The unmistakable consequences of global warming are already here. This is evidenced by two recent news stories. The first story details how all of the debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan is making its way across the Pacific Ocean and will soon reach the shores of the West Coast. The second piece of news is that greenhouse gases have reached a record high.

The story about the tsunami debris has a vague link to global warming, but it serves as the canary in the coal mine. Somewhere in the middle of the ocean is also the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A patch that is 7 million square miles of plastic (on the surface or below the surface) is floating somewhere near Hawaii. The garbage patch threatens sea life and could disrupt the entire marine ecosystem.

Any kind of trash can get into the ocean—from glass bottles to aluminum cans to medical waste. The vast majority of marine debris, however, is plastic. Scientists have collected up to 750,000 bits of plastic in a single square kilometer (or 1.9 million bits per square mile) of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

News that greenhouse gases have reached a record high is unsurprising. As the article points out, this comes even as emissions in the U.S. are reportedly in decline. That’s not the case for the rest of the developing world, and we will be paying for these high emissions for many years to come.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) was the largest culprit in the rise: it accounted for 80 percent of the increase in overall greenhouse gas concentration. From 2011 to 2012, it increased by 2.2 parts per million, a significant increase from the 2.02 parts per million yearly average over the last decade.

“CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds if not thousands of years… Most aspects of climate change will persist for centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped immediately,” the report said.

It’s no doubt that we’re starting to see some effects from our high-polluting, high-emissions ways of the past century. It’s only going to get worse. But will you get better about your individual use/waste? That’s one way to solve this problem.

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