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Global Warming Issue

Essay by   •  June 14, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,358 Words (10 Pages)  •  2,348 Views

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The issue of global warming has been one of the more confusing and misleading issues to be presented to the public. Global warming has become perhaps the most complicated issue facing world leaders. While some scientists are skeptical about the phenomenon of global warming and its potential impact on the global climate, it is a fact that a variety of chemicals with extremely long lifetimes are being emitted into the atmosphere every year. On the one hand, warnings from the scientific community are becoming louder, as an increasing body of science points to rising dangers from the ongoing buildup of human-related greenhouse gases -- produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels and forests. On the other, the technological, economic and political issues that have to be resolved before a concerted worldwide effort to reduce emissions can begin have gotten no simpler, particularly in the face of a global economic slowdown

Global warming is commonly referred to as an increase in the temperature of the lowest layers of Earth's atmosphere. Global warming has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often used to refer to the warming predicted to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases. Short-wave solar radiation sinks into the Earth's atmosphere and warms its surface; while long wave infrared radiation emitted by earth's surface is absorbed, and then re-emitted by trace gases. Primary greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO) methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (NO), and ozone (O). Carbon dioxide, as well as other greenhouse gases, is a very important factor in the vital cycles which sustain life on this planet: plants use CO in photosynthesis and release oxygen necessary to maintain the lives of animal species, who through exhaling return CO in atmosphere, completing the cycle. Greenhouse effect is a natural process which made life on Earth feasible. Our planet's surface temperature would have been 33 degrees Celsius cooler, -18 C instead of present 15 C, if not for naturally occurring greenhouse gases.

There are many theories on about what would be the cause of global warming. One of the theories is that a large quantity of carbon dioxide is dissolved in the ocean water. The quantity of it always comes to equilibrium with the amount of it in atmosphere. Based on the very detailed statistical study of the correlation of the ocean's temperature and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air, held by the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the period of 1958 - 1988, some scientists conclude that it may not necessarily be the increase of the concentration of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that causes the warming of atmosphere. The study showed that a rise in ocean temperature actually preceded the rise of carbon dioxide concentration in atmosphere. Other theory states that the primary cause of the global increase of the temperature is the consequence of the sun activity. Sunspot cycles, which range between 9 to 13 years, are determining the amount of the sun radiation which is released in space and received by Earth in particular. "Changes in this cycle on the order of 0.1 percent are equivalent to atmospheric effects on the climate during the time period".

A large group of scientists see the cause of the current temperature change due to human activities such as burning of fossil fuels in the course of the past two centuries since the beginning of the industrial revolution and active deforestation of the planet's surface.

The human influence on the environment was not crucial when the population of the planet was much smaller. At the beginning of our era approximately 250 million people lived on Earth and by 1650 the population had grown only to 500 million. Yet, the rapid growth of population, starting in the nineteenth century, coincided with the development of the industry making the impact of the humanity on the environment, and in particular on the temperature change, considerable. In 1830 the planet population reached one billion, in 1930 - two billion, and four billion around 1975. In 1990 it was estimated 5.3 billion. It is clear that the growing population is consuming more resources, using more energy. While 90 percent of the world's energy is provided by burning fossil fuels, according to the information received in an e-mail interview from professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington Dennis Hartmann, this means that humanity burns more fuel to produce goods and services for itself. Comparing the rate of increasing the concentration of the carbon dioxide in atmosphere with the rate of the average temperature change leads scientists to the logical conclusion of the strong correlation between two.

Another way humans influence the concentration of carbon dioxide in atmosphere is by cutting down the forests all around the world which are absorbing the atmospheric carbon dioxide and releasing the oxygen in the process of photosynthesis. In most threatening amounts forests are cut in the tropical regions, such as the Amazon River basin of South America, where 1.5 acres are cut every second.

Oil, coal and natural gas are fossil fuels formed in Earth from the remains of plants and animals. They are rich in carbon and, when burned, produce carbon dioxide. Fossil fuels have been largely used by humanity since eighteenth century to produce heat. At present they are mostly used to produce electricity

Science brings different theories about the primary causes of the global warming of atmosphere. Eventually, the processes that happen in the environment are so complex even on local scale, that analyzing causes and effects of global processes (e.g., global warming) leads scientists to controversial conclusions. Most scientists agree on certain facts. Arguments start upon interpretation of these facts. Concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which the scientists agree determines the temperature of Earth, has increased from a value of about 275 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution to about 360 parts per million in 1996. The rate of increase has also been accelerating in this period of time. The researches made by different groups of scientists came nearly with the same results on the rise of the near surface atmospheric temperature. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) officially concluded in 1996 that it has increased by somewhere in between 0.5 to 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit since the last century. The sea level has risen four to ten inches during the same period of time. The main issue which arise not only scientific, but also political arguments is the human's contribution to the current warming of atmosphere.

The idea of global warming really took off in the United States in 1988 because of James Hansen's dramatic testimony on the

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