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Since creation, the planet Earth has undergone monumental changes in terms of its resource composition and climatic conditions. Dwindling resources and climate change are the two global concerns. However, of immediate urgency, and therefore the focus of this paper, is the environmental crisis posed by the dangers of global warming: the gradual increase of the earth’s surface air temperature.
As an environmental concern, global warming is rooted in ecology- the study of interaction between organisms and their environment, as well as inter-organism relationships. However, it is the ecological study of environmental chemical processes like oxygen, nitrogen, and water cycles upon which it is grounded.
Although critics often pointed to changes in the sun’s radiation to account for global warming, scientists have found regardless fluctuations in the sun’s radiation, its effects are several times weaker than human-induced warming. Central is the overproduction of greenhouse gasses, specifically carbon dioxide emissions, which create a barrier in the atmosphere that traps heat near the surface of the planet. Its impacts, felt globally, have more than ever before awakened our consciousness to the magnitude of its consequences: icebergs have drifted asunder, the global air temperature has increased, and water levels are rising. Eight of the last ten years have been the hottest recorded in human history. Polar bears are drowning due to distances between ice islands. In some areas, glaciers have totally disappeared, and rain forests are diminishing.
But then, the issue of global warming is a paradox in mankind’s survival: without greenhouse effects the planet would freeze like the vacuum of space. With excessive gaseous emissions, our planet will be as hot as Venus, where surface temperatures are so hot as to melt lead. Nevertheless, it is our overuse of fossil fuels that is turning our planet into a thermo-vacuum. In fact, over the last century the Earth’s surface air temperature is estimated to have risen by 1.25 degrees Celsius. Should the current emission of greenhouse gasses continue, by the year 2100, it is estimated, the Earth’s temperature will rise between 1.8 and 5.8 degrees Celsius (Slobodkin, 2003).
The amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide is estimated to have increased by 30% in the last century and a half. During fossils breakdown to provide energy for our automobiles, carbon dioxide is produced in excessive and enters the atmosphere. It is also produced through respiration, the process by which we produce the oxygen, carbon, and water we need. We also exhale carbon dioxide.
The carbon and oxygen cycle processes cosmic energy which is transferred between plants and animals through the processes of photosynthesis and respiration, but industrialism has produced excess carbon dioxide and other gasses which affect the whole cycle by heating the whole global system. The result will be raising water levels due to water expansion caused by rising temperatures and an increased ocean volume caused by the melting of the polar ice caps. This increase in water volume will affect chemical cycles that affect all living things on the planet.
The deforestation of the rainforests also results in less carbon dioxide being absorbed by living systems. The ocean will only absorb a portion of the excess carbon dioxide in the process causing deleterious decalcification of marine life by making the ocean more acidic. Plants are the base of the food chain that converts chemicals from the atmosphere and nutrients from the soil to produce the energy stocks that fuel the chain of life.
Plants need chemicals such as phosphorus and nitrogen, as well as water and carbon dioxide, which also have global flow processes that include transport between the atmosphere, water, life, and soil. We disrupt these cycles through over- production of chemical pollutants. When we release excess chemicals into the atmosphere or bodies of water we shift the natural cycles that can result in the demise of organisms that have depended upon these sensitive global cycles
The human population explosion has depleted the resources in many locations, and threatens the stability of human society in the long run (Ehrlich and Ehrlich, 2004). Millions of people are going to need to be relocated due to global warming, and overpopulation will continue to lead to famine and war.
Every time the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a scientific assessment of climate change, its findings are more certain and alarming. In November 2008, the IPCC published its Fourth Assessment Report, which said increasing global temperatures will cause more and frequent heat waves, longer droughts, and more intense storms.
According to “Hedging Climate Change,” a recent report published by Allianz SE, cases of natural catastrophes have been on the rise since the 1970s. The majority of them have been weather-related, suggesting a connection with climate change.
The developing world is where the impacts of climate change – floods, droughts, and massive storms –have been felt the most. According to Munich Re statistics,
Greenhouse emissions in the Earth’s atmosphere have escalated since the 1750s. this is attributed to the overuse of fossil fuels, new methods of land utilization and agricultural practices. While these pollutants have had cooling impact during the past centuries, the rapid upsurge in greenhouse emissions has caused a rise in the average temperatures by about 0.8 degrees Celsius as from 1901. Scientists are certain that the last half of the past century has experienced the hottest spell in the Northern Hemisphere (Kunzemann, 2007).
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that many long-term climatic changes have been witnessed. They include changes of temperatures at the
Researchers have modified their opinions and now have a relatively realistic idea of the impact of greenhouse emissions. An increase of atmospheric carbon levels relates to a surface temperature rise of about 3 degrees. Even if carbon emission is reduced to the year 2000 levels, such an increase of carbon dioxide is unavoidable (Kunzemann, 2007).
Research findings also indicate that the atmosphere now contains excess water vapor, one of the factors behind storms and floods at the tropics. Since the early 1960s, Westward winds have gained momentum all over the Earth. The Atlantic region in particular was affected by more and frequent cyclones, a feature corresponding with increasing water temperatures. The IPCC report further says that there is a probability of six in every ten occurrences being aggravated by the effects of global warming.
Temperatures at the
Many strategies have been suggested to address the challenges of global warming. Hans Joachim, head of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and adviser to the German chancellor Angela Merkel, reckons that we are facing what he calls a “third industrial revolution”. He explains that climate protection and economic growth are interlinked, and a business-as-usual approach to the issue will doom sustainable growth. He believes that if we do not stop business-as-usual, we will not recognize our planet in 50 years: he calls for nothing less than an energy revolution
Lisa Jackson, President Obama’s new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, has moved to put CO2 and other greenhouse emissions under regulation by the Clean Air Act. EPA issued a proposed on April 17, 2009 that these gases pose a danger to human health. The US Supreme Court also ruled in 2007 gases from vehicles could be regulated under the Clean Air Act, which earlier had been opposed by auto manufacturers and power companies.
Renowned American climatologist Dr. James Hansen of NASA observes that we already have CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the air in excess. Climate change is the severest problem facing mankind today — more serious than the threat of terrorism “If humanity,” says he, “wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted … CO2 will need to be reduced.
The Kyoto Protocol has called upon developed nations to reduce their GHG emissions to the 1990 levels, a target to be met within a five-year time frame beginning 2008. However, the degree of flexibility afforded by the Protocol to individual nations has encouraged laxity in implementation. An independent body should be formed to enforce the protocol. This will witness significant efforts by governments to curb global warming.
To achieve a sustainable solution, there is need for affirmative action by various interest groups.
Congress should pass strong legislation that curbs carbon emissions and penalizes polluters. A new energy economy that will cuts global warming emissions should be envisioned. This is despite the likely negative initial economic effect. Efforts by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) should be supported.
Hybrid cars should be introduced to reduce carbon emissions. Manufacture should invest in fuel-efficient cars, including plug-in hybrids. Cars that drive on electricity, such as plug-in hybrids, dramatically cut oil use, reduce global warming pollution and save money. Nevertheless, this faces the challenge of public acceptance if comfort preferences are not achieved.
And lastly, we should make buildings that are more energy efficient. In the
In conclusion, the fight against global warming is not a single factor issue. There are many players involved all of whom should be brought aboard. Likewise, it is connected to economic factors which should be considered before implementing policies.