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An analysis of the global warming phenomenon based on the first law of thermodynamics. Report


Global warming is among most discussed topics globally. According to the Oracle Think Quest, global warming is caused by the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect tries to explain that gases such as carbon dioxide trap energy from the sun. As a result, the earth’s atmosphere behaves like a closed system. However, opponents of this notion claim that relating greenhouse gases to global warming is a violation of the first law of thermodynamics.

Energy can only be transformed in to different forms, according to this law, but cannot be generated or destroyed (Fong). For that reason, any energy entering the earth’s atmosphere must come from a foreign source. In addition, this energy must be equal in magnitude to that leaving the earth’s atmosphere since the earth is an open system. This paper gives an analysis of the global warming phenomenon based on the first law of thermodynamics.

Thermodynamics, as a branch of science, studies how energy flow behaves in natural systems (physicalgeography.net). Therefore, studying laws of thermodynamics gives us an insight of some of the happenings observed in the universe. According to the first law of thermodynamics, it is only possible to transform energy in to different forms (Fong). However, it is not possible to generate or destroy it (Fong).

This means that the overall energy in the universe is constant. For that reason, this law is also referred to as the law of conservation of energy (physicalgeography.net). A summary of this law is given in the formula Esy+Esu =Eun (The First law of Thermodynamics). The subscripts sy, su and Eun signify the system, the surroundings and the universe respectively. Additionally, the letter E denotes the energy.

Therefore, the overall energy in the universe must be equal to the energy in a system and the surroundings. Furthermore, the change in energy for any given process can be represented by the formula

Euniv= Esys+ Esurr=0 (The First law of Thermodynamics).

Where △Euniv, △Esys and△ Esurr denotes energy changes in the universe, system and the surroundings respectively. Consequently, if a change in energy occurs in a given system, the surroundings must undergo an energy change too. However, this energy change must be equal in magnitude but opposite in sign to that of the source (The First law of Thermodynamics). This is because energy gained in a given place must have been lost from another place.

Furthermore, the energy lost by a system can be gained in a different form by another system. For instance, in a power plant, the energy lost in burning oil is enjoyed as electrical energy in our homes. Accordingly, energy and matter can be interchanged (physicalgeography.net). This phenomenon was initially suggested by Einstein and serves to reaffirm that the amount of energy on earth remains the same.

According to the Oracle Think Quest, global warming is a phenomenon in which the earth is gradually heating up. Consequently, the earth’s temperature is slowly increasing. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) ascertains that the world is becoming warmer due to the increase of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. The trapping of heat and light from the sun brings about the green house effect (Oracle Think Quest).

Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, among others (Oracle Think Quest). Vishal adds that these gases result from the burning of fossil fuels. In addition, deforestation also results in the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (Vishal). This is because there are few trees left to absorb the excess carbon dioxide.

Furthermore, the effects of the warmer temperatures, on the earth, are devastating. For instance, the earth is experiencing a rise in sea level, stronger storms, melting ice caps and changes in climatic conditions (Vishal). On the other hand, global warming has also made the world a better place to live in. Without it, most places on the earth would be freezing or extremely hot and, therefore, unsuitable for human settlement (Oracle Think Quest).

Global warming is a topic that has elicited a heated debate for a long time. To date, this debate is not showing any signs of cooling up. Consequently, there are people who support its relationship with greenhouse effect while others do not.

Proponents of the green house effect argue that the increase in average global temperature is a strong indication that there is more heat entering the earth than leaving it. The argument, here, is that heat and light from the sun are only able to get into the earth’s atmosphere but cannot leave it. This is because heat and light from the sun are trapped by greenhouse gases. The earth, hence, behaves like a closed system.

Man is increasing the number of greenhouse gases at an alarming rate. This is worrying because too many gases will make the earth unusually warmer as more heat will be trapped (Oracle Think Quest). According to the first law of thermodynamics, systems in distress move towards equilibrium or normalcy (Fong).

Conversely, greenhouse gases prevent infrared energy from rapidly escaping into the space. This makes it difficult for the earth to maintain its previous energy balance quickly (Fong). Eventually, a balance is created within the earth’s atmosphere at a higher temperature. This is what makes the earth warmer.

The opponents, on the other hand, argue that the green house effect is not only unverifiable but also violates the basic laws of physics. Particularly, tying the greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide with global warming violates the first law of thermodynamics (O’Sullivan). O’Sullivan further reiterates that the way a greenhouse warms differs from how the atmosphere warms.

Quoting Gerlich’s and Tscheuschner’s, O’Sullivan states that a greenhouse operates as a closed system while the earth’s atmosphere is an open system. Therefore, heat gained by the earth should be of equal magnitude to the heat lost. For that reason, there is no way the earth can receive more heat than it is losing. Claiming otherwise would violate physics and, especially, thermodynamics.

In conclusion, it is agreeable that global warming is one of the most discussed topics globally. Some scholars believe that it is caused by accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but others do not. Additionally, there are arguments that the greenhouse effect notion is a violation of physics and, particularly, the first law of thermodynamics (O’Sullivan).

This is because heat gained by the earth should be equal to the heat lost. Despite this argument, some maintain that there is sufficient evidence supporting the notion that the earth is gaining more heat than it is losing. Finally, this topic should have more collaborating than opposing factions since global warming is real. Its impacts are visible, whether the greenhouse effect infringes on the laws of thermodynamics or not.

Works Cited

Fong, Jocelyn. . 2011. Web.

Oracle think quest. Global Warming. n.d. Web.

O’Sullivan, John. German Physicists Trash Global Warming “Theory”. 2009. Web.

Physicalgeography.net. Chapter 6: . Laws of Thermodynamics. n.d. Web.

n.d. PDF file. Web.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. The Earth’s Climate is changing and People’s Activities are the Main Cause. n.d. Web.

Vishal. . 2011. Web.

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IvyPanda. "An analysis of the global warming phenomenon based on the first law of thermodynamics." January 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/an-analysis-of-the-global-warming-phenomenon-based-on-the-first-law-of-thermodynamics-report/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "An analysis of the global warming phenomenon based on the first law of thermodynamics." January 2, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/an-analysis-of-the-global-warming-phenomenon-based-on-the-first-law-of-thermodynamics-report/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'An analysis of the global warming phenomenon based on the first law of thermodynamics'. 2 January.

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