Climate change is when the natural climate of the earth changes to become hotter, with the presence of more greenhouse gases which have different effects on the earth. Greenhouse gases are, again, natural, and form a protective barrier in the earth’s atmosphere which filters the sun’s rays; allowing them to enter but keeping some inside the atmosphere so that the temperature is maintained at a level suitable for human inhabitation – acting like a greenhouse, which keeps the heat in an enclosure for the survival of certain plants. However, with so many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the earth is forced to contain more heat than is natural, leading to global warming. Trees are a very important resource on earth because they convert carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into oxygen, which we need to breathe.
It is a natural phenomenon, caused by the relationship between the ocean and the earth’s atmosphere, volcanic eruptions and changes in the earth’s orbit and energy received from the sun. However, human interference in the atmosphere means that this climate change is happening at a much faster rate than it should be. Human causes of climate change amount to most of the damage and change in the earth’s climate and are caused by the releasing of dangerous greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In Northern Ireland, the main factors which contribute to climate change are agriculture- where animals and manure release methane and other gases from fertilisers (27%), transport (23%), energy (17%) and residential use of fuel- use of energy to heat homes and run electricity, etc (13%).
The effects of global warming include rising water levels (mostly due to the melting of the icecaps and permafrost), which would affect Portrush as a coastal town and a peninsula as it would be very susceptible to flooding. It would also threaten the wildlife and habitats which are so important to Portrush and the area. It also puts pressure on our drainage systems, sewer systems, roads and water. An increased temperature and pollution, which produces a lower air quality, may also threaten livestock, crops, wild animals and plants in the area. On a more global scale, global warming will also cause the melting of the ‘permafrost’, which, as well as destroying habitats and human towns and infrastructure, will release types of diseases and germs which have been frozen for up to thousands of years.
There are many ways we can help reduce our ‘carbon footprint’ and slow down the effects of global warming. For example, choosing to walk, cycle or take public transport instead of driving a car helps reduce the effects through transport. Using natural ways to cool or heat the house so that we don’t have to use as much energy, such as opening a window or using shutters instead of having air conditioning, or having your house insulated and double-paned windows, putting a jumper on or having carpets and curtains help trap heat in the winter instead of relying on central heating. We can also use more sustainable methods of getting energy, such as wind or solar energy, which use sources which will not run out and do not produce greenhouse gases when they are used. Finally, by re-using and recycling as much as we can, we reduce the amount of waste which goes to landfill and has to be burnt (releasing greenhouse gases) or naturally releases chemicals into the air. It also reduces the number of new products having to be made and transported globally, which cuts down global emissions.