Global warming: Causes, consequences and solutions
Global warming is the climate change resulting from the over heating of the earth’s atmosphere over the past century. There have been a lot of controversies concerning global warming with some people trying to search for solutions to reduce its widespread, while others dismiss it. It is imperative for every person to be informed on the causes, the consequences and most importantly solutions to stop it.
This research paper concentrates on the current position of the scientists on global warming and the theories that are associated with its causes.The purpose of this paper is to find out how the greenhouse gases start the whole process of global warming and what its end results are. The hypothesis of the research is that emission of the greenhouse gases to the atmosphere causes climatic changes, which damage the environment. Theories on the causes of global warming 1) The greenhouse gases There are several theories explaining the causes of global warming. A majority of the scientists believe that the cause is an increase in the mission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
The major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is carbon dioxide. Without it, the earth would be much colder, with a global mean temperature below 0 degrees Celsius. The respiration of living things and the decomposition of dead plants and animals are the highest producers of carbon dioxide. In the past, these high levels of carbon dioxide could be absorbed by the oceans or used up by plants through photosynthesis.
However, with the additional production of the gas from industries, the ocean and plants can not absorb all of the gas.Carbon dioxide emissions mainly come from the power plants, burning of coal, oil and natural gas, auto engines among many others, which produce 98% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. (Tomera Audrey N. , (2001, page 113) Methane is another major green house gas, whose molecules trap carbon dioxide 20 times more than carbon dioxide. A few of the main producers of methane include the wet lands, decomposing waste materials, rice paddies, coal mines, natural gas deposits or sheep and cow dung. Scientists have found out that the amount of the methane in the atmosphere is decreasing, though no proof has been stated yet.
The third green house gas is nitrous oxide, which is added to the atmosphere when waste products from animals and humans are broken down by bacteria. The nitrogenous fertilizers in the soil, burning of oil, coal and natural gases also add nitrous oxide to the atmosphere. Scientific research shows that a molecule of nitrous oxide absorbs heat 270 more times than carbon dioxide. Other green house gases include hexafluoride and fluorocarbons.
(Tomera Audrey N. , 2001, page 115) The greenhouse effect is defined as the regulation of the heat entering the atmosphere by the green house gases.When energy from the sun arrives at the earth, two thirds of the light is absorbed by the atmosphere and the earth, while the rest is reflected back into space. (Tomera Audrey N. , 2001, Pp 116) The two thirds that was absorbed is then re-emitted back in to the earth’s atmosphere as infrared radiation (heat).
The green house gases transmit the infrared waves selectively, allowing some to pass trough back to the space while trapping the rest. The absorbed waves are then reemitted downwards, causing the atmosphere to warm up. (Hopwood Nick, Cohen Jordan, 2008) 2)The black carbon soot theory The second theory suggesting the cause of global warming is the theory of the black carbon soot, aerosol, comprising of microscopic particles of fog and smoke. It is produced through the burning of forest fires and fossil fuels, or from the engines of trucks and buses. Scientific research states that an approximated 10 million tons of black soot enter the atmosphere every year, contributing to the formation of the ozone layer when stroke by sun light. Although the ozone layer is found in the stratosphere, it traps heat and causes global warming.
(Tomera Audrey N. , 2001, Pp 116-117)The sun as a cause for global arming The third theory states that human beings are not responsible for global warming, but the sun is. Scientists who support this say that the sun has seasons and storms, and an eleven year cycle of solar flares and sunspots. Besides producing light, the sun is said to emit ultra violent light, which splits the molecules of oxygen into atoms.
The atoms combine with other molecules to form the ozone layer. It is also said that the solar field and the magnetic fields of the sun which cause the Northern lights can also change the direction of the cosmic rays from the space into our atmosphere.The theory draws its support from the occurrence of warmth on cloudy nights than in the clear nights, even at the same time of the year. (Tomera Audrey N.
, 2001, Pp117) Effects of global warming Increase of diseases Climatic changes have always been associated with the spread of new diseases, or the spread of diseases that had been eradicated. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported on the April of 2007 that the increase of the temperatures could lead to the spread of disease vectors. This could have effects such as either the increase or the decrease of some diseases like malaria in Africa.The diseases that are spread by insects such as ticks will definitely be affected by the changes in the climate as these insects prefer a certain temperature, humidity and vegetation. The panel also said that it will be difficult to predict whether the diseases will increase or decrease as the spread of diseases is a variable determined by many factors including climatic changes. (Science daily, May 23rd 2007) In the mountains of the endemic areas, malaria is not transmitted above a certain altitude because temperatures are too cold to support mosquitoes.
As temperatures rise, this malaria line will rise as well. Another effect of global warming could be the change of the influenza season. At the tropics, influenza is an all year round disease, but if an expansion of the tropical air masses around the equator occur, some areas may lose their seasons and experience flu as an all year-round disease. These are just but a few of the diseases that might spread as a result of the environmental changes.
Today, statistics show that over 150,000 people die every year from diseases associated with climatic changes, from allergies, respiratory illnesses to vector diseases. Science daily, May 23rd 2007) Occurrence of droughts In the book “Monitoring and predicting agricultural drought”, the author writes that due to the increase in the temperatures, an increase in the rate of evaporation of water from the earth’s surface will be expected. This will lead to a shrink in the supply of water, giving way to long periods of drought. Since temperature and climate are important in deciding which crops will be grown, farmers will need to adapt to agricultural practices fit for the climatic changes.In the non desert areas, drought will arise because of the fluctuations in the local weather patterns. (Boken Vijendra K.
etal, 2005, pages 429-434) The droughts will not be preventable, although proper use of the climatic prediction models will be important in predicting the weather fluctuations. This will help to plan wisely on the agricultural practices that will help minimize the drought effect. Global warming therefore leads to a global shortage of food and water, hence death of many people from starvation.The results of global warming are already being experienced in some areas like the Sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan and India.
A suggestion made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that approximately 75 to 250 million Africans will experience a water shortage by the year 2020. Consequently, the agricultural output of Africa is estimated to decrease by 50%. (Colenso Maria, 8/27/2008) Rise in global mean sea level Al Gore says that although the sea levels have risen and fallen in the past, the change has never occurred as rapid as the scientists have predicted because of global warming.The rise in sea level arises when higher average temperatures cause the glaciers to melt, the water being discharged in to the oceans from the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland increases, and due to thermal expansion of the volume of the sea as its water warms.
He says that nations like Bangladesh, Gambia, Indonesia, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Senegal, Thailand and China among others including Islands will be devastated if the predictions are made now by the scientists turn out to be accurate. The coastal countries will suffer the most from the consequences of the sea-level rise.Gore says that, “Just as Netherlands has been able to hold back the North Sea with an elaborate and expensive network of dikes, some wealthy nations will be better able than others to cope with the effects of the rising sea level and rapidly changing patterns of water availability. ” The citizens of the poor nations at risk of the risen sea levels will be forced to become refugees, crossing the borders to the wealthier countries. (Gore Albert, 2007, page 104). Jonathan Irving, in his book “Earth”, says that the rise in sea level will be certain because of the expansion of water due to heating.
He also says that, “The shrinking ice caps, the continental glaciers and the major Green land and Antarctic ice sheets may play important but less certain roles. If the trend over the past century were to continue, an additional 15 cm of sea-level rise would occur between now and 2010. Folding in the possible accelerated melting of ice sheets due to global warming leads to a less certain, but larger, value up to 95 cm by the year 2100. ” Also, larger sea levels could be obtained if the speculated collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet occurs.
(Irving L. J. , 1999, page 289)Effect on hurricanes, tornados and storms As more heat is retained on the earth’s surface, there will be an increase in the movement of air across the surface of the earth. This will result to formation of winds, causing warm and cold fronts and more violent weather conditions. The authors say that the frequency and the intensity of the hurricanes, tornadoes and other dangerous storms will increase. This has been witnessed recently by the occurrence of the New Orleans Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005.
It caused the entire city to be evacuated, and damage worth billions of dollars was seen.There was also the occurrence of the Hurricane Rita, which was not so severe, but still devastating. (McKinney Michael L. etal, 2007, page 482) Al Gore says that the warming up of the oceans by the increasing heat is likely to cause the average hurricane to become more powerful. The scientists have attributed this to the depth and warmth of the ocean’s top layer, the most important factor in determining the speed of the hurricane’s winds.
The frequency of the powerful storms coming to the land from the oceans will exacerbate the damage from the rising sea levels and may cause deaths. Gore Albert, 2007, page 106). Solutions to global warming The only and most effective way to reduce the effects of global warming would be to stop the emission of green house gases into the atmosphere. This would be possible by organizing campaigns to educate the people on the dangers of global warming. This way, they would consider keeping the environment clean and free of the greenhouse gases where possible.
It would also help a lot if the government came up with new policies to control the emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by industries.President Barack Obama together with the members of the congress has suggested a “cap-and –trade” system under which the emission of the gases to the atmosphere will be regulated by the law. The policy will involve the trading of emission permits. The administration supports the mode that will allow the government to auction the permits to the emitters. On the other hand, the government can opt to hand the permits freely to the emitters, as the European Union’s Emission Trading System does. However, both of the permits can be allocated and then traded at the market prices.
This is a good system that would help to reduce the effects of greenhouse gases and acidic rain. The need for a policy in the U. S is necessary, first, because the U. S is the biggest emitter of the green house gases, and second, other countries like China which depend on coal as their main source of power will soon start relying more on other energy sources. Other ways that can be used to control the emission of the green house gases would be through treatment of the gases before they are released to the atmosphere.
The gases could be neutralized to reduce their effects once they are emitted.Also, carbon capture and sequestration, which involves capturing the gases and storing them in a way that they won’t escape to the atmosphere, would also be effective. This can be done through the injection of carbon dioxide underground, for example in to the depleted saline aquifers and gas wells. Mineralization, where the finely ground minerals are heated and then combined with the carbon dioxide and water to produce calcium carbonate, which is harmless can also be applied.
However, a lot of research is needed in finding other ways of disposing the gases, since mineralization and carbon capture and sequestration are expensive.People should also consider the usage of the solar and wind power as their sources of energy because they cause no harm to the environment and are cheaper in the long run. Conclusion From the research, it is clear that human beings are the greatest contributors to global warming. It should be the duty of every person to ensure that they adhere to the measures necessary to control global warming.
We need to think of how the future generations will live, if the predictions made by the scientists concerning the environment actually come true.This research has also been successful in finding out the causes of global warming, its consequences and the possible solutions to reduce the rate at which it takes place. Its hypothesis has also been supported. However, more long term and cheaper ways to control the emission of the greenhouse gases need to be researched. This research is limited by the fact that its findings are based on data from secondary sources. Actual and current research from the field needs to be used when conducting such a research in order to provide more accurate information.