The Earth Is Heating Up
Global warming is commonly referred to as an increase in the temperature of the lowest layers of Earth’s atmosphere. Global warming has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often used to refer to the warming predicted to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Primary greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone .
Carbon dioxide, as well as other greenhouse gases, is a very important factor in the vital cycles which sustain life on this planet, plants use carbon dioxide in photosynthesis and release oxygen necessary to maintain the lives of animal species, who through exhaling return carbon dioxide in atmosphere, completing the cycle . Greenhouse effect is a natural process which made life on Earth feasible. The temperature of Earth’s atmosphere is regulated by a process in which the quantity of energy Earth gets from the Sun is poised by the amount returned back into space.
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Greenhouse gases in atmosphere let the energy in and prevent it from escaping, directing it back to Earth’s surface . By the greenhouse effect, in the discussions of the global warming and other environmental problems, people mean “the enhanced effect which is caused by the increase of greenhouse gases from human sources” . Science brings different theories about the primary causes of the global warming of atmosphere. Eventually, the processes that happen in the environment are so complex even on local scale, that analyzing causes and effects of global processes leads scientists to controversial conclusions.
Most scientists agree on certain facts. Arguments start upon interpretation of these facts. Concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which the scientists agree determines the temperature of Earth, has increased from a value of about 275 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution to about 360 parts per million in 1996. The rate of increase has also been accelerating in this period of time . The researches made by different groups of scientists came nearly with the same results on the rise of the near surface atmospheric temperature.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change officially concluded that it has increased by somewhere in between 0. 5 to 1. 1 degrees Fahrenheit since the last century. The sea level has risen four to ten inches during the same period of time . The main issue which troubles not only scientific, but also political arguments is mankind’s contribution to the current warming of atmosphere. In 1924 M. Milankovitch, a Serbian mathematician, worked out a theory about the causes of changes in the Earth’s ice cover .
Milankovitch supposed that small variations in earth’s orbit can lead to the “extreme” changes in climate. In the period of about forty one thousand years the axis’ of rotation angle changes between 22 and 24. 5 degrees resulting in melting or expanding of the glacier ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere and, consequently, in the warming or cooling of climate . Recent techniques let scientists see that for the last several million years, glaciers have varied accordingly to variation of Earth’s orbit. This have been causing so called ice ages.
The last one lasted from one hundred thousand years ago to 10,000 B. C. A large quantity of carbon dioxide is dissolved in the ocean water. The quantity of it always comes to equilibrium with the amount of it in atmosphere. Based on the very detailed statistical study of the correlation of the ocean’s temperature and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air, held by the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the period of 1958 – 1988, some scientists conclude that it may not necessarily be the increase of the concentration of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that causes the warming of atmosphere.
The study showed that a rise in ocean temperature actually preceded the rise of carbon dioxide concentration in atmosphere . Other theory states that the primary cause of the global increase of the temperature is the consequence of the sun activity. Sunspot cycles, which range between nine to thirteen years, are determining the amount of the sun radiation which is released in space and received by Earth in particular . “Changes in this cycle on the order of 0. 1 percent are equivalent to atmospheric effects on the climate during the time period” .
A large group of people see the cause of the current temperature change due to human activities such as burning of fossil fuels in the course of the past two centuries since the beginning of the industrial revolution and active deforestation of the planet’s surface. Oil, coal and natural gas are fossil fuels formed in Earth from the remains of plants and animals. They are rich in carbon and, when burned, produce carbon dioxide. Fossil fuels have been largely used by humanity since eighteenth century to produce heat. At present they are mostly used to produce electricity .
The human influence on the environment was not crucial when the population of the planet was much smaller. At the beginning of recorded history approximately 250 million people lived on Earth and by 1650 the population had grown only to 500 million . Yet, the rapid growth of population, starting in the nineteenth century, coincided with the development of the industry making the impact of the humanity on the environment, and in particular on the temperature change, considerable. In 1830 the planet population reached one billion, in 1930 – two billion, and four billion around 1975. In 1990 it was estimated 5. 3 billion .
It is clear that the growing population is consuming more resources, using more energy. Comparing the rate of increasing the concentration of the carbon dioxide in atmosphere with the rate of the average temperature change leads scientists to the logical conclusion of the strong correlation between two. Another way humans influence the concentration of carbon dioxide in atmosphere is by cutting down the forests all around the world. The most threatening amounts of forests that have been desecrated are in the tropical regions, such as the Amazon River basin of South America, where 1. 5 acres are cut every second .
If nothing is done about the reduction of the carbon dioxide in atmosphere, at least about the human contribution, our planet will change in many relations. At present rate of increase of greenhouse gases in the air the near-surface temperatures will grow 3 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit within half a century . Some greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for a long time: carbon dioxide stays for about two hundred years, accumulating with the new portions emitted. Therefore, the concentrations of the carbon dioxide might reach 600 parts per million in next century, which means an even greater increase in the temperatures .
The sea level is expected to rise under present conditions six inches to three feet in the course of the next one hundred years . It is clear then that the warming of Earth’s atmosphere will lead a number of serious changes in the environment. Rise of the temperature will fasten fusing of glaciers and polar ice, which will result in rising of sea level ending up in the constant flooding of huge areas of heavily populated lands and the creation of hundreds of millions of environmental fugitives .
According to the information provided by the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Environmental Program, the World Resources Institute, the National Academy of Sciences, and NASA by the year 2050 practically the whole East Coast of the USA will be flooded . Yet the most affected countries would be, according to the UN Environment Program , Bangladesh, Egypt, Gambia, Indonesia, the Maldives, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Surinam and Thailand, much of this area is between zero and sixteen feet above sea level .
Weather patterns have been and will continue to be modified. The number of radically hot days will increase frequency and severity of storms, hurricanes, floods, droughts and forest fires will increase, more intense rainfall will bother some areas, and at the same time water supplies in some regions will be disrupted . Entire ecosystems can be changed or even totally destructed . Climate change can be so fast that many forests could die off, unable to adapt .
Warming would also assent conditions for growth in insect populations which will have a negative effect on agriculture and human health, and will result in spread of malaria and other tropical diseases . More consequences are eventually directly and indirectly related to global warming. Many different actions can be taken in response to greenhouse warming. Options that eliminate or reduce greenhouse gases emissions, that balance emissions by removing greenhouse gases from atmosphere, and that help human as well as plant and animal ecosystems adjust or adapt to new climatic conditions and events.
Many combinations of these actions are possible . Human, animals, and plants are able to adapt to different climates but, if the climate changes as rapidly as some computer models project, the present natural ecosystems may become fragmented and break up, some ecosystems might even disappear . Humans have developed a number of devices to adapt themselves and their activities to the changing climate and weather, such as air conditioners for keeping the desirable indoor temperature, tractors to cultivate the large areas of land faster and easier.
If the technology continues to develop, it is feasible that humans will be able to adjust to the climate changes accordingly . Interventions at all levels could effectively reduce global warming. The action should be taken on individual, state and international levels to effectively reduce the warming. Individuals could reduce energy consumption, recycle and reuse goods. People could use cars less, when possible use public transport or walk instead. Yet, when having a personal car, choose from a fuel-efficient model, or from new models which will be powered by other than fossil fuels.
Individuals could buy energy-efficient appliances for their houses. These are easy to find as the United States Federal Law requires labeling those products . To prevent the loss of the extra energy due to the leak of the conditioned air, be it in the winter or summer, families could and should insulate and caulk their houses and use climate control wisely. In a hot climate a light roof for the house will save one fifth of the air conditioning, which will also save energy consumption.
As mentioned above trees reduce gas emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide, and they can be used to shade buildings in the hot seasons while letting the sunlight reach the houses in the cold months of the year. This will decrease the use both of cooling and heating of the houses . Buying the compact fluorescent lamps will save great money on electricity consumption, although they cost more than the regular light bulbs. It is a fact that the half of the energy people use goes to the manufacturing of the products and services people buy. People, especially in United States, are buying a lot more things than they need.
In the United States and many other countries in the world recycling programs are working, encouraging individuals to save forests and the atmosphere. Reducing energy consumption, recycling and reusing glass, plastic and paper items is possible, saves the energy and, therefore lessens the carbon dioxide emissions. These actions individuals can participate in help not only in saving the present climate, but also saving family budgets in the long run. One way states can work on slowing the global warming pace, is to sponsor programs allowing individuals and businesses to contribute to reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases.
One example of such kind will be introducing the alternative sources of power, such as nuclear, solar or wind . The solar power is actually already working in many countries around the world. Governments and the electrical companies of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and the United States have different programs which help people install and use solar panels on the roofs of their houses and on the public use buildings relatively inexpensive, thus saving fossil fuels that are burned .
One of the important actions the governments should take is improving public transport systems and encouraging their use instead of private vehicles, as up to one third of the emissions comes from the vehicles . Stopping government subsidies and introducing concepts like “carbon taxes” will raise the consumer cost of high-emission fuels and thus will decrease the demand for them. The fuel consumption will be therefore reduced . Natural gas emits the lowest amount of carbon dioxide among fossil fuels; and should be encourage for use in electric plants.
Public education is the important factor that can help considerably the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the adaptation to greenhouse warming. Programs for conservation and recycling can change the energy use and consumption. For example, householders may not be aware of the savings they’d gain using high-efficiency furnaces. By the compromise reached in Kyoto the European Union would cut down its greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent below the 1990 levels, the US by seven percent, and Japan by six percent .
In total, thirty-eight nations have signed this agreement and will be reducing emissions by about five percent below 1990 levels . The protocol does not determine how the cutbacks should be achieved, that in of itself seems to be the under lying problem in the progression forward. Global warming is a very complex complicated issue. No certain proof of what causes it can be given. Also the rate of temperature change may only be predicted. Therefore, the effects following atmospheric temperature change are more of a hypothetical nature.
Still, the humanity is taking action to possibly reduce its contribution to the CO emissions and also to reduce the pollution. If we are mistaken and in the future it is discovered that humans contributed to the global warming insignificantly, our children will have a cleaner and safer planet to live on, anyway. On the other hand, if we do nothing is, the present generation will leave to our decedents both bad environment and bad economies, as the resources begin to exhaust. One thing is for certain, that is the climate is changing and the human race is polluting the earth.