Global Warming: Causes, Effects and Solutions
Global Warming: Causes, Effects and Solutions “‘The future is here. Greenhouse warming is no longer just a possibility, it is happening now,’ said Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund” (“Greenhouse Warning”).
Representatives from more than 160 countries met together in the first ten days of December this year to come to an agreement on a treaty to slow down global warming by setting the limits on the countries’ greenhouse gases emissions, which include the emissions of carbon dioxide the industries, machines, and cars produce, to preserve the world as we know it, threatened by the consequences of the global warming. In spite of the causes of the global warming, people [humanity] can implement the solutions to deal with the effects of it on the international, state and personal levels.
Global warming is commonly referred to as an increase in the temperature of the lowest layers of Earth’s atmosphere. Global warming has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often used to refer to the warming predicted to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Primary greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone.
Carbon dioxide, as well as other greenhouse gases, is a very important factor in the vital cycles which sustain life on this planet: plants use CO in photosynthesis and release oxygen necessary to maintain the lives of animal species, who through exhaling return CO in atmosphere, completing the cycle. Greenhouse effect is a natural process which made life on Earth feasible. Our planet’s surface temperature would have been 33 degrees Celsius cooler, -18 C instead of present 15 C, if not for naturally occurring greenhouse gases.
The temperature of Earth’s atmosphere is regulated by a process in which the quantity of energy Earth gets from the Sun is poised by the amount returned back into space. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere let the energy in and prevent it from escaping, directing it back to Earth’s surface. By the greenhouse effect, in the discussions of the global warming and other environmental problems, people mean “the enhanced effect which is caused by the increase of greenhouse gases from human sources”. Science brings different theories about the primary causes of the global warming of the atmosphere.
Eventually, the processes that happen in the environment are so complex even on local scale, that analyzing causes and effects of global processes (e. g. , global warming) leads scientists to controversial conclusions. Most scientists agree on certain facts. Arguments start upon interpretation of these facts. Concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which the scientists agree determines the temperature of Earth, has increased from a value of about 275 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution to about 360 parts per million in 1996. The rate of increase has also been accelerating in this period of time.
The researches made by different groups of scientists came nearly with the same results on the rise of the near surface atmospheric temperature. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) officially concluded in 1996 that it has increased by somewhere in between 0. 5 to 1. 1 degrees Fahrenheit since the last century. The sea level has risen four to ten inches during the same period of time. The main issue which arises not only scientific, but also political arguments is mans contribution to the current warming of atmosphere. In 1924 M.
Milankovitch, a Serbian mathematician, worked out a theory about the causes of changes in the Earth’s ice cover. He supposed that small variations in earth’s orbit can lead to the “extreme” changes in climate. In the period of about forty one thousand years the axis’ of rotation angle changes between 22 and 24. 5 degrees resulting in melting or expanding of the glacier ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere and, consequently, in the warming or cooling of climate. Recent techniques let scientists see that for the last several million years, glaciers have varied accordingly to variation of Earth’s orbit.
This has been causing so called ice ages. The last one lasted from one hundred thousand years ago to 10,000 B. C.. A large quantity of carbon dioxide is dissolved in the ocean water. The quantity of it always comes to equilibrium with the amount of it in atmosphere. Based on the very detailed statistical study of the correlation of the ocean’s temperature and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air, held by the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the period of 1958 – 1988, some scientists conclude that it may not necessarily be the increase of the concentration of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that causes he warming of atmosphere. The study showed that a rise in ocean temperature actually preceded the rise of carbon dioxide concentration in atmosphere. Another theory states that the primary cause of the global increase of the temperature is the consequence of the sun activity. Sunspot cycles, which range between 9 to 13 years, are determining the amount of the sun radiation which is released in space and received by Earth in particular. “Changes in this cycle on the order of 0. 1 percent are equivalent to atmospheric effects on the climate during the time period” (Wildavsky 362).
A large group of scientists see the cause of the current temperature change due to human activities such as burning of fossil fuels in the course of the past two centuries since the beginning of the industrial revolution and active deforestation of the planet’s surface. Oil, coal and natural gas are fossil fuels formed in Earth from the remains of plants and animals. They are rich in carbon and, when burned, produce carbon dioxide. Fossil fuels have been largely used by humanity since eighteenth century to produce heat. At present they are mostly used to produce electricity.
The human influence on the environment was not crucial when the population of the planet was much smaller. At the beginning of our era approximately 250 million people lived on Earth and by 1650 the population had grown only to 500 million. Yet, the rapid growth of population, starting in the nineteenth century, coincided with the development of the industry making the impact of the humanity on the environment, and in particular on the temperature change, considerable. In 1830 the planet population reached one billion, in 1930 – two billion, and four billion around 1975. In 1990 it was estimated 5. 3 billion.
It is clear that the growing population is consuming more resources, using more energy. While 90 percent of the world’s energy is provided by burning fossil fuels, according to the information received in an e-mail interview from professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington Dennis Hartmann, this means that humanity burns more fuel to produce goods and services for itself. Comparing the rate of increasing the concentration of the carbon dioxide in atmosphere with the rate of the average temperature change leads scientists to the logical conclusion of the strong correlation between two.
Another way humans influence the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is by cutting down the forests all around the world (which are absorbing the atmospheric carbon dioxide and releasing the oxygen in the process of photosynthesis). In most threatening amounts forests are cut in the tropical regions, such as the Amazon River basin of South America, where 1. 5 acres are cut every second. If nothing is done about the reduction of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, at least about the human contribution, our planet will change in many relations.
At present rate of increase of greenhouse gases in the air the near-surface temperatures will grow 3 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit within half a century. Some greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for a long time: carbon dioxide stays for about two hundred years, accumulating with the new portions emitted. Therefore, the concentrations of the carbon dioxide might reach 600 parts per million in next century, which means an even greater increase in the temperatures. The sea level is expected to rise under present conditions six inches to three feet in the course of the next one hundred years.
It is clear then that the warming of Earth’s atmosphere will lead a number of serious changes in the environment. Rise of the temperature will fasten the fusing of glaciers and polar ice, which will result in rising of sea level ending up in the constant flooding of huge areas of heavily populated lands and the creation of hundreds of millions of environmental fugitives. According to the information provided by the World Meteorological Organization, the UN Environmental Program, the World Resources Institute, the National Academy of Sciences, and NASA by 2050 practically the whole East Coast of the USA will be flooded.
Yet the most affected countries would be, according to the UN Environment Program, Bangladesh, Egypt, Gambia, Indonesia, the Maldives, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Surinam and Thailand, much of this area is between zero and sixteen feet above sea level. Weather patterns are and will be modified: number of radically hot days will augment, frequency and severity of storms, hurricanes, floods, droughts and forest fires will increase, more intense rainfall will bother some areas, and at the same time water supplies in some regions, particularly in already affected, arid (with deserted climate) areas, will be disrupted.
Entire ecosystems can be changed or even totally destructed. According to the studies by the IPCC climate change can be so fast soon, that many forests could die off, unable to adapt. Warming would also assent conditions for growth in insect populations which will have a negative effect on agriculture and human health, and will result in spread of malaria and other tropical diseases. According to the CNN Special report on global warming released on 7 December 1997 at 10:00 PM mosquito populations caring deadly diseases have spread far north on the territory of the USA over the last ten years.
All of the climate change effects are interrelated. More consequences are eventually directly and indirectly related to global warming. Many different actions can be taken in response to greenhouse warming on the different levels: options that eliminate or reduce greenhouse gases emissions that balance emissions by removing greenhouse gases from atmosphere, and that help human as well as plant and animal ecosystems adjust or adapt to new climatic conditions and events. Many combinations of these actions are possible.
Human, animals, and plants are able to adapt to different climates but, if the climate changes as rapidly as some computer models project, the present natural ecosystems may become fragmented and break up, some ecosystems might even disappear. Humans have developed a number of devices to adapt themselves and their activities to the changing climate and weather, such as air conditioners for keeping the desirable indoor temperature, tractors to cultivate the large areas of land faster and easier and other like these.
If the technology continues to develop, it is feasible that humans will be able to adjust to the climate changes accordingly. Interventions at all levels could effectively reduce global warming. The action should be taken on individual, state and international levels to effectively reduce the warming. Individuals could reduce energy consumption, recycle and reuse goods. People could use cars less, when possible use public transport or walk instead. Yet, when having a personal car, choose from fuel-efficient models, or from new models which will be powered by other than fossil fuels.
Such can be working on the solar-electric or hydrogen-electrical combination engines. Individuals could buy energy-efficient appliances for their houses. These are easy to find as the USA Federal Law requires labeling those products. To prevent the loss of the extra energy due to the leak of the conditioned air, be it in the winter or summer, families could and should insulate and caulk their houses and use climate control wisely. In a hot climate a light roof for the house will save one fifth of the air conditioning, which will also save energy consumption.
As mentioned above trees reduce gas emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide, and they can be used to shade buildings in the hot seasons while letting the sunlight reach the houses in the cold months of the year. This will decrease the use both of cooling and heating of the houses. Buying the compact fluorescent lamps will save great money on electricity consumption, although they cost more then the regular light bulbs. It is a fact that the half of the energy people use goes to the manufacturing of the products and services people buy. People, especially in United States, are buying a lot more things than they need.
Therefore, the effective and important contribution to the reduction of the greenhouse gases emissions will be not buying unnecessary things, which, in the market economic system, will deter their production. In USA and many countries in the world recycling programs are working, encouraging individuals save forests and atmosphere. Reducing energy consumption, recycling and reusing glass, plastic and paper items is possible, saves the energy and, therefore lessens the carbon dioxide emissions. These actions individuals can participate in help not only saving present climate, but also saving family budgets in the long run.
One way states can work on slowing the global warming pace, is to sponsor programs allowing individuals and businesses to contribute to reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. One example of such kind will be introducing the alternative sources of power, such as nuclear, solar or wind. The solar power is actually already working in many countries around the world. Governments and the electrical companies of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and USA have different programs which help people install and use solar panels on the roofs of their houses and on the public use buildings relatively inexpensive, thus saving fossil fuels burn.
One of the important actions the governments should take is improving public transport systems and encouraging their use instead of private vehicles, as up to one third of the emissions comes from the vehicles. Stopping government subsidies and introducing “carbon taxes” will raise the consumer cost of high-emission fuels and thus will decrease the demand for them. The fuel consumption will be therefore reduced. Natural gas emits the lowest amount of carbon dioxide among fossil fuels; and the states should encourage its use for electric plants.
As mentioned above, forests are extremely important in consuming atmospheric carbon dioxide. States should introduce the programs for planting and effectively protecting the forests, encouraging individuals to participate also. Public education is the important factor that can help considerably the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the adaptation to greenhouse warming. Programs for conservation and recycling can change the energy use and consumption. For example, householders may not be aware of the savings they’d gain using high-efficiency furnaces.
These educational programs are already working in USA and in many European countries. By the compromise reached in Kyoto the European Union would cut down its greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent below 1990 levels, the US by 7 percent, and Japan by 6 percent. In total, thirty-eight nations have signed this agreement and will be reducing emissions by about 5 percent below 1990 levels. The protocol does not determine how the cutbacks should be achieved, though. A lot of further details should be discussed and agreed upon, yet.
International organizations could and will be coordinating programs in the US and other countries, managing transfers of resources and technologies, and facilitating exchange of monitoring and other relevant data. Global warming is a very complex complicated issue. No certain proof of what causes it can be given. Also the rate of temperature change may only be predicted. Therefore, the effects following atmospheric temperature change are more of a hypothetical nature. Still, the humanity is taking action to possibly reduce its contribution to the CO emissions and also to reduce the pollution.
If we, people, are mistaken and later will be discovered that humans contributed to the global warming insignificantly, our children will have a cleaner and safer planet to live on, anyway. On the other hand, if nothing is going to be done, present generation will leave to the decedents both bad environment and bad economy, as the resources begin to exhaust. Works Cited Associated Press. “Global protocol gains 1st approval. ” Winona Daily News, 11 Dec. 1997, pt. A: 1,4. Bender, David and Bruno Leone, ed. Global Warming: Opposing Viewpoints. Opposing Viewpoints Series.
San Diego: Greenhaven, 1997. CNN Special Report on Global Warming. CNN News, Winona, 7 Dec. 1997: 10:00 PM. “FAQ on the Climate Change. ” http://greenpeace. org/~climate/climate_faq. html (20 Nov. 1997). Fiodorov, Andrei B. “Analysis of the US Policy on Global Warming. ” http://www. angelfire. com/mo/andreif/paper1. html (20 Nov. 1997). Friend, Tim and Traci Watson. “Global Warming Gamble. ” USA Today, 1 Dec. 1997, pt. A:1-2. “Greenhouse Warning is a Reality, Not Just a Possibility, Scientists Agree. ” http://www2. edf. org/pubs/NewsRelease/1995/Sep/a_climate. tml (20 Nov. 1997). “Growing Population. ” Volume Library. 2 vols. Nashville: Southwestern, 1996. Hartmann, Dennis. “Our Changing Climate. “Reports to the Nation on Our Changing Planet, Fall 1997 #4. Hartmann, Dennis. Personal interview via e-mail. 30 Nov. 1997. Kraljic, Matthew A. “Greenhouse effect. ” The Reference Shelf Series. Vol. 64, #3. New York City: H. W. Wilson, 1992. Newscientist. http://global. newscientist. com/nsplus/insight/global/faq. html (10 dec. 1997). “Scientists’ Statement On Global Disruption. ” http://www. law. pace. edu/env/energy/worldspeaks. tml#scientists (June, 1997). “Solar Power Iin Action. ” http://www. greenpeace. org/~comms/uksolar/world. html (20 Nov. 1997). Stencel, Sandra, ed. CQ Researcher. Vol. 6, #41. N. p. : Congressional Quarterly, 1 Nov. 1996. Tesar, Jenny E. Global Warming. Our Fragile Planet Series. Ed. Bernard S. Cayne. New York:n. p. , 1991. “Warming Treaty. ” Star Tribune, 12 Dec. 1997, pt. A: 1, 19. Wildavsky, Aaron B. But is it True? : A Citizen’s Guide To Environmental Health and Safety Issues. Boston: Harvard UP, 1995. Global Warming: Causes, Effects and Solutions