The global carbon cycle is one of the most important biogeochemical cycles in nature and should be considered with special emphasis because of constantly increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Basically, the term “global carbon cycle” describes the movement of all forms of carbon, which is the fourth abundant chemical element in our universe and essential for the structure and/or energy production for every living organism, between the atmosphere, oceans, biosphere and geosphere.
Two main parts of the carbon cycle can be distinguished, i. e.the geological carbon cycle (with a turnover time in the range of millions of years), and the biological carbon cycle (which operates at time scales ranging between days and thousands of years). In short, in the geological cycle, processes like weathering and erosion are forming carbonates from atmospheric CO2 and water which are reacting with minerals in the earth’s surface and eventually washed the into the oceans where they settle in sediments. The much faster carbon turnover in the biological cycle includes processes like photosynthesis and respiration, both key phenomena of life.
2. A greenhouse gas is a gas in the atmosphere that allows sunlight enter the atmosphere and reach the earth’s surface, but then prevents a certain portion of the reflected radiation (mainly this is the infrared or “heat” part of the spectrum) to leave the atmosphere towards open space again. Due to this effect, a “greenhouse” effect, similar to that wanted and used in agricultural greenhouses to grow plants faster and earlier due to warmer temperatures, develops and gradually heats up the atmosphere.
This leads to global warming with all the negative effects discussed in the next paragraph. CO2 is both, a naturally occurring and man-made greenhouse gas, that together with other natural (water vapour, methane and nitrous oxide) and man-made substances (e. g. gases used for aerosols and cooling liquids) is responsible for global warming, the man-made amount of atmospheric CO2 however alarmingly rising. 3.
“Global warming” describes the slight, but constant and gradual elevation of our atmosphere’s temperature, especially realized as a man-made effect within the last decades. Although times of global warming have repeatedly occurred on our planet long before humans could contribute (e. g. ice-age and warming periods), the dramatic increase of man-made atmospheric CO2 due to industrialization, excessive agriculture, and transportation leads, due to the previously described greenhouse effect, to a global rise in temperatures.
With growing certainty that rise is understood to be responsible for an increasing occurrence of catastrophic events such as changes in weather (storms and hurricanes, heavy rain and snow, desertification), elevation of sea level (flooding), or melting of glaciers and arctic ice shelves. 4. There are diverse causes of global warming including natural processes such as carbon dioxide exhausting from rotting organic matter, atmospheric water vapour or natural gases like methane.
However it is more and more agreed that the recent dramatic increase in global warming is mainly caused by a man-made elevation in atmospheric CO2 by transportation, agriculture and industries. Such elevated concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere and all their negative effects (see above) not only cause global warming by direct influence, but also interact with natural processes, altogether outbalancing the global carbon cycle and destabilizing our climate with unpredictable consequences. 5. The Kyoto Protocol has been signed by the United Nations on Dec.
11th 1997 in Kyoto, Japan with the intention to set measures against progressive climate changes. For the first time in history, the participating nations (until today 136 nations signed and ratified the protocol) agree on threshold levels and the reduction of the production of greenhouse gases within the protocol’s validation period from 2005 until 2012. 5. Unfortunately shaming poor. The United States signed the Kyoto protocol when it was initiated, but (together with Australia) never ratified the agreements.
However, Australia started to ratify the agreements in the year 2007 after a change in their government, leaving the USA (who under President G. W. Bush shows no intention to ratify the contract in the near future) back in shame alone… 6. Of course YES! The US considers itself as one of the world’s leading nations. Doubtlessly it is one of the world’s leading industrial nations, which is good for wealth and progress, but also implies a big responsibility, since due to its industry the US is also one of the leading producers of CO2.
Thus, the US contributes a major part to the worldwide greenhouse effect and therefore to global warming as well. So why does the US not act responsible in terms of environmental issues? Profit and industrial interests are a strong power worldwide and very often refuse sustainable actions and environmental care, but in contrast to the US the other nations who signed the Kyoto Protocol at least start acting responsible.
To my opinion it is a shame for the US to ignore alarming facts and signs of global warming and not even try to show some responsibility for our planet and future generations. So, even if the Kyoto Protocol is certainly not the final solution to growing environmental challenges, it is a beginning and can be the start of a sustainable and more responsible human future. However, to allow that beginning, cooperation and good will of all nations, including the US is essential.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 December 2016
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