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How the world's environment is changing ...

The Earth’s environment is constantly fluctuating, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the changes are due to a mixture of man-made and natural reasons. As insurance again a man-made disaster one day, is it time for insurance in the way of changes to our lifestyles? Should we abandon our cars, air conditioning systems, day to day routine waste of resources? It is not surprising that over half the population of the world consider themselves lucky if they survive to be over 50.

The world’s climate has always been subject to extremities. Records suggest that 700 million years ago, snow and ice covered the entire planet; Earth was only rescued around 70 million years later, when masses of carbon dioxide (CO2) was released from erupting volcanoes. CO2 traps the sun’s heat, so it was this which had the power to stabilise the planet and melt the ice; bringing warmth, and therefore life, back onto it.

CO2 has always existed on the planet, and it has always been a factor affecting the climate. However, since the middle of the 20th century, there have been many man-made ways in which the levels of the gas have been increased, to a dangerous amount.

The overuse of natural fossil fuels, in cars and factories, add to the amount of CO2 already present in the atmosphere. The destruction of the natural methods of purifying the air, such as the coral reefs and the rainforests, distorts the balance of gases on a day to day basis, meaning more CO2 than usual is being emitted, than is being used.

This increase of CO2 is called the greenhouse effect, where too much of the sun’s heat is trapped, and held, causing the planet to warm up; melting the little ice that is left on the surface, and raising sea levels, to an extent where the Earth’s entire climate is affected.

Countries all over the world are seeing variances in their normal weather systems, and the normal order of seasons is changing. In the UK, the typical pattern of warm weather in the spring, hot weather in the summer and cold weather in the winter is altering, to a point where the weather is unpredictable, and the season labels are irrelevant. Also, more natural disasters, such as flooding and typhoons, are occurring, as water levels change. Finally, many species of plants and animals are in decline, because they are struggling to adapt to the changes in their natural habitat.

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There is an ongoing dispute between scientists about just how much human activity is affecting the environment and how one day we may court disaster. For example, there are theories suggesting that the Earth is still in the last years of a recent ice age, so the retreat of the glaciers could also be partly natural. Also, varying jet streams will always change air pressure, and direction, causing adjustments in the weather.

What is evident, however, is that from the dawn of time, the world has been subject to environmental extremities; and in the stretch of 4.5 billion years of the planet’s existence, the window of time in which humans have occupied it has been very small. As a result, although (for whatever reason) the environmental territory that we are going into is unpredictable, the human race, from our first existence, is seeing just one phase in a history full of radical climate changes.

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