Is There Any Upside to Global Warming?

Even Best-Case Scenario, the Cons Outweigh Any Possible Pros

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The United Nations has been studying climate change and working to combat its effects since the first Earth Summit in 1992. The UN Intergovernmental panel's fifth report, published in late 2014, reiterates that  global warming —more precisely called climate change—is happening and will likely not abate for centuries.   The report also states with 95% certainty that the activity of humans has been the primary cause of increasing temperatures over the previous few decades, up from 90% in a previous report. We've heard the dire warnings—even if we have yet to heed them—but could there possibly be any advantages to climate change, and if so, could these upsides possibly outweigh the downsides? The short answer is no. Here's why.

Advantages of Global Warming? It's a Bit of a Stretch

The so-called advantages of climate are out there—if you're really looking but do they compensate for the disruption and destruction wrought by the disadvantages? Again, the answer is no but for die-hard fans of the global warming trend, advantages might include the following suspect scenarios:

  • The Arctic, Antarctic, Siberia, and other frozen regions of the earth might experience more plant growth and milder climates.
  • The next ice age could possibly be prevented.
  • The  Northwest Passage through the formerly icy Canadian Arctic Archipelago could arguably open up to transportation.
  • Fewer deaths or injuries would occur due to arctic conditions.
  • Longer growing seasons could mean increased agricultural production in some areas.
  • Previously untapped oil and gas reserves might become available.

Disadvantages: Ocean Warming, Extreme Weather

For every minutely possible advantage to climate change, there is a much more profound and compelling disadvantage. Why? Since the oceans and weather are highly interconnected and the water cycle has an impact on weather patterns (think air saturation, precipitation levels, and the like), what affects the ocean affects weather. For instance:

  • Changes in ocean circulation and the resulting warmer temperatures disrupt the world's normal weather patterns, bringing about more extreme weather and an increased frequency of severe and  catastrophic storms , such as hurricanes and typhoons. The increase in severe storms leads to a more frequent occurrence of such things as "hundred-year floods," decimation of habitats and property, not to mention, loss of life—human and otherwise.  
  • Higher sea levels  lead to flooding of lowlands. Islands and coastlines are engulfed by water leading to death and disease due to flooding.
  • The acidification of warming oceans leads to a loss of coral reefs. Coral reefs protect shorelines from heavy waves, storms, and floods and while they only cover about 0.1% of the ocean floor, reefs provide a habitat for 25% of the ocean's species.   Demolished reefs lead to increased erosion and coastal property damage and the extinction of species.
  • Warming ocean waters means increased melting of glaciers and ice sheets. Smaller ice sheets form each subsequent winter, which has a devastating impact on the habitat of cold-climate animals and the Earth's reserves of freshwater. (According to the United States Geography Survey [USGS], 69% of the Earth's ice is locked in ice and glaciers.)  
  • Less sea ice, warmer water, and increased acidity are catastrophic for krill which forms the base of the ocean's food web and feeds whales, seals, fish, and penguins. The plight of polar bears due to the loss of Arctic ice is well documented, but at the other end of the globe, in 2017 as a result of local climate change, in a colony of 40,000 Antarctic Adélie penguins, only two chicks survived.   In 2013, in the wake of a similar event, none survived.   Emperor penguin colonies are also expected to decline due to loss of sea ice and rising temperatures.

Disadvantages: Land Desertification

As weather patterns are disrupted and droughts intensify in duration and frequency, agricultural sectors are particularly hard hit. Crops and grasslands can't thrive due to lack of water. With crops unavailable, cattle, sheep, and other livestock don't get fed and die. Marginal lands are no longer useful. Farmers who find themselves unable to work the land lose their livelihoods. In addition: 

  • Deserts become drier, leading to increased desertification , resulting in border conflicts in already water-scarce areas.
  • Decreased agricultural production leads to food shortages.
  • Starvation, malnutrition, and increased deaths result from food and crop shortages.

Disadvantages: Health, Social, and Economic Impact

In addition to climate change affecting weather patterns and food production, which in turn have a negative impact on the future of human race as well as the planet, climate change can also put the hurt on people's pocketbooks, the economy of an area on a larger scale, and health in general: 

  • Insect-borne diseases increase. For example, if insects don't die off in an area because it no longer reaches the cold temperatures it once did, diseases those insects may carry—such Lyme disease—can proliferate more easily.
  • People from poorer, drier, hotter, or low-lying countries may attempt to emigrate to wealthier or higher-elevation locales seeking better (or at least nondeadly) conditions, causing tension among the existing population.
  • As climates warm overall, people use more energy resources for cooling needs, which will lead to a rise in air pollution and deaths from increasingly hot weather conditions that cannot be mitigated.
  • Allergy and asthma rates go up due to pollution exacerbated by the earlier and longer blooming of plants.
  • Cultural or heritage sites are destroyed due to increased extremes and acid rain.

Disadvantages: Nature Out of Balance

The environment around us is affected by climate change in a multitude of ways. The component parts of any ecosystem normally must maintain a delicate balance but climate change is throwing nature is out of whack—in some places more than others. Effects include: 

  • Increase in the number of species of animals and plants heading toward extinction.
  • Loss of animal and plant habitats causes animals to move into other territories, disrupting ecosystems that are already established.
  • Because the behaviors of many plants, insects, and animals are dependent on temperature, a change in climate can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem itself. For example, say the availability of food for a particular insect no longer coincides with the time when the offspring of the natural predator for that insect is born. Uncontrolled by predation, the insect population booms, resulting in an overabundance of that pest. This, in turn, leads to increased stress on the foliage the insects eat, which ultimately results in a loss of food for larger animals in the food chain that also depend on those plants for sustenance.
  • Pests such as viruses, fungi, or parasites that usually perish at a certain low temperature no longer die off, which may lead to an increase in disease among plants, animals, and humans.  
  • Melting of permafrost leads to flooding and greatly increases the release of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere which only serves to exacerbate climate change. In addition, ancient viruses long held in stasis by the permafrost are allowed to escape into the environment. 
  • Rainfall increases in acidity.
  • Earlier seasonal drying of forests leads to forest fires of increased frequency, size, and intensity. Loss of plants and trees on hillsides leaves them more vulnerable to erosion and landslides and may lead to an increased probability of property damage and loss of life.

Pachauri, R.K. and L A. Meyer (eds.) " Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report ." Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, 2014.

" Coral Reefs ." World Wildlife Fund

" Where is Earth's Water? " USGS Water Science School. United States Geological Survey. 

Bittel, Jason. " The Complicated Story Behind 18,000 Dead Penguin Chicks ." onEarth Species Watch, 9 Nov 2017. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.

Ropert-Coudert, Yan et al. " Two Recent Massive Breeding Failures in an Adélie Penguin Colony Call for the Creation of a Marine Protected Area in D'urville Sea/Mertz. " Frontiers in Marine Science , vol. 5, no. 264, 2018, doi:10.3389/fmars.2018.00264

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Are the Effects of Global Warming Really that Bad?

Short answer: Yes. Even a seemingly slight average temperature rise is enough to cause a dramatic transformation of our planet.

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Five and a half degrees Fahrenheit. It may not sound like much—perhaps the difference between wearing a sweater and not wearing one on an early-spring day. But for the world in which we live—which climate experts project will be at least 5.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by 2100 , relative to pre-industrial levels (1850–1900), should global emissions continue on their current path—this small rise will have grave consequences. These impacts are already becoming apparent for every ecosystem and living thing, including us.

Human influences are the number one cause of global warming , especially the carbon pollution we cause by burning fossil fuels and the pollution capture we prevent by destroying forests. The carbon dioxide, methane, soot, and other pollutants we release into the atmosphere act like a blanket, trapping the sun's heat and causing the planet to warm. Evidence shows that the 2010s were hotter than any other decade on record —and every decade since the 1960s has averaged hotter than the previous one. This warming is altering the earth's climate system, including its land, atmosphere, oceans, and ice, in far-reaching ways.

More frequent and severe weather

Higher temperatures are worsening many types of disasters, including storms, heat waves, floods, and droughts. A warmer climate creates an atmosphere that can collect, retain, and unleash more water, changing weather patterns in such a way that wet areas become wetter and dry areas drier.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2021, there were 20 weather and climate disaster events in the United States—including severe storms, floods, drought, and wildfires—that individually caused at least $1 billion in losses . “Disasters in 2021 had a staggering total price tag of $145 billion—and that’s an underestimate because it excludes health damages,” says Vijay Limaye , senior scientist at NRDC. “These climate and weather disasters endanger people across the country throughout the entire year. In fact, more than 4 in 10 Americans live in a county that was struck by climate-related disasters in 2021.”

The increasing number of droughts, intense storms, and floods we're seeing as our warming atmosphere holds—and then dumps—more moisture poses risks to public health and safety too. Prolonged dry spells mean more than just scorched lawns. Drought conditions jeopardize access to clean drinking water, fuel out-of-control wildfires, and result in dust storms, extreme heat events, and flash flooding in the States. Elsewhere around the world, lack of water is a leading cause of death and serious disease and is contributing to crop failure. At the opposite end of the spectrum, heavier rains cause streams, rivers, and lakes to overflow, which damages life and property, contaminates drinking water, creates hazardous-material spills, and promotes mold infestation and unhealthy air. A warmer, wetter world is also a boon for foodborne and waterborne illnesses and disease-carrying insects, such as mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks.

Higher death rates

Today's scientists point to climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. It's a threat that impacts all of us—especially children, the elderly, low-income communities, and minorities—and in a variety of direct and indirect ways. As temperatures spike, so does the incidence of illness, emergency room visits, and death.

"There are more hot days in places where people aren't used to it," Limaye says. "They don't have air-conditioning or can't afford it. One or two days isn't a big deal. But four days straight where temperatures don't go down, even at night, leads to severe health consequences." In the United States, hundreds of heat-related deaths occur each year due to direct impacts and the indirect effects of heat-exacerbated, life-threatening illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and cardiovascular and kidney diseases. Indeed, extreme heat kills more Americans each year, on average, than hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and lightning combined.

Dirtier air

Rising temperatures also worsen air pollution by increasing ground-level ozone smog, which is created when pollution from cars, factories, and other sources react to sunlight and heat. Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog, and the hotter things get, the more of it we have. Dirtier air is linked to higher hospital admission rates and higher death rates for asthmatics. It worsens the health of people suffering from cardiac or pulmonary disease. And warmer temperatures also significantly increase airborne pollen , which is bad news for those who suffer from hay fever and other allergies.

Higher wildlife extinction rates

As humans, we face a host of challenges, but we're certainly not the only ones catching heat. As land and sea undergo rapid changes, the animals that inhabit them are doomed to disappear if they don't adapt quickly enough. Some will make it, and some won't. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report , the risk of species extinction increases steeply with rises in global temperature —with invertebrates (specifically pollinators) and flowering plants being some of the most vulnerable. Moreover, a 2015 study showed that vertebrate species (animals with backbones, like fish, birds, mammals , amphibians, and reptiles) are also disappearing more than 100 times faster than the natural rate of extinction, due to human-driven climate change, pollution, and deforestation.

More acidic oceans

The earth's marine ecosystems are under pressure as a result of climate change. Oceans are becoming more acidic, due in large part to their absorption of some of our excess emissions. As this acidification accelerates, it poses a serious threat to underwater life, particularly creatures with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons, including mollusks, crabs, and corals. This can have a huge impact on shellfisheries . In total, the U.S. shellfish industry could lose more than $400 million annually by 2100 due to impacts of ocean acidification.

Higher sea levels

The polar regions are particularly vulnerable to a warming atmosphere. Average temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere on earth, and the world's ice sheets are melting fast. This not only has grave consequences for the region's people, wildlife, and plants; its most serious impact may be on rising sea levels. By 2100, it's estimated our oceans will be one to four feet higher, threatening coastal systems and low-lying areas, encompassing entire island nations and the world’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, and New York City, as well as Mumbai, India; Rio de Janeiro; and Sydney, Australia.

But this isn’t the end of the story

There’s no question: Unchecked climate change promises a frightening future, and it's too late to fully turn back the clock. We've already taken care of that by pumping a century's worth of pollution into the atmosphere. “Even if we stopped all carbon dioxide emissions tomorrow, we'd still see some dangerous effects,” Limaye says. That, of course, is the bad news.

But there's also good news. By aggressively reducing our global emissions now, “we can avoid a lot of the severe consequences that climate change would otherwise bring,” says Limaye. While change must happen at the highest levels of government and business, your voice matters too: to your friends, to your families, and to your community leaders. Together, we can envision a safer, healthier, more equitable future—and build toward it. You can join with millions of people around the world fighting climate change and even work to reduce fossil fuels in your own life .

This story was originally published on March 15, 2016, and has been updated with new information and links.

This NRDC.org story is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the story was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the story cannot be edited (beyond simple things such as grammar); you can’t resell the story in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select stories individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our stories.

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ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Global warming.

The causes, effects, and complexities of global warming are important to understand so that we can fight for the health of our planet.

Earth Science, Climatology

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Ash spews from a coal-fueled power plant in New Johnsonville, Tennessee, United States.

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Ash spews from a coal-fueled power plant in New Johnsonville, Tennessee, United States.

Global warming is the long-term warming of the planet’s overall temperature. Though this warming trend has been going on for a long time, its pace has significantly increased in the last hundred years due to the burning of fossil fuels . As the human population has increased, so has the volume of fossil fuels burned. Fossil fuels include coal, oil, and natural gas, and burning them causes what is known as the “greenhouse effect” in Earth’s atmosphere.

The greenhouse effect is when the sun’s rays penetrate the atmosphere, but when that heat is reflected off the surface cannot escape back into space. Gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels prevent the heat from leaving the atmosphere. These greenhouse gasses are carbon dioxide , chlorofluorocarbons, water vapor , methane , and nitrous oxide . The excess heat in the atmosphere has caused the average global temperature to rise overtime, otherwise known as global warming.

Global warming has presented another issue called climate change. Sometimes these phrases are used interchangeably, however, they are different. Climate change refers to changes in weather patterns and growing seasons around the world. It also refers to sea level rise caused by the expansion of warmer seas and melting ice sheets and glaciers . Global warming causes climate change, which poses a serious threat to life on Earth in the forms of widespread flooding and extreme weather. Scientists continue to study global warming and its impact on Earth.

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By absorbing much of the added heat trapped by atmospheric greenhouse gases, the oceans are delaying some of the impacts of climate change. Photo: WMO/Olga Khoroshunova

5 things you should know about the greenhouse gases warming the planet

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News stories about the climate crisis often contain mentions of greenhouse gases, and the greenhouse effect. Whilst most will find the analogy easy to understand, what exactly are these gases, and why are they contributing to the warming of the Earth?

1. What is the greenhouse effect?

In a greenhouse, sunlight enters, and heat is retained. The greenhouse effect describes a similar phenomenon on a planetary scale but, instead of the glass of a greenhouse,  certain gases are increasingly raising global temperatures.

The surface of the Earth absorbs just under half of the sun’s energy, while the atmosphere absorbs 23 per cent, and the rest is reflected back into space. Natural processes ensure that the amount of incoming and outgoing energy is equal, keeping the planet’s temperature stable.

However, human activity is resulting in the increased emission of so-called greenhouse gases (GHGs) which, unlike other atmospheric gases such as oxygen and nitrogen, becomes trapped in the atmosphere, unable to escape the planet. This energy returns to the surface, where it is reabsorbed.

Because more energy enters than exits the planet, surface temperatures increase until a new balance is achieved. 

On bone-dry land, severely affected by drought, two women search for their daily water supply.

2. Why does the warming matter?

This temperature increase has long-term, adverse effects on the climate, and affects a myriad of natural systems. Effects include increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events – including flooding, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes – that affect millions of people and cause trillions in economic losses.

“Human-caused greenhouse gas emissions endanger human and environmental health,” says Mark Radka, Chief of the UN Environment Programme’s ( UNEP ) Energy and Climate Branch. “And the impacts will become more widespread and severe without strong climate action.”

GHG emissions are critical to understanding and addressing the climate crisis: despite an initial dip due to COVID-19 , the latest UNEP Emissions Gap Report shows a rebound, and forecasts a disastrous global temperature rise of at least 2.7 degrees this century, unless countries make much greater efforts to reduce emissions.

The report found that GHG emissions need to be halved by 2030, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

Carbon dioxide levels continue at record levels, despite the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. What are the major greenhouse gases?

Water vapour is the biggest overall contributor to the greenhouse effect. However, almost all the water vapour in the atmosphere comes from natural processes.

Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide are the major GHGs to worry about. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years, methane for around a decade, and nitrous oxide for approximately 120 years.

Measured over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more potent than CO2 in causing global warming, while nitrous oxide is 280 times more potent.

4. How is human activity producing these greenhouse gases?

Coal, oil, and natural gas continue to power many parts of the world. Carbon is the main element in these fuels and, when they’re burned to generate electricity, power transportation, or provide heat, they produce CO2.

Oil and gas extraction, coal mining, and waste landfills account for 55 per cent of human-caused methane emissions. Approximately 32 per cent of human-caused methane emissions are attributable to cows, sheep and other ruminants that ferment food in their stomachs. Manure decomposition is another agricultural source of the gas, as is rice cultivation. 

Human-caused nitrous oxide emissions largely arise from agriculture practices. Bacteria in soil and water naturally convert nitrogen into nitrous oxide, but fertilizer use and run-off add to this process by putting more nitrogen into the environment.

Fluorinated gases – such as hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – are GHGs that do not occur naturally. Hydrofluorocarbons are refrigerants used as alternatives to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which, having depleted the ozone layer,were phased out thanks to the Montreal Protocol. The others have industrial and commercial uses.

While fluorinated gases are far less prevalent than other GHGs and do not deplete the ozone layer like CFCs, they are still very powerful. Over a 20-year period, the global warming potential of some fluorinated gases is up to 16,300 times greater than that of CO2.

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5. What can we do to reduce GHG emissions?

Shifting to renewable energy, putting a price on carbon, and phasing out coal are all important elements in reducing GHG emissions. Ultimately, stronger emission-reduction targets are necessary for the preservation of long-term human and environmental health.

“We need to implement strong policies that back the raised ambitions,” says Mr. Radka. “We cannot continue down the same path and expect better results. Action is needed now.”

During COP26, the European Union and the United States launched the Global Methane Pledge, which will see over 100 countries aim to reduce 30 per cent of methane emissions in the fuel, agriculture and waste sectors by 2030.

Despite the challenges, there is reason to be positive. From 2010 to 2021, policies were put in place  to lower annual emissions by 11 gigatons by 2030 compared to what would have otherwise happened. Individuals can also join the UN’s #ActNow campaign for ideas to take climate-positive actions.

By making choices that have less harmful effects on the environment, everyone can be a part of the solution and influence change. Speaking up is one way to multiply impact and create change on a much bigger scale.  

UNEP’s role in reducing GHGs

  • UNEP has outlined its six-sector solution, which can reduce 29–32 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2030 to meet the 1.5°C warming limit. The six sectors identified are: energy; industry; agricultureand food; forests andland use; transport; and buildings and cities.
  • UNEP also maintains an online “Climate Note,” a tool that visualizes the changing state of the climate with a baseline of 1990.
  • Through its other multilateral environmental agreements and reports, UNEP raises awareness and advocates for effective environmental action. UNEP will continue to work closely with its 193 Member States and other stakeholders to set the environmental agenda and advocate for a drastic reduction in GHG emissions.
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What scares you most about climate change?

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Experts tease out the scientific, legal, economic, political, and philosophical costs and benefits of the problem — and the solutions

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To mark Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Gazette contacted experts on climate change, the environment, and sustainability to ask them about their global-warming fears. Here are their answers.

Thomas P. Gloria

Program Director, Sustainability, Harvard Extension School

This question presupposes that I am scared about climate change. How dare you ask such a question to a career sustainability professional? Being scared is being afraid, terrified, and at worst, emotional to the point of being catatonic. I demand, no, I respectfully deserve a better question, a positive, uplifting question, especially on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day …

I am scared, deeply. We are in a climate crisis.

My Rachel Carson moment of being present to the enormity of the challenges that come with global climate disruption happened when I was a doctoral student at Tufts just starting my background literature search. It was 1994, and Nature just published a journal article by [James E.] Lovelock and [Lee R.] Kump (1994). When disruption occurs, it comes with accelerating forces due to failures of climate regulation, unleashing reinforcing feedbacks that further amplify increases in global temperatures.

My fear is, despite the science and the early warning signals that we bear witness to — record temperatures, 1,000-year storms, glacial retreat, coral reefs dying on a continental scale — global society may finally wake up, but it may be too late. Our current global political economy solves problems through business as usual growth, wasting precious time to effectively reduce emissions to prevent human suffering and ecological system collapse at an unimaginable scale.

I may not live long enough to experience the severe effects of climate change. However, when I look around the Harvard community, a truly global community, I see a growing younger generation of people who will experience severe impacts. They get it. They don’t need to be told (again) how bad it’s going to get. They know.

So I respectfully pivot to the question posed and answer this question: “What about climate change brings me hope?”

Sustainable development is most frequently defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This tried and true quote from the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future, a.k.a. the Brundtland Report of 1987, is truncated. In Section 3, subparagraph 27, the definition begins with “Humanity has the ability to make development …”

Humanity, the human collective, has the ability to take control of the physical world it disrupts with an alacrity just like the natural world’s reinforcing feedbacks loops, but in a good way. With courage, leadership, and a moral compass to make the world a better place, together, the Harvard community has the ability to make a difference on a global scale that will inspire others to also make a positive difference. And this gives me hope.

Aaron Bernstein

Interim Director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard C-CHANGE)

Climate change doesn’t scare me, and it need not scare anyone. To combat fear that grows from inaction and inadequate leadership, we must remind ourselves time and again that we have solutions to the climate crisis and that these solutions improve health today, especially for the poor and vulnerable, and that they provide for a more just and livable world for our children.

While much, much more needs to be done to put us on the right path to avert the worst effects of climate change, the growth of renewable energy around the world, the rise of electric vehicles, and the growing appreciation for plant-based diets all give reason for hope over fear.

When it comes to climate actions, it’s all too easy to believe that what we do as individuals doesn’t matter. How could one person’s deeds make even a tiny dent in the scope of global greenhouse gas emissions? For anyone who doubts our individual actions matter, look no further than what is happening in communities across this country right now. By keeping our distance from others, we have saved tens of thousands of lives, especially among the poor, older people, and those whose health is compromised. With COVID-19, of course, we have been asked (and in some cases commanded) to change our ways by our leaders. But a prevailing sense of responsibility to and pressure from our families and communities has led to more people doing what’s needed.

Our individual climate actions can have the same effect. As individuals act, we can create a path that many more will walk on. The good news about climate actions is that as they make the planet healthier, they also make us healthier, helping to solve problems like obesity and mental health disorders, which have exacted a huge toll on so many people.

Fifty years ago, a small group of people organized many more to protect the world we live on. Their motivation came from a recognition that a polluted world was unviable not just for all the other life forms we share the planet with, but for ourselves. Their example and motivation matter today more than ever. We must act to protect the earth, its climate, and all the life we share it with because our lives, and the lives of generations to come, depend on it.

John P. Holdren

Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy at the Kennedy School of Government; professor of environmental science and policy, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences; affiliated professor, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

The disruption of Earth’s climate by human activities scares me for many reasons. Here are three. First, climate is the envelope within which all other environmental conditions and processes important to human well-being must function. Those conditions and processes include those that govern the quality of air, the quality and quantity of fresh water, the fertility of soil, the productivity of the ocean, and natural controls on pests and pathogens. As our activities increasingly alter the climate — with direct impacts including hotter heat waves, stronger storms, bigger floods, larger wildfires, and inexorably rising sea level — we imperil all the essential environmental conditions and processes that function within the climatic envelope.

Second, the human activities driving the disruption of global climate are so deeply embedded in the economies of developed and developing countries alike that it is impossible to change the drivers rapidly. The biggest driver is the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas — the fossil fuels — using technologies that discharge all of the resulting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In 2020, about 80 percent of the energy used by civilization worldwide still comes from these fossil fuels. It will take decades to free ourselves from them. The next biggest driver is land use and land-use change, including deforestation and many agricultural practices. These, too, in turn, are on such a large scale and driven by such fundamental forces in the world’s economies that they are very difficult to change quickly.

Third, impacts of global climate change are already causing serious damage to human health and safety, property, infrastructure, and terrestrial and marine ecosystems, even though the increase in the annually and globally averaged surface temperature has been “only” about 2 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, because of the intractable nature of the drivers described above, it seems almost impossible to avoid an increase twice as large, which will result in a much more than proportional increase in the damages now being experienced.

The only good news is that public awareness of the ongoing harm and increasing danger is growing to the point that countries may finally undertake the remedial actions needed to avoid even bigger changes in our future climate, along with adaptation measures that can reduce the harm from the changes we cannot avoid.

Tyler Giannini

Clinical professor of law, co-director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, and founder of EarthRights International, an NGO that works to protect human rights and the environment

Giannini wrote his essay with his daughters Amaya Giannini (14 years old) and Rayna Giannini (10).

This is an intergenerational question, so the three of us sat around our dining room table and each made individual lists of how climate change scared us. Together, we represent one Generation Xer (aged 49) and two Generation Zs (aged 14 and 10) — also known as Zoomers. While our generations think differently on a lot of issues, what stood out most is that we have similar fears about climate change. We worry about the loss of ecosystems and about biodiversity. We worry about the future of humanity and our families, and we worry about how the world will react to the impending crisis. Will we come together or lose our empathy for one another? As the three of us started talking about our fears, though, we kept coming back to solutions — to listen to science, of course, but just as importantly to come together because tackling climate change requires seeing the connections between us rather than what divides us.

On all our lists, we hit on how we were scared of losing animals and hurting the planet itself. Climate change affects our ecosystems, and this will impact the lives of many animals. Some may even become extinct. But we also thought about how we are connected to our environment: Animals are a big part of our food chain, for example, and bees are critical pollinators, and if we lose them, it will affect our food supplies.

The theme of connection also played out as we talked about how climate change will deeply affect humanity. We fear for the unprecedented millions who will be displaced — the impending flow of climate refugees. We worry about our families, our kids, but we talked about how every displaced person is connected to a family. And we also know that it is much more likely that these families will be disproportionately poor and people of color, especially in the Global South.

We also worry about the emotional toll that climate change will take as we absorb a constant barrage of bad news — and how people will react once the impacts become even more serious than they already are. You can see how in the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, many thought it was far away and would not reach them. But there was a tipping point, and then it started to directly affect so many more people. This is where we are headed with climate change. Once we start treating climate change like the crisis it is, we hope many people will launch into action.

As we stay at home these days, we keep returning to parallels between climate change and the current pandemic. The curves look eerily similar. And there is a lingering question of whether we will hit the steep part of the curve or flatten the curve. For climate change, we fear hitting the tipping point and want to get ahead of it while we have time. In the end though, the three of us are most scared about what it will take to find solutions. It will take government action, individual action, and community action. Like the pandemic, we know it will take scientific knowledge and empathy and hope. We see the pandemic pulling us in two directions — increasing isolation and fears, but also creating innumerable acts of coming together and working to overcome the challenges. Solving the problem of climate change will not be successful if we allow our fears to overcome us. Solving the problem will require the strength, commitment, and creativity of our global community.

Robert N. Stavins

A.J. Meyer Professor of Energy and Economic Development, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

What concerns me most about climate change is the combination of a pair of its characteristics — one spatial and one temporal — that together make this an exceptionally difficult political challenge. Each of these characteristics takes us from the science of climate change to its economic realities and then to its very difficult politics.

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First, greenhouse gases mix in the atmosphere, so the location of emissions has no effect on impacts — in economic terms, climate change is a global commons problem. It does not matter whether a ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions emanate from Cambridge, Mass., or Cairo, Egypt. They have the same impacts, and those impacts are spread globally.

However, any jurisdiction taking action incurs the costs of its actions (typically the costs of moving from reliance on fossil fuels to greater use of renewable energy resources, as well as increased energy efficiency), but the climate benefits of its actions are distributed globally. Thus, for virtually any jurisdiction, the climate benefits it reaps from its actions will be less than the costs it incurs (despite the fact that the global benefits may be greater — possibly much greater — than the global costs). This presents a classic free-rider problem, wherein it is in the interests of each country to do little and instead seek to rely on the actions of other countries. And this is why it cannot be left to individual countries to develop policies completely independently. Rather, international, if not global, cooperation is essential.

There is also a temporal dimension that takes us from science to economics to politics and policy. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) accumulate in the atmosphere (CO2 has a half-life in the atmosphere exceeding 100 years), and the damages are a function of the stock, not the flow of GHGs. Hence, the most severe consequences of climate change will be in the long term. But climate-change policies and the attendant costs of mitigation will be up front. This combination of up-front costs and delayed benefits presents a tremendous political challenge, since political incentives in democracies are typically for elected officials to convey benefits to current voters today, and place costs on future generations. The climate problem asks politicians to do precisely the opposite!

Together, the global commons nature of the problem plus this intertemporal asymmetry make climate change an exceptionally tough political challenge (and suggest why economics can help with the design of better public policies).

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  • ENVIRONMENT

What is global warming, explained

The planet is heating up—and fast.

Glaciers are melting , sea levels are rising, cloud forests are dying , and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It has become clear that humans have caused most of the past century's warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, their levels are higher now than at any time in the last 800,000 years .

We often call the result global warming, but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth's climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. While many people think of global warming and climate change as synonyms , scientists use “climate change” when describing the complex shifts now affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems—in part because some areas actually get cooler in the short term .

Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events , shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas , 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.

What will we do—what can we do—to slow this human-caused warming? How will we cope with the changes we've already set into motion? While we struggle to figure it all out, the fate of the Earth as we know it—coasts, forests, farms, and snow-capped mountains—hangs in the balance.

a melting iceberg

Understanding the greenhouse effect

The "greenhouse effect" is the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth's atmosphere trap heat . These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse, hence the name.

Sunlight shines onto the Earth's surface, where the energy is absorbed and then radiate back into the atmosphere as heat. In the atmosphere, greenhouse gas molecules trap some of the heat, and the rest escapes into space. The more greenhouse gases concentrate in the atmosphere, the more heat gets locked up in the molecules.

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Scientists have known about the greenhouse effect since 1824, when Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere. This natural greenhouse effect is what keeps the Earth's climate livable. Without it, the Earth's surface would be an average of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) cooler.

a polar bear on ice

A polar bear stands sentinel on Rudolf Island in Russia’s Franz Josef Land archipelago, where the perennial ice is melting.

In 1895, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius discovered that humans could enhance the greenhouse effect by making carbon dioxide , a greenhouse gas. He kicked off 100 years of climate research that has given us a sophisticated understanding of global warming.

Levels of greenhouse gases have gone up and down over the Earth's history, but they had been fairly constant for the past few thousand years. Global average temperatures had also stayed fairly constant over that time— until the past 150 years . Through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities that have emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases, particularly over the past few decades, humans are now enhancing the greenhouse effect and warming Earth significantly, and in ways that promise many effects , scientists warn.

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Human activity isn't the only factor that affects Earth's climate. Volcanic eruptions and variations in solar radiation from sunspots, solar wind, and the Earth's position relative to the sun also play a role. So do large-scale weather patterns such as El Niño .

But climate models that scientists use to monitor Earth’s temperatures take those factors into account. Changes in solar radiation levels as well as minute particles suspended in the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions , for example, have contributed only about two percent to the recent warming effect. The balance comes from greenhouse gases and other human-caused factors, such as land use change .

The short timescale of this recent warming is singular as well. Volcanic eruptions , for example, emit particles that temporarily cool the Earth's surface. But their effect lasts just a few years. Events like El Niño also work on fairly short and predictable cycles. On the other hand, the types of global temperature fluctuations that have contributed to ice ages occur on a cycle of hundreds of thousands of years.

For thousands of years now, emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere have been balanced out by greenhouse gases that are naturally absorbed. As a result, greenhouse gas concentrations and temperatures have been fairly stable, which has allowed human civilization to flourish within a consistent climate.

the Greenland Ice Sheet

Greenland is covered with a vast amount of ice—but the ice is melting four times faster than thought, suggesting that Greenland may be approaching a dangerous tipping point, with implications for global sea-level rise.

Now, humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution. Changes that have historically taken thousands of years are now happening over the course of decades .

Why does this matter?

The rapid rise in greenhouse gases is a problem because it’s changing the climate faster than some living things can adapt to. Also, a new and more unpredictable climate poses unique challenges to all life.

Historically, Earth's climate has regularly shifted between temperatures like those we see today and temperatures cold enough to cover much of North America and Europe with ice. The difference between average global temperatures today and during those ice ages is only about 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), and the swings have tended to happen slowly, over hundreds of thousands of years.

But with concentrations of greenhouse gases rising, Earth's remaining ice sheets such as Greenland and Antarctica are starting to melt too . That extra water could raise sea levels significantly, and quickly. By 2050, sea levels are predicted to rise between one and 2.3 feet as glaciers melt.

As the mercury rises, the climate can change in unexpected ways. In addition to sea levels rising, weather can become more extreme . This means more intense major storms, more rain followed by longer and drier droughts—a challenge for growing crops—changes in the ranges in which plants and animals can live, and loss of water supplies that have historically come from glaciers.

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  • Front Plant Sci

Climate Change and the Impact of Greenhouse Gasses: CO 2 and NO, Friends and Foes of Plant Oxidative Stress

Here, we review information on how plants face redox imbalance caused by climate change, and focus on the role of nitric oxide (NO) in this response. Life on Earth is possible thanks to greenhouse effect. Without it, temperature on Earth’s surface would be around -19°C, instead of the current average of 14°C. Greenhouse effect is produced by greenhouse gasses (GHG) like water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), methane (CH 4 ), nitrous oxides (N x O) and ozone (O 3 ). GHG have natural and anthropogenic origin. However, increasing GHG provokes extreme climate changes such as floods, droughts and heat, which induce reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress in plants. The main sources of ROS in stress conditions are: augmented photorespiration, NADPH oxidase (NOX) activity, β-oxidation of fatty acids and disorders in the electron transport chains of mitochondria and chloroplasts. Plants have developed an antioxidant machinery that includes the activity of ROS detoxifying enzymes [e.g., superoxide dismutase (SOD), ascorbate peroxidase (APX), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPX), and peroxiredoxin (PRX)], as well as antioxidant molecules such as ascorbic acid (ASC) and glutathione (GSH) that are present in almost all subcellular compartments. CO 2 and NO help to maintain the redox equilibrium. Higher CO 2 concentrations increase the photosynthesis through the CO 2 -unsaturated Rubisco activity. But Rubisco photorespiration and NOX activities could also augment ROS production. NO regulate the ROS concentration preserving balance among ROS, GSH, GSNO, and ASC. When ROS are in huge concentration, NO induces transcription and activity of SOD, APX, and CAT. However, when ROS are necessary (e.g., for pathogen resistance), NO may inhibit APX, CAT, and NOX activity by the S-nitrosylation of cysteine residues, favoring cell death. NO also regulates GSH concentration in several ways. NO may react with GSH to form GSNO, the NO cell reservoir and main source of S-nitrosylation. GSNO could be decomposed by the GSNO reductase (GSNOR) to GSSG which, in turn, is reduced to GSH by glutathione reductase (GR). GSNOR may be also inhibited by S-nitrosylation and GR activated by NO. In conclusion, NO plays a central role in the tolerance of plants to climate change.

Introduction

Life on Earth, as it is, relies on the natural atmospheric greenhouse effect. This is the result of a process in which a planet’s atmosphere traps the sun radiation and warms the planet’s surface.

Greenhouse effect occurs in the troposphere (the lower atmosphere layer), where life and weather occur. In the absence of greenhouse effect, the average temperature on Earth’s surface is estimated around -19°C, instead of the current average of 14°C ( Le Treut et al., 2007 ). Greenhouse effect is produced by greenhouse gasses (GHG). GHG are those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation in the thermal infrared range ( IPCC, 2014 ). Traces of GHG, both natural and anthropogenic, are present in the troposphere. The most abundant GHG in increasing order of importance are: water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), methane (CH 4 ), nitrous oxides (N x O) and ozone (O 3 ) ( Kiehl and Trenberth, 1997 ). GHG percentages vary daily, seasonally, and annually.

GHG Contribute Differentially to Greenhouse Effect

Water vapor.

Water is present in the troposphere both as vapor and clouds. Water vapor was reported by Tyndal in 1861 as the most important gaseous absorber of variations in infrared radiation (cited in Held and Souden, 2000 ). Further accurate calculation estimate that water vapor and clouds are responsible for 49 and 25%, respectively, of the long wave (thermal) absorption ( Schmidt et al., 2010 ). However, atmospheric lifetime of water vapor is short (days) compared to other GHG as CO 2 (years) ( IPCC, 2014 ).

Water vapor concentrations are not directly influenced by anthropogenic activity and vary regionally. However, human activity increases global temperatures and water vapor formation indirectly, amplifying the warming in a process known as water vapor feedback ( Soden et al., 2005 ).

Carbon Dioxide (CO 2 )

Carbon dioxide is responsible for 20% of the thermal absorption ( Schmidt et al., 2010 ).

Natural sources of CO 2 include organic decomposition, ocean release and respiration. Anthropogenic CO 2 sources are derived from activities such as cement manufacturing, deforestation, fossil fuels combustion such as coal, oil and natural gas, etc. Surprisingly, 24% of direct CO 2 emission comes from agriculture, forestry and other land use, and 21% comes from industry ( IPCC, 2014 ).

Atmospheric CO 2 concentrations climbed up dramatically in the past two centuries, rising from around 270 μmol.mol -1 in 1750 to present concentrations higher than 385 μmol.mol -1 ( Mittler and Blumwald, 2010 ; IPCC, 2014 ). Around 50% of cumulative anthropogenic CO 2 emissions between 1750 and 2010 have taken place since the 1970s ( IPCC, 2014 ). It is calculated that the temperature rise produced by high CO 2 concentrations, plus the water positive feedback, would increase by 3–5°C the global mean surface temperature in 2100 ( IPCC, 2014 ).

Methane (CH 4 )

Methane (CH 4 ) is the main atmospheric organic trace gas. CH 4 is the primary component of natural gas, a worldwide fuel source. Significant emissions of CH 4 result from cattle farming and agriculture, but mainly as a consequence of fossil fuel use. Concentrations of CH 4 were multiplied by two since the pre-industrial era. The present worldwide-averaged concentration is of 1.8 μmol.mol -1 ( IPCC, 2014 ).

Although its concentration represents only 0.5% that of CO 2 , concerns arise regarding a jump in CH 4 atmospheric release. Indeed, it is 30 times more powerful than CO 2 as GHG ( IPCC, 2014 ). CH 4 generates O 3 (see below), and along with carbon monoxide (CO), contributes to control the amount of OH in the troposphere ( Wuebbles and Hayhoe, 2002 ).

Nitrous Oxides (NxO)

Nitrous oxide (N 2 O) and nitric oxide (NO) are GHG. During the last century, their global emissions have rised, due mainly to human intervention ( IPCC, 2014 ). The soil emits both N 2 O and NO. N 2 O is a strong GHG, whereas NO contributes indirectly to O 3 synthesis. As GHG, N 2 O is potentially 300 times stronger than CO 2 . Once in the stratosphere, the former catalyzes the elimination of O 3 ( IPCC, 2014 ). In the atmosphere, N 2 O concentrations are climbing up due mainly to microbial activity in nitrogen (N)-rich soils related with agricultural and fertilization practices ( Hall et al., 2008 ).

Anthropogenic emissions (from combustion of fossil fuels) and biogenic emissions from soils are the main sources of NO in the atmosphere ( Medinets et al., 2015 ). In the troposphere, NO quickly oxidizes to nitrogen dioxide (NO 2 ). NO and NO 2 (termed as NO x ) may react with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hydroxyl, resulting in organic nitrates and nitric acid, respectively. They access ecosystems through atmospheric deposition that has an impact on the N cycle as a result of acidification or N enrichment ( Pilegaard, 2013 ).

NO Sources and Chemical Reactions in Plants

Two major pathways for NO production have been described in plants: the reductive and the oxidative pathways. The reductive pathway involves the reduction of nitrite to NO by NR under conditions such as acidic pH, anoxia, or an increase in nitrite levels ( Rockel et al., 2002 ; Meyer et al., 2005 ). NR-dependent NO formation has been involved in processes such as stomatal closure, root development, germination and immune responses. In plants, nitrite may also be reduced enzymatically by other molybdenum enzymes such as, xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and sulfite oxidase, in animals ( Chamizo-Ampudia et al., 2016 ) or via the electron transport system in mitochondria ( Gupta and Igamberdiev, 2016 ).

The oxidative pathway produces NO through the oxidation of organic compounds such as polyamines, hydroxylamine and arginine. In animals, NOS catalyzes arginine oxidation to citrulline and NO. Many efforts were made to find the arginine-dependent NO formation in plants, as well as of plant NOS ( Frohlich and Durner, 2011 ). The identification of NOS in the green alga Ostreococcus tauri ( Foresi et al., 2010 ) led to high-throughput bioinformatic analysis in plant genomes. This study shows that NOS homologs were not present in over 1,000 genomes of higher plants analyzed, but only in few photosynthetic microorganisms, such as algae and diatoms ( Di Dato et al., 2015 ; Kumar et al., 2015 ; Jeandroz et al., 2016 ). In summary, although an arginine-dependent NO production is found in higher plants, the specific enzyme/s involved in the oxidative pathways remain elusive.

Ozone (O 3 )

Ozone (O 3 ) is mainly found in the stratosphere, but a little amount is generated in the troposphere. Stratospheric ozone (namely the ozone layer) is formed naturally by chemical reactions involving solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation and O 2 . Solar UV radiation breaks one O 2 molecule, producing two oxygen atoms (2 O). Then, each of these highly reactive atoms combines with O 2 to produce an (O 3 ) molecule. Almost 99% of the Sun’s medium-frequency UV light (from about 200 to 315 nm wavelength) is absorbed by the (O 3 ) layer. Otherwise, they could damage exposed life forms near the Earth surface 1 .

The majority of tropospheric O 3 appears when NOx, CO and VOCs, react in the presence of sunlight. However, it was reported that NOx may scavenge O 3 in urban areas ( Gregg et al., 2003 ). This dual interaction between NOx and O 3 is influenced by light, season, temperature and VOC concentration ( Jhun et al., 2015 ).

Besides, the oxidation of CH 4 by OH in the troposphere gives way to formaldehyde (CH 2 O), CO, and O 3 , in the presence of high amounts of NOx 1 .

Tropospheric O 3 is harmful to both plants and animals (including humans). O 3 affects plants in several ways. Stomata are the cells, mostly on the underside of the plant leaves, that allow CO 2 and water to diffuse into the tissue. High concentrations of O 3 cause plants to close their stomata ( McAdam et al., 2017 ), slowing down photosynthesis and plant growth. O 3 may also provoke strong oxidative stress, damaging plant cells ( Vainonen and Kangasjärvi, 2015 ).

Global Climate Change: an Integrative Balance of the Impact on Plants

Anthropogenic activity alters global climate by interfering with the flows of energy through changes in atmospheric gasses composition, more than the actual generation of heat due to energy usage ( Karl and Trenberth, 2003 ). Short-term consequences of GHG increase in plants are mainly associated with the rise in atmospheric CO 2 . Plants respond directly to elevated CO 2 increasing net photosynthesis, and decreasing stomatal opening ( Long et al., 2004 ). To a lesser extent, O 3 uptake by plants may reduce photosynthesis and induce oxidative stress. In the middle and long term, prognostic consensus about climate change signal a rise in CO 2 concentration and temperature on the Earth’s surface, unexpected variations in rainfall, and more recurrent and intense weather conditions, e.g., heat waves, drought and flooding events ( Mittler and Blumwald, 2010 ; IPCC, 2014 ). These brief episodes bring plants beyond their capacity of adaptation; decreasing crop and tree yield ( Ciais et al., 2005 ; Zinta et al., 2014 ).

Here we will not discuss plants capacity of adaptation to novel environmental conditions when considering large scales and long-term periods. Ecosystems are being affected by climate change at all levels (terrestrial, freshwater, and marine), and it was already reported that species are under evolutionary adaptation to human-caused climate change (for a review see Scheffers et al., 2016 ). Migration and plasticity are two biological mechanisms to cope with these changes. Data indicate that each population of a species has limited tolerance to sharp climate variations, and they could migrate to find more favorable environments. Habitat fragmentation limits plant movement, being other big threat for adaptation ( Stockwell et al., 2003 ; Leimu et al., 2010 ). Despite the fact that individual plants are immobile, plant populations move when seeds are dispersed, resulting in differences in the general distribution of the species ( Corlett and Westcott, 2013 ). In this sense, anthropogenic activities also contribute to seed dispersal.

Plasticity is a characteristic related to phenology and phenotype. Phenology is the timing of phases occurrence in the life cycle, and phenotypic plasticity is the range of phenotypes that a single genotype may express depending on its environment ( Nicotra et al., 2010 ). Plasticity is adaptive when the phenotype changes occur in a direction favored by selection in the new environment.

Climate Change and ROS

Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) are continuously generated by plants under normal conditions. However, they are increased in response to different abiotic stresses. One of the most important effects of climate change-related stresses at the molecular level is the increase of ROS inside the cells ( Farnese et al., 2016 ). Among ROS, the most studied are superoxide anion ( O 2 •– ), H 2 O 2 and the hydroxyl radical (⋅OH - ).

Reactive Oxygen Species cause damage to proteins, lipids and DNA, affecting cell integrity, morphology, physiology, and, consequently, the growth of plants ( Frohnmeyer and Staiger, 2003 ). The main sources of ROS in stress conditions are: augmented photorespiration, NADPH oxidase (NOX) activity, β-oxidation of fatty acids and disorders in the electron transport chains of mitochondrias and chloroplasts ( Apel and Hirt, 2004 ; AbdElgawad et al., 2015 ). Hence, higher plants have evolved in the presence of ROS and have acquired pathways to protect themselves from its toxicity. Plant antioxidant system (AS) includes the activity of ROS detoxifying enzymes [e.g., superoxide dismutase (SOD), ascorbate peroxidase (APX), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPX), and peroxiredoxin (PRX)], as well as antioxidant molecules such as ascorbic acid (ASC) and glutathione (GSH) that are present in almost all subcellular compartments (reviewed by Choudhury et al., 2017 ).

In this context, plants have also developed a tight interaction between ROS and NO as a mechanism to reduce the deleterious consequences of these ROS-induced oxidative injuries. NO orchestrates a wide range of mechanisms leading to the preservation of redox homeostasis in plants. Consequently, NO at low concentration is considered a broad-spectrum anti-stress molecule ( Lamattina et al., 2003 ; Tossi et al., 2009 ; Correa-Aragunde et al., 2015 ). Figure ​ Figure1 1 shows the relationship among the different GHG and their impact on plants.

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Simplified scheme showing greenhouse gasses (GHG) and their effects on plants. GHG (H 2 O vapor, clouds, CO 2 , CH 4 , N 2 O, and NO) have both natural and anthropogenic origin, contributing to greenhouse effect. Short-term effects of GHG increase is mainly CO 2 rise, that activates photosynthesis (PS) and inhibits stomatal opening (SO). Long-term effects of GHG increase are extreme climate changes such as floods, droughts, heat. All of them induce the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress in plants. Nitric oxide (NO) could alleviate oxidative stress by scavenging ROS and/or regulating the antioxidant system (AS). GHG and volatile organic compounds (VOC) react in presence of sunlight (E#) to give tropospheric O 3 . Although tropospheric O 3 is prejudicial for life, stratospheric O 3 is beneficial, because filters harmful UV-B radiation. The size of arrows are representative of the GHG concentration.

CO 2 and NO Contribute to Regulate Redox Homeostasis in Plants

Co 2 increasing: advantages and disadvantages.

Increased CO 2 was suggested to have a “fertilization” effect, because crops would increase their photosynthesis and stomatal conductance in response to elevated CO 2 . This belief was supported by studies performed in greenhouses, laboratory controlled-environment chambers, and transparent field chambers, where emitted CO 2 may be held back and readily controlled ( Drake et al., 1997 ; Markelz et al., 2014 ). However, more realistic results, obtained by Free-Air Concentration Enrichment (FACE) technology, suggest that the fertilization response due to CO 2 increase is probably dependent on genetic and environmental factors, and the duration of the study ( Smith and Dukes, 2013 ). An extensive review of the literature in this field made by Xu et al. (2015) concluded that augmented CO 2 normally increases photosynthesis in C3 species such as rice, soybean and wheat. On the other hand, they pointed out that a negative feedback of photosynthesis could take place in augmented CO 2 , as a result of overload of chemical and reactive generated substrates, leading to an imbalance in the sink:source carbon ratio. Moreover, the energetic cost of carbohydrate exportation increases in elevated CO 2 level.

The most important photosynthetic enzyme is the ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase-oxygenase (RuBisCO). Rubisco is located in mesophyll cells of C3 plants, in direct contact with the intercellular air space linked to the atmosphere by epidermal stomatal pores. Photosynthesis increases at high CO 2 , because Rubisco is not CO 2 saturated and CO 2 inhibits the oxygenation reactions and photorespiration ( Long et al., 2006 ). However, long-term high concentration of CO 2 may down regulate Rubisco activity because ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate is not regenerated. Hexokinase (HXK), a sensor of extreme photosynthate, may participate in the down regulation of Rubisco concentration ( Xu et al., 2015 ). Moreover, severe abiotic stresses, such as temperature and drought, may restrain Rubisco carboxylation and foster oxygenation ( Xu et al., 2015 ).

In C4 crops, such as maize and sorghum, the elevated concentration of CO 2 inside the bundle sheath cells could prevent a large increase of Rubisco activity at higher atmospheric CO 2 and, thereby, photosynthetic activity is not augmented. However, at high CO 2 levels, the water status of C4 plants under drought conditions is improved, increasing photosynthesis and biomass accumulation ( Long et al., 2006 ; Mittler and Blumwald, 2010 ). That envisages potential advantages for the C4 species in future climatic change scenarios, particularly in arid and semiarid areas.

In addition, high CO 2 has the benefit of reducing stomatal conductance, decreasing 10% evapotranspiration in both C3 and C4 plants. Simultaneously, the cooling decreased resulting from reduced transpiration causes elevated canopy temperatures of around 0.7°C for most crops. Biomass and yield rise due to high CO 2 in all C3 plants, but not in C4 plants exception made when water is a restraint. Yields of C3 grain crops jump around 19% on average at high CO 2 ( Kimball, 2016 ).

Some reports analyze the contribution of CO 2 in the responses of plants to the combination of multiple stresses. For Arabidopsis thaliana , the combination of heat and drought induces photosynthesis inhibition of 62% under ambient CO 2 , but the drop in photosynthesis is just 40% at high CO 2 . Moreover, the protein oxidation increases significantly during a heat wave and drought, and this effect is repressed by increased CO 2 . Photorespiration is also reduced by high CO 2 ( Zinta et al., 2014 ).

Studying grasses ( Lolium perenne, Poa pratensis ) and legumes ( Medicago lupulina, Lotus corniculatus ) exposed to drought, high temperature and augmented CO 2 , AbdElgawad et al. (2015) demonstrated that drought suppresses plant growth, photosynthesis and stomatal conductance, and promotes in all species the synthesis of osmolytes and antioxidants. Instead, oxidative damage is more markedly observed in legumes than in grasses. In general, warming amplifies drought consequences. In contrast, augmented CO 2 diminishes stress impact. Reduction in photosynthesis and chlorophyll, as a result of drought and elevated temperature, were avoided by high CO 2 in the grasses. Noxious effects of oxidative stress, i.e., lipid peroxidation, are phased down in all species by augmented CO 2 . Normally, a reduced impact of oxidative stress is due to decreased photorespiration and diminished NOX activity. In legumes, a rise in levels of antioxidant molecules (flavonoids and tocopherols) contribute as well to the stress mitigation caused by augmented CO 2 . The authors draw the conclusion that these different responses point at an unequal future impact of climate change on the production of agricultural-scale legumes and grass crops.

Kumari et al. (2015) assessed the impact of various levels of CO 2 , ambient (382 ppm) and augmented (570 ppm), and O 3 , ambient (50 ppb) and augmented (70 ppb) on the potato physiological and biochemical responses ( Solanum tuberosum ). They observed that augmented CO 2 cut down O 3 uptake, enhanced carbon assimilation, and curbed oxidative stress. Elevated CO 2 also mitigated the noxious effect of high O 3 on photosynthesis.

Although some molecular mechanisms underpinning CO 2 actions are unknown, the results presented highlight the importance of CO 2 as a regulator that mitigates the potential climate change-induced deleterious consequences in plants. Recent reports suggest that some CO 2 -associated responses may be mediated by NO.

Du et al. (2016) determined that 800 μmol.mol -1 of CO 2 increased the NO concentration in Arabidopsis leaves, through a mechanism related to nitrate availability. Moreover, NO increase, as a consequence of high CO 2 levels, was reported as a general procedure to improve iron (Fe) nutrition in response to Fe deficiency in tomato roots ( Jin et al., 2009 ).

The gas exchange between the atmosphere and plants is mainly regulated by stomata. But structure and physiology of stomata are also influenced by gasses ( García-Mata and Lamattina, 2013 ). Elevated CO 2 regulate stomatal density and conductance. Moreover, there is increasing evidence that this response is modified by interaction of CO 2 with other environmental factors ( Xu et al., 2016 ; Yan et al., 2017 ). Wang et al. (2015) reported that 800 μmol.mol -1 of CO 2 increases the NO concentration in A. thaliana guard cells, inducing stomatal closure. Both NR and NO synthase (NOS)-like activities are necessary for CO 2 -induced NO accumulation. Comprehensive pharmacological and genetic results obtained in Arabidopsis by Chater et al. (2015) , show that when CO 2 concentration is around 700–1000 ppm, stomatal density and closure are reduced. They also illustrate that those elements necessary for this process are: activation of both ABA biosynthesis genes and the PYR/RCAR ABA receptor, and ROS increase. However, Shi et al. (2015) provide genetic and pharmacological evidence that high CO 2 concentration induces stomatal closure by an ABA-independent mechanism in tomato. They show that 800 μmol.mol -1 of CO 2 increase the expression of the protein kinase OPEN STOMATA 1 (OST1), NOX, and nitrate reductase (NR) genes. They also show that the sequential production of NOX-dependent H 2 O 2 and NR-produced NO are mainly dependent of OST1, and are involved in the CO 2 -induced stomatal closure.

In ABA-dependent mechanisms, ABA is increased by CO 2. The binding of ABA to its receptor (PYR/RCAR) inactivates PP2C, activating OST1. In ABA-independent mechanism, OST1 will be transcriptionally induced by CO 2 . Once activated, OST1 along with Ca 2 + , activates NOX, increasing ROS ( Kim et al., 2010 ). The rise of guard cells ROS enhances NO, cytosolic free Ca 2 + , and pH ( Song et al., 2014 ; Xie et al., 2014 ). ROS and NO release Ca 2 + from internal reservoirs, or influx external Ca 2 + through plasma membrane Ca 2 + in channels. Cytosolic free Ca 2 + inactivate inward K + channels (K + in ) to prevent K + uptake and activate outward K + channels (K + out ) and Cl - (anion) channels (Cl - ) at the plasma membrane ( Blatt, 2000 ; García-Mata et al., 2003 ). Ca 2 + also activates slow anion channel homolog 3 (SLAH3), slow anion channel-associated 1 (SLAC1) and aluminum activated malate transporters (ALMT) ( Roelfsema et al., 2012 ). The consequence of the regulation of cation/anion channels is the net efflux of K + /Cl - /malate and influx of Ca 2 + , making guard cells lose turgor by water outlet, causing stomatal closure.

All together, the results discussed here suggest that CO 2 -induced NO increase is a common plant physiological response to oxidative stresses. Figure ​ Figure2 2 shows the importance of CO 2 and NO in these processes.

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Interplay between CO 2 and NO in plant redox physiology: CO 2 enters to the leaves by stomata. Once in mesophyll cells, CO 2 increase photosynthesis (PS) through the CO 2 -unsaturated Rubisco activity. When plants are in stress environments, ROS could be augmented by Rubisco-induced photorespiration and NADPH oxidase (NOX) activities. NOX- induced O 2 •– , in the apoplast is immediately transformed to H 2 O 2 by the superoxide dismutase (SOD). Plasma membrane is permeable to H 2 O 2 . CO 2 moderates oxidative stress in mesophyll cells by inhibiting both Rubisco photorespiration (PR) and NOX activities. Besides, NO is induced by CO 2 and ROS, alleviating the consequences of oxidative stress by scavenging ROS and activating or inhibiting the antioxidant system (AS). In guard cells, CO 2 increases the expression and activity of OPEN STOMATA 1 (OST1), in both ABA-dependent and independent mechanisms. OST1 activates NOX, producing ROS and consequently NO increase by nitrate reductase (NR), and NOS-like activities. NO prevents ROS increase by direct scavenging, and inhibiting NOX. NO-dependent Ca 2 + regulated ion channels induces stomatal closure, modulating O 3 and CO 2 uptake, decreasing evapotranspiration, and rising leaf temperature.

Abiotic Stress, ROS Generation, and Redox Balance: The Key Role of NO

Reactive oxygen species are generated in apoplast, plasma membrane, chloroplasts, mitochondria, and peroxisomes ( Farnese et al., 2016 ). It was proposed that each stress produces its own “ROS signature” ( Choudhury et al., 2017 ). For instance, drought may reduce the activity of Rubisco, decreasing CO 2 fixation and NADP+ regeneration by the Calvin cycle. As a consequence, chloroplast electron transport is altered, generating ROS by electron leakage to O 2 ( Carvalho, 2008 ). In drought stress, ROS increase is produced by NOX activity ( Farnese et al., 2016 ). In flooding, ROS generation is an ethylene-promoted process that involves calcium (Ca 2+ ) flux, and NOX activity ( Voesenek and Bailey-Serres, 2015 ).

In heat stress, a NOX-dependent transient ROS rise is an early event ( Königshofer et al., 2008 ). Then, endogenous ROS are sensed through histidine kinases, and an Arabidopsis heat stress factor (HsfA4a) appears to sense exogenous ROS. As a result, the MAPK signal pathway is activated ( Qu et al., 2013 ). Moreover, functional decrease in photosynthetic light reaction induces ROS concentration by high electron leakage from the thylakoid membrane ( Hasanuzzaman et al., 2013 ). In this process, O 2 is the acceptor, generating O 2 •– .

Thus, individual stresses or their different combinations may produce particular “ROS signatures.” Besides their deleterious effects, ROS are recognized as a signal in the plant reaction to biotic and abiotic stressors. ROS may induce programed cell death (PCD) to avoid pathogen spread ( Mur et al., 2008 ), trigger a systemic defense response signal ( Dubiella et al., 2013 ), or avoid the chloroplast antenna overloading by electrons divert ( Choudhury et al., 2017 ).

Whatever the origin and function, ROS concentration must be adequately regulated to avoid excessive concentration and consequent cellular damages. Depending on NO and ROS concentrations, NO has the dual capacity to activate or inhibit the ROS production, and is a key molecule for keeping cellular redox homeostasis under control ( Beligni and Lamattina, 1999a ; Correa-Aragunde et al., 2015 ). NO has a direct ROS-scavenging activity because it holds an unpaired electron, reaching elevated reactivity with O 2 , O 2 •– , and redox active metals. NO can mitigate OH formation by scavenging either Fe or O 2 •– ( Lamattina et al., 2003 ). However, NO reacting with ROS (mainly O 2 •– ) may generate reactive nitrogen species (RNS). An excess of RNS originates a nitrosative stress ( Corpas et al., 2011 ). To avoid the toxicity of nitrosative stress, NO is stored as GSNO in the cell.

GSH as a Redox Buffer. GSNO as NO Reservoir. SNO and S-Nitrosylation

Glutathione (GSH) is a small peptide with the sequence γ-l-glutamyl-l-cysteinyl-glycine that has a cell redox homeostatic impact in most plant tissues. It is a soluble small thiol considered a non-enzymatic antioxidant. It exists in the reduced (GSH) or oxidized state (GSSG), in which two GSH molecules are joined by a disulfide bond ( Rouhier et al., 2008 ). GSH alleviates oxidative damages in plants generated by abiotic stresses, including salinity, drought, higher, low temperature, and heavy metals. GSH is precursor of phytochelatins, polymers that chelate toxic metals and transport them to the vacuole ( Grill et al., 1989 ). Studies shown that GSH contributes to tolerate nickel, cadmium, zinc, mercury, aluminum and arsenate heavy metals in plants ( Asgher et al., 2017 ). Moreover, GSH has a role in the detoxification of ROS both directly, interacting with them, or indirectly, participating of enzymatic pathways. GSH is involved in glutathionylation, a posttranslational modification that causes a mixed disulfide bond between a Cys residue and GSH.

GSH can be oxidized to GSSG by H 2 O 2 and can react with NO to form the nitrosoglutathione (GSNO) derivative. GSNO is an intracellular NO reservoir. It is also a vehicle of NO throughout the cell and organs, spreading NO biological function. GSNO is the largest low-molecular-mass S-nitrosothiol (SNO) in plant cells ( Corpas et al., 2013 ). GSNO metabolism and its reaction with other molecules involve S-nitrosylation and S-transnitrosation which consist of the binding of a NO molecule to a cysteine residue in proteins. Thioredoxin produces protein denitrosylation ( Correa-Aragunde et al., 2013 ). GSNO could be decomposed by the GSNO reductase (GSNOR) to GSSG which, in turn, is reduced to GSH by glutathione reductase (GR).

Glutathione also participates in the GSH/ASC cycle, a series of enzymatic reactions that degrade H 2 O 2 . APX degrades H 2 O 2 using ASC, the other major antioxidant in plants, as cofactor. The oxidized ASC is reduced by monodehydroascorbate reductase (MDHAR) in an NAD(P)H-dependent manner and by dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR) employing GSH as electron donor. The resulting GSSG is reduced in turn to GSH by GR ( Foyer and Noctor, 2011 ).

Different Effects of NO in the Regulation of Antioxidant Enzymes

The application of NO donors alleviates oxidative stress in plants challenged to abiotic and/or biotic stresses ( Laxalt et al., 1997 ; Beligni and Lamattina, 1999b , 2002 ; Shi et al., 2007 ; Xue et al., 2007 ; Leitner et al., 2009 ).

Besides the direct ROS-scavenging activity of NO, its beneficial effect is exerted by the regulation of the antioxidant enzymes activity that controls toxic levels of ROS and RNS ( Uchida et al., 2002 ; Shi et al., 2005 ; Song et al., 2006 ; Romero-Puertas et al., 2007 ; Bai et al., 2011 ). NO can modulate cell redox balance in plants through the regulation of gene expression, posttranslational modification or by its binding to the heme prosthetic group of some antioxidant enzymes.

SOD catalyzes the dismutation of stress-generated O 2 •– in one of two less harmful species: either molecular oxygen (O 2 ) or hydrogen peroxide (H 2 O 2 ). APX and CAT are the most important enzymes degrading H 2 O 2 in plants. They transform H 2 O 2 to H 2 O and O 2 . APX isoforms are primarily found in the cytosol and chloroplasts, while the CAT isoforms are found in peroxisomes. APX has strong affinity for H 2 O 2 and uses ASC as an electron donor. In contrast, CAT removes H 2 O 2 generated in the peroxisomal respiratory pathway without the need to reduce power. Even though CAT affinity for H 2 O 2 is low, its elevated rate of reaction offers an effective way to detoxify H 2 O 2 inside the cell. PRX may reduce both hydroperoxide and peroxynitrite.

Many reports on different plant species demonstrate that NO induces the transcription and activity of antioxidative enzymes in response to oxidative stress. The tolerance to drought and salt-induced oxidative stress in tobacco is related to the ABA-triggered production of H 2 O 2 and NO. In turn, they induce transcripts and activities of SOD, CAT, APX, and GR ( Zhang et al., 2009 ). UV-B-produced oxidative stress in Glycine max was alleviated by NO donors, which induced transcription and activities of SOD, CAT, and APX ( Santa-Cruz et al., 2014 ). Furthermore, in bean leaves, SOD, CAT, and APX activities are increased by NO donors, and protected from the oxidative stress generated by UV-B irradiation ( Shi et al., 2005 ). Drought tolerance in bermudagrass is improved by ABA-dependent SOD and CAT activities. This effect is regulated by H 2 O 2 and NO, NO acting downstream H 2 O 2 ( Lu et al., 2009 ).

Several antioxidant enzymes have been identified as target of S-nitrosylation, resulting in a change of their biological activity ( Romero-Puertas et al., 2008 ; Bai et al., 2011 ; Fares et al., 2011 ). For instance, NO reinforces recalcitrant seed desiccation tolerance in Antiaris toxicaria by activating the ascorbate-glutathione cycle through S-nitrosylation to control H 2 O 2 accumulation. Desiccation treatment reduced the level of S-nitrosylated APX, GR, and DHAR proteins. Instead, NO gas exposure activated them by S-nitrosylation ( Bai et al., 2011 ). Furthermore, APX was S-nitrosylated at Cys32 during saline stress and biotic stress, enhancing its enzymatic activity ( Begara-Morales et al., 2014 ; Yang et al., 2015 ). In addition, auxin-induced denitrosylation of cytosolic APX provoked inhibition of its activity, followed by an increase of H 2 O 2 concentration and the consequent lateral root formation in Arabidopsis ( Correa-Aragunde et al., 2013 ). Moreover, an inhibitory impact of S-nitrosylation on APX activity was also reported during programmed cell death in Arabidopsis ( de Pinto et al., 2013 ). CAT was identified to be S-nitrosylated in a proteomic study of isolated peroxisomes ( Ortega-Galisteo et al., 2012 ). A decrease of S-nitrosylated CAT under Cd treatment was reported. In addition, in vitro experiments demonstrated a reversible inhibitory effect of APX and CAT activities by NO binding to the Fe of the heme cofactor ( Brown, 1995 ; Clark et al., 2000 ). In addition, NOXs have been involved in plant defense, development, hormone biosynthesis and signaling ( Marino et al., 2012 ). Whereas S-nitrosylation did not affect SOD activities, nitration inhibited Mn-SOD1, Fe-SOD3, and CuZn-SOD3 activity to different degrees ( Holzmeister et al., 2015 ). SOD isoforms could also regulate endogenous NO availability by competing for the common substrate, O 2 •– , and it was demonstrated that bovine SOD may release NO from GSNO ( Singh et al., 1999 ). When GSNO is decomposed by GSNOR, it produces GSSG. GSNOR is also regulated by NO. Frungillo et al. (2014) demonstrated that NO-derived from nitrate assimilation in Arabidopsis inhibited GSNOR1 by S-nitrosylation, preventing GSNO degradation. They proposed that (S)NO controls its own generation and scavenging by modulating nitrate assimilation and GSNOR1 activity. It was also shown that chilling treatment in poplar increased S-nitrosylation of NR, along with a significant decrease of its activity ( Cheng et al., 2015 ).

The dual activity of Prx, suggests a role for this enzyme both in ROS and RNS regulation. S-nitrosylation of Arabidopsis PrxIIE inhibits its peroxynitrite activity, increasing peroxynitrite-mediated tyrosine nitration ( Romero-Puertas et al., 2007 ). Pea mitochondrial PrxIIF was S-nitrosylated under salt stress, and its peroxidase activity was reduced by 5 mM GSNO ( Camejo et al., 2013 ).

An interesting study demonstrated that NO controls hypersensitive response (HR) through S-nitrosylation of NOX, inhibiting ROS synthesis. This triggers a feedback loop limiting HR ( Yun et al., 2011 ).

Other proteins related to abiotic stress response are regulated by S-nitrosylation (For a review see Fancy et al., 2017 ).

Figure ​ Figure3 3 is a simplified diagram that illustrates the main oxidative and nitrosative effects that modulate the activities of key cell components, thus maintaining cell redox balance. Note the feedback and positive-negative regulatory processes occurring in the main pathways. They involve posttranslational modifications that activate and inhibit the components involved in cell antioxidant system.

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is fpls-09-00273-g003.jpg

Molecules and mechanisms involved in NO-mediated redox balance. H 2 O 2 is generated mainly by NOX and SOD as a response to (a)biotic stress. APX and CAT are the main H 2 O 2 -degrading enzymes. NO is increased by H 2 O 2 through the induction of NR/NOS-like activities, and may scavenge ROS or induce both the transcription and activity of SOD, CAT, and APX. In parallel, NO is combined with GSH to form nitrosoglutathione GSNO. GSNO regulates many enzymatic activities by the posttranslational modification of cysteine residues through S-Nitrosylation. NOX and CAT activities are inhibited by S-nitrosylation, whereas APX is either activated or inhibited by S-nitrosylation. NO also inhibits APX by binding to heme group. GSNO is degraded by GSNOR, which could be inhibited by H 2 O 2 and S-nitrosylation.NR could be inhibited by S-nitrosylation. GR reduces GSSG to GSH, and it is activated by S-nitrosylation. Ascorbate (ASC) is a cofactor of APX. Reduced ASC is generated by MDHAR and DHAR, using GSH as electron donor. Both enzymes are inhibited by S-nitrosylation. Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS) may be originated by NO and O 2 •– reaction. SOD regulate RNS dismutating O 2 •– . Peroxiredoxins (Prx) reduce both ROS AND RNS. RNS are degraded by PrxIIe, and H 2 O 2 by PrxIIF. Both enzymes are inhibited by S-nitrosylation. Red lines: H 2 O 2 -regulated reactions. Purple lines: NO-regulated reactions. Green lines: GSNO-regulated reactions.

Conclusions and Perspectives

The accelerating rate of climate change, together with habitat fragmentation caused by human activity, are part of the selective pressures building a new Earth’s landscape.

Climate change is a multidimensional and simultaneous variation in duration, frequency and intensity of parameters like temperature and precipitation, altering the seasons and life on the Earth. In this scenario, plant species with increased adaptive plasticity will be better equipped to tolerate changes in the frequency of extreme weather events. GHG are one of the forces driving climate change. However, CO 2 and NO may contribute to maintaining the cell redox homeostasis, regulating the amount of ROS, GSH, GSNO, and SNO.

In this manuscript, we summarize the available evidence supporting the presence of broad spectrum anti-stress molecules, as NO in plants, for coping with unprecedented changes in environmental conditions. Future research should focus in better understanding the influence of GHG on plant physiology.

Author Contributions

RC conceived the project and wrote the manuscript. MN drew figures and collaborated in writing the manuscript. NC-A and LL supervised and complemented the drafting. All the persons entitled to authorship have been named and have approved the final version of the submitted manuscript.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. The reviewer MCR-P and handling Editor declared their shared affiliation.

Acknowledgments

We thank ANPCYT for MN fellowship. We also thank Marta Terrazo for helping with the language revision of the manuscript.

Funding. This work was supported by grants from the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas, the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica, and the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Argentina. NC-A, LL, and RC are permanent members of the Scientific Research career of CONICET. MN is doctoral fellow of the ANPCYT.

1 https://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/facts/ozone.html

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News from the Columbia Climate School

10 Climate Change Impacts That Will Affect Us All

global warming disadvantages essay

As global greenhouse gases are projected to hit a new high for 2019, Petteri Taalas of the World Meteorological Organization recently declared, “Things are getting worse.” A 2019 poll found that only 24 percent of U.S. respondents believed climate change would have a great deal of impact on their lives; 31 percent believed it would have a fair amount of impact.

Different regions of the country will be affected in different ways, some more than others. But there are certain impacts that will probably affect every American’s way of life. Here are 10 of them.

1. Damage to your home

Floods, the most common and deadly natural disasters in the U.S., will likely be exacerbated and intensified by sea level rise and extreme weather. Heavy precipitation is projected to increase throughout the century to potentially three times the historical average. A 2018 study found that over 40 million Americans are at risk of flooding from rivers, and over 8.6 million people live in areas that already experience coastal flooding from storm surges during hurricanes. FEMA estimated that even one inch of floodwater in an average-sized home could cost homeowners almost $27,000 in damages.

global warming disadvantages essay

In September, Adam Sobel, founding director of Columbia University’s Initiative on Extreme Weather and Climate , testified before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. He asserted that scientists have strong evidence that global warming will increase the frequency or intensity of heavy rain events, and coastal flooding due to hurricane storm surge is also worsening because of sea level rise and increased precipitation.

In addition, he said, the frequency and intensity of droughts and wildfires are on the rise. While no state is immune to wildfires, 13 states in the West are considered susceptible to the most severe wildfire damage, with California having the most acres burned in 2018. A national analysis found that 775,654 homes are at extreme risk of wildfire in these 13 states. But even if homes do not burn to the ground, they may suffer smoke and fire damage, as well as water damage and flooding from fire fighting efforts.

How to protect yourself

  • Apply sealants and coatings to prevent floodwaters from entering your house
  • Install a sump pump
  • Keep your gutters and drains clear
  • Where flooding occurs regularly, raise your home up on stilts or piles
  • Remove dry vegetation around the house
  • When replacing a roof, opt for tile or metal
  • Take all evacuation warnings seriously and have an emergency supply kit ready to go

2. More expensive home insurance

As insurance companies pay out huge amounts to homeowners whose houses have been damaged by climate change impacts, many are raising premiums to offset their costs. Home insurance rates increased more than 50 percent between 2005 and 2015.

In high-risk areas, premiums and deductibles may rise, coverage may be more limited, and insurance could ultimately become unaffordable or unavailable for some, especially in climate-vulnerable areas. For Connecticut homeowners, insurance rates have gone up 35 percent in the last 10 years; for homeowners with property along the coast, rates have gone up by over 50 percent. In 2016, California insurance companies would not renew over 10,000 policies for homes in high-risk areas. (Recently, however, the state issued a one-year moratorium preventing insurers from dropping customers who live in areas at risk from wildfire.) Travelers Insurance Company now requires separate deductibles in areas where hurricanes and tornadoes are more common.

Moreover, standard homeowners’ insurance does not cover flooding, so homeowners must buy private insurance or sign up for the National Flood Insurance Program  run by FEMA. Due to billions of dollars in payouts for Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey, Irma, Maria and Sandy, however, NFIP is $20.5 billion in debt. In October, FEMA announced that rates would rise 11.3 percent in April 2020, and will be further restructured in October 2021.

  • When choosing a home, factor in climate risks
  • Check FEMA flood maps (even though almost 60 percent are out of date)
  • Understand your insurance coverage and needs
  • Shop around for your insurance policy
  • Raise your deductible for lower monthly payments
  • Make your home more disaster-resistant

3. Outdoor work could become unbearable

With continued global warming, heat waves are expected to increase in frequency, duration and intensity. Jane Baldwin, a postdoctoral research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, found that compound heat waves—heat waves that occur in sequence, one after the other—will also increase, making recovery from heat waves more difficult.

global warming disadvantages essay

People who work outdoors, such as construction workers, miners, firefighters and agricultural workers, will be most affected by increasing temperatures. Florida, for example, has one of the highest rates of heat-related hospitalizations in the U.S. This summer during a heat wave, the majority of heat-related visits to emergency rooms in Virginia were made by people aged 29-40, 70 percent of whom were men. Indoor workers in warehouses and steel plants can also be affected by excessive heat.

One study suggested that outdoor workers should begin their shifts earlier in the day, but if global warming continues at the current pace, by 2100, they would have to start working four to six hours before dawn. Currently, there are no federal laws that protect workers from heat stress, but in July, a bill was introduced into the House of Representatives that would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to establish standards to protect those working in the heat.

  • Take frequent shade and water breaks
  • Use a damp rag to keep cool
  • Wear light-colored clothing and a hat
  • Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke

4. Higher electric bills and more blackouts

As temperatures rise, people will need to stay cool for health and comfort reasons. Climate Central analyzed 244 cities in the U.S. and determined that 93 percent experienced an increase in the number of days that required extra cooling to remain comfortable. As we rely more heavily on air conditioners and fans, electricity bills will get higher.

The increased demand for electricity, especially during peak periods, can also over-tax the electrical grid, triggering brownouts or blackouts. Extreme weather, such as hurricanes, heat waves or snowstorms, can cause power outages too.

global warming disadvantages essay

Between the mid-1980s and 2012, there was a ten-fold increase in power outages, 80 percent of which were caused by weather.

As wildfires plague California, Pacific Gas & Electric has been preemptively shutting down power to avoid the possibility of sparking fires in the dry, windy conditions. Millions lost power during this year’s blackouts. Pre-emptive blackouts could become a common occurrence.

Brownouts or blackouts can also result if hydropower plants have less water to draw from in rivers and lakes, and if water becomes too warm to cool nuclear or coal power plants.

  • Find greener ways to stay cool
  • Install a programmable thermostat and set the temperature higher
  • Run your appliances at night
  • During a blackout, fill the bathtub so you have water to flush toilets; keep freezers and refrigerators closed
  • If the power goes out, unplug appliances and electronics to avoid damage from electrical surges
  • Don’t run generators inside the garage or near open windows, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

5.  Rising taxes   

Municipalities are recognizing the need to make their communities more resilient in the face of climate change impacts. Although measures such as building seawalls or hardening infrastructure are hugely expensive, the National Climate Assessment determined that resiliency measures save money in the long run — for example, by reducing coastal property damage to about $800 billion from a projected $3.5 trillion. Paying for mitigation and adaptation measures, however, will likely have to be funded through higher property taxes or “resilience fees.”

Grand Rapids, Michigan had problems with flooding and aging stormwater infrastructure. In 2014, the residents rejected a 13.3 percent income tax cut in order to implement green infrastructure measures that absorb runoff and reduce flooding on streets.

global warming disadvantages essay

In 2018, Norfolk, VA, which is surrounded by water and vulnerable to sea level rise, approved a $0.10 increase to the real estate tax rate, which will go towards citywide resiliency plans to address flooding. And in the wake of California’s recent wildfires, Marin County is proposing a $0.10 per square foot parcel tax on property owners across the county to fund wildfire prevention.

  • See if you qualify for a tax rebate or credit for renewable energy   and/or energy efficiency
  • Check to see if your state gives tax exemptions for seniors, veterans, or the disabled

6. More allergies and other health risks

Warmer temperatures cause the pollen season to be longer and worsen air quality, both of which can result in more allergy and asthma attacks. Ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, which increases when temperatures warm, can also cause coughing, chest tightness or pain, decrease lung function and worsen asthma and other chronic lung diseases.

global warming disadvantages essay

In addition, after floods or storms, damp buildings may foster mold growth, which has been linked to allergies and other lung diseases.

With rising temperatures, more people will suffer heat cramps, heat exhaustion, hyperthermia (high body temperature) and heat stroke as days that are unusually hot for the season hamper the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Prolonged exposure to heat can exacerbate cardiovascular, respiratory and kidney diseases, diabetes, and increase the chance for strokes.

Older adults, pregnant women, and children are particularly vulnerable to excess heat. A 2018 paper , written by Madeline Thomson while she was a senior researcher at the Earth Institute’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society, called attention to the fact that children and infants are more vulnerable to dehydration and heat stress, as well as to respiratory disease, allergies and fever during heat waves and to the need for adults to protect them.

As the climate changes, disease-carrying mosquitoes are extending their range, bringing diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya and West Nile virus farther north than they’ve ever been. In the summer of 2013, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, usually found in Texas and the southeastern U.S., suddenly appeared in California as far north as San Francisco — fortunately, none of the tested mosquitoes carried dengue or yellow fever. One study projects that Aedes aegypti could reach as far north as Chicago by 2050.

Heat waves, natural disasters, and the disruption in lives they cause can also aggravate mental health. During one recent California wildfire, suicidal and traumatized people flooded emergency rooms.

  • When pollen counts are high or air quality is bad, stay indoors
  • During a heat wave, limit outside activity during the hottest hours
  • Stay hydrated
  • Use insect repellent
  • Understand how climate impacts can affect your children and take precautions for them

7. Food will be more expensive and variety may suffer

In the last 20 years, food prices have risen about 2.6 percent each year, and the USDA expects that food prices will continue to rise. While there are several reasons for higher food prices, climate change is a major factor. Extreme weather affects livestock and crops, and droughts can have impacts on the stability and price of food. New York apple farmers, for example, are facing warmer winters and extreme weather, which can wipe out harvests. They are trying to save their apples with new irrigation systems and wind machines that blow warm air during cold spells, but eventually these added costs will be reflected in the price of apples.

As temperatures warm and precipitation increases, more pathogens will thrive and affect plant health; in addition, more food will spoil. And because food is a globally traded commodity today, climate events in one region can raise prices and cause shortages across the globe. For example, a drought in Brazil in 2013 and 2014 caused Arabica coffee prices to double.

Michael Puma , director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research, studies global food security , especially how susceptible the global network of food trade is to natural (e.g., megadroughts, volcanic eruptions) and manmade (e.g., wars, trade restrictions) disturbances. He and his colleagues are building quantitative economic models to examine vulnerabilities in the food system under different scenarios; they will use the tool to explore how altering certain policies might reduce the vulnerabilities of the food system to disruptions.

Three-quarters of our crops rely on insects for pollination and scientists believe 41 percent of insect species are threatened with extinction. While habitat loss is the major reason, climate change also plays a large part. If we lose pollinators, that could mean losing some of the crops and varieties they pollinate.

  • To save money, cook at home more often and avoid purchasing prepared foods
  • Don’t waste food
  • Buy in bulk
  • Eat less meat

8. Water quality could suffer 

Intense storms and heavy precipitation can result in the contamination of water resources . In cities, runoff picks up pollutants from the streets, and can overflow sewage systems, allowing untreated sewage to enter drinking water supplies.

global warming disadvantages essay

In rural areas, runoff transports animal waste, pesticides and chemical fertilizer, and can enter drinking or recreational waters. Polluted drinking water can cause diarrhea, Legionnaires’ disease, and cholera; it can also cause eye, ear and skin infections. In some low-lying coastal areas, sea level rise could enable saltwater to enter groundwater drinking water supplies. And in areas suffering from drought, contaminants become more concentrated as water supplies decrease. In addition, algal blooms thrive in warm temperatures and can contaminate drinking water. In 2014, residents of Toledo, Ohio had to drink bottled water for three days because their water supply was polluted with cyanobacteria toxins.

The Earth Institute’s Columbia Water Center studies the state of fresh water availability in the face of climate change, and the water needs of food production, energy generation and ecosystems. It aims to provide “sustainable models of water management and development” to apply on local, regional and global levels.

  • Don’t use water you suspect is contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, wash or prepare food, make ice, wash hands or make baby formula
  • Keep bottled water on hand
  • Decrease your household water use, especially during droughts
  • Heed government precautions when drinking water is found to be contaminated and boil your water

9. Outdoor exercise and recreational sports will become more difficult

Reduced snowfall and early snowmelt in the spring will have an impact on skiing, snowmobiling and other winter sports. Less water in lakes and rivers could also affect boating and fishing during summer.

global warming disadvantages essay

Hotter temperatures, especially in the South and Southwest, will make summer activities like running, biking, hiking and fishing less comfortable and potentially dangerous to your health.

  • Shorten your outdoor workout
  • Substitute indoor activities when temperatures are excessively hot
  • Plan outdoor exercise for early or late in the day
  • Choose shady routes if possible
  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing
  • Keep salty or juicy snacks on hand
  • Know the signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke

10. Disruptions in travel

As temperatures rise, it may get too hot for some planes to fly. In 2015, Radley Horton, associate research professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and then Ph.D. student Ethan Coffel published a study calculating how extreme heat could restrict the takeoff weight of airplanes. Hotter air is less dense, so planes get less lift under their wings and engines produce less power. Airlines may be forced to bump passengers or leave luggage behind to lighten their loads. This concern is one reason why long-distance flights from the Middle East leave at night; the practice could become standard for the U.S. as well.

Flights can be disrupted due to flooding because many airports are located on low-lying land.

global warming disadvantages essay

Superstorm Sandy in 2012 flooded LaGuardia Airport for three days. One runway in Northern Canada had to be repaved because the permafrost on which it was built began melting.

Once in the air, you may experience more turbulence. Stronger winds create more shear (a difference in wind speed over a short distance) in the atmosphere, which results in turbulence. And distant storms can create waves in the atmosphere that cause turbulence hundreds of miles away.

Recreational travel could be upended as climate change impacts many popular destinations. Sea level rise, storm surge and erosion are affecting Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, Miami Beach in Florida, and Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro. Along Florida’s southwest and Gulf coasts, toxic algae blooms have killed fish and turtles, sending the stench and toxins into the air, and making beaches unpleasant and unhealthy.

global warming disadvantages essay

In the U.S., Montana’s Glacier National Park is losing its glaciers; in 1910 it had more than 100, but now fewer than two dozen remain. The Everglades are experiencing salt water intrusion from sea level rise. World heritage sites, too, are being affected by global warming impacts: The Amazon rainforest is threatened by logging and fires, the Arctic is thawing, the snows of Kilamanjaro are melting, and the Great Barrier Reef’s corals are bleaching.

  • Change your travel destination
  • Purchase travel insurance
  • Check the weather of your travel destination
  • Fly during the morning to reduce chances of thunderstorms and turbulence
  • On the plane, keep your seat belt buckled as much as possible

As global temperatures continue to rise, climate change will affect our wallets, our health, our safety, and our lives. Many people are already feeling these impacts. And while there are ways to adapt on a personal level, some of these changes are going to become more severe and unavoidable over time. The best way to protect ourselves for the future is to support policies and measures that cut carbon emissions and enhance climate resilience.

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Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.

Ocean pollution puts a large portion of our food and water supply at risk. 2020 needs to be the year for our oceans. I’ve started using Ekoru.org instead of Google because every search helps clean plastics from our oceans.

zach parmer

ugh but 2020 aint the year anymore:(

pricilla preston

THANK YOU SO MUCH YOU HAVE HELPED ME SO MUCH!!!

rob

All the climate charts you could ever want on one page https://lokisrevengeblog.wordpress.com/collpase-charts/ No Water No Food No Life https://www.reddit.com/r/collapse/comments/ee7ewr/no_water_no_food_no_life/

Wendy Jones

may god bless you

John denker

Please check your facts and do not rely on computer models that have proven unreliable. The public actually can look up and find out for themselves that floods and forest fires are not any where near historic levels now. And by the way, CO2 and the earths average temperatures have also been greater in the past. How many times have we been told we only have 10 years to Change our ways. At least 40 years now. “But this time it’s real?”

Am I right?

Let me guess – American?

Connor

Probably, unfortunately. Please don’t think all of us are as foolish as some of us.

student

ah, politics will be the end of the world. congrats democracy, really did us a favor this time

klein

i think we should worry about climate change because it can affect our futures and people on the earth

Anoyamous

I very much agree

kuldeep singh

Yes, It’s a serious concern for all of us.

cameron james macfarlane

John Denker, y ou are wrong. The  2020 Oregon wildfire season  was one of the most destructive on record in the state of Oregon. How twould it have ever been possible for Earth’s CO2 average to be greater in the past? Your argument is weak, and false. We haven’t changed our ways, and each year we pay the price. Things are getting worse every year.

BananaMonster

Actually Earth did have higher CO2 concentrations in the past. Look up the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Earth’s temperature was much higher. The CO2 and temperature increases that led to the PETM happened rapidly, on geologic timescales, but nowhere near as fast as today. And it wasn’t accompanied by the level of habitat loss and pollution we have now. Climate change isn’t necessarily always bad; in our case it is though, because many species don’t have enough time to adapt.

That’s because we are actually doing things about it ( I mean about the Co2 part )

Yes I agree, taxes are rising soo much and I have had 8 power cuts in the last year

Very true but not a reason the ignore these things.

Charmaine

It’s very helping to us school kids

Kuijer, Johan

Over the years, we have been informed and warned about the effects of global warming. Now we are in the middle of it…so, I have just one question : isn’t it already too late ?

SAVE THE EARTH

ITS NEVER TO LATE Kuijer Johan

I’m sure its not too late- if it is that really sucks.

stop co2 emmisions

doesnt climate change effect the food chain if all ice caps melt

Martin Phillips

It affects the food chain anyway

Yeah, some animals that need cooler temperatures die, their predators have no prey and then they die.

EVA

Lots of great things to know and to learn if you didn’t already know

Shawn

What are the impacts like social, political, economical, Cultural from climate change

Kian

This article is really nice!!!! I give it 100 stars!!!

Jhonny

I love the points this article makes. I, a 49-year-old retired firefighter, faced extreme heat while on the job. Wildfires and house fires were commonplace when I was working. Some of my co-workers suffered from heat related injuries and had to get immediate medical treatment. I’m glad this article brings to light what us outdoor workers have to deal with on a daily basis, and I hope more articles address the conditions of outdoor workers

One day we will run out of animals because it gets too hot to farm them outdoors. I don’t know much about this thing but I kind of understood after reading this.

Gabriel Apotey

World of constant modification,appreciation and communication in quest to making life and its inhabitants better

STOP CLIMATE CHANGE

Very helpfull to school Children 🙂

Martha

I am 78 years old and when I was young there wasn’t any air conditioning – only fans to stir the hot air around. cars didn’t have a/c – windows were rolled down. I don’t see a change in temperature in my 78 years. Sat outside when summer was at it hottest (July and August) and used handheld paper fans. We adjusted our cooking hours so it wouldn’t be so hot in the house. Nighttime was miserable as it was so hot we couldn’t sleep but eventually it came. Might have to put a cold cloth on our heads to cool us just a little. A person did exactly what was required of them. I remember droughts, heavy rainstorms and tornadoes. To me nothing has changed except generations have grown up with A/C in home and cars and can’t tolerate being a little hot.

saharsh

TREE POWER IS IMMENSE

  • trees are good at taking co2
  • you get plant based food from them so eat that food
  • use bing or chatgpt to find how much

tree table coming soon for house plants

Plant Name CO2 Absorption (kg/year) Dumbcane 16.28 Arrow Plant 15.73 Anthurium 14.44 Spider Plant 13.26 Bird’s Nest Fern 11.77 Golden Pothos 11.63 Prayer Plant 11.57 use this times 2

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Essay on Effects of Global Warming for Students and Children

500+ words essay on effects of global warming.

Global warming refers to climate change that causes an increase in the average of Earth’s temperature. Natural events and human influences are believed to be top contributions towards the increase in average temperatures. Global warming is a rise in the surface and atmospheric temperature of the earth that has changed various life forms on the earth. The issues that ascertain global warming are divided into two broad categories – “natural” and “human influences” of global warming.

essay on effects of global warming

Natural Causes of Global Warming

The climate has been continuously changing for centuries. One natural cause of global warming is greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide . It traps the solar rays and prevents them from escaping the surface of the earth.

This causes an increase in the temperature of the earth. Volcanic eruptions are another reason for global warming. A single volcanic eruption can release a great amount of carbon dioxide and ash to the atmosphere. Increased carbon dioxide leads to a rise in the temperature of the earth.

Also, methane gas is another contributor to global warming. Methane is also a greenhouse gas. Methane is twenty times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Usually, methane gas is released from many areas like animal waste, landfill, natural gas, and others.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Human Influences on Global Warming

Human influence has been a very serious issue now as it is contributing more than natural causes of global warming. Since human evolution, the earth has been changing for many years until now and it is still changing because of our modern lifestyle. Human activities include industrial production, burning fossil fuel, mining of minerals, cattle rearing and deforestation.

Industries, transportation such as cars, buses, trucks burn fuel to power machines, which eventually releases carbon dioxide and monoxide from the exhaust, leading to an increase in a temperature rise of Earth’s atmosphere.

Another contributor is mining. During the process of mining, the methane gas trapped below the earth escapes. Rearing cattle also causes the release of methane from manure. Another cause is the most common but most dangerous – deforestation.

Deforestation is a human influence because human have been cutting down trees to produce paper, wood, build houses and more. Trees can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and their absence can lead to the concentration of such gases.

The Effect of Global Warming

The impact that global warming is causing on earth is extremely serious. There are many hazardous effects that will happen in the future if global warming continues. It includes melting of polar ice caps, leading to an increase in sea level drowning coastlines and slowly submerging continents.

Recent studies by National Snow and Ice Datacenter “if the ice melted today the seas would rise about 230 feet”. Another effect is climate change leading to the extinction of various species. More hurricanes, cyclonic storms, heat waves, drought, and extreme rainfalls will occur causing disaster to humankind.

The solution to Stop Global Warming

We humans need to work together towards the prevention of global warming. To reduce global warming we can contribute by reducing the production and concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We need to curb usage of gasoline, electricity and other activities including mining and industrialization that cause global warming.

Another way to reduce global warming is through recycling. Recycling can help reduce open burning of garbage by reusing plastic bags, bottles, papers or glass. We need to stop open burning dry leaves or burning garbage. It contributes to releasing carbon dioxide and toxins. Besides, we should reduce deforestation and start planting more trees. Trees will help improve the temperature on earth and prevent drastic climatic change.

From today’s scenario, we can derive that our earth is “sick” and we humans need to “heal” it. Global Warming has already caused many problems for human and we need to prevent disasters of the future. Our generation needs to take care of the earth with immediate effect to safeguard future generations or they will suffer the consequences of global warming.

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Essay on Global Warming

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  • Updated on  
  • Nov 23, 2023

essay on global warming

Being able to write an essay is an integral part of mastering any language. Essays form an integral part of many academic and scholastic exams like the SAT , and UPSC amongst many others. It is a crucial evaluative part of English proficiency tests as well like IELTS , TOEFL , etc. Major essays are meant to emphasize public issues of concern that can have significant consequences on the world. To understand the concept of Global Warming and its causes and effects, we must first examine the many factors that influence the planet’s temperature and what this implies for the world’s future. Here’s an unbiased look at the essay on Global Warming and other essential related topics.

This Blog Includes:

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Since the industrial and scientific revolutions, Earth’s resources have been gradually depleted. Furthermore, the start of the world’s population’s exponential expansion is particularly hard on the environment. Simply put, as the population’s need for consumption grows, so does the use of natural resources , as well as the waste generated by that consumption.

Climate change has been one of the most significant long-term consequences of this. Climate change is more than just the rise or fall of global temperatures; it also affects rain cycles, wind patterns, cyclone frequencies, sea levels, and other factors. It has an impact on all major life groupings on the planet.

Also Read: World Population Day

What is Global Warming?

Global warming is the unusually rapid increase in Earth’s average surface temperature over the past century, primarily due to the greenhouse gases released by people burning fossil fuels . The greenhouse gases consist of methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, carbon dioxide, water vapour, and chlorofluorocarbons. The weather prediction has been becoming more complex with every passing year, with seasons more indistinguishable, and the general temperatures hotter. The number of hurricanes, cyclones, droughts, floods, etc., has risen steadily since the onset of the 21st century. The supervillain behind all these changes is Global Warming. The name is quite self-explanatory; it means the rise in the temperature of the Earth.

Also Read: What is a Natural Disaster?

According to recent studies, many scientists believe the following are the primary four causes of global warming:

  • Deforestation 
  • Greenhouse emissions
  • Carbon emissions per capita

Extreme global warming is causing natural disasters , which can be seen all around us. One of the causes of global warming is the extreme release of greenhouse gases that become trapped on the earth’s surface, causing the temperature to rise. Similarly, volcanoes contribute to global warming by spewing excessive CO2 into the atmosphere.

The increase in population is one of the major causes of Global Warming. This increase in population also leads to increased air pollution . Automobiles emit a lot of CO2, which remains in the atmosphere. This increase in population is also causing deforestation, which contributes to global warming.

The earth’s surface emits energy into the atmosphere in the form of heat, keeping the balance with the incoming energy. Global warming depletes the ozone layer, bringing about the end of the world. There is a clear indication that increased global warming will result in the extinction of all life on Earth’s surface.

Also Read: Land, Soil, Water, Natural Vegetation, and Wildlife Resources

Of course, industries and multinational conglomerates emit more carbon than the average citizen. Nonetheless, activism and community effort are the only viable ways to slow the worsening effects of global warming. Furthermore, at the state or government level, world leaders must develop concrete plans and step-by-step programmes to ensure that no further harm is done to the environment in general.

Although we are almost too late to slow the rate of global warming, finding the right solution is critical. Everyone, from individuals to governments, must work together to find a solution to Global Warming. Some of the factors to consider are pollution control, population growth, and the use of natural resources.

One very important contribution you can make is to reduce your use of plastic. Plastic is the primary cause of global warming, and recycling it takes years. Another factor to consider is deforestation, which will aid in the control of global warming. More tree planting should be encouraged to green the environment. Certain rules should also govern industrialization. Building industries in green zones that affect plants and species should be prohibited.

Also Read: Essay on Pollution

Global warming is a real problem that many people want to disprove to gain political advantage. However, as global citizens, we must ensure that only the truth is presented in the media.

This decade has seen a significant impact from global warming. The two most common phenomena observed are glacier retreat and arctic shrinkage. Glaciers are rapidly melting. These are clear manifestations of climate change.

Another significant effect of global warming is the rise in sea level. Flooding is occurring in low-lying areas as a result of sea-level rise. Many countries have experienced extreme weather conditions. Every year, we have unusually heavy rain, extreme heat and cold, wildfires, and other natural disasters.

Similarly, as global warming continues, marine life is being severely impacted. This is causing the extinction of marine species as well as other problems. Furthermore, changes are expected in coral reefs, which will face extinction in the coming years. These effects will intensify in the coming years, effectively halting species expansion. Furthermore, humans will eventually feel the negative effects of Global Warming.

Also Read: Concept of Sustainable Development

Sample Essays on Global Warming

Here are some sample essays on Global Warming:

Global Warming is caused by the increase of carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere and is a result of human activities that have been causing harm to our environment for the past few centuries now. Global Warming is something that can’t be ignored and steps have to be taken to tackle the situation globally. The average temperature is constantly rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius over the last few years. The best method to prevent future damage to the earth, cutting down more forests should be banned and Afforestation should be encouraged. Start by planting trees near your homes and offices, participate in events, and teach the importance of planting trees. It is impossible to undo the damage but it is possible to stop further harm.

Also Read: Social Forestry

Over a long period, it is observed that the temperature of the earth is increasing. This affected wildlife , animals, humans, and every living organism on earth. Glaciers have been melting, and many countries have started water shortages, flooding, and erosion and all this is because of global warming. No one can be blamed for global warming except for humans. Human activities such as gases released from power plants, transportation, and deforestation have increased gases such as carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere. The main question is how can we control the current situation and build a better world for future generations. It starts with little steps by every individual. Start using cloth bags made from sustainable materials for all shopping purposes, instead of using high-watt lights use energy-efficient bulbs, switch off the electricity, don’t waste water, abolish deforestation and encourage planting more trees. Shift the use of energy from petroleum or other fossil fuels to wind and solar energy. Instead of throwing out the old clothes donate them to someone so that it is recycled. Donate old books, don’t waste paper.  Above all, spread awareness about global warming. Every little thing a person does towards saving the earth will contribute in big or small amounts. We must learn that 1% effort is better than no effort. Pledge to take care of Mother Nature and speak up about global warming.

Also Read: Types of Water Pollution

Global warming isn’t a prediction, it is happening! A person denying it or unaware of it is in the most simple terms complicit. Do we have another planet to live on? Unfortunately, we have been bestowed with this one planet only that can sustain life yet over the years we have turned a blind eye to the plight it is in. Global warming is not an abstract concept but a global phenomenon occurring ever so slowly even at this moment. Global Warming is a phenomenon that is occurring every minute resulting in a gradual increase in the Earth’s overall climate. Brought about by greenhouse gases that trap the solar radiation in the atmosphere, global warming can change the entire map of the earth, displacing areas, flooding many countries, and destroying multiple lifeforms. Extreme weather is a direct consequence of global warming but it is not an exhaustive consequence. There are virtually limitless effects of global warming which are all harmful to life on earth. The sea level is increasing by 0.12 inches per year worldwide. This is happening because of the melting of polar ice caps because of global warming. This has increased the frequency of floods in many lowland areas and has caused damage to coral reefs. The Arctic is one of the worst-hit areas affected by global warming. Air quality has been adversely affected and the acidity of the seawater has also increased causing severe damage to marine life forms. Severe natural disasters are brought about by global warming which has had dire effects on life and property. As long as mankind produces greenhouse gases, global warming will continue to accelerate. The consequences are felt at a much smaller scale which will increase to become drastic shortly. The power to save the day lies in the hands of humans, the need is to seize the day. Energy consumption should be reduced on an individual basis. Fuel-efficient cars and other electronics should be encouraged to reduce the wastage of energy sources. This will also improve air quality and reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is an evil that can only be defeated when fought together. It is better late than never. If we all take steps today, we will have a much brighter future tomorrow. Global warming is the bane of our existence and various policies have come up worldwide to fight it but that is not enough. The actual difference is made when we work at an individual level to fight it. Understanding its import now is crucial before it becomes an irrevocable mistake. Exterminating global warming is of utmost importance and each one of us is as responsible for it as the next.  

Always hear about global warming everywhere, but do we know what it is? The evil of the worst form, global warming is a phenomenon that can affect life more fatally. Global warming refers to the increase in the earth’s temperature as a result of various human activities. The planet is gradually getting hotter and threatening the existence of lifeforms on it. Despite being relentlessly studied and researched, global warming for the majority of the population remains an abstract concept of science. It is this concept that over the years has culminated in making global warming a stark reality and not a concept covered in books. Global warming is not caused by one sole reason that can be curbed. There are multifarious factors that cause global warming most of which are a part of an individual’s daily existence. Burning of fuels for cooking, in vehicles, and for other conventional uses, a large amount of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and methane amongst many others is produced which accelerates global warming. Rampant deforestation also results in global warming as lesser green cover results in an increased presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which is a greenhouse gas.  Finding a solution to global warming is of immediate importance. Global warming is a phenomenon that has to be fought unitedly. Planting more trees can be the first step that can be taken toward warding off the severe consequences of global warming. Increasing the green cover will result in regulating the carbon cycle. There should be a shift from using nonrenewable energy to renewable energy such as wind or solar energy which causes less pollution and thereby hinder the acceleration of global warming. Reducing energy needs at an individual level and not wasting energy in any form is the most important step to be taken against global warming. The warning bells are tolling to awaken us from the deep slumber of complacency we have slipped into. Humans can fight against nature and it is high time we acknowledged that. With all our scientific progress and technological inventions, fighting off the negative effects of global warming is implausible. We have to remember that we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors but borrow it from our future generations and the responsibility lies on our shoulders to bequeath them a healthy planet for life to exist. 

Also Read: Essay on Disaster Management

One good action in a day is to combat the heat.

Global Warming and Climate Change are two sides of the same coin. Both are interrelated with each other and are two issues of major concern worldwide. Greenhouse gases released such as carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other pollutants in the earth’s atmosphere cause Global Warming which leads to climate change. Black holes have started to form in the ozone layer that protects the earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. Human activities have created climate change and global warming. Industrial waste and fumes are the major contributors to global warming. Another factor affecting is the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and also one of the reasons for climate change.  Global warming has resulted in shrinking mountain glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland, and the Arctic and causing climate change. Switching from the use of fossil fuels to energy sources like wind and solar. When buying any electronic appliance buy the best quality with energy savings stars. Don’t waste water and encourage rainwater harvesting in your community. 

Also Read: Essay on Air Pollution

Writing an effective essay needs skills that few people possess and even fewer know how to implement. While writing an essay can be an assiduous task that can be unnerving at times, some key pointers can be inculcated to draft a successful essay. These involve focusing on the structure of the essay, planning it out well, and emphasizing crucial details. Mentioned below are some pointers that can help you write better structure and more thoughtful essays that will get across to your readers:

  • Prepare an outline for the essay to ensure continuity and relevance and no break in the structure of the essay
  • Decide on a thesis statement that will form the basis of your essay. It will be the point of your essay and help readers understand your contention
  • Follow the structure of an introduction, a detailed body followed by a conclusion so that the readers can comprehend the essay in a particular manner without any dissonance.
  • Make your beginning catchy and include solutions in your conclusion to make the essay insightful and lucrative to read
  • Reread before putting it out and add your flair to the essay to make it more personal and thereby unique and intriguing for readers  

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Ans. Both natural and man-made factors contribute to global warming. The natural one also contains methane gas, volcanic eruptions, and greenhouse gases. Deforestation , mining , livestock raising, burning fossil fuels, and other man-made causes are next.

Ans. The government and the general public can work together to stop global warming. Trees must be planted more often, and deforestation must be prohibited. Auto usage needs to be curbed, and recycling needs to be promoted.

Ans. Switching to renewable energy sources , adopting sustainable farming, transportation, and energy methods, and conserving water and other natural resources.

We hope this blog gave you an idea about how to write and present an essay on global warming that puts forth your opinions. The skill of writing an essay comes in handy when appearing for standardized language tests . Thinking of taking one soon? Leverage Edu provides the best online test prep for the same via Leverage Live . Register today to know more!

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Digvijay Singh

Having 2+ years of experience in educational content writing, withholding a Bachelor's in Physical Education and Sports Science and a strong interest in writing educational content for students enrolled in domestic and foreign study abroad programmes. I believe in offering a distinct viewpoint to the table, to help students deal with the complexities of both domestic and foreign educational systems. Through engaging storytelling and insightful analysis, I aim to inspire my readers to embark on their educational journeys, whether abroad or at home, and to make the most of every learning opportunity that comes their way.

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This was really a good essay on global warming… There has been used many unic words..and I really liked it!!!Seriously I had been looking for a essay about Global warming just like this…

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I want to learn how to write essay writing so I joined this page.This page is very useful for everyone.

Hi, we are glad that we could help you to write essays. We have a beginner’s guide to write essays ( https://leverageedu.com/blog/essay-writing/ ) and we think this might help you.

It is not good , to have global warming in our earth .So we all have to afforestation program on all the world.

thank you so much

Very educative , helpful and it is really going to strength my English knowledge to structure my essay in future

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Global warming is the increase in 𝓽𝓱𝓮 ᴀᴠᴇʀᴀɢᴇ ᴛᴇᴍᴘᴇʀᴀᴛᴜʀᴇs ᴏғ ᴇᴀʀᴛʜ🌎 ᴀᴛᴍᴏsᴘʜᴇʀᴇ

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How Do We Know Climate Change Is Real?

While Earth’s climate has changed throughout its history , the current warming is happening at a rate not seen in the past 10,000 years.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ), "Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact." 1

Scientific information taken from natural sources (such as ice cores, rocks, and tree rings) and from modern equipment (like satellites and instruments) all show the signs of a changing climate.

From global temperature rise to melting ice sheets, the evidence of a warming planet abounds.

The rate of change since the mid-20th century is unprecedented over millennia.

Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 800,000 years, there have been eight cycles of ice ages and warmer periods, with the end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

CO2_graph

The current warming trend is different because it is clearly the result of human activities since the mid-1800s, and is proceeding at a rate not seen over many recent millennia. 1 It is undeniable that human activities have produced the atmospheric gases that have trapped more of the Sun’s energy in the Earth system. This extra energy has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land, and widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere, and biosphere have occurred.

Earth-orbiting satellites and new technologies have helped scientists see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate all over the world. These data, collected over many years, reveal the signs and patterns of a changing climate.

Scientists demonstrated the heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases in the mid-19th century. 2 Many of the science instruments NASA uses to study our climate focus on how these gases affect the movement of infrared radiation through the atmosphere. From the measured impacts of increases in these gases, there is no question that increased greenhouse gas levels warm Earth in response.

"Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal." - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly 10 times faster than the average rate of warming after an ice age. Carbon dioxide from human activities is increasing about 250 times faster than it did from natural sources after the last Ice Age. 3

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IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, WGI, Technical Summary . B.D. Santer et.al., “A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere.” Nature 382 (04 July 1996): 39-46. https://doi.org/10.1038/382039a0. Gabriele C. Hegerl et al., “Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method.” Journal of Climate 9 (October 1996): 2281-2306. https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(1996)009<2281:DGGICC>2.0.CO;2. V. Ramaswamy, et al., “Anthropogenic and Natural Influences in the Evolution of Lower Stratospheric Cooling.” Science 311 (24 February 2006): 1138-1141. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1122587. B.D. Santer et al., “Contributions of Anthropogenic and Natural Forcing to Recent Tropopause Height Changes.” Science 301 (25 July 2003): 479-483. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1084123. T. Westerhold et al., "An astronomically dated record of Earth’s climate and its predictability over the last 66 million years." Science 369 (11 Sept. 2020): 1383-1387. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1094123

In 1824, Joseph Fourier calculated that an Earth-sized planet, at our distance from the Sun, ought to be much colder. He suggested something in the atmosphere must be acting like an insulating blanket. In 1856, Eunice Foote discovered that blanket, showing that carbon dioxide and water vapor in Earth's atmosphere trap escaping infrared (heat) radiation. In the 1860s, physicist John Tyndall recognized Earth's natural greenhouse effect and suggested that slight changes in the atmospheric composition could bring about climatic variations. In 1896, a seminal paper by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius first predicted that changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could substantially alter the surface temperature through the greenhouse effect. In 1938, Guy Callendar connected carbon dioxide increases in Earth’s atmosphere to global warming. In 1941, Milutin Milankovic linked ice ages to Earth’s orbital characteristics. Gilbert Plass formulated the Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change in 1956.

IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, WG1, Chapter 2 Vostok ice core data; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record O. Gaffney, W. Steffen, "The Anthropocene Equation." The Anthropocene Review 4, issue 1 (April 2017): 53-61. https://doi.org/abs/10.1177/2053019616688022.

https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/monitoring https://crudata.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/​ http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

https://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20170118/

S. Levitus, J. Antonov, T. Boyer, O Baranova, H. Garcia, R. Locarnini, A. Mishonov, J. Reagan, D. Seidov, E. Yarosh, M. Zweng, " NCEI ocean heat content, temperature anomalies, salinity anomalies, thermosteric sea level anomalies, halosteric sea level anomalies, and total steric sea level anomalies from 1955 to present calculated from in situ oceanographic subsurface profile data (NCEI Accession 0164586), Version 4.4. (2017) NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. https://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/index3.html K. von Schuckmann, L. Cheng, L,. D. Palmer, J. Hansen, C. Tassone, V. Aich, S. Adusumilli, H. Beltrami, H., T. Boyer, F. Cuesta-Valero, D. Desbruyeres, C. Domingues, A. Garcia-Garcia, P. Gentine, J. Gilson, M. Gorfer, L. Haimberger, M. Ishii, M., G. Johnson, R. Killick, B. King, G. Kirchengast, N. Kolodziejczyk, J. Lyman, B. Marzeion, M. Mayer, M. Monier, D. Monselesan, S. Purkey, D. Roemmich, A. Schweiger, S. Seneviratne, A. Shepherd, D. Slater, A. Steiner, F. Straneo, M.L. Timmermans, S. Wijffels. "Heat stored in the Earth system: where does the energy go?" Earth System Science Data 12, Issue 3 (07 September 2020): 2013-2041. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-12-2013-2020.

I. Velicogna, Yara Mohajerani, A. Geruo, F. Landerer, J. Mouginot, B. Noel, E. Rignot, T. Sutterly, M. van den Broeke, M. Wessem, D. Wiese, "Continuity of Ice Sheet Mass Loss in Greenland and Antarctica From the GRACE and GRACE Follow-On Missions." Geophysical Research Letters 47, Issue 8 (28 April 2020): e2020GL087291. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GL087291.

National Snow and Ice Data Center

World Glacier Monitoring Service

D.A. Robinson, D. K. Hall, and T. L. Mote, "MEaSUREs Northern Hemisphere Terrestrial Snow Cover Extent Daily 25km EASE-Grid 2.0, Version 1 (2017). Boulder, Colorado USA. NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center. doi: https://doi.org/10.5067/MEASURES/CRYOSPHERE/nsidc-0530.001 .

http://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/snow_extent.html

Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. Data History

R.S. Nerem, B.D. Beckley, J. T. Fasullo, B.D. Hamlington, D. Masters, and G.T. Mitchum, "Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise detected in the altimeter era." PNAS 15, no. 9 (12 Feb. 2018): 2022-2025. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1717312115.

https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/sotc/sea_ice.html Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS, Zhang and Rothrock, 2003) http://psc.apl.washington.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/ http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/projections-of-an-ice-diminished-arctic-ocean/

USGCRP, 2017: Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume I [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, 470 pp, https://doi.org/10.7930/j0j964j6 .

http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/What+is+Ocean+Acidification%3F

http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/story/Ocean+Acidification

C.L. Sabine, et al., “The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO2.” Science 305 (16 July 2004): 367-371. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1097403.

Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate , Technical Summary, Chapter TS.5, Changing Ocean, Marine Ecosystems, and Dependent Communities, Section 5.2.2.3. https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/chapter/technical-summary/

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  • Essay on Global Warming

Essay On Global Warming

Essay on global warming is an important topic for students to understand. The essay brings to light the plight of the environment and the repercussion of anthropogenic activities. Continue reading to discover tips and tricks for writing an engaging and interesting essay on global warming.

Essay On Global Warming in 300 Words

Global warming is a phenomenon where the earth’s average temperature rises due to increased amounts of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and ozone trap the incoming radiation from the sun. This effect creates a natural “blanket”, which prevents the heat from escaping back into the atmosphere. This effect is called the greenhouse effect.

Contrary to popular belief, greenhouse gases are not inherently bad. In fact, the greenhouse effect is quite important for life on earth. Without this effect, the sun’s radiation would be reflected back into the atmosphere, freezing the surface and making life impossible. However, when greenhouse gases in excess amounts get trapped, serious repercussions begin to appear. The polar ice caps begin to melt, leading to a rise in sea levels. Furthermore, the greenhouse effect is accelerated when polar ice caps and sea ice melts. This is due to the fact the ice reflects 50% to 70% of the sun’s rays back into space, but without ice, the solar radiation gets absorbed. Seawater reflects only 6% of the sun’s radiation back into space. What’s more frightening is the fact that the poles contain large amounts of carbon dioxide trapped within the ice. If this ice melts, it will significantly contribute to global warming. 

A related scenario when this phenomenon goes out of control is the runaway-greenhouse effect. This scenario is essentially similar to an apocalypse, but it is all too real. Though this has never happened in the earth’s entire history, it is speculated to have occurred on Venus. Millions of years ago, Venus was thought to have an atmosphere similar to that of the earth. But due to the runaway greenhouse effect, surface temperatures around the planet began rising. 

If this occurs on the earth, the runaway greenhouse effect will lead to many unpleasant scenarios – temperatures will rise hot enough for oceans to evaporate. Once the oceans evaporate, the rocks will start to sublimate under heat. In order to prevent such a scenario, proper measures have to be taken to stop climate change.

More to Read: Learn How Greenhouse Effect works

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  • Global Warming Essay

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Essay on Global Warming

The last few decades have been monumental when it comes to technological development. Humans have developed systems and machines that make our lives easier. Especially during the early modern period from the early 16th century to as far as the late 18the century, also commonly referred to as “The Scientific Revolution” or “The Enlightenment”, modern technology leapt ahead in development in such a short time frame compared to all of history.

However, with the development of society, there has been a severe detriment to the quality of Earth’s environment. One of the most massive threats to the condition of the planet is climate change. Inadequate research and reckless misuse of natural resources are some of the core reasons for the deteriorating condition of the planet.

To understand the concept of Global Warming and its causes and effects, we need to take an in-depth look into many factors that affect the temperature of the planet and what that means for the future of the world. Here is an objective look at the topic of Global Warming and other important related topics.

What is Climate Change?

Ever since the industrial and scientific revolution, Earth is slowly being used up for its resources. Moreover, the onset of the exponential increase in the world’s population is also very taxing on the environment. 

Simply put, as the need for consumption of the population increases, both the utilisation of natural resources and the waste generated from the use of said resources have also increased massively. 

One of the main results of this over the many years has become climate change. Climate change is not just the rise or fall of temperature of different areas of the world; it is also a change in the rain cycles, wind patterns, cyclone frequencies, sea levels, etc. It affects all major life groups on the planet in some way or the other.  

What is Global Warming?

Global Warming is often considered an effect of Climate change. Global Warming is the rapid increase in the temperature of the Earth’s environment that is causing many life-threatening issues to arise.

Global Warming is a dangerous effect on our environment that we are facing these days. Rapid industrialization, increase in the population growth and pollution are causing a rise in Global Warming. Global Warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface during the last century. One of the reasons why Global Warming is dangerous is because it disturbs the overall ecology of the planet. This results in floods, famine, cyclones and other issues. There are many causes and results of this warming and is a danger for the existence of life on earth.

The sign of Global Warming is already visible with many natural phenomena happening around globally, affecting each living species.

Here is some data that can help to give a more precise understanding of the reality of Global Warming in the last few years:

On average, the world’s temperature is about 1.5°C higher than during the start of the industrial revolution in the late 1700s. That may not seem a lot to you, but that is an average estimate. This number is only increasing. Many parts of the world face far more severe changes in temperature that affect the planet’s overall health.

In 1950, the world’s CO 2 emissions were at 6 billion tonnes which had quadrupled in volume until 1990, just 40 years later to 22 billion tonnes. Not only that, unchecked CO 2 emissions today have reached a whopping 35 billion tonnes.

The most evident causes of Global Warming are industrialization, urbanization, deforestation, and sophisticated human activities. These human activities have led to an increase in the emission of Greenhouse Gases, including CO₂, Nitrous Oxide, Methane, and others.

Causes of Global Warming

A variety of reasons causes Global Warming. Some of which can be controlled personally by individuals but others are only expected to be solved by communities and the world leaders and activists at the global level.

Many scientists believe the main four reasons for Global Warming, according to recent studies, are:

Greenhouse gases

Deforestation

Per capita carbon emissions

Global Warming is certainly an alarming situation, which is causing a significant impact on life existence. Extreme Global Warming is resulting in natural calamities, which is quite evident happening around. One of the reasons behind Global Warming is the extreme release of greenhouse gases stuck on the earth surface, resulting in the temperature increase.

Similarly, volcanoes are also leading to Global Warming because they spew too much CO₂ in the air. One of the significant causes behind Global Warming is the increase in the population. This increase in the population also results in air pollution. Automobiles release a lot of CO₂, which remains stuck in the earth.

This increase in the population is also leading to deforestation, which further results in Global Warming. More and more trees are being cut, increasing the concentration of CO₂.

The greenhouse is the natural process where the sunlight passes through the area, thus warming the earth's surface. The earth surface releases energy in the form of heat in the atmosphere maintaining the balance with the incoming energy. Global Warming depletes the ozone layer leading to the doom's day.

There is a clear indication that the increase in Global Warming will lead to the complete extinction of life from the earth surface.

Solution for Global Warming

Global Warming can not be blamed on individuals; however, it can be tackled and maintained from worsening starting at the individual level. Of course, industries and multinational conglomerates have higher carbon emissions levels than an average citizen. Still, activism and community effort are the only feasible ways to control the worsening state of Global Warming.

Additionally, at the state or government level, world leaders need to create concrete plans and step programmes to ensure that no further harm is being caused to the environment in general. 

Although we are almost late in slowing down the Global Warming rate, it is crucial to find the right solution. From individuals to governments, everyone has to work upon a solution for Global Warming. Controlling pollution, population and use of natural resources are some of the factors to consider. Switching over to the electric and hybrid car is the best way to bring down the carbon dioxide.

As a citizen, it is best to switch over to the hybrid car and to use public transport. This will reduce pollution and congestion. Another significant contribution you can make is to minimize the use of plastic. Plastic is the primary cause of Global Warming taking years to recycle.

Deforestation is another thing to consider that will help in controlling Global Warming. Planting of more trees should be encouraged to make the environment go green.

Industrialization should be under certain norms. The building of industries should be banned in green zones affecting plants and species. Hefty penalties should be levied on such sectors contributing towards Global Warming.

Effects of Global Warming

Global Warming is a real problem that many want to prove as a hoax for their political benefit. However, as aware citizens of the world, we must make sure only the truth is presented in the media.

Various parts of the environment, both flora and fauna, are directly adversely affected by the damages caused by Global Warming. Wildlife being in danger is ultimately a serious threat to the survival of humanity as we know it and its future.

The effect of Global Warming is widely seen in this decade. Glacier retreat and arctic shrinkage are the two common phenomena seen. Glaciers are melting in a fast way. These are pure examples of climate change.

Rise in sea level is another significant effect of Global Warming. This sea-level rise is leading to floods in low-lying areas. Extreme weather conditions are witnessed in many countries. Unseasonal rainfall, extreme heat and cold, wildfires and others are common every year. The number of these cases is increasing. This will indeed imbalance the ecosystem bringing the result of the extinction of species.

Similarly, marine life is also widely getting affected due to the increase in Global Warming. This is resulting in the death of marine species and other issues. Moreover, changes are expected in coral reefs, which are going to face the end in coming years.

These effects will take a steep rise in coming years, bringing the expansion of species to a halt. Moreover, humans too will witness the negative impact of Global Warming in the end.

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FAQs on Global Warming Essay

1. What Global Warming will Cause?

Global warming will have a massive impact on our earth in the end. Flood, extreme weather conditions, famine, wildfire and many more will be the result. There will be hotter days, which will also increase the wildfire and famine. In the past years, many meteorological bureaus have added purple and magenta to the forecast.

Another impact of global warming will be rising sea levels. Increased ocean temperatures will lead to the melting of glaciers and ice caps. Increase in the sea level will lead to floods in many low-lying areas.

The overall ecosystem of nature will be an imbalance. This will affect nature in the long-term.

2. Why Does Global Warming Happen?

There are many reasons for the cause of global warming. There are certain gases in the atmosphere called greenhouse gases. The energy then radiates from the surface; the greenhouse gases trap longwave radiation. We humans have added to the atmospheric blanket of greenhouse affecting the living species. Warming of air, oceans, and land is how global warming happens.

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Guest Essay

The Fires Sweeping Across Texas Offer a Terrifying Warning

A cloud of smoke from the Smokehouse Creek fire rises over the brush near Canadian, Texas, on Wednesday.

By John Vaillant

Mr. Vaillant is the author, most recently, of “Fire Weather: A True Story From a Hotter World.”

On Thursday, as flames from the Smokehouse Creek fire raced eastward across the Texas Panhandle for the fourth straight day at speeds faster than a person can run, a cold front, driving a snow squall, swept southward over the Great Plains. In an elemental collision, the fire and snow met east of Amarillo, the swirling flakes joining and then melting into the smoke and ash of the colossal prairie fire.

The snowstorm has passed, but the fire — one among several major blazes active in Texas — keeps burning. As of Friday, the Smokehouse Creek fire had affected more than a million acres, making it the largest wildfire in Texas history and one of the biggest in the history of the country. Still only 15 percent contained , it has crossed into Oklahoma, leaving in its wake herds of dead cattle and dozens of burned homes . At least two people have died . The forecast is for what people in the firefighting business call fire weather: hot, dry and windy. Under these conditions, the dozen fires in the region could, theoretically, keep burning indefinitely.

Texans know that fires aren’t uncommon in the Panhandle this time of year, and neither is snow. But huge, lethal fires like Smokehouse Creek represent something different. Winter fires on this scale signal a much larger disruption to climate stability that will distort not only our concept of seasons but also everything we do and care about.

Two weeks before the Smokehouse fire broke out, I flew to Seattle from Cincinnati over a landscape I know well. But some 30,000 feet below my window seat lay a country I barely recognized: From the Ohio River to the Rockies, there was virtually no snow; the lakes and rivers were ice free. I’m a Northerner, and I know what February is supposed to look like, but what season was this?

For weeks now, red flag warnings from the National Weather Service indicating elevated wildfire risk have been popping up all across the United States — from the Mexican border to the Great Lakes and the Florida panhandle. Similar warnings are appearing north of the Canadian border. On Feb. 20, the province of Alberta, the Texas-size petro-state above Montana, declared the official start of fire season. This was nearly two weeks earlier than last year and six weeks earlier than a couple of decades ago. Alberta is in the heart of Canada, a famously cold and snowy place, and yet some 50 wildfires are burning across that province. In neighboring British Columbia, where I live, there are nearly 100 active fires , a number of which carried over from last year’s legendary fire season ( the worst in Canadian history ) linked to low snowpack and above-average winter temperatures.

It is alarming to see these fires and warnings in what is supposed to be the dead of winter, but fire, as distracting and dangerous as it is, is merely one symptom. What is happening in North America is not a regional aberration; it’s part of a global departure, what climate scientists call a phase shift. The past year has seen virtually every metric of planetary distress lurch into uncharted territory: sea surface temperature, air temperature, polar ice loss, fire intensity — you name it, it is off the charts. It was 72 degrees Fahrenheit in Wisconsin on Tuesday and 110 degrees Fahrenheit in Paraguay; large portions of the North Pacific and the South Atlantic are running more than five degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics, summed it up this way for the BBC in July: “I’m not aware of a similar period when all parts of the climate system were in record-breaking or abnormal territory.” And with these extremes comes lethality: More than 130 souls perished last month in wildfires outside Valparaiso, Chile — more than the number of dead in the Maui fire last August or the Paradise, Calif., fire in 2018 — making them the world’s deadliest since Australia’s Black Saturday fires in 2009.

Historically, it has been humans who have outpaced the natural world. From arrowheads to artificial intelligence, our species has progressed steadily faster than geologic time. But now, geologic time — specifically, atmospheric time and ocean time — is moving as fast as we are, in some cases faster — faster than technology, faster than history. The world we thought we knew is changing under our feet because we changed it.

Exxon’s own scientists foresaw these fossil-fuel-driven anthropogenic changes about a half-century ago , but we’re still not ready for them, and neither are most of our fellow creatures. If I learned one thing from writing about wildfires, it is that this hotter, less stable world is not the new normal. We are entering clima incognita , the unknown climate. Here be dragons, and some of them are fires 20 miles wide.

My earnest advice is to listen to climate scientists, to meteorologists, to fire officials. They are trying to save your lives. And if you see fire on the horizon, don’t fixate on the flames; pay attention to the wind. If it’s blowing toward you, the embers are, too, and you better get ready to go.

John Vaillant is a journalist and an author whose latest book, “Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World,” won Britain’s Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction in 2023 and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , X and Threads .

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COMMENTS

  1. Disadvantages vs. Advantages of Global Warming

    Disadvantages: Ocean Warming, Extreme Weather For every minutely possible advantage to climate change, there is a much more profound and compelling disadvantage. Why?

  2. Global warming

    An IPCC special report produced in 2018 noted that human beings and their activities have been responsible for a worldwide average temperature increase between 0.8 and 1.2 °C (1.4 and 2.2 °F) since preindustrial times, and most of the warming over the second half of the 20th century could be attributed to human activities.

  3. Consequences and Effects of Global Warming -- What is the Impact?

    Higher temperatures are worsening many types of disasters, including storms, heat waves, floods, and droughts. A warmer climate creates an atmosphere that can collect, retain, and unleash more...

  4. Global Warming

    Article Vocabulary Global warming is the long-term warming of the planet's overall temperature. Though this warming trend has been going on for a long time, its pace has significantly increased in the last hundred years due to the burning of fossil fuels. As the human population has increased, so has the volume of fossil fuels burned.

  5. 5 things you should know about the greenhouse gases warming the planet

    Carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide are the major GHGs to worry about. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years, methane for around a decade, and nitrous oxide for approximately 120 years. Measured over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more potent than CO2 in causing global warming, while nitrous oxide is 280 times ...

  6. Climate Change Assay: A Spark Of Change

    Bahçeşehir College is committed to increasing students' awareness of the changing world we live in. This climate change essay competition saw many students submitting well thought out pieces of writing. These essays were marked on their format, creativity, organisation, clarity, unity/development of thought, and grammar/mechanics.

  7. What are the effects of global warming?

    Precipitation is becoming more extreme as the planet heats. For every degree your thermometer rises, the air holds about seven percent more moisture. This increase in moisture in the atmosphere can...

  8. Harvard experts discuss climate change fears

    Experts tease out the scientific, legal, economic, political, and philosophical costs and benefits of the problem — and the solutions. To mark Earth Day's 50th anniversary, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Gazette contacted experts on climate change, the environment, and sustainability to ask them about their global-warming fears.

  9. Effects of Climate Change

    More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people's livelihoods and communities. U.S. Cities at Risk As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe.

  10. What is global warming, facts and information

    We often call the result global warming, but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth's climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. While many people think of ...

  11. The Science of Climate Change Explained: Facts, Evidence and Proof

    Average global temperatures have increased by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.2 degrees Celsius, since 1880, with the greatest changes happening in the late 20th century. Land areas have warmed more ...

  12. Effects of climate change

    The primary causes and the wide-ranging impacts: 3-36 of climate change. Some effects act as positive feedbacks that intensify climate change.. Climate change affects the physical environment, ecosystems and human societies. Changes in the climate system include an overall warming trend, more extreme weather and rising sea levels. These in turn impact nature and wildlife, as well as human ...

  13. Climate Change and the Impact of Greenhouse Gasses: CO2 and NO, Friends

    GHG have natural and anthropogenic origin. However, increasing GHG provokes extreme climate changes such as floods, droughts and heat, which induce reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress in plants.

  14. Essay on Global Warming

    Q.1 List the causes of Global Warming. A.1 There are various causes of global warming both natural and manmade. The natural one includes a greenhouse gas, volcanic eruption, methane gas and more. Next up, manmade causes are deforestation, mining, cattle rearing, fossil fuel burning and more.

  15. COVID-19's Long-Term Effects on Climate Change—For Better or Worse

    June 25, 2020. As a result of the lockdowns around the world to control COVID-19, huge decreases in transportation and industrial activity resulted in a drop in daily global carbon emissions of 17 percent in April. Nonetheless, CO2 levels in the atmosphere reached their highest monthly average ever recorded in May — 417.1 parts per million.

  16. Effects

    The effects of human-caused global warming are happening now, are irreversible for people alive today, and will worsen as long as humans add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Takeaways We already see effects scientists predicted, such as the loss of sea ice, melting glaciers and ice sheets, sea level rise, and more intense heat waves.

  17. 10 Climate Change Impacts That Will Affect Us All

    Here are 10 of them. 1. Damage to your home. Floods, the most common and deadly natural disasters in the U.S., will likely be exacerbated and intensified by sea level rise and extreme weather. Heavy precipitation is projected to increase throughout the century to potentially three times the historical average.

  18. Essay on Effects of Global Warming for Students

    500+ Words Essay on Effects of Global Warming. Global warming refers to climate change that causes an increase in the average of Earth's temperature. Natural events and human influences are believed to be top contributions towards the increase in average temperatures. Global warming is a rise in the surface and atmospheric temperature of the ...

  19. Essay on Global Warming with Samples (150, 250, 500 Words

    Updated on Nov 23, 2023 12 minute read Being able to write an essay is an integral part of mastering any language. Essays form an integral part of many academic and scholastic exams like the SAT , and UPSC amongst many others.

  20. Evidence

    The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere and other human activities. 4 Most of the warming occurred in the past 40 years, with the seven most recent years being the warmest.

  21. Global Warming Essay: Causes, Effects, and Prevention

    Titles Not Yet Worried About Global Warming? You Should Be Why Global Warming Is a Political Issue Will Global Warming Bring The World Together For a Common Cause? The Possible Effects of Global Warming Global Warming: Policy Suggestions Why Some People Think Global Warming is a Hoax

  22. Essay On Global Warming

    Essay On Global Warming in 300 Words. Global warming is a phenomenon where the earth's average temperature rises due to increased amounts of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and ozone trap the incoming radiation from the sun. This effect creates a natural "blanket", which prevents the heat from escaping ...

  23. Global Warming Essay for Students in English

    Global Warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the earth's surface during the last century. One of the reasons why Global Warming is dangerous is because it disturbs the overall ecology of the planet. This results in floods, famine, cyclones and other issues. There are many causes and results of this warming and is a danger ...

  24. The Fires Sweeping Across Texas Offer a Terrifying Warning

    Mr. Vaillant is the author, most recently, of "Fire Weather: A True Story From a Hotter World." On Thursday, as flames from the Smokehouse Creek fire raced eastward across the Texas Panhandle ...