Global warming is the increase in the earth’s atmospheric temperatures due to a corresponding increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), for example carbon dioxide (CO2) and chlorofluorocarbons, which creates a ‘greenhouse’ effect: the retention of solar energy in the atmosphere due to the prevention of its escape by the ‘ceiling’ created by GHGs (Climate Research Board, 78).
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The increase of the temperatures is one of the major causes of climate change. This can be observed by the high frequency by which heat waves occur; rainfall quantities have become more intense; and an increase in the intensity of severe climate incidents.
This paper seeks to illustrate how human activities like the burning of large capacities of fossil energy have caused an increase in the GHGs that subsequently accelerate the negative effects to the environment and consequently the health of the earth’s flora and fauna (Climate Research Board, 99).
Causes of global warming
An increase in the emission of GHGs is the main cause of global warming; this paper will discuss how specific gases contribute to the total effect and which natural phenomena and human activities produce these gases.
This paper will discuss the major GHGs and aerosols:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Methane (CH4)
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
The burning of coal and oil are the major producers of carbon dioxide emissions.
The United States is one of the major emitters of carbon dioxide. This is due to the use of power plants that burn coal to produce energy. The United States emitted 24 percent of the total carbon dioxide emissions in 1998.
Emerging nations like China and India are also increasingly emitting more carbon dioxide due to the use of coal.
Methane emission sources include seepages from pipelines used to transport natural gas, the burning of biomass, seepages from the processes of mining for fossil energy, the decay caused by bacteria in sewages and dumpsites.
Methane is also emitted naturally by the decomposition of organic materials in wetlands.
CFCs are compounds that contain fluorine, carbon and chlorine. They are industrially manufactured and have no naturally occurring sources. CFCs are mainly used as refrigerants. CFCs contribute to global warming by bringing about the ozone layer breakdown, thus exposing the earth to harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
CFCs do not dissolve in water and are inert. This causes to have a long span of life, thus their effects on the atmosphere can to up to several hundred years.
Aerosols refer to minute solid elements or liquid globules that are suspended in a gas. Smog and the air pollutants are examples of aerosols. Albeit aerosols are not GHGs, they contribute to the effects of global warming because the particles in an aerosol reduce the reflectivity of the aerosol (Mank, 2).
This causes a reduction of atmospheric cover (since aerosols are major component of clouds), thus increasing warming.
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Human activities are the some of the major contributors to greenhouse gases, which in turn cause an increase in the earth’s temperatures. Albeit some of the temperature increases may be obscured by the increasingly unpredictable climatic changes, if the emissions of these gases continues at current rates the impact of global warming will become even more pronounced and severe (Mank, 7).
This paper concludes that unless measures are taken to control the greenhouse gases emissions, the average temperature of the earth may reach levels that never been experienced before.
Climate Research Board, Carbon Dioxide and Climate: Scientific Assessment, National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC, 1979.
Mank, Bradford, “Standing and Global Warming: Is Injury to All Injury to None?” Environmental Law 35:1-10, 2005.