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Global Warming: Causes, Consequences, Solutions Essay

Since the early days of the greenhouse debate, scientists have been interested in the impacts of global warming. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has initiated a comprehensive on the impacts of climate change for the country. The public’s increased attention to such problem is not anymore surprising as it threatens every creature with potentially devastating consequences, which has put global warming in the lime light (Silverstein et. al. , 2003p. 5; Fankhauser, 1995 p.

16). Nevertheless, attempts at a monetary quantification of these impacts – despite being classic application of environmental economics – have started to emerge just recently (Fankhauser, 1995 p. 16). Many scientists believe that our planet has been experiencing a warming trend over the last 200 years- and that our activities are responsible for this global warming. It started with the industrial revolution, around 1750 (Silverstein et. al. , 2003p. 5; Kursunoglu et. al. , 2001 p. 151).

People began to use machines in more and more areas of life and daily functioning, from heating, to building, and manufacturing, to transportation. The machines were powered by burning fuels, such as wood, coal, oil, and natural gas (Fankhauser, 1995 p. 16; Silverstein et. al. , 2003p. 5). If these fuels burn, they emit carbon dioxide and other waste products into the atmosphere, which is the layer of air that covers our planet (Silverstein et. al. , 2003p. 5). Fossil fuels provide about 85% of the world’s energy, sustaining the world’s standard-of-living and providing the power for transportation.

These fuels are inexpensive, transportable, safe, and relatively abundant. At the same time, their use contributes to problems such as air quality and acid rain that are being addressed through various control efforts and to the problem of global warming, which is now being considered by governments of the world (Kursunoglu et. al. , 2001 p. 151). Scope and Limitation The study involves mainly the issues of global warming in terms of its cause, consequences and solutions implicated.

The study shall incorporate various theoretical explanations in order to address the subject criteria of the problem imposed. The scope of the study shall coincide mainly on the environmental issue of global warming. Mainly, the study shall scrutinize the details of the review of related literature patterned to the primary components imposed in the latter of the studies. Analysis and interpretation of data present shall involve clear and accurate depiction of the study utilizing the present and gathered data of the review of literatures.

The following shall be the objectives of the study in this research paper: a. To be able to critically analyze the primary components imposed in the study, particularly the presenting phenomenon and the cause-effect relationships of global warming b. To be able to provide necessary data analysis and implication utilizing mainly the references, data gathered in review of literature and the analysis of latter studies proposed in order to provide primary depiction of the actual status of the environment in terms of global warming. Review of Related Literature

Global Warming: Overview The basic principle of global warming can be understood by considering the radiation energy from the Sun that warms the Earth’s surface and the thermal radiation from the Earth and the atmosphere that is radiated out to space. On average, these two radiation streams must be balance. If the balance is disturbed, it can be restored by an increase in the Earth’s surface temperature (Houghton, 2004 p. 14). The gases nitrogen and oxygen that make up0 the bulk of the atmosphere neither absorb nor emit thermal radiation.

It is the water vapor, carbon dioxide, and some other minor gases present in the atmosphere in much smaller quantities that absorb some of the thermal radiation and causing the difference of 21 degrees Celsius or so between the actual average surface temperatures on the Earth of about 15 degrees Celsius. Such blanketing condition is known as the natural greenhouse effects and the gases are known as greenhouse gases (Houghton, 2004 p. 16). The greenhouse gases are those gases in the atmosphere which, by absorbing thermal radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface, have blanketing effect upon it.

The most important of the greenhouse gases is water vapor, but its amount in the atmosphere is not changing directly because of human activities. The important greenhouse gases that are directly influenced by human activities are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and ozone (Houghton, 2004 p. 28). Normally, carbon dioxide is present in the atmosphere in small amounts-just enough to keep temperatures on Earth at a comfortable range for our planet’s living things. The burning fuels, however, has been increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Houghton, 2004 p. 28; Silverstein et.

al. , 2003p. 5). So far, global warming has not been substantial, increasing the average temperature of Earth by only about 0. 6 degrees Celsius in the last century. This change is so small that some scientists argue that it is just a natural fluctuation and not a trend. Other scientists state that there is a great deal of evidence to support global warming: Summers are getting hotter and winters are getting milder, glaciers are melting, and sea levels are rising, but these signs are only the initial phase of global warming phenomena. The warming trend is expected to speed up and produce even greater effects (Silverstein et.

al. , 2003 p. 6). Warming did not occur evenly around the world, and some scientists wondered whether the changes in observed temperature might simply be a result of the growth of cities near weather stations. Urban areas form heat islands; pavement and rooftops absorb more heat than soils and plant leaves, so cities have warmer climates than rural areas. Climatologists admit they do not fully understand Earth’s climate system. For decades, however, they have agreed that signs of global warming would be most noticeable in cold regions (Pringle, 2001 p. 17; Silverstein et. al.

, 2003 p. 6) – particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, because it holds less heat-absorbing ocean water than the Southern Hemisphere. Scientists have predicted that areas such as Alaska, Canada, and Northern Russia would harm more than Earth as a whole (Pringle, 2001 p. 17). Historical Overview: Development of Agencies and Organizations It has been known for about 175 years that the presence in the atmosphere of “greenhouse gases” such as carbon dioxide that absorb in the infrared part of the spectrum leads to a warming of the Earth’s surface through the greenhouse effects.

The first quantitative calculations were made by the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius in 1896. In the 1960s, Charles Keeling and his colleagues began a regular series of accurate observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Such studies showed increasing values as a result of human activities, mainly the burning of fossil fuels (Hester and Harrison, 2002 p. 1; (Fankhauser, 1995 p. 16).

By the 1980s, as the rate of increase of carbon dioxide concentration became larger, the possible impact on the global climate became a matter of concern to politicians as well as scientists. The report of a scientific meeting held at Villach, Austria in 1985 under the auspices of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) began to alert governments and the public at large to the potential seriousness of the issue.

Estimates were made that the carbon dioxide concentration could double before the end of the 21st century. In 1896, three multinational agencies, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the ICSU, who had co-sponsored the Villach conference, formed the Advisory Group of Greenhouse Gases (AGGG), a small international committee with responsibility for asserting the available scientific information about the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the likely impact (Hester and Harrison, 2002 p. 1).

After the assembly of these well-known organizations, and formations of small groups, such as the AGGG, discoveries and widely assessments have been made regarding the issues of global warming. Private and public sectors in the United States and Europe have gathered (Fankhauser, 1995 p. 27), including those from other nations such as Japan, South Korea, etc. , in order assess possible etiologies, evaluate impending causes and provide critical support-based solutions (Hester and Harrison, 2002 p. 1). Measurements of Global Warming Even a few years ago, the acceptance of global warming was not as widespread as it is today.

Global warming is difficult to prove as temperature records do no go back very far. Furthermore, the old records are primarily land based, are not representative of large areas of the world, are mostly from urban areas, and are not always collected with precision. Existing records, however, were collated, processed and standardized by P. D Jones and T. M. L Wrigley (1990), and their formulation of standardized data indicates a slow warming trend since the last century with occasional periods of cooling (Hester and Harrison, 2002 p.

1; Gupta, 1998 p. 86). The deviations from the general trend may occur due to three reasons: sunspot cycles; volcanic eruptions producing large quantities of fine ash in the air; the occurrence of El Nino Southern Oscillation. Correcting for all such factors, Jones and Wrigley estimated that the earth has become 0. 5 degrees Kelvin warmer since the 1880s (Gupta, 1998 p. 86). Evidence of global warming also come from other sources. In recent years, glaciers on mountains, particularly tropical mountains, have melted faster than before.

The temperature of the top hundred metres of sea water off the coast of California shows an increase of 0. 8 degrees Kelvin over the last forty years. The data from the ice cores of Antarctica also indicate a warming trend (Fankhauser, 1995 p. 16; Gupta, 1998 p. 86). These cores through the ice indicate snowfalls of number of years in sequence, which later has turned into ice. As this happens, tiny air bubbles trapped in the ice, and these bubbles can be investigated to determine the composition of the air at the time of the snowfall and also the temperature.

The latter is determined by examining the ration of the two oxygen isotopes, 16O and 18O 9 (Fankhauser, 1995 p. 16; Gupta, 1998 p. 86; Houghton, 2004 p. 28). The ratios reflect the ambient global temperature. A number of very hot years, in fact eight of the hottest on record, happened between 1980 and 1992. Apart from indicating the trend, this put global warming in public’s attention. Etiologies of Global Warming Currently, there are three theories about the cause of global warming; however, most of the scientists believe that the cause is an increase of greenhouse gases.

Svante Arrhenius of Sweden in 1895 demonstrated the linkage between carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and temperature (Gupta,1998 p. 86). Carbon dioxide is the prime etiology involved in global warming causation. In fact, without any carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the earth would be much colder place to live. The global mean temperature would be below 0 degrees Celsius instead of being close to a comfortable 14 degrees Celsius. Most carbon dioxide comes from the decomposition of dead plants and animals, and the respiration of living animals, including humans, and plants.

For thousands of years, there has been no problem with this because the oceans absorbed much of this carbon dioxide; hence, taking it out of the atmosphere. In addition, plants carrying on photosynthesis also absorbed a great deal of the atmospheric carbon dioxide (Tomera, 2001 p. 113; Gupta,1998 p. 86). However, with the advent of modernization, auto engines, power plants, industrial mills, and home and business heating systems burn coal, oil, or natural gas (Gupta, 1998 p. 86; Houghton, 2004 p. 28; Tomera, 2001 p. 113).

Such accounts for 98% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere, while the other 2% id due to the increased deforestation and mining (Tomera, 2001 p. 113). Another theoretical issue imposed is in the use of fossil fuels and burning materials that release CFCs. The first relatively successful calculation of how much the human use of fossil fuel could warm the planet published in a paper 1896 by Arrhenius. With the conceptual framework of carbon dioxide as the primary source of global warming, various theoretical concepts have formed. In the late 1930s, G. S.

Callendar, an English chemist, argued that human activities were causing an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and that this might have already started global warming. Despite Callendar’s concern, and although the scientific community has known about the pot4ential of human-induced warming to raise the earth’s temperature since the early 19th century (Tomera, 2001 p. 113; Brown, 2002 p. 14), global warming received little attention from the scientific community during the first half of the twentieth century, which centered mainly on human causations of carbon dioxide increase (Brown, 2002 p.

14). In 1957, two scientists with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Roger Revelle and Hans Suess, found that much of the carbon dioxide emitted to the earth’s atmosphere is not absorbed by the oceans, as some had assumed, leaving significant amounts in the atmosphere that could eventually warm the earth (Brown, 2002 p. 14). With the current advent of environmental discovery and climatic technological advancements, there are now environmental impacts of the chemical substitutes that are now being developed by industry.

These factors all into two main groups: hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which have limited ozone depleting potential, and HCFCs, which have no ozone depleting potential. Unfortunately, both groups of chemicals are greenhouse gases, both groups of chemicals are greenhouse gases, not as powerful as the fully halogenated CFCs but nonetheless significant (Marks and Plewig, p. 13). Such causation has been linked to the issue of ozone depletion wherein HCFCs are the prime depletors, and the end outcome contributes to the global warming.

Since the stratospheric ozone or ozone layer is almost depleted by stratospheric chlorine, which depends on, for example, CFC emissions. CFCs are greenhouse gases, which account for approximately 25% of the global warming effect. Freon 11 is given a global warming potential of 1, which indicates the characteristics of a major contributor. Because of the dangers proposed by CFC use, there is great commercial interest in replacing such materials with substances, which have less ozone depletion potential (Whelan, 1994p. 73).


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