Big Sustainability

Climate Change


First published on April 20, 2019


Certain gasses trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and further warm up the surface. An increase in such gasses is literally like pacing an extra blanket over a bed. These gasses include carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) as well as some other gasses. There as been a steady increase in the presence of these gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

Plot of exponential increase of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses from 1700 to 2000)

Annula Greenhouse Gas Index (credit: NOAA)


The increasing presence of greenhouse gasses is causing the Earth’s temperature to increase, which is causing polar ice to melt (potentially raising ocean levels and flooding costal areas) and disruption of the Earth’s weather patterns resulting in increased damaging extreme weather events and drought. What is even more frightening is increased temperatures might further increase the level of greenhouse gasses, resulting in a run-away increase in temperatures, until the Earth is barren of life. This has already happened in the case of the planet Venus, where surface temperature are about 900° F.

Why Does The Source Matters?

Some people say that the burning of fossil fuels and forests by humans have cause the increase. Other people say that the causes are natural.

This question is important from a philosophical point of view. For example, lightning strikes a schoolhouse full of children and starts a fire, there are likely some people who would say not to put out the fire and let the building and children burn, since it is a natural event. One cannot say whether this position is right or wrong, since it is a matter of one’s personal beliefs and philosophy.

However, if the goal of sustainability is assumes, then from a strategic perspective, the source is completely irrelevant. What matters is whether human society is capable of reducing the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.


A Global Challenge Requiring Global Cooperation

Climate change is a challenge that most experts agree must be handled through global cooperation and constraints. Although we all as individuals have an impact upon greenhouse gas production and climate change, we need to work together as a global community to overcome this challenge. One can use system dynamics to model the flow of green house gasses and heat into and out of the atmosphere.

Solar energy flows ityo and through the Earth's atmosphere; most gets radiated back into space.

Energy flows to and from the Earth’s surface and atmosphere (credit: U.S. Govt.)


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