Global warming is the term used to describe some of the drastic changes that are taking place in the earth’s climatic conditions. Over the recent years, the term global warming has been the subject of much debate and different people have come up with different views regarding this subject. While many people continue to hold to the view that global warming is a natural phenomenon that cannot be prevented, others are of the opinion that natural as well as man-made factors have accelerated a natural phenomenon to the extent that it has become an international problem, and a threat to human existence.
Without global warming, the earth would naturally be a cold uninhabitable place. Through a process that is referred to as the green-house effect, atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons have been responsible for trapping the heat radiated from the earth’s surface and subsequently warming the earth. It is through this natural phenomenon that the earth’s average temperatures have been maintained at around 60? Fahrenheit.
However, atmospheric temperatures have been rising above the naturally expected rates, and scientists as well as environmentalists have raised concern over these changing climatic conditions, and the effects they will have on human existence. Rising atmospheric temperatures have been attributed to both natural and man-made factors and various suggestions have been raised that hold possible solutions to global warming and its effects on the earth (Peach 2-3). 2. Causes and Effects of Global Warming One of the major causes of global warming is the greenhouse effect.
Although the greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon without which the world would be uninhabitable, there has been a high increase of heat trapping gases in the atmosphere. These gases trap more heat while less of it is radiated back into the outer space, subsequently resulting in global warming. The atmosphere is a combination of many gases which not only enable the sun’s rays to reach the earth’s surface, but also prevent the heat energy that is reradiated by the earth’s surface from escaping back into the atmosphere.
Atmospheric gases deflect and scatter about 30% of the sunlight that hits the earth back into space. Through infrared radiation, the rest of the sunlight is reflected back to the atmosphere in the form of slow-moving energy and is absorbed by atmospheric gases which subsequently slow down its escape from the atmosphere. This absorption of energy by atmospheric gases creates a warm-air blanket around the earth; without which this planet would probably be one massive glacier and would not be able to sustain any life (Gonzalez and Sherer 374; Flannery 1-4).
Increased human activities such as agriculture, oil production, industry and mining have resulted in an equally increased level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Fossil fuel production and use has especially led to increased carbon dioxide emission and apparently, to 50 % of all human-induced global warming. Since the industrial Revolution, burning of fossil fuels and the use of chlorofluorocarbons and nitrogen fertilizers has led to increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
As a result of the Industrial Revolution, agricultural production improved, population grew and urbanization expanded extensively to cater for the urban working masses. All these processes have resulted in massive clearing of forests and other vegetation cover as land is cleared for more food production, for settlement and for mining. Trees naturally help to retain most of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and with the increased loss of trees, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased and this has led to global warming.
Solar activity and volcanic emissions have also contributed to global warming. Scientists argue that the sun has gradually been increasing in strength and since it is the main source of energy, the earth’s atmosphere absorbs approximately 70% of the solar flux. It is the solar flux that has led to increased temperatures not only in the earth’s atmosphere but also in its land and oceans. As climatic and temperature changes occur on the surface of the earth, the sun continues to emit more radiant energy (Peach 3-4, 19-27, 55; Flannery78-79).
Global warming adversely affects life on the face of the earth. Various scientists have blamed global warming for rapid changes in weather patterns around the globe and subsequent severe and long draughts in several parts of the world. Spells of dry weather have also been blamed for the catastrophic wild fires that have frequently razed through vast tracts of inhabited land in California, U. S. A as well as for the heat waves that swept through Europe during the summer of 2003 and caused the death of about 35,000 people.
Scientists have also suggested that rising atmospheric temperatures could be the cause of severe storms, tornadoes and hurricanes such as those experienced in southeastern U. S. A and other parts of the world (Flannery 132-141). Excessive heat transferred back to the atmosphere causes strong winds and also fuels the storms. Rising atmospheric temperatures have also been blamed for the massive melting of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica as well as most mountain tops of the world. As these glaciers retreat, the melted ice in turn flows down into the seas and has attributed for rising ocean levels.
According to experts, the sea level is expected to rise by about 30 cm by the year 2100 and may cause flooding or even disappearance of coastal towns. About two thirds of the world’s major cities have been built along coastlines and their existence as well as that of their future developments will continue to rest upon the effects of global warming (Valsson 17-25; Peach 38-39). While it is common to conceptualize the impacts of such scenarios and effects upon humans, there is definitely truth in claiming that the detrimental effects of global warming affect all life on the planet.
To further explain, a vast number of creatures or organisms throughout the world. In general, encompassing changes to the temperature of the Earth would mean that creatures would have another concern to tackle in order to maintain survival. Specifically, both flora and fauna which currently reside in a given location, live optimally at the particular climate present at the aforesaid region; changes in temperature may result in the proliferation of illnesses and even extinction (Craighead 123). In contrast, some creatures might further proliferate in the presence of global warming.
The growth of squids for example have been known to be enhanced by the increasingly warmer oceans which resulting in a considerable increase in its number throughout the seas (AtKisson 44). While this may seem beneficial, it is important to emphasize that ecological balance would potentially be compromised by such effects of global warming. Furthermore, while migration to other areas would have been the expected course of action for animals and even plants to survive the region altering effects of global warming it is now virtually impossible to accomplish as human activities and settlements have considerably spread (Schneider and Root 3).
Before dismissing the abovementioned effects of global warming as secondary to its implications upon humans, it is essential to point out that human survival heavily relies on the riches of nature. 3. Possible Solutions to Global Warming Processes such as increased agricultural production, industrialization and urbanization have contributed to massive loss of the world’s vegetation cover and subsequent global warming; but are quite difficult to control or reverse.
But global warming can be controlled through responsible environmental management procedures. Re-forestation probably remains the most practical and perhaps most effective measure of reducing the effects of a warmer earth. Through reforestation, the atmospheric cycle will be maintained at close to normal levels and in such way, atmospheric temperatures will be reduced; in relation to this, the rate at which forested land is being converted to other land use activities should also be continuously checked.
Public transport should be encouraged especially when traveling for short distances because this helps to put a check on the burning of so much fossil fuel. Complete rehabilitation of destroyed environment takes hundreds of years; and preserving the existing forest cover through sustainable development becomes very crucial towards preserving the temperate and tropical forests that face destruction every year. It is also advisable to educate the masses on the advantages of using electric appliances that use less heat as well as the use of energy-saving bulbs (Peach 45-55).
Aside from creating positive changes in the manner of energy production, resource management, and daily living, means to limit and eventually eliminate the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere should also be highlighted. Considering the state of technology and manufacturing today, it would be appropriate to assume that immediately eliminating all the industrial processes which create greenhouse gases is an impossible feat. However, there are ways to gradually make corporations and firms worldwide to reconsider more environmental methods of production and energy usage.
One of the most promising of which is the implementation of a strict, and possibly internationally applied, carbon tax. To explain, as carbon is considered to be one of the most common greenhouse gases derived from industrial endeavors due to the use of fossil fuels, a taxation system which results in greater expenses for heavy users of fossil fuel would supposedly result in transitions to the use of clean energy (McKinney and Schoch 434).
Subsequently similar policies, either worldwide or specific to a country, should be drawn that advocate more dependence on renewable energy such as solar, wind and geo-thermal and less dependence on fossil fuel. While global warming may be partly addressed through lifestyle changes which are depended upon personal choice as discussed beforehand, it is undeniably that the actions of governments or world leaders are essential if the world would indeed survive and resolve the issues brought forth by global warming; such leaders and politicians hold the key to actualizing the needed transitions in society.
4. Conclusion Global warming and the potential effect it has on the environment and global human societies are still difficult to put on scale because of the uncertainties that accompany the scope of the problem; despite such, it is irrefutable that the detrimental effects of global warming upon human lives, as well as both flora and fauna, have become an evident proof of the presence of the concern. As industrialization advanced greenhouse gases were released into the atmosphere on a very large scale and global temperatures have been on the increase.
But there is increased international attention directed towards reduction of these gases from man-made sources; as well as drawing of policies towards the best methods of adapting to the possible impacts that global climatic change will bring along. A long-term solution will however require the global cooperation since global warming has been the result of greenhouse emissions from all countries of the world. Since emitted gases continue to have their effect, more emission should be controlled.
Both short-term and long-term policies should be put into consideration (Peach 44-45, 57). Therefore, in order for humanity to resolve the issue of global warming and ensure that life on Earth would ensue in its rightful manner, continuous vigilance of the changes in the environment as well as superb planning and problem solving skills are all of great importance, but not as essential as establishing global awareness and unity. Works Cited AtKisson, Alan.
The ISIS Agreement: How Sustainability Can Improve Organizational Performance and Transform the World. Sterling, VA: Earthscan Publishing, 2008. Craighead, Lance. Bears of the World. St. Paul, MN: Voyageur Press – MBI Publishing Company, 2000. Flannery, Tim F. The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth. New York, NY: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006. Gonzalez, Joseph and Thomas E Sherer. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geography. Phoenix, AZ: Alpha Books, 2004. McKinney, Michael L.
and Robert M. Schoch. Environmental Science: Systems and Solutions. 3rd Edition. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2003. Peach, Dexter J. Global warming: Emission Reductions Possible As Scientific Uncertainties Are Resolved. Darby. PA: DIANE Publishing, 2005. Schneider, Stephen H. and Terry L. Root. Wildlife Responses to Climate Change: North American Case Studies. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2002. Valsson, Trausti. How the World will Change with Global Warming. Reykjavik, Iceland: University of Iceland Press, 2006.
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