Since pre-industrial times, the environment has undergone rapid changes that are often attributed to human activities. Among these changes, global warming — the gradual warming of the Earth’s surface appears to be a major cause for concern, with droughts, storms and melting glaciers being some of its long-term consequences.
Although it is commonly believed that the rise in temperature is mainly due to our use of fossil fuels, the truth is that our Earth is not an isolated hotspot — our whole universe is getting hotter. Could it be that the Earth is meant to warm up along with the rest of the galaxy? To what extent does human activity really influence the changes on our planet?
Our universe is expanding
According to NASA, our universe is expanding about 9% faster than expected. By monitoring the brightness of a type of star called Cepheids — known to show different energy pulses at various distances — astronomers measured intergalactic distances to obtain the most accurate universal expansion rate to date.
It was in 1920 that astronomer Edwin Hubble, after detecting changing stars in several nebulae, first discovered that the universe is not static. Although what he saw were the first indications that galaxies were moving away from each other, the technology of the time was not sufficient to find the rate at which they were moving apart.
It was thought that the expansion of the universe was progressively slowed by the gravity of matter; but in 1998, observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that the expansion of the universe has always been accelerating, just at different rates. The force driving this accelerated expansion has been called “dark energy,” and remains one of science’s greatest mysteries.
The more it expands, the hotter it gets
Based on common sense, scientists predicted that as galaxies and stars continued to drift apart, the cosmos would continually cool down, becoming dark and lifeless. As this theory — known as the big chill, or big freeze — claims, the universe would come to an end once all stars ceased to shine, black holes disappeared and thermodynamic equilibrium was achieved.
But new research has found that the fate of our universe is completely different. According to the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics, the temperature of our universe has increased more than tenfold over the last ten billion years, and is expected to continue to rise.
Yi-Kuan Chiang, lead researcher, explained that, in space, when gravity pulls dark matter and gas with extreme force, the gas undergoes a jolt and heats up, causing temperature levels to rise.
According to Chiang, these cosmic events — which result in the formation of new galaxies and galaxy clusters — are a natural part of the evolution of the universe and will keep taking place as it continues to expand.
Natural changes or man-made climate crisis?
While the extreme weather events we see nowadays may be intensified by climate change, they might not be entirely caused by human-influence. In fact, there is evidence that extreme environmental conditions, such as scorching temperatures, heavy rainfall and severe droughts, are nothing new.
This year, the UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, released data collected from handwritten rainfall observations dating back as far as 1836. These archives, which contain 130 years of precipitation records, provided climate scientists with observational data prior to 1960 that were scarcely available before.
According to detailed accounts, the British Isles have had even drier seasons than those experienced in recent years, with 1855 being the driest year in its history. Similarly, many areas in the south had the highest amounts of rainfall ever recorded in November of that year.
This has led many environmental skeptics, such as Ben Pile, to debunk the common belief that climate change is anthropogenic, i.e. caused by human activity. In Pile’s view, the computer simulations on which environmentalists base their predictions of environmental catastrophe are shown to be inconsistent when measured against real-world data — referring to the aforementioned collected rainfall records.
“The evidence for anthropogenic climate change is neither as strong nor as demanding of action as is widely claimed,” said Pile, who holds a BA in Politics and Philosophy from York University. In his blog, he warns against climate alarmism and the hidden political interests that are being endorsed through what he calls the “comforting certainty of scientific objectivity.”