Many researchers, scientists, and environmentalists are expressing concerns about changes in the overall climate of the earth. Some believe that a dramatically dangerous warming is taking place in the overall global climate, a problem that is referred to as “global warming.” This paper will attempt to explore this very issue, its causes, dangerous and somehow deadly effects and how we could deal with this global crisis.
Global warming has become perhaps the most complicated issue facing world leaders. Warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder, as an increasing body of science points to rising dangers from the ongoing buildup of human-related greenhouse gases — produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and forests.
WHAT IS GLOBAL WARMING?
The global surface temperature is an estimate of the global mean surface air temperature. However, for changes over time, only anomalies… are used, most commonly based on the area-weighted global average of the sea surface temperature anomaly and land surface air temperature anomaly.
Per Wikipedia, “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that… greenhouse gases are responsible for most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the twentieth century, and that natural phenomena such as solar variation and volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect afterward.
These basic conclusions have been endorsed by more than 40 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries.
What is Greenhouse Effect?
The greenhouse effect refers to circumstances where the short wavelengths of visible light from the sun pass through a transparent medium and are absorbed, but the longer wavelengths of the infrared re-radiation from the heated objects are unable to pass through that medium. The trapping of the long wavelength radiation leads to more heating and a higher resultant temperature. Besides the heating of an automobile by sunlight through the windshield and the namesake example of heating the greenhouse by sunlight passing through sealed, transparent windows, the greenhouse effect has been widely used to describe the trapping of excess heat by the rising concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide strongly absorbs infrared and does not allow as much of it to escape into space.
What are Greenhouse Gases?
A greenhouse gas (sometimes abbreviated GHG) is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. The primary greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. In the Solar System, the atmospheres of Venus, Mars, and Titan also contain gases that cause greenhouse effects. Greenhouse gases greatly affect the temperature of the Earth; without them, Earth’s surface would average about 33°C (59°F) colder than the present average of 14 °C (57 °F).
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to a 40% increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 280 ppm to 397 ppm, despite the uptake of a large portion of the emissions through various natural “sinks” involved in the carbon cycle. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (i.e., emissions produced by human activities) come from combustion of carbon based fuels, principally wood, coal, oil, and natural gas.
GasChemical Formula Anthropogenic SourcesAtmospheric Lifetime Carbon
DioxideCO2Fossil-fuel combustion, Land-use conversion, Cement Production~100 years
Methane CH4Fossil fuels, Rice paddies,
Waste dumps12 years
Industrial processes, Combustion114 years
Tropospheric Ozone O3Fossil fuel combustion, Industrial emissions, Chemical solventshours-days
Foams 100 years
Sulfur HexaflourideSF6Dielectric fluid3,200 years
The Main Greenhouse Gases, their sources and atmospheric lifetime
CAUSES OF GLOBAL WARMING
Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning power plants Our ever increasing addiction to electricity from coal burning power plants releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions come from electricity production, and burning coal accounts for 93% of emissions from the electric utility industry. Every day, more electric gadgets flood the market, and without widespread alternative energy sources, we are highly dependent on burning coal for our personal and commercial electrical supply. Carbon dioxide emissions from burning gasoline for transportation Our modern car culture and appetite for globally sourced goods is responsible for about 33% of emissions in the U.S. With our population growing at an alarming rate, the demand for more cars and consumer goods means that we are increasing the use of fossil fuels for transportation and manufacturing. Our consumption is outpacing our discoveries of ways to mitigate the effects, with no end in sight to our massive consumer culture.
Methane emissions from animals, agriculture such as rice paddies, and from Arctic seabeds Methane is another extremely potent greenhouse gas, ranking right behind CO2. When organic matter is broken down by bacteria under oxygen-starved conditions (anaerobic decomposition) as in rice paddies, methane is produced. The process also takes place in the intestines of herbivorous animals, and with the increase in the amount of concentrated livestock production, the levels of methane released into the atmosphere is increasing. Another source of methane is methane clathrate, a compound containing large amounts of methane trapped in the crystal structure of ice. As methane escapes from the Arctic seabed, the rate of global warming will increase significantly.
Deforestation, especially tropical forests for wood, pulp, and farmland The use of forests for fuel (both wood and for charcoal) is one cause of deforestation, but in the first world, our appetite for wood and paper products, our consumption of livestock grazed on former forest land, and the use of tropical forest lands for commodities like palm oil plantations contributes to the mass deforestation of our world. Forests remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and this deforestation releases large amounts of carbon, as well as reducing the amount of carbon capture on the planet. Increase in usage of chemical fertilizers on croplands
In the last half of the 20th century, the use of chemical fertilizers (as opposed to the historical use of animal manure) has risen dramatically. The high rate of application of nitrogen-rich fertilizers has effects on the heat storage of cropland (nitrogen oxides have 300 times more heat-trapping capacity per unit of volume than carbon dioxide) and the run-off of excess fertilizers creates ‘dead-zones’ in our oceans. EFFECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING
Greenhouse gases can stay in the atmosphere for an amount of years ranging from decades to hundreds and thousands of years. No matter what we do, global warming is going to have some effect on Earth. Here are some of the cautious effects of global warming.
Spread and More outbreaks of deadly diseases
As northern countries warm, disease carrying insects migrate north, bringing plague and disease with them. Indeed some scientists believe that in some countries, thanks to global warming, malaria has not been fully eradicated. As suggested, with warmth comes disease. Climate greatly influences some of the most deadly and widespread diseases currently affecting millions of people across the world. With disease-bearing insects such as mosquitoes able to multiply in staggering numbers thanks to even small rises in temperature, global warming looks set to facilitate the spread of diseases like Malaria, West Nile virus and Dengue fever to parts of the planet usually untouched. The increased number of sick people could even overwhelm public health services – especially in poor or unprepared countries.
The Deadly Dozen is a group of 12 diseases that have been identified as those most likely to spread due to global warming. It includes Avian ‘Flu, Cholera, Plague, Ebola and Tuberculosis. Other sources of serious illnesses are exacerbated by the effects of pollution and the release of CFCs that harm the ozone layer.
Although some areas of Earth will become wetter due to global warming, other areas will suffer serious droughts and heat waves. Africa will receive the worst of it, with more severe droughts also expected in Europe. Water is already a dangerously rare commodity in Africa, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming will exacerbate the conditions and could lead to conflicts and war.
Most of the effects of anthropogenic global warming won’t be good. And these effects spell one thing for the countries of the world: economic consequences. Hurricanes cause billions of dollars in damage, diseases cost money to treat and control and conflicts exacerbate all of these.
Polar ice caps melting
The ice caps melting is a four-pronged danger.
First, it will raise sea levels. There are 5,773,000 cubic miles of water in ice caps, glaciers, and permanent snow. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, if all glaciers melted today the seas would rise about 230 feet. Luckily, that’s not going to happen all in one go! But sea levels will rise. Second, melting ice caps will throw the global ecosystem out of balance. The ice caps are fresh water, and when they melt they will desalinate the ocean, or in plain English – make it less salty. The desalinization of the Gulf current will “screw up” ocean currents, which regulate temperatures. The stream shutdown or irregularity would cool the area around Northeast America and Western Europe. Luckily, that will slow some of the other effects of global warming in that area!
Third, temperature rises and changing landscapes in the Arctic Circle will endanger several species of animals. Only the most adaptable will survive.
Fourth, global warming could snowball with the ice caps gone. Ice caps are white, and reflect sunlight, much of which is reflected back into space, further cooling Earth. If the ice caps melt, the only reflector is the ocean. Darker colors absorb sunlight, further warming the Earth.
Flooding represents one of the most dangerous hazards to human settlements and is one of the most potentially momentous impacts of global warming. As the climate changes, a warming of the seas creates ‘thermal expansion’. This is where warm water begins to take up more space than cool water, making the sea’s surface level increase. Thermal expansion has already raised the height of the oceans by 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20cm), according to National Geographic. Steadily melting glacial ice also adds significantly to the elevation in water surface level, and many low-lying or coastal communities and facilities will be under threat of eradication should the sea levels continue to rise. An increase of just a single meter (3 ft) would submerge considerable sections of the U.S. eastern seaboard, while one sixth of Bangladesh could be lost permanently by a rise of 1.5 m (5 ft), to name just two examples. The relocation of power stations, refineries, hospitals, homes and so on would become an expensive priority. Also, warmer air can hold more water vapor, increasing the level of rainfall and bringing flooding to inland areas.
Fires and wildfires
As the planet continues to warm, dry areas of land that are already susceptible to wildfires are likely to be ravaged by even more frequent and destructive episodes. In 2007, more than 3,000 fires brought destruction to Southeastern Europe thanks to a long summer that created arid and parched conditions – a situation that would become normal as a consequence of the greenhouse effect. What’s more, the carbon dioxide and ‘black carbon’ (a very fine soot) released by these large-scale fires together with the deforestation they cause further compounds the problem of air pollution – as the gases that help to create the greenhouse effect are supplemented and less mature trees survive to draw CO2 from the atmosphere.
With ocean temperature being a key factor for hurricane formation, the consequences of global warming will inevitably include the increased generation of storms and hurricanes with greater power and frequency. The destructive power of hurricanes has increased by some 50% in the last 30 years, a figure that is closely connected with the rising temperature of the ocean. Warmer water leads to greater evaporation, which in turn helps to not just ‘prime’ the coalescence of hurricanes and cyclones but also to maintain their vigour once extant. Simply put, warmer oceans make for more extreme weather including devastating storms.
Death by smog
A powerful combination of vehicular fumes, ground-level ozone, airborne industrial pollution and the stagnant hot air associated with heat waves, smog represents an immediate and chronic health threat to those living in built-up urban areas. It exacerbates pre-existing health conditions that affect the respiratory system such as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma, and in general impedes the immune system’s ability to fight against infection and disease.
How global warming affects desertification is not entirely understood, yet it is clear that an elevation in atmospheric and ground-level temperatures is likely to aggravate soil and vegetation loss in already hot climes. An increase in evapotranspiration and the accompanying decrease in rainfall mean that already semi-arid and sub-humid areas found across the world would face a future barrenness that is almost irreversible. This would negatively affect biodiversity and have a major impact on local human cultures and wildlife.
Although global warming does not directly influence the formation of tsunamis, they can be generated by events that are brought about by an amplification of the planet’s temperature. One example is the melting of ice sheets. Being extremely heavy, massive glaciers apply a considerable amount of pressure to the Earth’s surface underneath them. This anchorage decreases as the glaciers diminish, resulting in a ‘freeing up’ of tectonic masses that can lead to massive earthquakes and significant volcanic activity, both of which are capable of creating deadly tsunamis.
Increased volcanic activity
As already noted, melting glaciations can usher in new, more frequent and more dangerous episodes of volcanic activity. The shifting pressures brought about by the lightening of the vast ice sheets allows the Earth’s crust to ‘bounce back’ and can cause eruptions in unexpected places – like the one experienced during Iceland’s Gjálp eruption, where magma reached the surface at an unusual intermediary point between two volcanoes. Migration, conflict and wars
It is possible that future centuries could see increased friction between nations and ethnic groups as dwindling resources lead to migration and conflict. Countries and factions would seek to control precious, dwindling resources and provide safety and shelter for their own people – perhaps at the cost of others. Simultaneously, previously heavily populated places would become uninhabitable due to heat or other factors, displacing millions of people. These refugee hordes might be corralled into semi-permanent camps, or even suffer at the hands of unwelcoming native groups.
Loss of biodiversity and animal extinction
Loss of habitat for polar-ice edge communities such as polar bears is perhaps the most obvious consequence of having a warmer climate. Animals that are entirely dependent on cold environments will retreat to more northerly locations as the planet heats up – leading to encroachment upon other eco-systems and displacement of other animals from their natural habitat. A strong connection between oceanic warming, declines in reproduction and increases in mortality rates among seabirds, seals and sea lions has already been observed. Acid rain has also been identified as having an adverse influence. One example of this is the death of large amounts of snails in areas prone to acidic precipitation. Birds depends upon the snails as a calcium-rich food source and, without a suitable replacement for this loss to their diet, lay eggs with a much higher amount of defective shells.
Death of ocean life
The world’s oceans absorb roughly 30% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide that seeps into the atmosphere, and so inevitably, as more fossil fuels are burned, ocean life will continue to suffer the negative consequences of global warming. One of the most critical changes brought about by global warming is the ongoing reduction of phytoplankton. These tiny plants are an integral food source for ocean life and are responsible for around half of the world’s photosynthetic activity. Essentially, they are the foundations of the oceanic food chain, so a reduction in their numbers creates a knock-on effect that ripples up the entire food chain, particularly affecting the predators at the top.
Diminished food and water supplies
With greatly reduced rainfall, more severe droughts and loss of soil fertility, food and water supplies would soon diminish, resulting in higher prices, famine, disease, malnutrition, starvation and, ultimately, death. Politically unstable countries or badly affected areas might descend into various degrees of anarchy, with governmental collapses and shifts in authority as those in control of resources become more powerful. Countries that still retain good food and water resources might be unwilling to part with these vital commodities or accept the millions of refugees that would seek new homes.
GLOBAL WARMING PREVENTION
Government Solutions to Global Warming
Governments can take several steps to reduce the threat of global warming. First and foremost, the United States and other industrial nations must use less of the fossil fuels — especially coal, oil, and gasoline — that produce carbon dioxide, the most significant heat-trapping gas. Industrial countries are responsible for the largest share of worldwide emissions of heat-trapping gases. But these nations also have a great ability to switch to cutting-edge energy technologies that produce fewer of these emissions. Second, the nations of the world must negotiate a climate change treaty with legally binding limits on emissions of heat-trapping gases. The United States can reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions through four principal strategies that make use of new energy technologies: improving energy efficiency, developing renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power, reducing gasoline consumption for transportation, and switching from coal and oil to natural gas. Improve Energy Efficiency
The less energy we use, the less carbon dioxide we will produce. Over the past 20 years, American industry and consumers have begun to switch to more-efficient motors, vehicles, appliances, windows, and manufacturing processes. This switch has saved considerable energy and money, but much greater efficiency is possible.
Develop Renewable Energy
Clean, safe, renewable sources, such as solar, wind, and sustainably grown biomass (plant matter), can provide us with energy but do not contribute to global warming. These technologies are ready to be deployed much more widely, but government policies must encourage their use. Reduce Gasoline Consumption for Transportation
Cars, trucks, and buses consume over half of the oil used in the United States. Highly efficient gasoline-powered cars, and alternatively fueled vehicles such as electric and fuel-cell cars and buses, can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by using less or no gasoline. In addition, policies can encourage consumers to drive less and to use alternatives to single-passenger automobile trips, such as carpools, bicycles, and public transportation.
Switch from Coal and Oil to Natural Gas
Although natural gas is a fossil fuel, it produces less carbon dioxide than either coal or oil. Changing from coal to natural gas for generating electricity and from oil to natural gas for home heating is thus desirable as a quick fix, even though these switches alone cannot reduce carbon dioxide emissions nearly as much as is necessary. Additional Government Steps
Reducing American use of coal, oil, and gasoline would start to address the global warming threat, but other steps, such as transferring technology to developing countries, preserving forests, decreasing atmospheric methane, continuing to phase out CFCs, and slowing down population growth, are also important. They can also provide benefits in addition to reducing global warming. Forest preservation, for example, would protect endangered species, while slower population growth would make it easier to supply adequate food for all the world’s people.
Transfer Technology to Developing Countries
American businesses, the government, and international organizations need to find ways to transfer advanced energy technologies to developing countries, so that those nations can build their economies without having to use the older, polluting fossil fuel technologies that the industrial countries are now trying to phase out. Preserve and Plant Forests
Trees take in carbon dioxide and use it to grow. Deforestation, especially in the tropics where many of the largest, most important forests are located, contributes significantly to global warming. Efforts to preserve forests and to plant trees on deforested land are essential not only for preventing global warming but also for preserving biodiversity. Decrease Methane in the Atmosphere
Although methane contributes much less to global warming than does carbon dioxide, it is still responsible for about 15 percent of the problem. Among other steps to decrease methane emissions, the nations of the world can prevent leaks from natural gas pipelines, cut methane emissions from landfills, and reduce their use of beef for food. Continue to Phase Out CFCs
Because chlorofluorocarbons are responsible for depleting the protective ozone layer, the nations of the world have agreed to stop using them. These chemicals also trap heat, so vigilance in enforcing the international agreements to phase out their use will help slow global warming as well.
Slow Down Population Growth
Although technological and economic changes can reduce per capita emissions of heat-trapping gases, continued large population increases will make it harder to dramatically reduce total emissions. Reductions in population growth rates will make the task of slowing global warming easier. WAYS OF PREVENTING GLOBAL WARMING AS AN INDIVIDUAL
Everyone can help to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, which in turn reduces global warming, by using energy more wisely. Here are simple actions you can take to help reduce global warming. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Do your part to reduce waste by choosing reusable products instead of disposables. Buying products with minimal packaging (including the economy size when that makes sense for you) will help to reduce waste. And whenever you can, recycle paper, plastic, newspaper, glass and aluminum cans. If there isn’t a recycling program at your workplace, school, or in your community, ask about starting one. By recycling half of your household waste, you can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning
Adding insulation to your walls and attic, and installing weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows can lower your heating costs more than 25 percent, by reducing the amount of energy you need to heat and cool your home. Turn down the heat while you’re sleeping at night or away during the day, and keep temperatures moderate at all times. Setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower in winter and higher in summer could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. Change a Light Bulb
Wherever practical, replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Replacing just one 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a CFL will save you $30 over the life of the bulb. CFLs also last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, use two-thirds less energy, and give off 70 percent less heat.
Drive Less and Drive Smart
Less driving means fewer emissions. Besides saving gasoline, walking and biking are great forms of exercise. Explore your community mass transit system, and check out options for carpooling to work or school. When you do drive, make sure your car is running efficiently. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent. Every gallon of gas you save not only helps your budget, it also keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Buy Energy-Efficient Products
When it’s time to buy a new car, choose one that offers good gas mileage. Home appliances now come in a range of energy-efficient models, and compact florescent bulbs are designed to provide more natural-looking light while using far less energy than standard light bulbs. Avoid products that come with excess packaging, especially molded plastic and other packaging that can’t be recycled. If you reduce your household garbage by 10 percent, you can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Use Less Hot Water
Set your water heater at 120 degrees to save energy, and wrap it in an insulating blanket if it is more than 5 years old. Buy low-flow showerheads to save hot water and about 350 pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Wash your clothes in warm or cold water to reduce your use of hot water and the energy required to produce it. That change alone can save at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide annually in most households. Use the energy-saving settings on your dishwasher and let the dishes air-dry. Use the “Off” Switch
Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off lights when you leave a room, and using only as much light as you need. And remember to turn off your television, video player, stereo and computer when you’re not using them. It’s also a good idea to turn off the water when you’re not using it. While brushing your teeth, shampooing the dog or washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it for rinsing. You’ll reduce your water bill and help to conserve a vital resource.
Plant a Tree
If you have the means to plant a tree, start digging. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. They are an integral part of the natural atmospheric exchange cycle here on Earth, but there are too few of them to fully counter the increases in carbon dioxide caused by automobile traffic, manufacturing and other human activities. A single tree will absorb approximately one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime. Get a Report Card from Your Utility Company
Many utility companies provide free home energy audits to help consumers identify areas in their homes that may not be energy efficient. In addition, many utility companies offer rebate programs to help pay for the cost of energy-efficient upgrades. Encourage Others to Conserve
Share information about recycling and energy conservation with your friends, neighbors and co-workers, and take opportunities to encourage public officials to establish programs and policies that are good for the environment. These 10 steps will take you a long way toward reducing your energy use and your monthly budget. And less energy use means less dependence on the fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases and contribute to global warming.
Global warming, along with the cutting and burning of forests and other critical habitats, is causing the loss of living species at a level comparable to the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. That event was believed to have been caused by a giant asteroid. This time it is not an asteroid colliding with the Earth and wreaking havoc: it is us. We can believe in the future and work to achieve it and preserve it, or we can whirl blindly on, behaving as if one day there will be no children to inherit our legacy. The choice is ours; the earth is in balance. The planet is in distress and all of the attentions are on non-sense things. We have to act together to solve this global crisis. Our ability to live is what is at stake. So, are you willing to act before it’s too late?
http://usliberals.about.com/od/environmentalconcerns/a/GlobalWarm1.htm and http://www.termpaperwarehouse.com/essay-on/Global-Warming/64134 – Global Warming
http://www.x98ruhf.net/global_warming.htm – Greenhouse Effect and Green House Gases
http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/sciencetech/5-deadliest-effects-of-global-warming/276?image=0#vV2PxdKC2qoyypZV.99 – Effects of Global Warming
http://planetsave.com/2009/06/07/global-warming-effects-and-causes-a-top-10-list/ – Causes of Global Warming
http://environment.about.com/od/globalwarming/tp/globalwarmtips.htm – Prevention of Global Warming
http://www.portaec.net/library/energy/government_solutions_to_global_w.html – Government Solution to Global Warming