Global warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of both the earth’s near surface air and the oceans. The temperature increase began in mid twentieth century and is predicted to continue into the future. For example during the last hundred years ending in 2005, the earth’s surface air temperature increased with the earth’s surface air temperature increasing by 0. 74I +/- 0. 180C (Thomas, C. D, 2004). The increasing global temperature causes changes an example being the sea level rise, which is consequently expected to increase the occurrence of extreme weather events (hurricane, floods, famine).
In addition, the amount and pattern of precipitation is affected by increasing global temperature. The effects of global warming have been in the past disastrous and may be very disastrous even in the future. Other climatic change effects include, low agricultural yields, trade routes, glacier retreat, species extinctions and disease vectors increase. The paper will discuss the causes of global warming, the effects and measures that have been taken to reduce it. Discussion Causes of Global warming
The greenhouse gases emissions have greatly contributed to global warming and still continue to be a threat even in the modern world. Examples of greenhouse gases are, carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide emissions may come from the power generating plants, vehicles, airplanes and industrial pollution. Carbon dioxide from the power plants stems from the electricity generation through fossil fuels burning. Coal as a raw material accounts for a high percentage of the carbon dioxide emissions due to its use in the electricity utilizing industry.
For example in 2002, 40% of U. S. carbon dioxide emissions was estimated to be from fossil fuel burning. As compared to the natural gas ,coal emits much more carbon per unit of energy. Fuel used by vehicles through internal combustion engines emits carbon dioxide by burning of the gasoline. Examples of cars and light trucks that have internal combustion engines include the minivans, sport utility vehicles, pick-up trucks and jeeps. The vehicles with poor gas mileage contribute most to global warming with the aviation industry causes an estimated 3.
5 per cent of the global warming, according to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel. It is also estimated that carbon dioxide emissions may come from structural buildings though in much smaller amounts. Methane ranks second after carbon dioxide as a green house gas that contributes to global warming and it is considered to be more than 20 times effective in trapping heat compared to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere . Sources of methane gas include the rice paddies, fossil fuel production and bogs (through bacteria).
Water vapor can be termed as the most powerful greenhouse gas, though its increase is a result of other greenhouse gases. Two-thirds of heat is held by the water vapor, where the heat has been trapped by all the other greenhouse gases. Another greenhouse gas is the Nitrous Oxide (N2O), commonly known as the ‘laughing gas’. The oceans and rain forests are natural producers of nitrous oxide. The man-made sources of nitrous oxide include the nylon and nitric acid production, agricultural use in farms, cars with catalytic converters and organic matter burning.
All these greenhouse gases have contributed greatly to increase in global temperatures with a high percentage being as a result of human activities. Another human activity that encourage warming apart from fossil fuel burning is the deforestation of natural habitats, (Ruddiman, W. F. 2005). The increase in demand for fuel has encouraged cutting and burning of about estimated 34 million acres of trees each year. Millions of acres of the rain forests are being lost every year from deforestation activities where burning of trees for fuel emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and f reduces the absorption rate of carbon by the forests.
Natural sources of global warming include the ocean emissions and frozen wetlands of the North Pole and South Pole,( Ruddiman, W. F. 2005). Permafrost in frozen wetlands have carbon trapped in the soil which is released into the atmosphere after the soil layer is thawed due to human interference. Volcanic eruptions have also been recorded to emit high amounts of carbon in the atmosphere that may contribute to global warming. Effects of Global warming. The effects of global warming are numerous and varied , both to the environment and human life.
One major effect of global warming is the extreme weather conditions whereby the increase in precipitation is related to the temperature increases. Changes in climate results to natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, storms and even famine (Hansen, J. 2000). Most recently, the hurricane Katrina in USA that caused death and property damage has been said to probably have occurred as a result of global climatic changes. There has been an increase in the storm strength, indicated by the hurricane intensity of the proper dissipation index (Emmanuel . K, 2008).
The local climates are destabilized, a good example being the temperature rise of 10c to 30C in the northern hemisphere Arctic region with glaciers retreating or disappearing over the many years of global warming. Glacier retreats have been observed in Andes, Alps, Himalayas, Rocky mountains and North Cascades. The sea level rises with temperature rise due to warming, which affects the coastal ecosystems (both in the ecosystem functioning and survival of aquatic species). In addition, warming reduces the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide through the natural processes.
For instance, absorption of carbon dioxide from living organisms (dissolved gas or skeletons of marine creatures that become limestone). High levels of carbon dioxide from industrial wastes in water , forms carbonic acid which lowers the water P. H. Increased acidification may have detrimental effects on the corals and other marine organisms with calcium carbonate shells (Larry, O. 2006). Economic costs of global warming emerge from damages on property and infrastructure, plus human and animal diseases and other health disorders from pollution (gas emissions).
In the agriculture sector, crop yields have reduced due to side effects of high levels of ground level Ozone gas while the rain-fed agriculture is affected by the vulnerability of climatic conditions caused by global warming. Global warming combined effects can be very harsh to people or states that lack resources to mitigate them. Furthermore, ecosystems are predicted to change in future, if global temperature continues to rise and some species may be at a risk of extinction. However, increased temperature and carbon dioxide may be said to have a positive effect of improving ecosystems productivity (Thomas, C.
D. 2004). Global warming has been recognized as a major environmental threat where the problem of global warming was high on the agenda of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. There were great concerns for countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas considered to greatly contribute to global warming. In 1997, nations that had signed the UN framework convention on climate change in Rio de Janeiro met again in December , 1997 in Japan’s city of Kyoto.
Carbon emission limitation from industrial nations was encouraged, especially in the US. The Kyoto protocol was signed with the objective of reducing green house gases and member countries have the responsibility of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Another meeting in November 2005 in Montreal Canada acted as a starting point for formal talks on mandatory post – 2012 reductions in greenhouse gases. The most recent meeting of the nations that signed the Kyoto Protocol was held in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2006 where calls were made for measures to be implemented to stop or reduce global warming.
Other measures that have been taken to reduce the emissions are, the manufacturing of fuel-efficient vehicles to reduce emissions from fuel-combustion which also cuts down the high dependence on oil as a source of gas emissions. Conclusion Global warming is considered a great environmental threat in the modern world and in the future. The effects of climatic changes have been estimated to be very costly compared to the current situation. It is therefore the initiative of all nations in the world to cooperate to solve this problem before it is too late. Recommendations
Industrial pollution that produce greenhouse gases should be prevented or reduced by using better methods of disposing the gases other than releasing them into the atmosphere. Nations should join the organizations that advocate for global warming solutions to encourage these nations to reduce the levels of gas emissions; especially the developed countries. Human activities that cause climatic changes need to be controlled for example deforestation should be stopped. Every one of us is prone to the effects of global warming, hence our responsibility to solve this problem.
References Emmanuel .K, 2008 “Hurricanes and Global warming: Results from downscaling IPCC AR 4 simulations” Bulletin of the American Meteorological society 89; 347-367 Larry . O. 2006. Rising Ocean Acidity Threatens Reefs. Discovery News http://dcs. discovery. com/news/2006/07/05/acidocean-pla. html Retrieved on May 22, 2008 Ruddiman . W. F. 2005. “How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate? ” Scientific American 292(3). 46-53 Hansen J. 2000. Climatic Change: Understand Global Warming. One World: The Health and Survival of the Human Species in the 21st Century Health Press Thomas . C. D, 2004. “Extinction risk from climate change” Nature 427 (6970): 145-138
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