Currently, global warming is a major world issue. Despite initial opposition to the suggestion by some scientists about increasing global temperatures, many governments, businesses, and mainstream researchers have recently acknowledged the existence of a new phenomenon known as global warming. Global warming has been described as the consistent rise in global temperatures (Thompson 153-54). According to a report prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global temperatures averagely increased by 0.9 C from 1880 to 2012. Further, the report indicated that preindustrial temperatures rose by 1.1 C. Based on the highlighted trends, IPCC predicted that, by the end of the of the 21st century, the global average temperature would rise by 0.3 to 5.4 C when it is measured against the mean temperature increase recorded between 1986 and 2012(IPCC). Evidently, by the turn of the century, global climate would have changed significantly due to increased supply of heat waves in the atmosphere. This paper will explore the causes and effects of global warming; potential solutions to the problem; and concessions, arguments and counter-arguments about the proposed solutions to global warming.
Causes of Global Warming
A critical element driving up global temperatures is pollution. The pollution that climate scientists have identified as the primary cause for the rise in global temperatures is massive emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases prevent solar heat that 'powers' the Earth from radiating into space, resulting in the rise of temperatures. The gases causing the greenhouse effect include nitrous oxide (N2O), water vapor (H2O), methane (CH4), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and carbon dioxide gas (CO2).Although it is not a major component of the atmosphere, CO2 is the primary driver of the crowding out of the atmosphere with heat, thus identified as the primary contributor of global warming (Venkataramanan and Smitha 226; nasa.gov; Thompson 162). Given the preeminence of CO2 in the prevention of solar heat from escaping into space, subsequent sections of the paper shall prominently feature this gas as the contributing factor to global warming.
CO2 is made available in the atmosphere through many sources. The gas is released into the atmosphere through natural mechanisms such as respiration and volcanic eruptions. Other sources include human activities such as deforestation and burning of fossil fuels (nasa.gov). Since emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere majorly occur through natural processes and human-induced mechanisms, the presence of huge amounts of the gas in the atmosphere is a huge concern for the global populations.
Human activities are the largest contributors of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere with the impact of people felt hardest at least in the last sixty years. Statistics suggest that humans have contributed to the rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than a third since the start of the Industrial Revolution (nasa.gov). The burning of fossils fuels has been identified as the highest contributor to increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. By burning fossil fuels, humans release approximately 26 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually (Venkataramanan and Smitha 226; observatory.nasa.gov). At the same, increase in population, especially in developing countries, has resulted in the widespread clearing of forests and grasslands to pave the way for farmland and cities (Venkataramanan and Smitha 226-27). Evidently, human activities not only increase the amount of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere but also interfere with the natural mechanisms through carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are regulated in the atmosphere. The phenomenal rise in the use of fossil fuels in the last half of a century among newly-developed and developing nations has made the situation even worse today.
Natural processes make a smaller contribution to the rise of global temperatures. Averagely, volcanic eruptions emit between 130 and 230 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year (obervatory.nasa.gov). Despite the highlighted volume of CO2 emissions being modest in comparison to the amount released by human activities, evidence suggests that volcanoes indeed make a significant contribution to the increasing global temperatures. For instance, the El Chichon in 1982 and Pinatubo in 1991volcanic eruptions released huge amounts of sulphur dioxide gas (SO2) high into the atmosphere. The gas converted into small particles which stayed in the atmosphere for a year, resulting in shading of the Earth and blockage of sunlight. This led to a decrease in global temperatures for at least two years (obervatory.nasa.gov). Other causes include inorganic agricultural activities.
Effects of Global Warming
A major characteristic of global is climate change has been manifested in the melting of ice. Glaciers act as early indicators of climate change due to their ability to respond quickly to change in temperatures (Thompson 153-54).All over the world, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that glaciers have melted at an alarming rate over the last century. For instance, one study done by Thompson and other climate scientists established that Kibo, the highest crater on Mount Kilimanjaro had lost 85 percent of its ice cover from 1912 to 2006. The same study found that Glacier National Park in Montana, which contained more than 100 glaciers at the time of inception in 1910, had only 26 glaciers remaining by 2006 and estimates suggest that the glaciers in park will disappear by 2030(Thompson 155-58).The disappearance of ice and glaciers are likely to diminish the value of these areas as tourist destinations in the next few decades.
Perhaps an area where the disappearance of ice is likely to be felt hardest is along the coastlines. The change in climatic conditions has contributed to the rise of sea levels as a result of the melting of land ice sheets and glaciers and thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm in response to the increase of temperatures (Thompson 153; Venkataramanan and Smitha 227).Coastal tide gauge records from 1870 to 2000 indicate that there has been a steady rise in waters of oceans along the coastlines. The global sea level averagely rose to about 8 inches from 1880 to 2009.The US's East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico witnessed the highest increase in the sea levels in the entire US coastline (nasa.gov; ucsusa.org).The rise in water levels in the sea is likely to submerge cities along the shorelines. As a result, many cities can be expected to retreat to avoid economic catastrophes. Equally, the melting of land ice is likely to reduce the amount of water available for human consumption and agriculture. Such outcomes would destroy essential drivers of global economies.
One of the observed effects of the warming of the Earth is the occurrence of extreme weather conditions such as flooding. It is a well-established scientific principle that the warmer the air the more the ability of the air to hold water vapor. The amount of moisture contained in the atmospheric air increases rapidly with a rise in global temperature levels. Thus, global warming increases the risk of flooding since the amount of rain that can fall during a heavy downpour increases exponentially as global temperatures rise (Abraham theguardian.com; Kundzewicz et al.7; Thompson 163-65). Since global temperatures are expected to continue to increase dramatically throughout the 21st century, it can be anticipated that the extreme flooding would be witnessed across many parts of the world.
Already, there have been severe flooding cases around the world. The distribution of these flooding cases suggests that no part of the world has been spared from the effects of global warming. For instance, in 2011, severe flooding occurred in Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia and Uganda in Africa; Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, and the US in the Americas; India, China, Thailand, Pakistani and the Philippines in Asia. In 2012, deadly floods were witnessed in Niger, Madagascar and Nigeria in Africa; India, China, Bangladesh, the Koreas, Russia and the Philippines in Asia; and the US, Argentina and Haiti in the Americas (Kundzewicz et al. 3).According to Kundzewicz et al., besides causing several deaths, these floods destroyed property, livestock, infrastructure, and crops; also led to the outbreak of diseases in the areas they occurred (3-7). These effects lower the quality of lives of populations by undermining the avenues through which humans access vital resources whose availability determines their survival.
Potential Solutions to Global Warming
A majority of the proposed solutions shall highlight several ways of reducing pollutants in land, oceans and the atmosphere. Essentially, it is all about reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Recycling of products, adoption of renewable methods of energy, tightening regulations, reforestation, and relocation of cities, can be potential solutions to the problem of global warming. Recycling of products such as plastic, paper, newspapers, aluminium can and glass can reduce the amount of waste that is disposed of through burning. A reduction in the burning of waste products that emit CO2 means that the amount of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere is reduced. For instance, a decline of household garbage by 10% has the potential to reduce 1200 pounds of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere every year (Venkataramanan and Smitha 228-29). A decrease in the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would result in reduction of atmospheric temperatures because more of the heat radiated from the Earth would effectively escape into space.
Adoption of renewable sources of energy is one of the most viable options for the mitigation of the problem of climate change. These sources of energy include wind, geothermal, and solar. Embracing of renewable sources of energy would reduce the demand for pollutant sources of energy such as fossil fuels (Venkataramanan and Smitha 229; Thompson 167). As a result, CO2 released into the atmosphere each year would reduce substantially thereby decreasing the amount of atmospheric heat.
Reforestation increases the spread of vegetation cover. Expansion of forests increases the amount of natural carbon storage systems. In other words, expansion of vegetation would increase the amount of carbon dioxide used by the plants thereby reducing its concentration in the atmosphere. Restoration of natural buffers such as mangroves can also help defend coastlines against the rising sea waters (Venkataramanan and Smitha 229; Thompson 167). With records of carbon dioxide emissions at a record high, planting more trees and increasing overall global vegetation cover are imperatives for the reduction of pollution.
Tightening of regulations is one of the effective mechanisms of tackling issues of climate change. Liaison between global environmental authorities and governments can provide a platform upon which anti-pollution laws can be crafted and enforced. For instance, laws advocating for the closure of coal-burning plants can be effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, heavy taxation on carbon-related use, like the case of tobacco, can limit the industrial production of such products which would, in turn, reduce consumption (Thompson 167). Despite the eventuality of loss of jobs, the long-term positive effects of the absence of such products should be the overriding principle behind the phasing out of CO2 -producing investments.
Some climate scientists have suggested adaptive mechanisms that operate on the notion that climate change is unavoidable. For instance, relocation of cities can be an effective way of dealing with rising water levels along c...
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