Global Warming Essay

Global Warming Term paper

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Living in the 21st century it is impossible to not be familiar with Global Warming – a term used to describe an increase in the Earth’s average temperature. While there is much ongoing debate over the cause of this, one thing is certain: Global Warming is very real, with the planet warming by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the 20th century alone, with over half of this happening from 1980 onward [1]. This change in temperature can be linked to an increase in violent weather, natural disasters, and the general balance of nature throughout the world. Data collection the latter half of the 20th century shows that greenhouse gas emissions from man-made sources are rising dramatically and here in the 21st century things are no better, with a 3% rise in global greenhouse emissions in 2011 alone [2]. Clearly our infrastructure is critical, but at what cost? We clearly must take measures that enable us to prosper but also allow for us to look after the well-being of our planet, and minimalize environmental impact from industry and transportation. Causes of Global Warming Rise in global mean temperature increases can be directly linked to fluctuating levels in greenhouse gasses, which are, water vapor, methane, ozone and carbon dioxide. Increasing greenhouse gasses can be linked to industry, such as the burning of coal for power, and the more well-known CO2 produced by motor-vehicles [3]. A less well known contribution to global warming is one actually caused by global warming itself, the decrease in Earth’s Albedo. Albedo is a term that describes the reflectivity of an object. Polar Ice caps have a high albedo, rising ocean temperatures from other sources of global warming are causing our ice caps to reduce in size, thusly lowering Earth’s Albedo. Worse still is the release of trapped methane from the ancient ice into the atmosphere as the poles decline [4]. Other less known causes are deforestation, and the proliferation of nitrous oxide from fertilizers as well as gasses used for refrigeration and industrial processes [5]. These gasses, known as Chlorofluorocarbons or CFC’s are broken down by UV rays, and allow their free unattached chlorines to react with O3 in the upper atmosphere, breaking it down into oxygen, which in turn depletes the ability of the atmosphere to deflect harmful UV rays. Effects of Global Warming Global warming on earth is detrimental to human and animal life. Increasing global temperatures will cause a shift in geographical clime that is suitable for farming. While this doesn’t sound too detrimental to agriculture, animal life will not be adaptive to these changes, fishing will be adversely affected and may even lead to extinction in some areas. Another means by which the climate is affected is through the warming of the oceans. As global average temperature increases Earth’s polar ice caps are melted back into water. This has significant impact that is not immediately apparent. Apart from the rise in ocean level, which will cause a redistribution of population, the depletion of the polar ice caps also causes a loss in Earth’s Albedo, causing more heat energy to be absorbed from the sun, which in turn further warms the Earth. As the poles retreat methane clathrate, a compound containing methane trapped within the crystalline structure of ice will release methane, a greenhouse gas, back into the atmosphere, causing additional warming still.[6] Similarly rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will lead to an increase in acidity in the oceans [7]. A recent WWF report on coral reefs states that coral populations can collapse as soon as 2100 due to increased temperatures [8] Other ocean species may be affected by climate change as well, such as phytoplankton, which are very sensitive to changes in UV ray levels. A decrease in the level of plankton would have a disastrous effect on the food chain, namely on creatures that feed directly off of plankton, such as some whales and fish. This impact would continue down the chain causing other unknown damage. This increase in Ultraviolet radiation can be directly linked to the depletion of the ozone layer through substances such as chlorofluorocarbons [9]. Lastly climate change has a dramatic impact on violent weather. In the 20th century the summer of 1998 was the warmest summer of the century, recently broken by 2012, and just recently super storms like Katrina and Sandy have left thousands dead and caused billions in damages while setting records for gale strength and size. These changes are happening at least in part by the melting of the fresh water ice caps diluting our salt water oceans. This dilution has a profound effect on currents, effecting gulfstream patterns, which will in turn cause large changes to various areas around the world. [10, 11] Prevention Knowing the causes of global warming can provide a course of action in eliminating it. It is known that CFC’s, methane, carbon dioxide, and even water vapor are contributors to global warming, so steps must be taken to regulate and monitor levels of these gasses. Industry must monitor pollutants given off the atmosphere, deforestation needs to be slowed or stopped. Recycling techniques can facilitate this, with one ton of recycled paper saving nearly 17 trees [12]. Similarly the unchecked and unfiltered burning of substances such as fossil fuels, wood and coal may not go unchecked as it releases carbon to the atmosphere. CFC’s have already been banned in the United States [13], and there are responsible alternatives to use for legacy hardware that makes use of those older gasses. Carbon emissions from vehicles can be eliminated by carpooling, public transportation, electric or alternative fuel vehicles and even just through the proliferation of more fuel efficient vehicles. Another way to reduce contributions to global warming may start at the individual level, with more energy efficient appliances being used in the home, and practices such as making sure to turn off a light when not using it. Alternative home energies such as solar power take strain off of conventional sources and lower overall emissions. Steps should be taken to educate younger generations to be efficient consumers and not to abuse energy and resources. In conclusion, it is clear that environmental responsibility must not only lie with the individual, but also at the governmental and corporate level. Much damage has already been done, but through responsible policies and environmentally friendly industrial techniques global warming can be slowed or stopped. Global warming exists chiefly as a result of the culture of ignorance that surrounds it, with many having the belief that it in fact does not even exist. Changing the current consumer culture and self-serving mindset of the modern world to adapt a more responsible energy model is paramount to continued civilization, possibly even life. To quote Martin Luther King, Jr., we must live together as brothers or perish together as fools

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