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Scientists have attributed greenhouse effect or global warming as a significant factor, which is causing climate change and threatening the existence of humanity and other forms of life.
Scientist argue that, greenhouse effect occurs when greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and water vapor accumulate in the atmosphere and shield the earth from emitting long wave radiations into the atmosphere. Since the earth surface hardly loses any radiations from the sun into the atmosphere, due to the greenhouse effect, global warming ensues.
Scientific studies have shown that human activities are the main cause of global warming because they increase the amount of CO2 and chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. According to Kerr (2011), exponential anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases poses a serious threat to stability of earth’s climate and subsequently affects humanity, flora, and fauna negatively (142).
Although global warming is a considerable challenge, which climatologists are grappling with, new scientific findings show that CO2 is not responsible for global warming since its concentration has been relatively stable for centuries.
Thus, there is continuing debate as to whether anthropogenic emission of CO2 is the cause of global warming. To prove that increased amount of CO2 in the atmospheres does not cause the greenhouse effect and subsequently global warming; this research paper examines scientific debate regarding global warming.
Carbon Dioxide and Global Warming
Increasing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has elicited extensive debate of global warming. Climatologists have warned that exponential increase in levels of CO2 is posing a considerable threat to the existence of life on earth because it causes global warming.
The debate has been raging as to whether global warming is a natural occurrence or an anthropogenic consequence, but there is undisputable evidence that temperature of the earth has been continually rising for centuries. Rahmstorf (2008) argues that, climatologists expect that, by 22nd century, temperature of the earth will rise by 5oC or more globally, while regionally, it will by more than 10 oC (p.36).
Given current trends of human activities, the rise of temperature will continue for more centuries to come if immediate and long-term interventions are not in place to regulate anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. Numerous studies suggest that increase in CO2 level is concomitant with temperature increase, meaning that CO2 is responsible for climatic change, which seems to threaten the existence of life on earth.
Increase in the levels of greenhouse gases such as CO2, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapor clearly indicate that global warming is a reality that humanity must address or face extinction due to impeding climate change. Although greenhouse gases are many in the atmosphere, CO2 contributes considerably to climate change because of its abundance in the atmosphere and sources of emissions.
Idso and Idso (2011) explain that, preindustrial levels of CO2 were about 280 parts per million (ppm), but the current level of CO2 is over 380 ppm (13). Therefore, it means that increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is the cause of global warming. Hence, change in CO2 levels by 100 ppm substantially prove that CO2 is a greenhouse gas that has contributed significantly to global warming.
Climatologists view that, with current trends of anthropogenic emission of CO2, it is predictable that, by 22nd century, the levels will be about 1000 ppm. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considers CO2 levels of between 400 to 600 ppm to be extremely dangerous. Surprisingly, currents levels of CO2 stand at about 380 ppm, while levels of total greenhouse gases are about 450 ppm.
Furthermore, there has been increased emission of greenhouse gases recently because virtually all countries across the world rely on fossil fuel as a source of their energy. Such trends are quite alarming because they depict that anthropogenic emission of CO2 is responsible for global warming and subsequent climate change.
According to Chen and Wang (2011), IPCC has demanded that countries should ratify United Nation recommendation of stabilizing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and reducing anthropogenic emission of CO2 (765). Both the United Nations and IPCC have supported the view that increasing levels of CO2 is causing global warming.
Although greenhouse gases come from various sources, CO2 emissions are mainly due to anthropogenic sources. It is evident that the main cause of drastic increase in CO2 levels is increased utilization of fossil fuel. Given that amount of fossil fuel used correlates with the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, emission estimates indicate that, there is an exponential increase in levels of CO2.
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Glikson (2009) argues that, apparent increase in CO2 levels forms about 57% of total emissions as ocean and biosphere, which acts as carbon sinks, have absorbed approximately 43% of total emissions (16).
Therefore, it means that, had it not for carbon sinks to absorb significant percentage of CO2, there would be a high percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere, which consequently could have caused serious climate changes due to global warming.
Thus, estimates show that oceans alone have absorbed approximately 30% of anthropogenic emissions making marine environment become acidic. Therefore, anthropogenic emission of CO2 does not only cause global warming but also acidify marine environment, thus threatening the existence of marine life.
Supporting Views of Global Warming
Proponents of Global Warming argue that climate change mainly result from human activities that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and create a greenhouse effect that shields radiations from the earth surface from escaping into the atmosphere, thus increasing temperature of the earth.
Therefore, the argument that global warming is a natural process of the earth does not give sufficient evidence since it only presumes that temperature is a variable factor that varies from one place to another and from one year to another.
Moreover, critics of anthropogenic argues that, despite the increase in the use of fossil fuel and the temperature of the earth remained relatively constant and dispute that human activities are the cause of global warming. According to Kaufmann, Kauppi, Mann, and Stock (2011), apparent increase in global temperature for the last 50 years is due to a measurable increase in anthropogenic emission of CO2 (3).
There was insignificant rise in global temperature between 1998 and 2008 because sulfur emissions brought about cooling effect, which cancelled out warming effect of greenhouse gases, especially CO2. Therefore, although increasing level of CO2 causes global warming, other factors such as sulfur alleviate greenhouse effect in the atmosphere.
Increasing concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are the cause of global warming. Given that human activities emit a lot CO2 into the atmosphere, they contribute significantly to the occurrence of global warming. Therefore, anthropogenic emission of CO2 is easily quantifiable because the amount of fossil fuels used correlates directly with the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
During preindustrial period, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was about 280 ppm, but currently concentration is about 380 ppm. Plausible explanation for the huge increase in concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is anthropogenic emission, which occurred due to industrialization. Industrialization led to increased consumption of fossil fuel and concomitant emission of CO2.
Konkel (2011) argues that, the current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are unprecedented because, human activities associated with industrialization emit a significant amount of CO2 (10).
Current amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is partial because it consists of about 57% of total emissions while biosphere absorbs about 43%. Hence, if it were not for oceans and biosphere to absorb about 43% of carbon dioxide, global warming would have caused drastic climatic changes that threaten the existence of life on earth.
Amidst criticisms that parameters and models of measuring global warming are unreliable, proponents of CO2 theory continue to assert that, their projections are quite credible. Hence, climatologists have used numerous parameters and models to enhance consistency of data collected and to promote effective analysis of data.
Since there is significant disparity in temperature at local and global levels, consistency of variability is quite evident to suggest that anthropogenic emission of CO2 in certain places relates with temperature of specified locations. Thus, proxy data collected from tree rings, corals and ice cores give an overall picture of occurrence of global warming.
Furthermore, climatologists have used modern technology of satellites, which takes real-time pictures showing changes in sea levels and melting of ice at Arctic and Antarctic regions.
However, Rahmstorf (2008) affirms that, since 1979 to present, satellite has effectively shown that about 20% of Arctic sea ice cover has shrunk due global warming, which makes it melt (44). Hence, melting of ice and rising sea levels are undisputable effects of global warming that occur due to anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases.
Opposing Views of Global Warming
Opponents of anthropologic climate change argue that global warming is a natural process that does not need any intervention. Despite wide claims that support that greenhouse gases are the main causes of climate change and global warming, Xhao contends that, global warming is a myth because the temperature of the earth has been waxing and waning throughout the history (1988).
Opponents of global warming argue that although natural processes mainly contribute to accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, they are subject to natural factors that balance their composition in the atmosphere. Thus, to assert that CO2 causes global warming is not plausible since CO2 has been accumulating in the atmosphere for centuries yet there is no concomitant increase in temperature.
Recent study indicates that temperature increase has stagnated in spite of increased usage of fossil fuel across the world. Wang and Chameides (2007) argue that, between 1998 and 2008, there was negligible increase in temperature, and decline in surface temperature by 0.2 oC between 2005 and 2008, yet anthropogenic emission of CO2 increased tremendously (4).
Since the amounts of CO2 emitted are not consistent with the increase in temperature, it means that CO2 does not cause global warming. If anthropogenic emissions from fossil fuels were causing global warming, the temperature of the earth would have significantly increased proportionately.
From the industrial revolution to now, anthropogenic emission of CO2 would have multiplied amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and cause significant change in temperature, but this has not occurred. Thus, increase in CO2 levels does not cause global warming.
Due to claims of the IPCC and United Nations that CO2 is responsible for climate change because it causes global warming, the United States formulated strategies of cutting down anthropogenic emissions. In spite of effective strategies that the United States has put in place to cut down emission of CO2, the total amount of anthropogenic emissions did not change.
According to Clement (2011), emission of CO2 will not change because there is constant growth of economy, industries, and population, which are significant factors that influence emission of CO2. (952).
Thus, regulation of CO2 emissions is a futile process as effectively illustrated by Jevons paradox. Logically, if CO2 emissions were causing global warming, reduction of emissions would have gradually led to decrease in the overall amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and caused a significant drop in temperature.
Thus, according to Jevons paradox, reduction of CO2 emission will neither be possible nor cause any marked drop in temperature because CO2 does not cause global warming.
Argument that CO2 causes global warming is against scientific tenets of importance of CO2 to living things. It is obvious that CO2 is a source of carbon that plants utilize during photosynthesis when making carbohydrates. Numerous scientific studies have illustrated that level of CO2 in the atmosphere determines the rate at which plants grow.
Plants that grow at high concentration of CO2 mature faster as compared to plants that growth at low concentration of CO2. Therefore, it is evident that CO2 is essential for healthy growth of plants, which is beneficial to animals, as well.
According to Morgan (2011), high concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is beneficial to C4 plants because it does not only increase their growth but also decreases rate of losing water through transpiration (203).
Thus, in arid areas with a limited amount of water and high concentration of CO2, there is increased productivity of plants contrary to expectation that global warming due to increased levels of CO2 is detrimental to plants in arid lands.
Increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere and fluctuating temperature increase indicate that other confounding factors that significantly influence global warming exist.
According to Ashworth (2009), in the year 2000, water vapor decreased by 10% and CO2 levels remained relatively constant in the atmosphere, but there was temperature increase by 25%, contrary to expectations of what would have occurred because of low concentration of greenhouse gases (2).
However, abnormal increase in temperature in spite of a significant decrease in anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases tends to disapprove the claim that anthropogenic emission of CO2 causes of global warming and suggests that other confounding factors in the environment are responsible for global warming.
Critics of anthropogenic climate change argue that, parameters, which scientists use in measuring the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and temperature increase, are not reliable since they are subject to many confounding factors.
Ashworth (2009) disputes that, temperature measurements originate from proxy data such as tree rings, corals, and ice cores that link with local temperatures and other parameters that influence real temperature variation (5). Local and regional temperatures can be significantly higher than global temperatures because of variation in causes that may not necessarily reflect global warming.
Moreover, critics argue that the use of satellites in measuring temperature of the earth through radiations is unreliable since it is prone to effects of atmospheric radiations from the sun.
Short life span of satellites also affects the accuracy of data collected due to daily variation of temperature and calibration of satellites. Thus, temperature of the earth is fairly constant and subject to other environmental factors other than anthropogenic emission of CO2.
Critics of CO2 theory of global warming assert that, the earth was warmer during medieval times as compared to current climate, meaning that temperature rise preceded the increase in CO2 levels. They assert that, the problem with proponents of global warming is that, they assume that the earth was colder during ancient times, but progressively gets warmer as anthropogenic emission of CO2 increases in the atmosphere.
The assertion that CO2 causes global warming has it basis on insufficient data, which relied on incidental consistency of temperature increase and CO2 increase in a period of 1985 to 2000. However, historical data show that, CO2 levels and temperature increase do not correlate; thus, it is not plausible to affirm that CO2 is responsible for global warming and climate change witnessed in the recent past.
According to Evans (2007), from 2000 to 2003, it became evident that temperature increase preceded CO2 by approximately 800 years (1). Hence, one can even argue that temperature increase elevates levels of CO2 in the atmosphere because it speeds up biological process in an ecosystem.
In 2008, scientists who held International Conference on Climate Change conclusively ruled that CO2 does not cause global warming via greenhouse effect. Based on the greenhouse effect, it is feasible to state that temperature increases as one ascends towards the atmosphere, but this is not the case.
Coffman (2008) argues that, anthropogenic CO2 theory of global warming needs to demonstrate that mid-troposphere is warmer than earth surface by 2-30 C as expected (2). However, earth surface is warmer than the atmosphere, thus contradicting greenhouse effect of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Hence, scientists concluded that greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, are not significant drivers of global warming and climate change as widely claimed by some scientists and climatologists. Moreover, Jaworowski (2007) adds that, politicians and bureaucrats agree that, there is no sufficient scientific evidence to prove that CO2 causes global warming, but they continue to support it because of financial gains (41).
Scientific evidence cannot support the claim that CO2 causes global warming because, anthropogenic emission gives about 3%, while land and seas emits the remaining 97% of total emissions of CO2. Proponents of CO2 theory target anthropogenic emissions because they can derive some benefits by imposing the tax on industries.
For decades, environmental scientists and climatologists have blamed increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere for causing global warming and climate change. They argue that increasing level of CO2 is causing global warming through the greenhouse effect, which subsequently influence climate change.
However, many scientists have come to discredit CO2 theory of global warming by asserting that global warming is a natural occurrence that has no link with CO2 levels. Critics of CO2 theory of global warming argue that, the theory is fallacious because it has no credible scientific basis to explain the correlation between temperature change and CO2 levels.
Therefore, general claims that link anthropogenic emission of CO2 to global warming are more political than scientific.
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