One of the biggest climatologic concerns that are capturing the minds of not only scientists but also general public is global warming. As such, global warming is a dramatic increase in the average temperature of our planet’s near-surface air and ocean waters. This increase has been especially observed within the twentieth century, when the average temperature rose by almost one degree (Oxlade 4).
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The most worrying thing is that according to the climate projections, scientists expect the warming to continue further, which may have dramatic effects on the planet’s climate and on the life on the earth in general.
The key reason for emergence of global warming is envisioned by scientists in the so-called greenhouse effect. This effect emerges due to high concentration of greenhouse gases in the earth atmosphere, with the major gases being water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide (Soon 3).
Despite their small concentration in the earth atmosphere (they make up less than 0.1 percent of the atmosphere), those gases play a crucial role in regulating the planet’s temperature balance (Oxlade 10). Greenhouse gases possess the property of absorbing some of the energy that would otherwise, in their absence, escape into the atmosphere. Some of greenhouse gases, like water vapor, occur naturally; others result to a large extent from human activities.
With respect to global warming, one of the biggest concerns of scientists has been carbon dioxide. Although it is crucial for the plants and animals to live (Faust 5), carbon dioxide is considered one of the major gases causing greenhouse effect. In normal carbon cycle, carbon dioxide moves between plants, animals, oceans, and the atmosphere, which it constantly leaves and enters. This is a normal state of things; however, after the Industrial Revolution of the mid-eighteenth century, the carbon balance has been upset by human activities that added disproportionately big amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
By burning enormous amounts of such fossil fuels as coal, gasoline, and oil in car engines, power stations and factories, carbon dioxide is released in the atmosphere. Another misbalancing factor is deforestation, cutting out the world’s green belts: burning out vast massifs of rainforests for farming purposes releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; in addition, diminishing the amount of trees on the forests makes it impossible for the remaining trees to take in the extra carbon dioxide.
As a result of modern human activities, scientists predict the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to rise by 2100 to a rate three times as big as before the Industrial Revolution (Oxlade 13).
In addition to carbon dioxide, the atmosphere is overfilled with other greenhouse gases. Within the twentieth century, extensive cattle raising and rice growing has resulted in more than doubling the amount of methane in the atmosphere. Supernormal activities in the spheres of agriculture and chemical industries have led to increase in nitrous oxide.
A new type of gases, called chlorofluorocarbons, initially widely used in sprays, air conditioners, and refrigerators, also add to the greenhouse effect.
The greenhouse effect, first described in 1827 by the French scientist Jean-Baptist Fourier, bases on the notion that the earth atmosphere acts like the glass roof of the greenhouse, trapping the heat inside (Silverstein, Silverstein, and Silverstein Nunn 15).
As the sun energy gets through the atmosphere to the plants, the ground, and the oceans, they become heated and produce infrared radiation which is directed back to space. But trapped in greenhouse gases, some of the infrared radiation remains in the atmosphere; and the more greenhouse gases there are, the more energy remains and heats up the planet.
Confirming the onset of the global warming are the multiple facts of climate change identified by meteorologists. Recording ocean temperatures and currents, the areas of snow cover, the amount of ice at the poles, the length of glaciers and the changing vegetation patterns, climatologists report sufficient alterations. Since the global warming alarm sounded already in the mid-nineteenth century, over the last hundred and fifteen years temperature has been measured by thermometers on land and on sea.
Placed in various locations all over the world, those thermometers have shown that the temperature at the surface of earth has been rising. In addition to this fact, the data drawn from mountain glaciers, tree-growth rings, coral layers, and other biological and geological indicators sensitive to temperature change, confirms that the twentieth century has witnessed a major temperature change. (Soon 3).
Global warming triggers further effects on the earth condition: water that comes from the melting ice caps raises the sea levels; approach of the sea endangers people settlements located nearby the shores; as a result, the number of refugees increases dramatically. Contradicting those negative effects are certain positive effects of climate change.
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The increase in plant growth triggered by the global warming stimulates reduction of carbon dioxide and thus decreases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. From this discrepancy emerges the debate among the climatologists, the policy makers, and the general public about what — if something — should be done in order to adequately respond to global warming.
The issues to consider in connection with the global warming problem are numerous. Implementation of alternative energy sources and new technology for capturing carbon; assigning responsibility for reducing global warming; the share of developed and developing countries in reducing emissions and bearing the burden of responsibility for the majority of greenhouse gases; international and national laws concerning global warming; personal responsibilities of people, — those are but a few ideas considered by modern society in respect to global warming.
But perhaps the most burning questions asked are if global warming could be stopped at all or if it is a natural irreversible process. Many scientists hold the opinion that it is already too late to restore the damage caused to the planet by global warming. The major way out of the situation is envisaged in cutting down the emissions of greenhouse gases so that their levels in the atmosphere are stabilized.
But even then it will take the earth no less than several decades to cool down (Farrar 88–89). In any case, it has been agreed that joint effort is taken by the international community to follow the greenhouse gases reduction strategy, and to legalize this decision Kyoto protocol has been ratified by over 160 countries of the world covering fifty-five percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Human activities have had a devastating effect on the planet. Not only have people exhausted the natural resources, but they have also created conditions that have led to accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to the resulting from it global warming.
This, in its turn, is having dramatic effects on the climate of the planet and may end tragically for all life on earth, unless urgent actions are taken to hamper and prevent the global catastrophe. Therefore, the world community should unite in the joint effort to significantly decrease greenhouse gas emission and save our planet from the climatic catastrophe that impends over it.
Farrar, Amy. Global Warming. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing Company, 2008. Print.
The author discusses the controversial viewpoints regarding global warming.
Faust, Daniel R. Global Warming: Greenhouse Gases and the Ozone Layer. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2009. Print.
The author discusses the ozone layer, the effect of ultraviolet radiation on living things, and the causes and effects of global warming.
Oxlade, Chris. Global Warming. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2003. Print.
The author explains what global warming is, the factors that cause it, how it affects the environment, and what is being done to prevent it.
Silverstein, Alvin, Virginia Silverstein, and Laura Silverstein Nunn. Global Warming. Brookfield, CT: Twenty-First Century Books, 2003. Print.
The authors examine global warming and the greenhouse effect, changes in earth’s climate since its formation, the effects of these changes, and whether anything can be done to reverse them.
Soon, Willie, Sallie L. Baliunas, Arthur B. Robinson, and Zachary W. Robinson. Global Warming: A Guide to the Science. Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 2001. Print.
The authors review scientific literature concerning the environmental consequences of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and come to the conclusion that increases during the twentieth century have produced no deleterious effects upon global climate or temperature.