Human impact on climate change has been a source of recent debate but skeptics believe that climate change is merely a natural process occurring once again. Recent studies, however, show that human impact has indeed accelerated climate change. Today’s climate change can no longer be purely attributed to natural forces. Our increased reliance on oil, coal, and natural gas as fuel sources for modern transportation and industry has caused a rise in fossil fuel combustion, releasing millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually. As a result, CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere, producing a greenhouse effect that reflects heat back to the earth, contributing to the warming of Earth.
Each year, the United States’ Department of Energy estimates CO2 emissions from fossil fuels as a part of the Global Carbon Project to quantify the extent of human impact on greenhouse gases. Researchers used historical energy statistics and the United Nation’s unbiased energy statistics to estimate CO2 emissions from fossil fuels before and after 1950 respectively. The graph indicates an increase in CO2 emissions since the onset of the twentieth century, an increase which accelerated at the graph’s inflection point around 1950 as a result of modernization and increased energy consumption. According to the data, there seems to be few signs of our slowing down because 2014 has the highest recorded amount of CO2 emissions. Although the graph only shows the results of the twentieth century, there is an unprecedented increase in CO2 emissions that began around 1950 which can be attributed to post world war II human combustion of fossil fuels. In the history of the planet, there have been times of extreme CO2 emissions comparable to that of today, however it took millions of years for Earth to get there while we have done so in a span of 50 years. Our unnatural growth shows that human involvement has contributed to our period of climate change.
Our continued dependence on oil, natural gas, and coal to fuel our lifestyles has led to an increased rate of CO2 emissions that would not have occurred naturally. The study shows that human actions, have caused the steep, unnatural rise in CO2 emissions after 1950. Raising awareness about human impact can lead to further efforts to combat the changes we have caused through innovations like carbon neutral energy sources that don’t contribute additional CO2 to the atmosphere in an attempt to save our only home: Earth.
*Boden, T.A., Marland, G., and Andres, R.J. (2017). Global, Regional, and National Fossil-