Climate change deniers aside, I’ve come across people who genuinely believe that humans either don’t cause global warming or that they do so in a minuscule way. The argument behind this belief is that the perfectly natural occurrences, like volcanic eruptions, fill the atmosphere with so much more stuff than we ever could.
So, that got me thinking. Are humans the cause of global warming, or are we merely the contributors? Do we have control over what is happening to this planet, or are we just along for the ride?
I wanted to start by tackling and dismantling the myth of volcanoes being bigger polluters. According to climate.gov (and they have a few references), people put out 9.5 billion metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. There are additional factors and some of it is absorbed back into nature, but the net gain is still about 5 metric tons in the atmosphere.
That’s not the worst statistic and research. According to USGS, this number is even higher. They estimate around 24 billion tons of carbon. The point is, the tons of carbon we are responsible for are measured in billions. Let’s compare that to volcanic eruptions which put out merely 200 million tons of carbon.
For simplicity’s sake, I’ve left out other gases like methane and nitrous-oxide we are putting out there. The picture is pretty clear, the annual average increase in temperature and the subsequent climate change and hectic weather patterns are our fault.
Is There Anything Else Besides Gases?
Yes, actually. There is quite a number of ways we are cooking the planet. For my next point, I’ll bring out deforestation. It is exactly as it sounds – eliminating forests. This is done to either expand a settlement, like a town or a city, or create more arable land to fulfill the needs of local communities food-wise.
How does this contribute to the cooking I’ve just mentioned? Well, if not done properly, deforestation can lead to desertification. In other words, we risk turning the area into a desert. Let’s put aside the fact that this leads to extinction and migration of animal species and the inability of plant-life to thrive and, instead, focus on the warming aspect.
Deserts are hot. Like, crazy hot. It is too warm for the water to hang out and properly cycle. The more acres we destroy, especially in the tropics, the hotter it’s going to get. Furthermore, the lumber from the trees is used as fuel. This releases the carbon in massive amounts, as I’ve mentioned before.
Yes, humans are to blame for global warming. There are a few other factors, but they don’t come close to what we do on a yearly basis. The carbon we are responsible for is stuck, so to speak, in our atmosphere and is slowly, but surely, increasing our temperature. If not for a multitude of green initiatives on an international level, we might have been well done in 50-100 years or so.