Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Global Warming & Its Effects

Global Warming & Its Effects
Nick DAlleva

Global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer have been a concern over the last two decades and have recently become a very prominent global issue and a topic. While many opponents argue against the existence of the greenhouse effect, proof of it can be seen throughout nature.

Each year the United States spends over 20 million dollars buying fossil fuels. This country emits one fourth of the world’s greenhouse gases; the most prominent of these gases is carbon dioxide, which is released from the burning of fossil fuels. Global warming has been a global issue for many years now. Some countries and people claim to be only vaguely concerned with the cause because they were unaware or uninformed of the issue. Roger Revelle, an oceanographer, helped to call out the problem to the public. After not receiving much feedback towards his cause, he criticized different governments in a jocular manner. He called warming “the great geophysical experiment.” He said, “The experiment is to load the atmosphere with as much carbon dioxide as possible, add a few other harmful gases, and see what happens.” Recently, several countries have been passing laws to prevent the world’s overheated destiny. Even with the setting of new rules and regulations, the earth continues to warm each year. Minimal efforts made to reduce the release of greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, increase the rate and intensity of global warming.

The most prominent effect of global warming exists in the climate change over the past years. Many people are unaware that global warming causes and changes all types of weather. The heating of the earth causes the magnitude and strength of weather conditions to increase. As the oceans get warmer, the intensity of hurricanes amplifies in power and devastation. In addition, many costal cities and regions have recently been experiencing flooding, caused by the melting of the polar icecaps. The Arctic’s perennial icecaps decline in area by nine percent each year. In the past thirty years, over ten national records were set for the highest temperatures in the summer and winter. Droughts and forest fires have been occurring dramatically more often in the past century. All of these effects have been directly linked to the release of greenhouse gases.

Another area affected by global warming is the animal kingdom and nature. The number of animals per specie has been decreasing annually due to harsh environmental changes. As the polar icecaps melt, all creatures that live there are left without shelter. For example, as seal dens have been melting, the number of seals has dropped. Events that occur in the spring, such as mating, migrating, laying eggs, and returning from hibernation have been taking place approximately 5.1 days earlier than they were fifty years ago. The early occurrence of these events proves that the earth is getting warmer each year. More proof of warming is the evidence of many animals traveling farther from the equator as they migrate. Although this change has been occurring with various creatures, butterflies and mosquitoes are being found the farthest from their natural habitats. Even though butterflies do not cause any known problems with the environment, mosquitoes are carries of malaria. This deadly disease has dangerously spread to new regions across the globe. If the world continues to warm, this issue, along with many others, will continue to grow.

A third type of evidence of global warming can be found in plants. Vegetation in an area differs concurrently with the climate of that same area. Throughout many parts of the world, flowers bloom 7 days earlier and trees reproduce 10 days earlier, both since 1900. As the growing seasons vary from very wet to very dry, agricultural growth cannot adapt. In some recent years, regions’ crops have been both flooded and dried out. Due to the depletion of the ozone, many crops cannot survive. Another problem is the movement and increase of allergens. Carbon in the atmosphere allows plants to go through photosynthesis more rapidly, allowing allergens to grow in number. This evidence found throughout all of nature makes it very clear that global warming is a huge issue.

A combination of various actions and, in some cases, not enough action causes global warming in the world today. The leading cause of global warming is the ongoing burning of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, along with the other greenhouse gases of methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluocarbons, is the cause of the greenhouse effect. This effect is dangerously increasing as the gases are being released in greater quantities. These gases not only build up to keep heat in the atmosphere, but they also thin the ozone layer. Some areas have been so thinned by the gases that there are holes present in the ozone. These dangerous holes allow harmful UV rays from the sun to reach the earth. UV rays are the main cause of skin cancer. As the earth continues to increase its pollution level each year, the number of skin cancer patients increases.

Because it releases carbon dioxide into the air, the burning of fossil fuels is an environmentally harmful practice. Carbon dioxide can be absorbed by seawater. If the water is cold, it can hold more gas. Unfortunately, with global warming, the temperature of the oceans has been increasing. As the temperatures increase, more carbon dioxide is released. This vicious circle will continue to occur unless scientists cannot this from occurring. Particularly, petrol, or gasoline, is a leading source of the release of these carbon dioxide compounds. Petrol contains hydrocarbons that release carbon dioxide when they are burned. This reaction is unfortunately unavoidable. The only solution is a different fuel source. Carbon dioxide, once released, lasts up to 100 years in the atmosphere. It is the most abundant heat-absorbent gas besides water vapor, which is not considered as a greenhouse gas because it rains back to the earth in a continuous cycle.  The Mauna Loa Observatory has been measuring the level of carbon dioxide daily since 1958. Since their research began, the level in the atmosphere has drastically increased by 47 parts per million. Carbon dioxide makes up about one-half of the causes of global warming.

Although carbon dioxide largely harms the environment, the other greenhouse gases have a large impact in the atmosphere. Methane, the next most prominent harmful gas, comes from cattle, asphalt, coal, oil, and rice fields. Lasting only ten years, methane absorbs thirty times more heat than carbon dioxide. Another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, lasts approximately 180 years and absorbs 200 times more heat than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide comes from microbes in soil that are found in fertilizers. Slash-and-burn farming and the burning of some fossil fuels also emit nitrous oxide. The final greenhouse gas, chlorofluocarbon, lasts 400 years in the air and retains 16, 000 times more heat. Chlorofluocarbons escape from various cooling systems. The combination of these four gases results in the retention of intense amounts of heat.

Throughout the world, various nations have been joining to help prevent or slow the process of global warming. On February 3, 2007, French president, Jacques Chirac, proposed a new plan to prevent global warming.  He stated, “It’s our responsibility. The future of humanity demands it.” Forty-five nations, not including the United States, joined him in his efforts. Al Gore, however, is very involved with global warming and the greenhouse effect; he supports Chirac and plans to help. As it is the largest contributor to global warming, the United States unfortunately supports only voluntary reduction programs.

The issue of global warming affects nature, people, and the economy. To some people, global warming is not of their concern because they feel it does not affect them. Although they may not realize it, global warming affects everyone, especially the future generations. Scientists mathematically simulate the globe’s weather systems. Their complex equations, called general circulation models (GCMs), are so complex and involve countless elements that they can take days to solve. Environmentalists verify that the hazardous combination of flooding and drought will significantly increase within the next century. The standard sea level has been rising annually for a while now. Some say that if the earth continues on the path it is on, then 95% of the Great Barrier Reef will disappear by 2075. They calculate that the glaciers in Glacier National Park could melt by 2030, and 37% of all species could be extinct by 2050.

Scientists directly link disease to global warming. Exposure to various climate or animal related diseases will increase in number and possibly brutality. Experts agree that skin cancer’s rapid rate of increase could be caused by the holes in the ozone layer. As these holes grow in size and number, the quantity of patients will also increase. Aside from natural and heath issues, the world’s economy is also at risk. Ross Gelbspan, author of Boiling Point, a book about Earth’s climate change from global warming, spoke about his book to the public in 2004 stating, “Climate issues will eventually tear holes in the global economy.” Research can show that if current weather patterns continue, the cost of insurance will increase drastically over the next few years. Gelbspan is one of many authors and scientists who look into the future to warn people what is to come; unfortunately, most people do not listen.

When people are trying to get others involved in the cause, a common problem that arises is the lack of motivation. Many people do not realize that if they can slow the rapid warming process, then there will be more time to develop alternate energy sources, such as nuclear fusion. Holland and Germany, along with several small countries, have recognized this possibility and have committed to an 80% reduction of all greenhouse gas emissions. If the United States would get involved in a program such as this, then the greenhouse effect would occur much slower than it does today. The world, especially America, needs to take action now. Stephen H. Schneider of the National Center of Atmospheric Research (NCRA) once stated, “By the time we find the greenhouse warming had damaged earth’s ability to feed its people, it will be too late to do much about it.”

In conclusion, the world needs to put forth a stronger effort to prevent global warming; the greenhouse gasses suffocate the earth more each day. If countries make a greater effort to slow global warming, the world’s predestination may not be reached until many years later. Individually, people can recycle, use fuel-efficient cars, carpool, and simply raise awareness. As said by Elmer Robinson, the director of Mauna Loa Observatory had once said while speaking of global warmingArticle Search, “The true enemy is us.”

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