Change in global climate became a widely accepted social problem in the last two decades. However, in those early days, controversies existed about the certainty of global warming; while scientist and environmentalist pointed out that the world was getting hotter due to the increasing release of greenhouse gases and other human activities, multinational corporations and some national governments refuted such claims, under the guise that there were no sufficient scientific evidence to support such claims (McCright and Dunlap, 2000).
Fortunately or unfortunately, recent scientific evidences point, irrefutably, to the fact that the world is indeed getting dangerously hotter. The Stanford SOLAR Center defines global warming as the ‘gradual increase in planet wide temperatures, while McCright and Dunlap (2000) defines it as ‘discernable increase in mean global temperature resulting from the release of greenhouse gases produced by human activities’ (p. 499). Whichever way global warming is defined, the apparent truth, as has been voiced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.
S National Research Council, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and countless other bodies and research institutions, is that the globe is hotter than it has ever been in history and if nothing urgent is done, serious danger looms. The Problem In the early days when stories about a warming earth was first heard, there were several counterclaims and numerous challenges to scientist to prove that the earth was indeed getting hotter. In recent times, however, it is clear that the issue of global warming has passed that stage.
There are now countless irrefutable evidences from both government and private interests to show that there is indeed a problem at hand. The Stanford SOLAR Center points out that it is certain now that the earth is presently the hottest it has been in at least 400years and possibly even over the last 2,000years. It has been shown that the mean global surface temperature has increased by an estimated 0. 5-1. 0°F (0. 3-0. 6°C) within the last century alone and this is documented as the largest temperature rise in surface temperature over the last 1,000years.
The IPCC (2007a) also states that eleven of the last twelve years (1995-2006) rank among the twelve hottest years since record of global surface temperature started in 1850. They also stated that from 1900 to 2005, precipitation increased significantly in the eastern parts of the North and South America, Northern Europe and Northern and Central Asia and that the most significant increases were experienced from 1970 onward. To buttress this stand, the body pointed out that in the last fifty years, cold days and cold nights have been significantly infrequent, while hot days and hot nights have become more frequent.
The frequency and intensity of heat waves and heavy precipitation events over land areas have increased globally, especially since 1975. Further, there is irrefutable evidence that the average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the last half of the 20th century were the highest observable in any fifty year period over the last 500years and possibly the highest in the last 1300 years. All these hard facts point to the same conclusion; the earth is getting hotter, faster than any time in history and the trend does not look like it is ready to reverse.
We have a grave global problem on our hands, which require urgent and drastic steps. The Causes Before recommendations can be made about how to go about mitigating this Herculean problem, it is pertinent to first provide a brief overview of the causes of this problem. In most studies and reports, the release of greenhouse gases (e. g. , carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons and their substitutes, methane, nitrous oxide, etc. ) have been severally indicted as the primary cause of the problem. It is important to know that these gases, especially carbon dioxide methane and nitrous oxide, are natural components of the atmosphere.
These gases reabsorb the heat reflected from the earth surface, regulating Earth’s temperature, which is essential for life. However, since the industrial revolution of the 1700s, these gases have been released into the atmosphere in higher than normal concentration, thus offsetting the normal balance. Carbon dioxide is released from burning fossil fuels and other industrial activities, while deforestation and increasing land use, causes more nitrogen oxide gases to be released into the atmosphere.
The increasing concentration of the gases in the atmosphere trap heat radiated from the earth, preventing additional thermal radiation from leaving the earth and thus excessively increasing the temperature of the earth’s surface (Global Warming, 2008; IPCC, 2007a; IPCC, 2007b). Another factor that has been indicted in the cause of global warming is solar variability; changes in the heating capacity of the sun. Studies on the sun activities have shown that the sun exhibit slight variation in activity.
Although, this has been named as one of the factors responsible for global warming, there exists consensus that the role of solar variability, if present at all, is very minimal. Solar irradiance measured over the last 30 years has shown changes of only a few tenths in solar activity, and this depends essentially on the solar 11-year cycle. The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), in this regard, states that “The Sun is once again less bright as we approach solar minimum, yet global warming continues.
Eventually, we are left with greenhouse emission as the primary cause of global warming. Why We Must Act Now That the earth is warming up might sound far fetched to many, however, the report the global warming is already having its toll on, not just the environment, but also on plants and animal lives, will drive the point home. The IPCC reports that changes in snow, ice frozen ground can be attributed to global warming. Ice melting has caused sea levels to increase continually, with the resultant flooding experienced in several parts of the globe.
The reduction in snow and ice cover over mountains and frozen ground and reportedly increased the number and size of glacial lakes, increased ground instability in mountain and other permafrost regions and led to changes in some Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems. Changes in algal, plankton and fish abundance can be linked to increasing water temperatures as well as related changes in ice cover, salinity, oxygen levels and circulation. And these are just a tip of the iceberg, of the results and pending results of global warming.
To make matters worst, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that “with current climate change mitigation policies and related sustainable development practices, global greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow over the next few decades” (IPCC, 2007a p. 4). The implication is that something better and more drastic needs to be done to curtail global warming. Recommendations The IPCC states rightly that a wide variety of national policies and instruments are available for the nation to create the right incentive for mitigation action.
Since the primary and most significant cause of global warming has been identified to be greenhouse gas emission, several policy instruments exist to curb emission of the gases, at least to reduce the emission to reasonable limits. Government must set stringent regulations and standards for greenhouse gas emission. Large and small corporations must be enticed or forced (whichever is appropriate) to obey these regulations on gas emission. Taxes and charges can also be used to control gas emission.
For example, setting a higher price for carbon emission will drive large corporations to look for more cost effective ways of disposing their waste or stay within their gas emission limits. Another modern way of reducing gas emission is through gas tradable permits. Companies that can efficiently manage their gas emission below their limits could sell such gas emission points to other corporations. Government can also provide incentives, such as subsidies and tax credits to companies that develop more efficient and better technologies of managing gas emission.
This could drive large corporations to spend more on R&D as it concerns gas emission management. Governments might also enter into mutual agreement with industries, though it is reported that the majority of such agreements have not yielded any significant gas emission reduction, it should be hoped that better understanding between both parties created through such agreements would eventually pay off. Automobiles and other individual items also add to the greenhouse gas build up in the atmosphere, therefore, increased information campaigns about the dangers of global warming would increase awareness in the populace.
This could help influence behavioral changes, such as increasing preferences for items that do not negatively impact the environment e. g. fuel economy cars. The impact of such changes might be difficult to measure, however any step, instrument or policies that could reduce greenhouse gas emission in whatever level or degree should be welcomed.
Bibliography Global Warming (2008). Stanford SOLAR Center. Available at http://solar-center. stanford. edu/sun-on-earth/glob-warm. html (Mar 14, 2008). Goddard Institute for Space Studies (1999). Link Between Solar Cycle and Climate is Blowin’ in the Wind. NASA: New York N. Y.
Available at http://www. giss. nasa. gov/research/news/19990408/ (Mar 14, 2008). Human Impacts on Climate (2003). American Geophysical Union. Available at http://www. agu. org/sci_soc/policy/positions/climate_change. shtml (Mar 14, 2008). Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] (2007a). Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [B. Metz, O. R. Davidson, P. R. Bosch, R. Dave, L. A. Meyer (eds)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] (2007b). Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [B. Metz, O. R. Davidson, P. R. Bosch, R. Dave, L. A. Meyer (eds)], Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. McCright, M Aaron and Riley E. Dunlap (2000). Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis of the Conservative Movement’s Counter-Claims. Social Problems, 47(4): pp. 499-522.
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