WTF are fossil fuels?
Definition: forms of stored solar energy created from incomplete biological decomposition of dead organic matter. Include coal, crude oil, and natural gas.
Do fossil fuels come from dinosaurs?
I suppose that would make sense since we generally associate the term “fossil” with dinosaurs. However, what I’m hearing is that fossil fuels don’t actually come from the remains of dead dinosaurs. That would be too cool. The US Department of Energy states that “most of the fossil fuels we find today were formed millions of years before the first dinosaurs. Fossil fuels, however, were once alive! They were formed from prehistoric plants and animals that lived hundreds of millions of years ago.” Science writer, Bob Strauss, says that “according to the best theories currently available - microscopic bacteria, and not house-sized dinosaurs, produced today’s oil reserves.”
WTF are greenhouse gases?
Definition: the suite of gases that produce a greenhouse effect, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor. (A greenhouse effect occurs when water vapor and several other gases warm the Earth’s atmosphere by trapping some of the heat radiating from the Earth’s atmospheric system.)
Where does the term “greenhouse” come from?
The Earth’s atmosphere is made up of several layers of gases. When the sun warms the Earth during the day, its heat travels through the atmosphere and reaches Earth’s surface. The heat from the Earth travels back into the atmosphere. The layers of gases in the atmosphere trap some of the heat, working like a greenhouse. The windows of a greenhouse retain heat, keeping the greenhouse warm at night and through the winter. Similarly, greenhouse gases keep the Earth from freezing.
What’s the issue with greenhouse gases?
The fossil fuels we burn contribute to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases, making the layers in the atmosphere thicker and trapping more heat. The stronger the greenhouse effect, the warmer the global temperatures.
What does this have to do with polar bears?
Polar bears have evolved for a life on the sea ice, which they rely on for reaching their seal prey. But the arctic sea ice is rapidly diminishing due to a warming Earth, affecting the entire arctic ecosystem, from copepods to seals to walruses. For polar bears, sea ice losses mean:
(Source: Polar Bears International)
There’s a lot of information out there about greenhouse gases. To understand the most basic terms, this link might help, as might this one.
WTF is global warming?
Definition: natural or human-induced increase in the average global temperature of the atmosphere near Earth’s surface.
How can global warming be real if we’re experiencing some of the coldest winters on record?
At the beginning of 2014, Chicago had one of its coldest winters on record, leading people to question whether global warming was actually occurring. But while the reality for Chicagoans at the time was extreme freezing temperatures, potholes riddling the streets, and ice everywhere they turned, the reality for Australians on the other side of the globe was extreme heat, destructive wildfires, and drought. Extreme weather - whether (no pun intended) hot or cold - doesn’t tell us what’s going to happen with climate in the long-term. The NOAA defines “weather” as conditions at a given point in time (e.g., today’s high temperature), whereas “climate” refers to the average weather conditions for an area over a long period of time (e.g., the average high temperature for today’s date). We can’t dispel the concept of global warming because of the short-term weather we experience. We need to look at the long-term climate trends instead.
A recent Scientific American article and a recent US News article provide more information.
Neil deGrasse Tyson also does a great job helping us visualize the difference between weather and climate.
WTF is climate change?
Definition: change in mean annual temperature and other aspects of climate over periods of time ranging from decades to hundreds of years to several million years.
What’s the issue with climate change?
Yes, climate change is natural. But, the speed at which climate change is happening is not. Since the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century, humans have made an increasing impact on climate change. The human activities making the biggest impact on climate change include the production and waste of plastic, major deforestation, and adding billions of tons of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In the fall of 2013, Stanford scientists reported that climate change is on pace to occur 10 times faster than any change recorded in past 65 million years. Climate change has detrimental effects on human health, natural ecosystems, civil infrastructures, and the economy.
Learn more about the impacts of climate change in a recent report.
The EPA and climate change.
Read about plastic bags and climate change.
For more climate change myths, check out this link.
(Image source: Pinterest)