Opinions on Global Warming
Due to the rapid growth of production that occurred in the last century and the increase of pollution associated with it, the impact of human activities on the environment became a crucial topic of research for many ecologists. However, many people doubt the results of multiple studies, arguing that the effect of people on the environment, despite the results of multiple studies, providing “compelling evidence that climatic changes result from the combination of natural variability and human influences, in particular, greenhouse gases emitted from the use of fossil fuels and land-use changes” (Lorenzoni & Pidgeon 2006, p. 73). The diversity of views and opinions creates difficulties in addressing climate change, which consequently creates a further threat to the environment.
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Views on Global Warming
There is a great range of views about global warming and climate change. Moser (2011) states that, whereas in the 1980s the debates on global warming have never occurred beyond the scientific community, today, the general public has a say on the issue, too: “in the last 30–40 years, publics in developed nations have become accustomed to hearing environmental messages and health warnings; they have been bombarded with marketing and behavior change campaigns” (Moser 2011, p. 33). New environmental movements resulted in the increased pressure on the governments of many countries, including Europe and the U.S., to address the issue of climate change. On the other hand, there remains a large proportion of people who refuse the theory of global warming, or feel that it is not as important as many other global issues, such as terrorism and domestic problems (Lorenzoni & Pidgeon 2006, p. 75). So, why is there such opposition between the various group of people on this topic?
Why Do People Believe in Global Warming?
The evidence of climate change and its impact on the biosphere of the Earth is compelling. Historical and current climate trends, as well as the evidence of climate change affecting the planet, living organisms, and the world economy, persuade people to view global warming as a real issue that has destructive global potential.
History of Climate Change
As NASA (2011) states, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position” (para. 15). One of the reasons for the general certainty of scientists about the effects of human activities on the change of climate all over the globe is the tendency of climate change throughout the history, which has been characterized by seven distinctive cycles of glacial advance and retreat (NASA 2011, para. 1). Of course, the fact that these climate change cycles occurred due to human activity is impossible to prove, since the last ice age ended over 7000 years ago before the human civilization could develop to the same scope of production and have any impact on the emission of carbon dioxide.
Nevertheless, the current tendency of climate change is still visible all around the world. For instance, the conduction of global surface temperature reconstructions has led the scientists to believe that the surface of Earth has warmed significantly since 1880, with most of the warming occurring in the last 35 years (NASA 2011, para. 7). The number of record high-temperature events both in the U.S. and all over the world have been increasing, whereas the number of low-temperature events has been decreasing since 1950 (NASA 2011, para. 12). Moreover, the temperature of water in the oceans all over the globe has also shown a gradual increase in the past years, having warmed by 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969 (NASA 2011, para. 8).
Effects of Global Warming
Perhaps, the most important factor that influences people’s thoughts on climate change is the impact of the global rise in temperature. The most obvious result is the shrinking of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic: “Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005 (NASA 2011, para. 9). The snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has also been decreasing in the past five decades (NASA 2011, para. 14). Indeed, the effects of climate change on the northern regions of the world are evident. Observations by Hinzman et al. (2005) showed that the change in the Arctic climate had triggered the alteration of the biological and social systems located in the Arctic. They explain that the Arctic ecosystems are “particularly sensitive to changes in the rain- and snowfall, the timing of freeze-up and break-up, and the intensity of storm activity”, which are in turn affected by the changing climate (Hinzman et al. 2005, p. 252). Overall, global warming has a significant effect on the organisms living in the Arctic, thus disturbing the Earth’s biosphere.
Moreover, global warming also impacts the lives of people all around the world due to its economical and political implications: Johnston (2017) argues that, according to the report by the European Environmental Agency, “Extreme weather cost Europe more than £300bn and ended the lives of 85,000 people over the last three decades – and the problems are getting worse as the world warms” (para. 1). He explains that over 75 000 deaths were due to heatwaves, almost 8000 – from floods and storms (Johnston 2017, para. 4). Forest fires and cold weather have taken the lives of over 3000 people, too (Johnston 2017, para. 4). Moreover, the cost of climate change to the economy had increased by almost 80% over the last 30 years: the cost of environmental damage triggered by climate change was estimated at €13.7bn in the 200s (Johnston 2017, para. 3).
Is Global Warming a Myth?
Despite the evidence of its global effects on the environment, many people still think that global warming is not real – or, at least, the effect of human activities on climate change is not. Many researchers, such as Moser (2011), believe that this is due to the lack of immediate visible effects of climate change.
As explained by Nisbet and Myers (2007), “Several studies have documented the tendency of Americans to discount the threat of climate change due to its “creeping nature,” an environmental problem with consequences that are perceived to be far off in the future” (p. 454). Indeed, it is not possible to see the underlying effects of a changing climate by simply looking out of the window (Moser 2011, p. 33). It does not cause any direct health complications in the human population and is not explicitly connected to terrifying diseases, such as cancer, which is why many people tend to overlook the effects of global warming. Moreover, there is a huge gap, both geographic and temporal, between the cause and the effect of the climate change: “emissions from any individual action, or even from those of most single nations, are relatively small by themselves, and only their cumulative impact on the atmosphere leads to detectable and attributable changes in the atmosphere, in weather and climate patterns, and ultimately in physical, ecological and social systems” (Moser 2011, p. 33).
With the vast majority of the global population living in cities, the people are removed from the natural environment and will not see the change in the population of wild animals or plants that are triggered by global warming. Furthermore, when the action is taken, it takes many years or even decades for the people to see its positive effect in slowing down the climate change (Moser 2011, p. 33), which leads many people to think that the current prevention and intervention methods are fruitless and thus global warming is not a real problem that demands action.
Difficulties in Communication
The final reason for the lack of people’s interest in the problem of global warming is the complexity of the subject and the associated difficulty of communicating the needs for action to the general public. In an attempt to draw the public’s attention, many researchers and scientific communities have made wrong decisions and employed incorrect practices for reaching the public. For instance, Moser (2011) feels that there is not enough explanatory evidence available to the general public. Most of the scientific reports are dry and incomprehensible to the people who lack extensive knowledge in the area: “In fact, it may be one of the greatest challenges to climate communication to help people navigate these complexities, and—maybe in new dialogic forums—jointly develop compelling narratives […] that allow people to see their place in the context of humanity’s and the Earth’s common fate” (Moser 2011, p. 36).
Furthermore, there were also instances when scientists tried to draw the people’s attention with alarming information and assertions that turned out to be untrue (Taylor 2015). For instance, in 2014, Australian scientists reported that heat waves had killed over 100 000 bats in Queensland, Australia; however, when compared to wind power, that kills over 1 million bats and over 500 000 birds in the U.S. alone, this figure loses its alarming value and significance (Taylor 2015, p.1). The alarmists have also claimed that global warming will result in drastic food and water shortages, which also proved to be untrue since the global crop production is growing along with the global temperature, as well as the global supply of water (Taylor 2015, p. 2).
Another false claim turned out to be a statement about the impact of global warming on the statistics for infectious diseases: even though the alarmists argued that there would be an increase in the number of outbreaks of certain diseases, causing a growth in the annual death toll, it was proven that global warming would reduce the number of people killed by diseases that strive in the cold climate, such as influenza (Taylor 2015, p. 4). There were many more cases when the assertions of the scientists and environmental reporters turned out to be untrue, which caused the general public to question every other bit of information provided on the topic, causing difficulties in communication between the scientific community and the people.
Impact on Policymaking for Environmental Change
The same division of opinions can be seen among the policymakers and government leaders worldwide. Despite the existing consensus among the countries of the UN that environmental change is an issue that has to be tackled by reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses and the Paris agreement signed by 200 countries in 2015, certain politicians still refuse to address the issue. For instance, in the first days of his service as the President of the U.S., Donald Trump promised to pull the country out of the Paris agreement, which was set up to keep the level of global warming to under 2 degrees compared to the pre-industrial time (Hannam 2017, para. 20). On the other hand, an adequate view of the existing evidence on global warming promotes the policies aimed at decreasing the greenhouse effect and climate change overall. Thus, Sweden plans to commit to its promise to cut all greenhouse emissions by 2045, including the emissions from the domestic transport sector by 70% (Farand 2017, para. 4-5).
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Overall, there is a solid ground behind both opinions on climate change. For example, it is easy to disregard the negative effects of global warming given the fact that they are not immediate and do not pose a significant health threat just yet. People who trust the scientific evidence, on the other hand, are not as skeptical towards the notion and are motivated to take action with regards to global warming. Both groups of people have an impact on the global environmental policies, which is why the scientific community needs to establish an appropriate way to communicate the evidence and effects of global warming to the masses and to overcome the current mistrust that exists in the society.
Farand, C 2017, ‘Sweden pledges to cut all greenhouse gas emissions by 2045’, The Independent, Web.
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Johnston, I 2017, ‘Extreme weather has cost Europe more than £330bn and the lives of 85,000 people since the 1980s’, The Independent, Web.
Lorenzoni, I & Pidgeon, NF 2006, ‘Public views on climate change: European and USA perspectives’, Climatic Change, vol. 77, no, 1., pp. 73-95.
Moser, SC 2010, ‘Communicating climate change: history, challenges, process and future directions’, WIREs Climate Change, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 31-53.
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Nisbet, MC & Myers, T 2007, ‘Twenty years of public opinion about global warming’, Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 71, no. 3, pp. 444–470.
Taylor, J 2015, ‘Top 10 global warming lies that may shock you’, Forbes Energy & Environment, Web.