Thursday, September 22, 2011

There's No Doubt About It - Humans Are The Cause Of Global Warming

There's No Doubt About It - Humans Are The Cause Of Global Warming
By Melina Cemanovic

Human activities, without doubt, are the cause of global warming; and we are responsible for stopping global warming, especially because it is a possible thing to do. Stopping global warming is not only a possible thing to do, but it is a mandatory thing that every single individual in the world should participate in. We are facing a global problem, which means that there are a lot of us who need to be educated on the issue of global warming in order to make the changes necessary in order to reverse the problem at hand. What exactly do we mean when we state that human activities are the cause of global warming? How is it that our activities have such a big impact on the recent, not to mention terrifying, climate change? All of these questions, and many more, will be explained to you. What if the children that are born today suffer tomorrow because of our actions? Our kids would wish we had made better decisions in order to create a better future for them. Our actions today have an effect on the future of our children tomorrow, and we are the only ones who have the power to make a change. We have a serious problem on our hands; it is called Global Warming. Global warming is hitting the world by storm, literally. Once its effects are felt, there is no way to stop them; the only thing we can do is stop the future effects of global warming from occurring. Every single human being on the face of this earth is in some way responsible for some fraction of the causes of global warming. The same way, every single human being should do something immediately to help stop this disaster which has already gone out of control.

To understand our climate crisis, it is important to know what greenhouse gases are and how they naturally function in our atmosphere. Greenhouse gases consist of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's), methane, nitrous oxide, and the most important of them all, carbon dioxide (CO2). Greenhouse gases permit light that is emitted from the sun to enter the atmosphere; however they also lock in some infrared radiation which warms up the air in the atmosphere. These are all natural gasses, and this is a natural process which is called the greenhouse effect. The natural amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere work to help the Earth's surface maintain an average temperature of about 59 degrees Fahrenheit. This natural amount of heat that is trapped in our atmosphere allows us to breathe clean air, have clean water, and have normal weather. We will focus mainly on CO2 emissions since they account for about 80% of all greenhouse emissions. Out of all of the greenhouse gasses, humans create more CO2. Our climate crisis stems from excess CO2, which is the byproduct of human activity being released into our atmosphere. Excess emissions of CO2, as well as other greenhouse gasses, act as a blanket and trap heat in out atmosphere, thus creating global warming which is the reason for our unimaginable climate change. According to The Stop Global Warming campaign, "More carbon dioxide is now in the atmosphere than has been in the past 650,000 years." ("Stop Global Warming Virtual March.")

Global warming has altered the state of our climate in unimaginable ways, thus causing glaciers to melt, temperatures all over the world to raise, weather to become catastrophic, endangering species, and causing sea levels all over the world to rise. Since 1912 the ice cap of Mount Kilimanjaro has decreased by 75%. If they continue to melt at the present rate, all of the glaciers in Glacier National Park could be gone by the year 2070. In 1972 the mountain tops in Venezuela contained six glaciers; all but two of the glaciers have melted. Temperatures over the recent years have risen to dramatic highs in places that never experienced such temperatures for such long periods of time. In the summer of 1998, a massive 29 day heat wave struck Dallas Texas with temperatures of 100 degrees F. That same year in May, India suffered a massive heat wave which claimed over 2,500 lives. In the spring, the beautiful cherry blossoms planted along the streets of Washington DC bloom about 7 days before their blooming period compared to when they bloomed in 1970. The weather all over the world has intensified and changed for the worse. In March of 1997, floods swept along the Ohio River killing 30 people and causing property damage totaling over $500 million. Hurricane Floyd hit the Atlantic coast in September of 1999 with winds up to 130-m.p.h. causing floods which left thousands of people homeless, and killed 77 people. Fires raged all over the world due to extended droughts and heat waves. Fires tore through Samos Island in Greece and burned away about 20% of the area. Rising sea levels- another very serious effect of global warming, are threatening millions of people all over the world to move. If the ice continues to melt, and the oceans continue to rise, over 40 million people in Shanghai, and over 20 million people in and around Beijing would have to be evacuated.

In 1870 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was built 1,500 feet from the shoreline. There was no choice left but to move the light house when the ocean came to about 160 feet of it around the late 1980's. Global Warming is also threatening species to extinction and hurting nature to the point where it is just sad. Between the years 1997 and 1998, salmon populations from the Pacific dramatically fell down in number as a result of rising ocean temperatures by 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice melting every year in the spring is said to have had an impact on the number of polar bear cubs being born in Hudson Bay. Never in the past has it been an issue that a large number of polar bears are drowning. These innocent creatures are forced to swim for miles in search of land; their land which has melted away, never to be seen again. Polar bears are now facing extinction because so many of them have died already, and more will continue to die off rapidly if the ice doesn't stop melting. A great number of other creatures are also facing extinction due to climate change, and also due to direct human interaction with the places these creatures live; but that is a whole different story. Beautiful Coral reefs that decorate our oceans are losing algae and are thus being destroyed because of an increase in ocean temperatures. Algae feed the beautiful corals and help them retain their amazing colors and forms. Unfortunately, due to the rise in ocean temperatures, these beautiful coral formations are being destroyed. Animals are relocating and migrating, confused because of the change of climate, not knowing what to call home. ("The Effects of Global Warming.")

In her article, Barbara K. Kennedy quotes Eric Post, who is an assistant professor of biology at Penn State University. Post writes: "All the major biomes on Earth have been affected by a temperature increase of just a little more than half a degree Celsius-most of which has occurred during the last two decades." (Kennedy 1-2). This is very scary to think about, especially when it is said that temperatures will rise even more over the next 50 years. Imagine the impact that the rise of temperature will have on us on top of the effects that we have already experienced. The impact would be unimaginable.

In our technologically advanced world, we have so many different ways of emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. Some of the many ways CO2 can be emitted into the atmosphere is from power plants, cars, trucks, airplanes, buildings, and through deforestation. In order for us to generate electric we burn fossil fuels, which helps emit tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. In fact, around 40% of the CO2 emissions in the U.S. in the year 2002 come from us burning fossil fuels. Cars like minivans, sports cars, trucks, and jeeps, release about 20% of the CO2 emissions in the U.S. Businesses that use trucks for their work help to create the 13% of CO2 emissions from trucks. According to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, currently airplanes are responsible for about 3.5% of the global warming issue. By the year 2050, this percentage can rise by 15%. The way that most buildings are made helps to emit 12% of the CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. There are so many other ways that CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. It is obvious that the most CO2 emissions stem from human services, products, and activities. For this reason, we are responsible to clean up our act and to find alternative ways to go about our every day life ("Causes of Global Warming."). On the flip side, our growing technology has helped by allowing scientists to collect data from the past and measure the amount of CO2 in a given year by using devices know as core drills. The data that was taken from these experiments are confirmation to the question of "Does human activity cause global warming by increasing the amounts of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere"?

We also have the power and technology to reverse the problem of global warming and stop it from destroying our earth and the species that live on it. How do we know that CO2 levels have actually risen, and that they are in fact contributing to warmer temperatures? This question can easily be answered by digging deep into the experiments which scientists have conducted; or should I say by digging deep into ice. Scientists have used core drills; devices that dig deep into glaciers and extract ice which has formed over the years, in order to measure the amount of CO2 that was in the atmosphere in a given year. Through this process, scientists were able to compare the ratios of isotopes of oxygen in order to uncover the temperature of a given year over the past 1,000 years. They made this comparison by examining the horizontal lines on a chunk of ice, which was removed from a glacier, and by marking each of those lines as one year. Using this extraordinary and accurate method, they are able to compare the amount of CO2 in a given year to the temperature of that year. Remarkably, scientists were able to collect enough data from these experiments to prove that the more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the hotter the earth will become. The results were amazing because they were actually able to confirm that the more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the higher the temperature of the earth will get, thus altering our climate (Gore 60-65).

While those who truly care about our world are trying to help put a halt to global warming, global warming skeptics are denying that we have a real problem on our hands. Global warming skeptics argue that scientists are relying too much on computer models, which they believe to be inaccurate. A global warming skeptic William Kininmonth states "I do not believe this research team made a compelling case to suggest that their computer models are sufficiently realistic." (Black 2). The skeptics believe that too much attention is focused on computer models, and not enough real evidence is given. This is where they are wrong because there are endless amounts of data out there that support the fact that global warming is a problem, people just have to open their eyes and do their homework. Scientists from all over the world, in fact, have reached a consensus that we have a real problem on our hands, and that we must do something about it. It is true that CO2 is naturally emitted into the atmosphere from different sources, and it is also true that even if human beings were not living on Earth, over 95% of the CO2 emissions would still be emitted into the atmosphere. Naturally, about 220 billion tons of CO2 per year is emitted from dead trees and other materials decaying in forests.

However, natural sinks, which are biological and physical processes in nature, help to balance things out by helping remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Nevertheless, the natural CO2 emissions that occur in nature would not cause such a problem and change our climate. What causes the problem is excess CO2 emissions that humans cause which then disturbs the natural balance created by natural sinks. For every issue you put to the table, there will always be someone out there who opposes your views on that issue. That is why you must do your own research in order to find out what is truly the right thing to do. You must be the judge of things as you see it from your own eyes; as long as you promise to look at all of the evidence that is given to you, and as long as you are open and willing to listen to all sides of the story. ("How Do We Know that the Atmospheric Build-up of Greenhouse Gases Is Due to Human Activity?").

Whether you do or don't believe that humans are the cause of global warming, or that global warming is even a problem at all, you don't have the right to trash this beautiful earth that we share with other human beings and creatures. We all have the responsibility to lower our carbon footprint by making alternative choices in our everyday lives. Scientific research has proven that humans are to blame for the cause of global warming, and I believe that if we all accept this fact, we will be one more step closer to solving the problem. It is not easy to solve the issue of global warming, mainly because it is a global problem, but as long as we believe that it is a solvable problem, we will accept alternatives to our every day activities. Some of the things, out of many, that we as individuals can do is change our light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs, recycle, adjust our thermostat, drive a hybrid car, walk or bike instead of driving, change our air conditioner's filter regularly, and buy products locally.

These are only some of the things that we can do to help stop global warming. However, the most important things that you can do to help stop global warming is to get more educated on this issue. If you want to learn how to help, just get involved with the right people, do the right research, and simply get educated on this issue. If we sit around and wait for things to happen themselves, nothing will ever change for the better. We will just procrastinate and make the problem even bigger than it already was. Wherever you stand on the issue of global warming, you still have the responsibility to take care of the beautiful Earth and its natural resources that are taken for granted by so many.

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