Global Climate Change
According to an article by the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC), the United States emits more greenhouses gases per person then any country in the world. Although greenhouse gases occur naturally in the earth’s atmosphere, humans have rapidly increased the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in it. All the excess carbon dioxide has caused a gradual increase of the earth’s temperature, which we call global warming. Scientists believe global warming is most likely caused by human. Although many people think global warming is not real, I believe global warming is the most important issue facing the world. The burning of fossil fuels and deforestation are the main causes for global warming. The effects of these could have a devastating effect on earth. Effects like the spread of disease, drought, extreme weather patterns, and even the extinction of animals. There are many changes we can make to combat global warming like using alternative fuel sources like nuclear, solar, and hydrogen.
Greenhouses gasses that warm the earth’s surface are water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane. When light from the sun reaches earth, it is reflected back into the earth’s atmosphere as infrared radiation. Once infrared radiation is reflected back into the atmosphere, greenhouse gases absorb the radiation and reflect it back to earth, thus causing what we know as the greenhouse effect. Without the green house effect many of the species on earth would not exist. Although the greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon, humans have intensified its effect by burning fossil fuels and deforestation.
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According to an article from the Britannica online encyclopedia since the beginning of the industrial revolution the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 30 percent. The burning of oil accounts for almost half of the carbon emissions from fossil fuels; the rest comes from the burning of coal and natural gas (oil change international 2009). As stated on the EPA website, the generation of electricity accounts for over 40% of the CO2 we emit into the atmosphere. The second most emission of CO2 comes from the transportation sector. This is mainly due to the fact that nearly all vehicles exclusively use petroleum based products as an energy source, these include gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Automobiles account for nearly 75% of the CO2 emission in the transportation sector. Emerging technologies such as the hybrid car which uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery as an energy source could reduce the amount of CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere by the transportation sector.
Deforestation is the clearing of rain forest for human use. The clearing of forests are used to produce wood products, croplands, and grazing land for cattle. Deforestation is typically done by a method called the slash and burn method. During the slash and burn method, trees are cut down and set on fire. The ash from the trees is then used to fertilize the soil. The reason deforestation has a profound effect on the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, is because trees produce large amounts of oxygen. In order for the trees to produce oxygen they must consume carbon dioxide. Deforestation has a devastating effect on earth, because not only can the trees not absorb the extra CO2 caused by the burning of fossil fuels, but the burning of the rain forest also emits large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. According to the EPA, forest fires emit CO2 at a faster rate than the burning of fossil fuels.
Melting glaciers and rising sea levels are some of the consequences of global warming.
According to an article by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), arctic summers could be ice-free by the year 2040, and seal levels could rise by as much as 23 inches by the year 2100. NASA has also observed a rapid melting rate of the polar ice caps. If current trends continue, this could have a catastrophic effect on the world. One of the main consequences this could have is the flooding of coastal communities due to rising sea levels. This could have a great impact on the United States because states like Louisianan, Texas, Florida, and North Carolina are susceptible to flooding. The melting of the icebergs will also affect food production. Warm weather will have a negative effect on farmers who rely on freezing temperatures to grow winter crops, like wheat. We are already seeing the effects of the melting icecaps, global seal levels have risen by an astonishing 4 inches in the past century.
Sadly global warming has also had a profound effect on wildlife. If current trends continue many species will become endangered or even worse, extinct. Many animals do no hibernate the same amount of time they used to. Also many animals such as the polar bear, are not as healthy as they were a mere 20 years ago. Global warming has also caused some species to migrate toward colder climates, thus causing a heavier competition for food. The temperature change also causes some species to have more of a certain gender offspring, due to the warmer weather. Melting ice, rising sea levels, and drought are all causes of global warming and they are adversely impacting wildlife.
Global warming will also greatly impact the human population. A major effect will be devastating heat waves that will negatively impact the elderly. According to an article by the NRDC global warming has doubled the likelihood of intense heat waves. Air quality will also suffer due to the heat waves. Another effect global warming will have on us, is the spread of disease. This is because disease carrying insects will be able to survive in places they once could not have survived. An interesting fact is that poisonous plants produce more potent toxins when it is warmer. For instance in Savannah, GA poison ivy plants have grown 10 times denser and have produced more potent irritants. Another negative impact global warming could have on humans is a greater risk of asthma due to rising temperatures.
According to an article by the environment news service, scientist discovered that drought could double by the year 2100 because of global warming. This will have a terrible effect on farmers that depend on rainfall to make a living. It will also threaten millions of people would wide. According to British scientist severe drought will affect 40 percent of the earth’s land up from 8 percent. Already the lack of clean water kills as many as 1.6 million people every year. The countries most affected by drought will be developing third world countries, such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America
Although burning of fossil fuels has been our main way of getting energy, there are many alternatives. One alternative is using hydrogen to power automobiles instead of using gasoline.
Hydrogen fuels combines hydrogen and oxygen to power cars electronically. This method of fuel only produces water as an exhaust which is not harmful to the environment. Although critics of this fuel sources say the infrastructure need to provide this type of fuel would be too expensive, it is clearly needed if we want to combat global warming.
Another alternative fuel source is nuclear energy. Nuclear reactors produce electricity by harnessing the energy released when the atoms of certain elements are split (facts on file news service 2000). Nuclear energy is environmentally safe because it does not emit any harmful pollutants into the air. Most experts predict that we will exhaust our supply of fossil fuels within a few hundred years, while it would take billions of years to exhaust our natural supply of uranium. Although the use of nuclear power has many advantages it also has many drawbacks. When nuclear fuel is recycled it creates a byproduct known as plutonium, which can be used be build nuclear weapons. Many lawmakers fear that allowing the recycling of uranium would make it extremely difficult to control the world supplies of plutonium, which if in the wrong hands could have a catastrophic consequence.
In conclusion it is clear that global warming is a very important issue facing the world today. The fossil fuels we burn contribute heavily to the greenhouse gases we send into the earth’s atmosphere, which in turn heats up the earth. Deforestation is another heavy contributor to global warming, mainly due to the slash and burn methods used by people around the world. All this has a profound effect on the world from the near extension of animals to the devastating weather patterns it creates. Global warming will also continue to increase negative the effect it has on humans, from flooding of coastal regions to the spread of disease caused by insects. Although the United States is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases we have found many alternative fuel sources to combat global warming, such as nuclear, hydrogen and solar energy, as we hope to lessen our impact on the earth’s climate.