During the past election cycle, there was a lot of debate about global warming; whether it is a myth and whether it is caused by our actions. Global warming is the rise in average global temperatures that have been observed in the last few centuries. It is caused by the release of greenhouse gases that form a 'blanket' in the earth atmosphere preventing release of excess heat back into the upper atmosphere. This phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect. It occurs mainly due to human activities that release greenhouse gases. It has had several effects on life on earth and could prove catastrophic unless it is curbed. Ideally, global warming is the current major problem confronting humanity and is caused by human activities; to resolve global warming, human intervention is necessary.
Human activities release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere. This is mainly done by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline and other carbon-based fuels. It is to say that transportation and manufacturing are major causes of global warming because they are the main processes through which fossil fuels are burnt. Deforestation also leads to an increase in the level of carbon dioxide (MacMillan). This is because plants use carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis to produce food. When trees are cut down, there is nothing to consume carbon dioxide released from animals' respiration and other industrial processes. Carbon dioxide has been released by man into the atmosphere for centuries since the industrial revolution.
Methane is another hazardous gas that humans usually release into the atmosphere. Although the emissions of methane in the atmosphere are significantly lower than those of methane, it is still a major cause for concern. It is considered 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide since it traps heat longer (Reay et al. 120). The major emitters of methane are landfills and livestock. As the matter decomposes in landfills, it releases methane gas into the atmosphere. A surprising source of methane is flatulence from cattle (Reay et al 121). To feed the large human population, humans have had to keep many livestock. The total biomass of the world's livestock is more than the total biomass of people and wild animals combined (Reay 121). These gases hurt the quality of life on earth.
Greenhouse gases released by human activities lead to the depletion of the ozone layer. Chlorofluorocarbons, used in refrigerators, aerosols and air conditioning contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. The ozone gas absorbs ultraviolet light from the sun and prevents it from reaching the earth's surface (Solomon et al. 16). When it is depleted, harmful UV radiation may reach the ground thus causing an increase in diseases such as skin cancer.
Chemicals emitted to the atmosphere by industries lead to the formation of acid rain. Acid rain is formed when sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide that are emitted into the atmosphere combine with water to form sulphuric acid and nitric acid respectively (Singh and Agrawal 15). These chemicals then fall to the earth in the form of rain. Acid rains have several effects. It is harmful to aquatic life and lead to their death and maybe eventual extinction. It also removes minerals from the soil that are necessary for plants to grow thus causing them to dry up. Moreover, it leads to the degradation of soil quality making it unsuitable to grow crops.Undoubtedly, human population is a major factor that exacerbates the rate of global warming. As a population grows, the earth's natural resources remain constant thus leading to overexploitation of resources (O'Neill et al. 212). This leads to deforestation as land is cleared for agriculture and residential purposes. There are also more cattle and sheep being kept for meat thus increasing emission of methane. More people also lead to more industrial production hence increasing the fossil fuels combusted (O'Neill et al. 212). Similarly, as the population increases, transportation need increases and more fuels such as gasoline and diesel, which are major sources of greenhouse gases, are burnt.
Despite the ongoing debate, 97% of scientists agree that global warming is caused by human activities (Agency). Therefore, human beings need to change their habits to maintain the earth at conditions suitable for life. The following are some of the steps that can be taken to reduce climate change due to global warming. One is resorting to renewable sources of energy. By increasing the use of renewable energy, both at home and industry, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted can be reduced. Also, humans should use energy efficient electric appliances. Using energy efficient appliances and bulbs helps reduce the amount of energy used which reduces the heat produced on earth. Moreover, people should be encouraged to use public transport to reduce emissions from transportation by reducing number of vehicles in operation (Agency). Likewise, deforestation should be checked and instead plant more trees to reduce amount of carbon dioxide by natural means of photosynthesis.
In 2017, the fight against global warming was given a significant blow when President Trump withdrew the United States from The Paris Agreement on mitigation of climate change. However, several governors formed the United States Climate Alliance which ensures that they continue adhering to the agreement despite the withdrawal of the country. This act is a significant step in climate change mitigation since it ensures that the lawmakers are held accountable and pressured to reduce global warming despite the actions of climate change deniers.
As the people pursue means of mitigating climate change, it is highly essential that misinformation is highly rejected, both alarmist and skeptic. Alarmists depict doomsday scenarios shortly and label anyone who points out inconsistencies a science denier. When these do not come true, they erode public trust. Skeptics, on the other hand, do not agree that human beings are a significant cause of climate change while others deny that climate change is even happening despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Some do this for monetary reasons since they may have massive investments in the fossil fuel industry while others claim it is a conspiracy designed to bring down the American economy. The problem with such a view is that when they gain political influence, they can undo decades of progress in fighting global warming with actions such as President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement (Shear). Climate change discussions and policy formulation should be based on science if significant progress is to be realized. This is because science lays a foundation from which intervention can base and proceed to address the cause.
Nonetheless, even as human beings strive to prevent further global warming and climate change, they have to acknowledge and prepare for specific consequences which may be inevitable because of the previous human detrimental actions. These include melting of ice caps, changing weather patterns which can affect rain-based agriculture, especially in developing countries, more frequent and more severe heat waves and other extreme weather conditions as well as growing risks of forest fires. The people who face the most severe effects of climate change are the poorest from the developing countries since they are not insulated against its shocks and fluctuations. For example, poor people may not afford medication resulting from diseases related to effects of global warming. To safeguard such populations, there must be robust disaster management systems to mitigate the effects and consequences of global warming.
It is said that humans did not inherit the earth from their ancestors, but borrowed it for the next generation. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the present generation to leave it in the best condition possible for the coming generation. Climate change is a problem affecting all humans. Consequently, all humans have to combat it collectively. Since most greenhouse gases are produced as a by-product of wealth creation such as burning fuel to power industry, keeping cattle to produce meat and other products and using fertilizers to increase food production, incentives or fines can be introduced to make the responsible reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit from their operations. Policies that encourage people to reduce pollution should be the main focus when thinking about ways of mitigating global warming.
Agency, Environmental Protection. "Carbon Pollution from Transportation." 19 01 2017. EPA.https://www.epa.gov/air-pollution-transportation/carbon-pollution-transportation24 02 2018.
MacMillan, Amanda. "Global Warming 101." 11 03 2016. NRDC.https://www.nrdc.org/stories/global-warming-101 24 02 2018.
O'Neill, Brian C, F Landis MacKeller and Wolfgang Lutz. Population and Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Reay, Dave, Peter Smith and Andre van Amstel. Methane and Climate Change. London:
Shear, Michael D. Trump will Withdraw US from Paris Climate Agreement. 1 June 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/trump-Paris-climate-agreement.html
Singh, Anita, and Madhoolika Agrawal. "Acid rain and its ecological consequences." Journal of Environmental Biology 29(1) (2008): 15-24.
Solomon, Susan, et al. "On the depletion of The Antartic Ozone." Nature 321 (1986): 755-758. https://www.nature.com/articles/321755a0
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