificially-produced chlorofluorocarbons, known as CFCs, are extremely effective greenhouse agents, molecule for molecule, but are present only in small concentrations.

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  • Q:

    What are some effects of human activities on the environment?

    A:

    Some of the effects of human activities on the environment include global warming, habitat destruction, land degradation, overpopulation, pollution and resource depletion. These effects are a result of human activities such as intensive farming, overexploitation of minerals and natural resources, industrialization, deforestation, illegal dumping of waste materials, poor disposal of waste materials and overfishing.

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  • Q:

    Who is responsible for global warming?

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    According to the Environmental Defense Fund, humans are 95 percent responsible for global warming. The effects of global warming are caused primarily from the burning of fossil fuels and the deforestation of the world’s rainforests.

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  • Q:

    Why should people care about global warming?

    A:

    Global warming affects people, plants and animals around the world in many ways, causing an array of short-term and long-term consequences, such as polluted air, warmer atmospheres, health ailments and extreme and unpredictable weather patterns. Global warming is thought to pose threats to environments and ecosystems on land and at sea. It may contribute to a rise in sea levels and cause floods, droughts and more frequent and severe hurricanes, tornadoes and snowstorms.

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