Throughout the world, the presence of particular diseases and other threats to human health depend largely on the local climate. Extreme variation in temperature can directly, and indirectly, cause the loss of human life. The threat of a gradual increase in temperature could be catastrophic to the world, as we know it. As recently as 1999, a heat wave killed more than 250 people in Chicago alone (Union of Concerned Scientists).
Many right off such an event as a natural disaster. However, scientist warn the average global temperature has increase 0.5 a F in the past 40 years. This is half of the total increase in surface temperature, 1aF, since the late 19th century.At its current rate, the global temperature could rise 2a to 6aF in the next 100 years (Union of Concerned Scientist).
Such a drastic increase in the rate of temperature increase is due to the industrial revolution. In the past 40 years, the world has seen a drastic increase in population and the use of fossil fuels (gasoline, oil, coal or natural gas).These fuels are used to run our cars, heat and cool our homes, manufacture goods in our factories and to ship goods for worldwide consumption.
The focus, until lately, has been to produce maximum product at a minimum price to maximize profit. Little to no care was taken to minimize the amount of fossil fuels used in the production of goods. Recently, it has become evident that such practices lead to the production of greenhouse gases. Whenever fossil fuels are burned for energy, greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide builds up in the earths atmosphere (Union of Concerned Scientists).
Another reason why greenhouse gases have increased is due to the decrease in the amount of plant life, commonly called deforestation. Plant life is the only thing known on earth to consume carbon dioxide.However, due to the need of raw materials (wood and paper pulp), industrial nations tend to cut down more trees than they can reforest (Fuller 454). Also, toxins produced as a by-product of industrialization have killed plant life.Therefore, a greater amount of carbon dioxide is being produced at the same time less carbon dioxide is being consumed, leading to dangerous consequences.
The combination of pollutants and deforestation has lead to what is commonly called the Greenhouse Effect. The term Greenhouse Effect comes from the understanding that pollutants thickening the earths atmosphere keep heat trapped in the atmosphere. Thereby leading to an increase in the earths temperature, or Global Warming. Although, a increase of a few degrees over hundreds of years doesnt seem like much to some people, the variance is great enough to allow some deadly bacteria to thrive and disease to spread. Moreover, warmer temperatures can increase air and water pollution, which could harm human health.
In the past few years, there has been an increasing amount of reports that correspond with these theories. Worldwide, there have been reports of cases indicating a spread of mosquito-born infectious disease, heat stroke and asthma / respiratory disease.It is believed that the 1aF change in average global temperature has much to do with such harm to human health.
The past few years have brought record heat to many parts of the world, including the United States. Southern Africa has reported 1985-1995 to be the warmest and driest decade on their record (Union of Concerned Scientists). Glasgow, Montana reported no sub-zero days in the year 1997, a first. However, the greatest impact is felt when hundreds of lives are lose due to a heat wave. Such was the case in Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 1999. Over 250 died due to heat related complications. The most susceptible to hotter temperatures are children and the elderly.
The combustion of fossil fuels brought about an ever-increasing rise in the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Some scientists believe that, as the greenhouse effect is intensified, long-term climatic changes on the Earth will result. According to some predictions, significant alterations in climate patterns could become apparent by the end of the 20th century.
Estimates of global average temperatures have projected an increase of as much as 9XF (5XC) before the year 2100. Such a rise in global temperature, some scientists hypothesize, would produce new patterns and extremes of drought and rainfall, which would seriously disrupt food production. Temperature increases in the polar regions could be as much as three times greater than the global estimate, which would cause the polar ice caps to melt at a rapid rate and result in appreciably higher coastal waters.
Other factors may reduce the effect of an increase in carbon dioxide and thus prevent a rise in temperature. One of these factors is the rise in the amount of dust in the atmosphere, as the result of a volcanic eruption, for example. This could lead to greater reflection of the sun’s light by the atmosphere, which would tend to lower the temperature on Earth.
Another factor helping to minimize the effect of increased amounts of carbon dioxide is the greater absorption of the gas by the oceans. Some scientists believe that water vapor plays a much more significant role than does carbon dioxide in the Earth’s greenhouse effect and that fluctuations in it are therefore much more important.