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How do anthropogenic activities influence climate change?

In the 1860s, John Tyndall, a physicist, recognized the Earth's natural greenhouse effect and concluded that changes in atmospheric composition could cause climatic variations, also known as climate change (NASA, n.d.). The Natural Geographic Society's website (2019) defines "climate change" as a long-term shift in temperature and weather patterns, either regionally or globally. These shifts can occur either naturally or as a result of anthropogenic activity. Human activities that alter or modify environmental systems, ecosystems, biodiversity levels, natural resources, and atmospheric composition are anthropogenic activities (USGS, n.d.). Since the discovery of climatic variations, it is believed that humans are increasingly influencing climate change by burning fossil fuels, cutting down trees, and raising livestock, all of which emit large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Throughout this article, it will be further expounded on how these three anthropogenic activities influence climate change.


Firstly, one way that anthropogenic activities influence climate change is through the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are complex mixtures of fossilized plant and animal remains dating back millions of years (Ocean, 2020). Fossil fuels can be produced in the form of oil, natural gas, or coal, which currently supply 80% of the world's energy. When these fossil fuels are burned, they release large amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, into the air. This would then result in these greenhouse gases rising above normal levels and amplifying the natural greenhouse effect thus causing an increase in the Earth's atmosphere and land surface temperature. As the earth’s temperature increases, it collects, retains, and drops more water causing extreme weather patterns such as making wet areas wetter and dry areas drier (Client Earth, n.d.). Alternations in atmospheric temperatures may also increase the frequency of natural disasters (hurricanes).


Secondly, another way that anthropogenic activities influence climate change is through deforestation or the cutting down of trees. Deforestation refers to the clearing, destroying, or otherwise removal of trees through deliberate, natural, or accidental means (Pachamama Alliance, n.d.). The loss of trees and vegetation allows a greater amount of greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere. This is so because healthy forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, acting as a valuable carbon sink (Pachamama Alliance, n.d.). Without these carbon sinks, there would be an increase in the levels of carbon dioxide thus causing the earth’s atmosphere and land surface temperature to increase causing the same outcome as the burning of fossil fuels.

Finally, raising livestock is one way that anthropogenic activities influence climate change. Livestock raising is the practice of raising domestic animals in an agricultural setting to provide labor and/or produce commodities. When raising livestock, it is critical to provide the animal with all the necessities for survival. Domestic animals, particularly ruminants (four-chambered stomachs), have a complex digestive system that is required to break down plant-based material. When ruminants consume food, it is transported to the rumen, the largest stomach chamber. The rumen serves as both a storage area for partially digested food and a fermentation vat. While the animals ingested vegetation ferments, greenhouse gases such as methane are produced. (Quinton, 2019). This gas is then expelled from the animal through the process of belching. Ruminants such as cows belch around 220 pounds of methane a year. This methane has the same effect as carbon dioxide but amplifies the greenhouse effect 80 times more than carbon dioxide.


In conclusion, we should not take climate change for granted because its effects and consequences appear so simple. Climate change is a disastrous issue that countries around the world should recognize and address by enacting legislation and laws to help reduce the impact that people have on climate change.

By Tyler Rochester


References

EarthWord: Anthropogenic. EarthWord: Anthropogenic | U.S. Geological Survey. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.usgs.gov/news/earthword-anthropogenic

Effects of deforestation: The Pachamama Alliance. Pachamama Alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.pachamama.org/effects-of-deforestation

NASA. (2022, February 8). Climate change evidence: How do we know? NASA. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

National Geographic Society. (2019, March 27). Climate change. National Geographic Society. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/climate-change/

Tdus. (2022, January 6). Cows and climate change. UC Davis. Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://www.ucdavis.edu/food/news/making-cattle-more-sustainable

What are fossil fuels? What Are Fossil Fuels? (2020, March 26). Retrieved May 1, 2022, from https://ocean.si.edu/conservation/gulf-oil-spill/what-are-fossil-fuels


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