Climate changes and ozone depletion essay

Environmental Issue

Climate Changes and Ozone Depletion

The weather is changing but where and when is very unpredictable. Sometimes it is changing in slow ways but sometimes weather events are very extreme and dangerous. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001 reported on the “ probability of the world being three degrees Celsius hotter by the end of the century and of a distinct possibility of it being almost six degrees hotter” (Lovelock, 2008, p. vii). This is a very scary prediction Ozone depletion is a different type of problem although Henson (2008) has said that the ozone depletion problem does have some impacts on global warming but that they are “ two separate issues” (p. 112). This paper is about the climate changes that the earth has had and what climate changes might happen in the future. The problem of ozone depletion is also discussed.

Changing Climate

According to the United States Energy Information Administration (USEIA) “ climate change” is used for many different types of unexpected changes in the climate but mostly it is used to describe changes in climate from one type of climate to another. Often people use the term climate change interchangeably with “ global warming” (p. 187). Scientists have explained the difference between climate change and global warming which really is important to understand. Climate change refers to how climate is naturally. There is even a type of climate change which is climate cooling. Whereas global warming refers to rises in the atmosphere at the earth’s surface caused by greenhouse gasses. In general though climate change and global warming are very closely intertwined and non-scientists the terms are used interchangeably.

Temperature Changes

Mark Lynas (2008), a journalist, has written a book titled Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet which gives examples of how frightening the scenarios can be. He uses the terms climate change and global warming interchangeably. (Lynas, 2008, p. xix) The 2001 IPCC report gave Lynas the idea for writing the book about how the climate changes as the atmosphere with rising atmospheric temperature. The media at the time did not pay much attention to the report according to Lovelock. (2008, p. vii) Lynas (2008) researched all the academic journals to learn what predictions had been made for changes in the earth’s climate at 1º C, 2º C, 3º C, 4º C, 5º C, and 6º C. Then he collected them in the book. Each chapter is about each degree of temperature rise. As the temperatures rise the changes become more extreme and more frightening. Even though it is popular to think that2º C more or less is not anything to worry about the research by experts have a different opinion.

In the book by Lynas a “ One Degree” rise in temperature meant a difference in extreme weather such as influencing more intense hurricanes. In the Chapter titled “ Two Degrees” he discusses how the water crisis leaves many people with too little or no water. The wildfires and scorching temperatures will be common. Another tragedy is the loss of many species due to biodiversity loss in plants and animals because of the climate change. Earth is already close to the two degree temperature increase. By the time of “ Five Degrees” rise the scenario becomes very frightening because survival becomes very difficult. Lynas (2008) reported in the section about Survival that “ Where no refuge is available, and crops and water supplies fail, civil war and a collapse into race or community conflicts – seems sadly – the most likely outcome” (p. 212). Lynas (2008) has observed that when food is not plentiful humans often take weapons and start fighting. (p. 212)

Indications of Climate Change

The rise in temperatures causing extreme heat is one of the most deadly phenomenons the world has faced. Heat waves in large cities like Chicago, Paris and Lisbon have caused many people to die, especially elderly people who have no air conditioning. In the past few years heat waves have become common and many wildfires have occurred both in California, Southwestern U. S, southern Europe and Australia. 2003 was one of the worse years for heat waves. Henson (2008) explains that “ the duration of a heat wave and the warmth of the night-time lows are the real killers” (p. 46).

Dry weather and Flooding

Evaporation and temperature are the keys to droughts and floods around the world. Global warming has made the droughts and floods harder to predict and the floods are worse. Seventy percent of the world is covered with oceans. The temperature at the surface of the oceans causes the water molecules there to become more energetic so they evaporate more easily into the atmosphere. That is the way more water is gained by the air. As the atmosphere at the service of the earth rises the air holds more water vapor. Scientists understand evaporation very well and satellite data has “ been confirmed by satellite observations since 1988 over the ocean, where the amount of water vapor has been rising at just over 1 percent a decade. (Henson, 2008, p. 61)

There are three different types of drought that need to be defined. Meteorological drought happens when rainfall amounts do not add up to bringing enough moisture; it is the change from the average amount of rainfall that causes the drought. Hydrological drought can be calculated by evaluating the amount of water in the town’s reservoir. The amount of water flow from brooks, streams and river tributaries affect hydrological drought. Agricultural drought takes into account the type of crops that are traditionally grown in an area but they are very hard to predict.

The US has been experiencing a drought and its most memorable drought was the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. On the opposite side floods are more dramatic and are seen a lot on the media. In 2010 Pakistan had a flood that affected over twenty one million people. The affects on the people of Pakistan included illness, lack of clean water to drink, displacement and permanent loss of their homes. They still have problems with floods that may be mainly due to land use problems. When the land is used for homes, parking lots and roads the water from rain has nowhere to soak into the ground. The rain becomes deeper and flooding becomes worse. Some of the worse famines in the world happen in Africa due to droughts. They droughts disrupt movements of the nomadic people and make it hard to sustain farms.

Melting Glaciers and Ice

The melting of the glaciers, Greenland’s ice and the tundra is a direct result of warming. Arctic Circle ice at the North Pole has melted at a rate speedier than anyone anticipated. For example, according to Henson (2008) in the past 50 years the temperatures of Alaska have warmed up by 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Positive feedback is the phenomena blamed for the fast rate of melting at the Arctic Circle.
As snow and ice melt they become wet, making the surface darker and therefore more able to absorb sunlight. This raises temperatures further, sparking wider melting, in a classic positive feedback. (Lynas, 2008, p. 71)
The rates of melting of the ice on Greenland and of glaciers add to the rise in the sea level. As the sea level rises the coastlines of continents will be covered underwater. The island nations of Tuvalu and the Maldives have to deal with the total immersion of their countries.

Henson (2008) describes the reasons that the North Pole is so vulnerable to the affects of global warming and climate change. (a) There is a “ darkening surface” there due to the large areas of open-ocean as well as the larger amounts of pollution that darken the snows. (b) There is less evaporation because there is less humidity in the Arctic so the sun rays hitting the air warm up the air rather than become involved in evaporation. (c) There is a thinner layer of the troposphere (the layer that has weather) at both the North and South Poles. (d) Glacial melting has a tendency to accelerate. This could be due to dynamic thinning and larger run-offs; NASA research showed that from 1993 to 1999 to 2003 the amount of increase was found to be 35 percent.


Ocean rise is a serious problem because and calculating the mean sea level (MSL) is difficult. There are many variables that are hard to measure. For example where the sun and moon are positioned affect the tides. There is a European satellite system called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) that is able to “ track(s) MSL with an error of less than 1mm (0. 04”)” (Henson, 2008, p. 198). GRACE also can measure the gravitational force of the moon, sun and the earth that influence sea levels. The IPCC 2001 reported that the amount of ocean rise from the land melt was about 25 to 33 percent of the measured amount (Henson, 2008, p. 110).

El Niño is mentioned a lot when climate change is discussed. That is because the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) is the largest ocean-to-atmosphere cycle that exists on earth. ENSO starts out the cycle in the tropical Pacific Ocean. It has an area which includes the one third of the earth’s surface which extends from Ecuador to Indonesia. “ El Niño is the warm phase of an ocean current oscillation in the Pacific Ocean which can play havoc with the world’s weather” (Lynas, 2008, p. 112).

Thunderstorms and Hurricanes

Storms like thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones are created by complex interrelations between the ocean and the atmosphere. For example El Niño causes impacts on their formation. The larger number of storms being reported may be due to better awareness and better reporting. The intensity of storms has been studied in terms of raw wind speeds and the amount of their destructive force according to Henson. (2008, p. 134) The number of tornadoes happening each year in the US has increased along with their intensity and destructive forces. Tornado watches started in the 1950s when there were about 600 tornadoes per year. In the 1990s that number increased to approximately 1100.

Ecosystem Warnings

Amphibians and reptiles are cold blooded animals so they are very sensitive to changes in the climate. They can only live in a short temperature range. Interestingly research has demonstrated that “ more females than males are hatched as the ambient temperature in the nesting area goes up” (Henson, 2008, p. 148). Species cannot survive with a large gender imbalance. Other problems include turtles being sold in commercial trade and the dangers that pollution has for the turtles. For many years more and more reports of mass deaths of frogs were being reported. Frogs are very vulnerable and they are threatened by temperature changes, pesticides, herbicides and pollution. All these factors negatively affect the frogs’ ability to reproduce. Alan Pounds of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve reported that “ Disease is the bullet killing frogs, but climate change is pulling the trigger” (Henson, 2008, p. 149).

In the Arctic polar bears are endanger of going extinct. Throughout the world especially in the Amazon and other tropical forests biodiversity is decreasing each day as species are destroyed. There are about 25 biodiversity hotspots that have been identified around the world. Not only are changes in land use and large amounts of pollution causing the loss of species, the fact that some species need to live a very specific ecosystem. Climate change disrupts ecosystems causing the loss of species because they lose their food supply or their natural habitat.

Ozone Depletion

The ozone in the stratosphere is called the ‘ good’ ozone because it absorbs the ultraviolet rays. ‘ Bad’ ozone is produced on the surface of the earth. Nitrogen oxide gases react with carbon-containing chemicals that have volatile organics. Pollution from car exhaust is a source of nitrogen oxide gases. Volatile organics are substances that escape in the air like paint thinners. The USEPA has a saying “ The good up high and the bad nearby” to make it easier to remember.

Earth’s atmosphere has an ozone layer that is composed of high concentrations of ozone (O3) compared to the rest of the atmosphere. The ozone layer is found at about twelve to nineteen miles over the earth. Seasonal changes and geography cause various thicknesses of the layer around the world. The ozone layer protects the earth from the harmful ultra-violet rays that cause sunburn and skin cancer. Unfortunately, some products in the past contained CFCs, chlorofluorohydrocarbons, which reacted with the ozone in the atmosphere and thinned the ozone layer. Over some parts of the earth the thinning become an ozone hole. The Southern Hemisphere, over the Antarctic) has had the largest ozone hole which is at its worse in 2006. (Nash, 2012).

In the stratosphere O2 molecules are formed during slow reactions when oxygen atoms are photolyzed by ultraviolet light. The molecules of ozone in the stratospheric ozone layer are produced when oxygen in the form of O2 reacts with ultraviolet light. The reaction splits the atoms forming O2 into two molecules of oxygen. These two separated oxygen atoms then are free to each combine with O2 molecules that have not been split in a fast reaction or combine with another oxygen atom during a photolyzation reaction. This produces O3, ozone which is, like O2, unstable. So a cycle is going on to produce the ozone layer. The cycle is of ultraviolet light splitting O2 molecules and the formation of O3 happens with the split of the O atoms. The production of refrigerators and other consumer goods that used chlorofluorocarbons and other reactive trace gasses. Trace gases like chlorine and fluorine react slowly with an oxygen atom or with an ozone molecule. Other trace gasses in the form of free radicals are nitrous oxide (NO-), hydroxyls (OH-), bromine (Br-) and nitrous oxide (N20-). The large ozone depletion is catalyzed by free radicals such as atomic chlorine and atomic fluorine as mentioned above. Ozone depletion was slowed and the problem has improved. The solution was to ban the use of CFCs internationally.


Unless there is a reduction in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the climate change situation will cause even more deaths per year. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the worst greenhouse gas because the concentration in the atmosphere is so high. That is because it is a product from using fossil fuels as energy and can be described as pollution from energy production, industry and transportation. Finding a way to remove the excess CO2 would not be expected to stop climate change/global warming at this point. But by removing CO2 maybe the negative impacts would be somewhat smaller.

The evidence that the rate of climate change is accelerating has become overwhelming. In this essay climate change and global warming have been used interchangeably because they are so closely intertwined. The phrases are commonly used to mean the same thing. In the book written by Lynas (2008), for example the assumes that climate change and global warming can be used with the same meaning. For example greenhouse gasses are causing global warming, and global warming is directly impacting climate change. The book by Lynas (2008) is important because scientist predictions based on the temperature increase have been gathered into one place. Lynas (2008) has described the ways that the human, plant and animal population have already been negatively impacted by climate change. Those impacts include loss of biodiversity, droughts, flooding, and famine. As the temperature rises the condition of survival will become the lifestyle of more and more people living on the earth.

The negative impacts on the earth will only become worse especially if no efforts are made to stop putting CO2 into the atmosphere. For example, the scorching heat that has caused thousands of deaths in large cities around the world will only become worse if there is no reduction in carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. The amount of water entering the oceans from melting ice and melting glaciers has been found to account for approximately 33 percent of the rise in the oceans’ mean sea level (MSL). The mean sea level is the average rise calculated by using satellites and computer models. Without the availability of high technology the MSL would not be calculated so accurately because there are so many complex events that impact the MSL. The North Pole and the Arctic Circle has been greatly impacted by the warming temperatures. So much ice has melted that large countries are now vying for the rights to drill for more oil there. This is a very sad and a tragic way for the worlds’ leaders to act. If they were acting responsibly they would be helping support and organize alternative strategies for meeting energy needs. Also the worlds’ leaders could be rewarding conservation strategies in their countries. The problem with ozone depletion and the ozone hole over Antarctica has been solved. There is hope for slowing down climate change because the international community was able to work together to solve the ozone hole problem.

Climate change is a serious problem for everyone in the world. Fortunately there are millions of people and organizations working to slow the rate of climate change, offer alternatives and encouraging conservation of resources. Individuals can make a big difference by using one of the applications on the Internet to measure their personal carbon footprint, then making that amount smaller. There are also may organizations to chose from so that individuals can join with other people who have the same interests to work towards slowing climate change. There are also millions of articles and reports about the measurements that have been made and the research conclusions. There are also many references for non-scientists. My favorite sites are NASA (www. nasa. gov) and the Earth Observing System Project Science Office (eospso. gsfc. nasa. gov) because they have reports, news, popular topics and most importantly satellite images that show climate change on the surface of the earth.


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