Our Changing Environment

Climate change

Early human intervention

The main factor in our climate is the Sun and the huge quantities of energy that the Earth receives from it and this amount can vary according to many factors. The Sun itself has cycles in which the energy output varies so every planet in our solar system is affected to a greater or lesser degree. How much of this emitted energy falls upon the Earth depends upon our distance from the Sun; when this varies our climate can change appreciably. Which part of the Earth receives the greatest proportion of the energy reaching us depends on the angle of rotation; thus the region in the centre (the Equator) has more exposure than the poles. How much of this heat is absorbed and retained by the Earth also depends on a number of factors; an atmosphere retains heat like a blanket but a dense one or one which is full of clouds or dust will reflect heat back into space; it is believed that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by a catastrophic fall in temperature which was caused in turn by a dust cloud generated by a huge meteor strike and there are a number of recorded periods of dark and cold conditions caused by volcanic activity.

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The rotation of the earth is responsible for geothermal energy; as our globe turns the tectonic plates move against each other and the resultant friction causes the release of enormous quantities of energy in the form of heat, and sends huge quantities of the 'greenhouse gas' carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which in turn increases the blanket effect which retains more of the heat from the Sun - human activity also contributes to increases in this gas, but it is not all bad - all plant life depends on CO2 and without it there would be not a single blade of grass, plant on tree on the planet - and certainly no human life. Our climate is, therefore, subject to many different factors, and all these factors are capable of change.


Beginnings of agriculture

Beginnings of industry

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