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  • To understand climate change,

  • think of the game Tetris

  • For eons, Earth has played a version of this game with blocks of carbon.

  • They enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide gas from volcanoes,

  • decaying plant matter,breathing creatures and the surface of the sea.

  • And they leave the atmosphere when they're used by plants during photosynthesis,

  • absorbed back into the ocean,

  • or stored in soil and sediment.

  • This game of Tetris is called the carbon cycle,

  • and it's the engine of life on Earth.

  • What's the connection to climate?

  • Well, when that carbon dioxide is in the air

  • waiting to be reabsorbed,

  • waiting to be reabsorbed,

  • it traps a portion of the sun's heat,

  • which would otherwise escape to space.

  • That's why carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas.

  • It creates a blanket of warmth,

  • known as the greenhouse effect,

  • that keeps our Earth from freezing like Mars.

  • The more carbon dioxide blocks hang out in the atmosphere waiting to be cleared,

  • the warmer Earth becomes.

  • Though the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has varied through ice ages and astroid impacts,

  • over the past 8,000 years the stable climate we know took shape,

  • allowing human civilization to thrive.

  • But about 200 years ago,

  • we began digging up that old carbon that had been stored in the soil.

  • These fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas

  • are made from the buried remains of plants and animals

  • that died long before humans evolved.

  • The energy stored inside them was able to power our factories, cars and power plants.

  • But burning these fuels also injected new carbon blocks into Earth's Tetris game.

  • At the same time, we cleared forests for agriculture,

  • reducing the Earth's ability to remove the blocks.

  • And since 1750, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has increased by 40%,

  • and shows no sign of slowing.

  • Just like in Tetris, the more blocks pile up,

  • the harder it becomes to restore stability.

  • The extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere accelerates the greenhouse effect

  • by trapping more heat near the surface

  • and causing polar ice caps to melt.

  • And the more they melt, the less sunlight they're able to reflect,

  • making the oceans warm even faster.

  • Sea levels rise, coastal populations are threatened with flooding,

  • natural ecosystems are disrupted,and the weather becomes more extreme over time.

  • Climate change may effect different people and places in different ways.

  • But, ultimately, it's a game that we're all stuck playing.

  • And unlike in Tetris,

  • we won't get a chance to start over and try again.

To understand climate change,

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B1 TED-Ed carbon carbon dioxide dioxide atmosphere climate

【TED-Ed】Climate change: Earth's giant game of Tetris - Joss Fong

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    Anni posted on 2014/07/15
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