Thursday, August 20, 2009

Global Warming Essay

Imagine a world where the landlocked state of Idaho is now prime oceanfront property and almost all of the major cities in the world are covered by water, a place where the average temperature ten degrees higher, and instead of California, Canada and Siberia now have the prime agricultural climates and tropical diseases are worldwide (Kyoto 13). This isn’t a science fiction movie. It is the predicted worst-case scenario if we continue to pollute the environment with greenhouse gases. Global warming is a serious threat that could threaten the existence of our civilization.

Some suggest that this horrible scenario is impossible and that global warming is all hype and no substance. They blame the global warming frenzy on ulterior political motives, faulty scientific data and a misinformed media. Unfortunately for us, this point of view is wrong and global warming is a serious threat.

Those who argue that it is all political hype say that politicians are making a big deal out of this issue in order to advance their political position. The author of one article dedicated to this viewpoint says, “The VP has been revving up his political engine on high octane global warming hype recently. This is probably the prelude to his expect bid for the White House in the next presidential election. He claims that the signatures of 2,500 scientists from the IPCC and record high temperatures this summer should seal the debate forever.” He and others who agree argue that these actions by the Vice President are based solely on his political agenda and faulty scientific data. They claim that the data Al Gore is using to base his decisions shows an increase in global temperature but isn’t credible because most of the temperatures were taken in urban areas where they can be skewed by the heat conducting properties of concrete and asphalt that are common in urban areas().

This argument does have a point, but there is one inconsistency. Why is Antarctica, a place with no manmade objects, experiencing the warmest years in all of history? There is no denying this fact. Climate records of Antarctica show that in the last half-century temperatures have risen almost 3 degrees Celsius and the ice shelves are disappearing at an alarming rate. “Between 1966 and 1989 most of the Wordie Ice Shelf, 502 square miles, disappeared. And over the past 18 months, two of the peninsula’s largest ice shelves have lost nearly 1,100 square miles of their total area, a sheet of ice about the size of Rhode Island,” says Mary Roach, author of “Antarctica’s Hot Spot”. Nobody can dispute the rising sea levels either, which is an effect of the melting ice.

Another position that many people argue is that the media, who have no hard, cold facts to go by, have blown up the issue of global warming in order to create controversy that will sell more papers and attract more viewers. Unfortunately, the media didn’t just cook this scheme up to make more money, they based it on undeniable scientific evidence. The fact that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen drastically is a phenomenon that isn’t possible to dispute. Before the industrial revolution, amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 270 parts per million. Today it is almost 360 parts per million due to our emissions from burning fossil fuels. “There is no known geologic precedent for large increases of atmospheric CO2 without simultaneous changes in other components of the carbon cycle and climate system,” states ;dj;lad. This means that throughout the earth’s geological history, there has never been a case where the CO2 level has risen and the climate hasn’t changed. Scientific evidence from core samples proves this. Unfortunately, today, the rise in CO2 hasn’t been natural as in the past, but has been imposed by us humans. The consequences of this unnatural balance could be devastating.

Global warming occurs because we are spewing emission gases into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. These gases, with carbon dioxide being the main culprit, prevent solar heat from escaping the earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a rise in temperature, or the greenhouse effect. Already scientists around the world are detecting the numerous and dangerous effects of global warming. (Johnson 18).

These effects include rising sea levels, killer heat waves, outbreaks of tropical diseases, altered weather patterns, increased numbers of floods and hurricanes, and affected agricultural harvests (Calvin 49).

The most widely accepted effect from global warming is rising sea levels , which could dramatically transform our planet. Polar sea ice and alpine glaciers have been steadily receding over the last two decades (Wheeler 96). If the huge polar ice caps disgorge their enormous volume of fresh water into the sea, the abrupt rise in the sea level will cover coastal and low-lying lands around the globe. Fifty percent of the world’s major cites are located on the coast, as well as many natural treasures such as the Florida Everglades and the Hawaiian Islands (“What We’ve Learned”). All of these coastal areas would be submerged. The sea has already risen four inches since the turn of the century and it is expected to rise much more abruptly. Earth could possibly become a water world (Kyoto 14).

The effect on the world’s climate from increasing temperatures could be just as devastating. Floods, droughts, heat waves and plagues are all on the rise. The eleven warmest years in history have occurred since 1980. Increasing temperatures will cause much more precipitation in certain parts of the world, leading to many deadly floods (Johnson 22). Conversely, other parts of the globe will see a reduction in rainfall and deserts will relentlessly overtake thousands of square miles of habitable land (Sclener 97). Northern areas such as Europe, Russia, Canada, and the northern United States could have milder winters. This at first glance may seem like a good thing. However the changing climates can allow tropical diseases to move into higher latitudes and affect people and animals that have no immunity to the new viruses. Already deadly rodent viruses are showing up in areas of Africa and the American Southwest that were previously unknown to affect humans (Sclener 23).

As if these changes in sea level and climate are not scary enough, the changes to agriculture around the world could be the most threatening of all. Many third world countries depend on agriculture for their entire export economy as well as the primary source of food for their citizens. Entire countries could lose their agriculture base because of altered climate patterns (Johnson 55). At our current rate of pollution, all of these disasters are expected to take place in as little as fifty years (Calvin 55).

The phenomenon of global warming is an extremely serious matter. Not just hype as many claim. The scientific evidence of increased greenhouse gases, melting ice sheets and rise in sea level are undeniable facts. If we don’t do something to prevent this from increasing, our entire civilization is at risk.

We can stop continued global warming by enticing industries to switch to more energy efficient fuels like natural gas. We can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by driving more fuel efficient cars, installing solar cells on our roofs, and relying more on wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power for our electricity. The governments of the world need to look past the perceived economic drawbacks of reducing our use of fossil fuels and realize the enormous economic potential of emerging environmental technology that could prevent global warming (Sclener). Global warming is real and we need to stop it now before it is too late.

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1 comment:

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