Global Warming Issues


– Global Level

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WHY NOW?

Global Warming is a term now used to refer to the warming of the globe due to human influence, but until recently, most people were very reluctant to believe that humans could have such a devastating impact on the entire planet on which we live.

Planet earth goes through a natural cycle of warming and cooling between ice ages approximately every 100,000 years. The warmer periods are called interglacial periods, and we are experiencing one right now. The earth has been warming since it came out of the Pleistocene Ice Age 18,000 years ago. However, as we should be nearing the end of our minor interglacial period, the earth is actually continuing to get warmer, and scientists predict temperatures will continue to rise in the next decades, unless we work to stop the progress of Global Warming and prevent a runaway greenhouse effect from occurring.

Global Warming is even reaching the geographical extremes of our planet. Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest point, has been covered with glaciers for almost 12,000 years. Since 1912, when they were first measured, Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have decreased in size by almost 82%, and if we keep hurting the environment at the rate we have been, they may be completely gone by the year 2020. As horrific as this sounds, it isn’t an isolated case. Ice and snow is melting all around the world to such an extent that some scientists believe that the United States’ Glacier National Park may lose it’s glaciers entirely in the next few decades.

Until recent years, we really haven’t paid very much attention to the warming of our planet. You didn’t hear anyone questioning how dropping atomic bombs on Japan would impact the environment, nor did you hear about rising oil prices, rolling blackouts, or natural catastrophies of a scale and intensity never before seen. We thought we were in a cooling period, that we couldn’t possibly affect the entire planet to such an extent, that the concept of Global Warming is just too extreme, with too many implications to be true. We were wrong – we were dead wrong, and we’re just realizing now exactly how wrong we were.

Why has the Atlantic Basin experienced its most active and destructive hurricane season within five years of the occurance of the second largest earthquake ever measured on the Richter scale, a tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 and displaced just under 1.70 million people, massive coral bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, deadly heat strokes and droughts, unpresidented glacial melting, rising sea levels, and warming temperatures? It’s not a coincidence. If you look at the scientific history of our planet’s climate and geology, it’s quite apparent that we are now at a crossroads. We can choose to stay on the path that we’re on – one of wastefulness, irresponsibility, and complete disregard for the environment – or, we can decide to take another path – one determined to clean up our act, and our world.

We, in fact, are to blame for Global Warming and the effect it has on the planet. We cannot continue to promote lifestyles and habits that emit greenhouse gases unnecessarily and completely disregard the implications of those habits. The countries of the world need to step up, band together, take responsibility, and take action to combat what could turn into a global environmental crisis.
– LM

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GLOBAL WARMING TODAY

Today, the signs of global warming are everywhere. Global warming affects the environment in so many ways warming the air around us. Recently, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, wildfires, heat waves, and the disruption of many ecosystems have been attributed to global warming. Global warming also increases the size of the hole in the ozone layer, which lets in extra UV-B light that is harmful for many species who reside on earth. The consequences of global warming have recently been observed in Indonesia, India, Africa, Japan, the southern parts of the USA, and Antarctica. Antarctica is affected more than any other continent; the temperature increase in the last fifty years is twice as high as the global average. Although global warming has been affecting the earth for a while, it’s only recently that industrialized countries have recognized it, and have begun to combat it. The global warming dilemma has been easy to ignore because governments have chosen to use their limited resources on issues that were more pressing. Combating global warming used to be like investing in the future, ensuring that it was decent for the next generation; in the past the United Sates has opted to use the money for immediate issues and has sidestepped the problem. The current situation is much more urgent, and governments around the world are realizing that global warming can’t be pushed aside due to current natural events.

The large ozone hole over Antarctica is increasing due to global warming and harming the many ecosystems of Antarctica. The ozone layer depletes when the stratosphere (the level of atmosphere in which the ozone layer resides in) becomes colder. Greenhouse gasses trap heat in the troposphere (the layer of atmosphere under the stratosphere) thus preventing heat from reaching the stratosphere. The extra UV-B light from the decreased ozone layer harms phytoplankton, which is a building bock of many ecosystems in Antarctica. Other species are also harmed by to being exposed to too much UV light. Skin cancer has been directly connected to increased UV light exposure; since the 1930s, malignant melanoma (a serous type of skin cancer) has increased by 1800 percent. UV light is also connected with cataracts and immune suppression in humans and many animals. Without the ozone layer, the UV light from the sun would harm almost all species on earth. Global warming needs to be stopped before we destroy the ozone layer and make the Earth uninhabitable.

Warmer temperatures also cause droughts, forest fires, ecosystem disasters, and intense rainstorms that lead to flooding. These travesties seem to be occurring more and more throughout the world. India is suffering from a national drought due to a lack of rainfall in regions throughout the country. The Indian government is scrambling for a water source because of the decreasing amounts of ground water throughout the nation. In the United States, the west coast experienced one of the worst wildfires in the last fifty years in 2002. The fire burnt seven million acres in Arizona, Oregon and Colorado. Later in 2002, the United States experienced the driest six months in the recorded history of North America. Many species in the Americas are moving upward to be in colder environments. The warmer weather has also been beneficial to some pests, like the spruce bark beetle, which has eaten thousands of acres of forest in the last decade. The warmer weather is changing and disturbing many ecosystems. The warmer weather is also melting natural wonders like the ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Global Warming is harming people and animals all over the world.

Warming ocean water is also a problem. As water warms it expands, so the sea level is currently rising. As ice sheets melt the water level also increases. This is a problem for cities like Hong Kong which are only six inches above sea level. The ocean could rise by three feet by 2100 if global warming continues. Warmer, more acidic water, isn’t a good living environment for the many different types of algae on which coral reefs, and many other organisms depend, causing mass coral bleaching. The warm water is causing ice shelves in Antarctica to melt. In 2002 the Larsen B ice shelf broke and has disengaged by forty percent since 1995. The North Pole seems to be shrinking and penguin populations have decreased by thirty three percent in the last twenty five years as a result of this. Melting ice bergs will not affect the sea level because frozen water takes more space than liquid water; unfortunately melting glaciers will increase the amount of earthquakes. The weight of the glaciers stabilizes the situation of colliding crustal plates. Melting glaciers could actually cause more earthquakes. In 2006, the earth experienced thirty-six earthquakes with magnitudes of 6.5 or higher; all of these earthquakes did damage. One of the biggest issues with warm oceans is the increased strength likelihood of hurricanes and tropical storms. The amount of category four and five storms has greatly increased in the last thirty-five years. In fact, 2005 was the most active hurricane year in recorded history. The five storms that made it to land were Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma. There were twenty eight tropical and sub-tropical storms, a new record. Not only were there more storms, the winds were stronger. The Massachusetts Institution of Technology reports that the wind speeds of hurricanes have picked up by 50% in the last 50 years. Wilma was a category five storm, the most intense hurricane in history in the Atlantic Ocean. The death toll for the entire season was 2280 lives; and the financial cost was 100 billion dollars. Warm oceans are causing irrevocable harm to the world and it inhabitants.

The current situation of the globe is not good but we still have time to improve or harm the earth. The affects of Global warming are becoming very visible and action is way over due.
– SL

Please click here to view a slideshow of the Larson B Ice Shelf Breakup.

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WHAT SHOULD AND CAN BE DONE TO COMBAT GLOBAL WARMING WORLDWIDE

There are four different categories of plausible solutions for Global Warming. The first is improving energy efficiency and reducing the use of electricity. Much of the energy that we use is wasted on running appliances when they’re not in use. Simply by using energy efficient light bulbs, turning off lights at night, and unplugging appliances when not in use, we can greatly reduce our individual carbon footprints. You can also reduce energy use by setting your thermostat three degrees colder in the winter and three degrees warmer in the summer. Car-pooling and using public transportation are two great ways to cut down on gas consumption, traffic, and fossil fuel emissions. By saving just one gallon of gas, you reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 25 pounds. The efficiency of power plants can also be improved by upgrading their energy sources from antiquated coal to natural gas. If all of the antiquated coal burning plants were replaced with natural gas plants, yearly emissions would be reduced by nearly one billion tons of carbon dioxide, reducing power plant emissions by over 50%.

The second way to combat Global Warming is the research and development of alternative energy sources that are renewable and efficient. Wind power, solar power, water power, biofuel, and ethanol are just a few examples of clean energy sources that are virtually emission free. Hybrid cars get almost twice as many miles per gallon as regular cars, and they have very low levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear and Hydrogen energy sources also look like promising prospects for the future, as they have practically no greenhouse gas emissions, and their energy output is extremely efficient.

The third way to combat Global Warming is through innovative Geo-engineering. Lately, teams of scientists around the world have been looking into alternative ways to counteract the effects of Global Warming. One such possibility is carbon sequestration, or the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing it, and using it to force more crude oil out of oil fields. Another proposition is screening the earth from sunlight by placing gigantic mirrors or wire mesh in space, or by releasing dust, sulfuric acid, or reflecting micro-balloons into the stratosphere in Saturn-like rings of small particles. Scientists are also recommending seeding oceans with iron and chalk. In the last 200 years, our ocean water has become 150% more acidic and 30% more corrosive, and the trend is expected to continue. Seeding the oceans with chalk would help to counteract the ongoing ocean acidification. Phytoplankton in the ocean help to remove carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and scientific research has shown that increased levels of iron in the salt water will cause a great increase in phytoplankton population, thereby reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The fourth way to fight Global Warming is through international rules and regulations. The Kyoto Protocol, which has been signed by more than 140 countries worldwide, is the first step towards a global effort to reverse the effects of Global Warming. Under the Kyoto Protocol, countries commit to greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to meeting very specific emission standards. When a country does not meet those standards, they must buy carbon points from the countries that were able to meet the standards. This creates a market for trading carbon dioxide emissions, a new and possibly lucrative industry, and it also helps to motivate countries to meet their emission standards. Other carbon taxes and fines may also be put in place in the future, to further hold countries to the agreed upon standards, and to ensure the future of our planet.

If we start to be proactive now, there is a chance that we will be able to reverse the effects of global warming. We want our children to know about ice glaciers, we want the polar bears to live another hundred years, we want there to be islands in the South Pacific. We pretty much want our world to remain and have the same beauty for many generations to come.
– JK & LM

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http://www.cartoonbrew.com/archives/2004_12.html
http://www.clearlight.com/~mhieb/WVFossils/ice_ages.html
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0923_030923_kilimanjaroglaciers.html
http://whyfiles.org/227warm_hurricane/
http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts/2005/nov2005/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Indian_Ocean_earthquake
– LM

http://www.esemag.com/1102/kyoto.html
http://www.environ.com/Globalwarming/globalwarmingozone.htm
http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/qthinice.asp
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0923_030923_kilimanjaroglaciers_2.html
http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/fcons.asp”>http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/fcons.asp
http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/10/24/japan.quake/index.html
http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/shownh.php3?img_id=11896
http://www.worldviewofglobalwarming.org/pages/antarctica.html
– SL

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitigation_of_global_warming
http://www.rmbowman.com/ssn/warming.htm
– JK & LM

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