Global Warming Causes and Effects

Global warming is a term commonly used to describe the consequences of man-made pollutants overloading the naturally occurring greenhouse effect causing an increase of the average global temperature and is the subject of great debate and concern worldwide. Essentially, the greenhouse effect functions in the following manner: When sunlight pierces the atmosphere and hits the earth’s surface, not all of the sun’s solar energy is absorbed. Approximately a third of it is reflected into space. Specific atmospheric gases serve in much the same way as does the glass of a greenhouse, thus the terminology. These gases allow sunlight to penetrate then trap some of the solar energy which heats the earth. This occurrence is causing the earth to warm.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent of the greenhouse gases. Although deforestation is contributing heavily to the excess of CO2 in the atmosphere, a larger portion is caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal. Eighty percent of the world’s population accounts for just 35 percent of CO2 emissions while the United States and Soviet Union combined are responsible for generating half. Worldwide, “carbon dioxide emissions are increasing by four percent a year.” (Miller, 1990, p. 450). Motor vehicles are a major cause of air pollution as is fuel burned for the heating of homes and powering industry along with the toxins emitted from stacks at coal-burning power plants.

Global warming is evidenced by the well-documented melting of glaciers along with the thermal expansion of the oceans, which have contributed to an increase in sea level over the past century of about six inches. Cloud compositions will change which will amplify the greenhouse effect. The elevated evaporation rate will hasten the drying effect of soil after rainfall which will result in drier conditions in many regions. The more rapid water recycling rate will result in heavier rainfall amounts and the number of extreme rainfall events. Higher rainfall rates will cause increased tropical storm intensity in addition to the warmer temperatures. Hurricanes maybe even more frequent and intense than presently predicted. (Trenberth, 1997). The landmasses will suffer the greatest changes as a result of the greenhouse effect.

A gradual rise in sea level this past century has pushed the tide-line further inland, submerging coastal lands and causing progressive erosion. The tidal wetlands and beaches gradually migrate inland as assorted plant life grows upon newly formed beaches creating a new contracted shoreline. The extent of coastal change is determined by the topography of the land close to the shore. “The tide comes and goes like clockwork, but if we continue to watch and wait, our coastal regions will face more erosion damage than we can repair, and the sea’s gentle image might be changed in the eyes of those affected” (Spyres, 2001).

The world can indeed survive without fossil fuels. There is growing consensus that fuel ethanol may serve a multitude of socially desirable goals. Ethanol is a type of alcohol that can be made using crops such as sugar beets, wheat, or corn. As a fuel additive, ethanol boosts octane and substantially reduces toxic carbon monoxide emissions. The conversion of beets or corn into ethanol is touted by scientists today as an economically and environmentally sound solution to pressing national and global concerns. Promising future alternatives to crude oil, vegetable oil can be substituted for diesel fuel while ethanol is an effective petrol additive (Edinger & Kaul, 2003).

World leaders have no sense of urgency regarding global warming. They place great importance on the popular items of the day such as education, crime, economics, and war to be reelected but if they don’t address this issue, there will be nothing to politicize in the future as we will have no future.

References

Edinger, Raphael and Kaul, Sanjay. “Sustainable Mobility: Renewable Energies for Powering Fuel Cell Vehicles.” Westport, CT: Praeger. (2003).

Miller, G. Tyler. “Living in the Environment: An Introduction to Environmental Science.” Belmont: Wadsworth. (1990).

Trenberth, Kevin E. “Global Warming: It’s Happening.” National Center for Atmospheric Research. (1997). 2008, Web.

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