Debating Climate Change and the Role of CO₂

Opinion piece

For generations now, people have debated our planet's changing climate and what may be causing it. As scientists learn more, so have our ideas about how Earth's complex systems work and all that can affect climates here and abroad in short and long terms alike. A big piece we keep studying closer is carbon dioxide (CO₂) from things humans do, like factories and burning fossil fuels for energy.

CO₂ exists naturally in our air and helps regulate air temperatures by trapping heat near the ground. But since the Industrial Age around 1750, CO₂ levels have shot way up from 280 parts per million (ppm) to over 400 ppm, according to how much is in the air at a special observatory in Hawaii. That's higher than any point in the last 800,000 years! With so much added CO₂ floating around, many worry it may turbocharge Earth's natural greenhouse and bring hotter global temperatures that disrupt weather patterns, ocean levels and more.

So how do scientists really know the CO₂ spike since the 1800s comes from people and not nature by itself? For starters, they can fingerprint CO₂ from fossil fuels burnt for energy versus what's in air or grown by plants. The fingerprints show most extra CO₂ today comes from coal mines and oil/gas used well before our time. Researchers have also pieced together how much CO₂ was in air hundreds of thousands of years ago by studying tiny air bubbles trapped in ancient ice. This proves CO₂ levels now far outstrip anything in the last 800,000 years, so natural forces alone can't account for recent jumps in CO₂.

Climate change has emerged as one of the most contentious and polarizing debates of our time (symbol image, credit CLOU:Clipdrop)
Climate change has emerged as one of the most contentious and polarizing debates of our time
(symbol image, credit CLOU)

Climate models provide more evidence too. When CO₂ amounts from industry, transport and clearing forests for the past 200 years are input as influences, the models perfectly predict measured growth in airborne CO₂ since 1850. But the same models can't reproduce this fast rise just using nature's influences alone. They estimate added CO₂ could potentially warm Earth 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, worsening melting ice, extreme weather and sea level rise based on latest predictions.

Sceptics argue gaps still linger between climate models and real warming so far, questioning forecasts about the future. Some insist natural factors like the sun's heat could outweigh people's impacts more. While the sun no doubt affects climate long-term, studies find tiny solar changes since 1750 not enough to drive most surface warming over the past century. Other common dissenting perspectives involve CO₂ being tiny compared to other gases, uncertainty in ancient climate data, and adjustments to historical temperature records over time.

While some open questions remain, huge and constantly growing evidence proves people's CO₂ emissions, not just nature, as mainly responsible for rising levels since 1850 not natural climate swings alone. Still, closely checking sceptical ideas through open discussion can only improve our grasp by rigorously testing mainstream views. Admitting what's still foggy and debating helps climate modelling and policy responses get even better over time, but overall basic human-caused warming ideas seem well-founded as different research lenses align. Taking action to limit CO₂ and other greenhouse gases looks like our best shot at managing future climate impacts.

Changing energy systems worldwide from fossil fuels toward sun, wind and nuclear power in coming decades could curb CO₂ build-up and help keep a liveable climate for generations to come. Some countries have made great strides already, while others rely on coal a lot more. Carbon capture tech may help balance economies and environments too if used widely globally. Regardless of open questions, being safe rather than sorry makes sense given severe risks of unchecked climate change as uncertainties in both nature and human factors ruling our planet's heat persist. Continuing informed public discussions and debates seems key to building understanding and support for ambitious, resilient policies.


Exploring humanity's major carbon footprint tied to CO₂ levels and rising global temperatures defines one of our time's most vital scientific talks. While modelling super complex Earth systems and predicting future climate impacts will always have challenges, research clearly shows humans affect climate through emissions. Slowing emissions down makes sense as both safeguarding against the worst scenarios and investing in a greener global future.

Open, fact-focused dialogue should improve what we know and what we do. With worldwide cooperation across all walks of life, transitioning energy away from fossil fuels to renewables in coming decades may rein in CO₂ accumulation and help keep our climate welcoming to kids and generations beyond.

The current prevalence of cancel culture, characterized by a tendency to silence opposing viewpoints without engaging in meaningful discussion, is, in my opinion, unacceptable. Your perspectives are invaluable, so don't hesitate to share your thoughts on this thought-provoking topic.
Until then, be open for constructive discussions.

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