Global warming is a term misused by most individuals when talking about the repercussions of the use of fossil fuels. The effects that the human race has had on the global climate patterns are not so simple as just an increase in temperature. As a result, the use of the term ‘global warming’ simply confuses the general public, and helps spread misinformation about the changes in weather patterns that scientists predict will occur. However, it is useful when discussing climate change as a catch-all term for the negative effects on climate patterns caused specifically by people rather than a natural phenomenon. For this reason, it is commonly used by scientists when they are attempting to inform the general public about what damage will be done to the environment.
The most important factor contributing to the global warming phenomenon is a dangerous buildup of greenhouse gasses like CO2 in the atmosphere, exacerbated by the use of fossil fuels across the world. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and the adoption of the use of coal as a source of energy, large amounts of carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere. While this gas is released into the atmosphere naturally by a variety of sources, the amount of it being produced was always very small when compared to the amount of nitrogen and oxygen. Even large volcanic eruptions only produce a relatively small amount of greenhouse gasses, having no significant impact in the long term on weather patterns. But, the amount of these gasses produced as a result of the use of fossil fuels is astronomical in comparison.
When the amount of greenhouse gasses spread throughout the atmosphere increases, there are two primary effects on the global climate, both of which lead to an increase in temperature. The first is that the amount of solar radiation absorbed by the atmosphere increases, rather than simply being reflected back into space. The second is that the amount of ice on the Earth’s surface decreases, which consequently also increases the amount of radiation absorbed by the Earth’s surface. The melting ice also releases significant amounts of greenhouse gasses trapped within it. As a result, the average temperature across the world is steadily increasing, causing rising water levels and an increase in the frequency of severe weather phenomena such as hurricanes and wildfires. The planet Venus has been used by scientists as an example of the worst possible outcome of this runaway greenhouse effect, as the temperature on its surface is hundreds of degrees warmer than Earth’s.
So, while the term global warming itself is a gross simplification of the effects of the human race on climate patterns, it is not completely inaccurate. The global average temperature is going to steadily increase, and will likely not lower for tens of thousands of years. The effects of this rising temperature on our way of life will be catastrophic, leading to the deaths and displacement of hundreds of millions of people. This change is already visible, and within the next hundred years will change nearly every aspect of our way of life.