Now more than ever humans are becoming a major factor in the future of climate and more importantly climate change. Human actions towards the earth and the depletion of the ozone layer are irreversible. A warmer future could result from human activities in the present by releasing massive amounts of heat trapping gases into the air. (web) These greenhouse gases are partially the reason for the 0.
5^0 C rise in the global average temperature recorded over the past 100 years. If the Earth's temperature continues to rise as estimated, global warming could occur more rapidly than any climate change of the last 10, 000 years. (web) Fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide when burned, are used to generate electricity, heat and light homes and workplaces, power factories and run cars. The future of Earth's climate may depend partly on the buildup of heat trapping gases, mainly carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, in the atmosphere. Industrialized nations are known to release the most carbon dioxide.
Is there an alternative to this pollution and soon, disaster? In order for us to understand the immensity of this problem, we must look at what causes global warming, what is being done to stop the problem, consequences of this issue, and how we can prevent it. Global warming occurs when there is a depletion of the ozone layer and the earth's temperature begins to get warmer as a result of the heat trapping abilities of greenhouse gases. The glass panels of a greenhouse and the Earth's atmosphere are both transparent to sunlight, and both trap heat (web). Atmospheric greenhouse gases trap some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat like the glass panels of a greenhouse, therefore, creating the greenhouse effect. At the moment, the earth appears to be facing rapid warming, which most scientists believe results, at least in part, from human activities.
The main cause of this warming is thought to be the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, which releases into the atmosphere. (web) As the atmosphere contains more and more of these gases, it becomes a better insulator, holding more of the heat provided to the planet by the Sun. With years of abuse and neglect, this matter will only worsen. Many feel that Global warming is inevitable, and that the climate will change regardless of how cautious we are. This is partly true, climate does change all the time, but the change is slow and constant. We are doing it at enormous speeds, 60 times faster than expected.
(Science news) All life on Earth relies on the greenhouse effect, without it, the planet would be colder by about 33 degrees, and ice would cover the entire Earth. However, a growing excess of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere threatens to head in the other direction, toward continual warming. Carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas followed by methane and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide flows into the atmosphere from many natural processes, such as volcanic eruptions, the respiration of animals, and the burning or decay of organic matter, such as plants. (web) Humans increase the amount of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, solid wastes, and wood products.
(web) At the same time, the number of trees available to absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis has been reduced by deforestation. Methane is an even more effective insulator, trapping over 21 times more heat than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide is a powerful insulating gas released primarily by burning fossil fuels and by plowing farm soils. Nitrous oxide traps over 270 times more heat than does the same amount of carbon dioxide. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased nearly 30%, methane concentrations have more than doubled, and nitrous oxide concentrations have risen by about 15%. (web) These increases have improved the ability of the earth's atmosphere to trap heat.
During the industrial revolution we began to slowly alter our climate and environment by changing agricultural practices and industrial practices. These new practices have caused a change in the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the build-up of greenhouse gases. Due to the growth of the world's population and the nations economies, and the use of technology also growing, the global temperature is expected to continue to increase by an additional 1. 0 to 3. 5 degrees by the year 2100. (Winnipeg Sun) This seemingly subtle change in the global temperature could prove to have terrible results.
We are altering the environment faster than we can possibly predict the consequences. This is definitely going to lead to some surprises. The earth's temperature would rise on it's own, but that takes thousands of years, we are doing it in a century. (web) The world is rapidly changing. The developed countries are all working to reduce greenhouse emissions. Several European countries impose heavy taxes on energy usage, designed partly to limit such emissions.
Norway taxes industries according to the amount of carbon dioxide they emit. In Canada, government and industry are trying to negotiate agreements aimed at increasing energy efficiency, promoting alternative energy sources, and cutting down greenhouse gas output. The Canadian government has established the program to cut carbon dioxide emissions from federal vehicles by reducing the number of vehicles it owns and by training drivers to use them more efficiently. By 2004, 75 percent of Canadian federal vehicles are to run on alternative fuels, such as methanol and ethanol. (Globe and Mail Jan 4/03) In the United States, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, product manufacturers, local utilities, and retailers have collaborated to implement the Energy Star program. This voluntary program rates appliances for energy use and gives some money back to consumers who buy efficient machines.
Many local governments are also working against greenhouse emissions by conserving energy in buildings, modernizing their vehicles, and advising the public. Individuals, too, can take steps. The same choices that reduce other kinds of pollution work against global warming. Every time a consumer buys an energy-efficient appliance, adds insulation to a house, recycles paper, metal, and glass, chooses to live near work, or commutes by public transportation, he or she is fighting global warming. The Kyoto Protocol becomes more important as time goes on, pressure has been put on international leaders to face this problem and come up with a valid solution.
(Globe and Mail Jan 4/03) Cooperation is required by all for the effective reduction of greenhouse gases. In 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 150 countries pledged to confront the problem of greenhouse gases and agreed to meet again to form these good intentions into a binding treaty. In 1997 in Japan, 160 nations drafted a much stronger agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol. (web) This treaty involves the 38 industrialized countries that now release the most greenhouse gases to cut their emissions. This reduction is to be achieved no later than 2012.
(web). The remaining nations, mostly developing, were not asked to commit to a reduction in gas emissions. Most developing nations fear this will pause their improvement. Most countries are waiting for ratification by the United States, at present the source of one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States has so far refused ratification. Some critics find the Kyoto Protocol too weak.
Even if it were enforced immediately, it would only slightly slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Much stronger action would be required later, particularly because the developing nations exempted from the Kyoto rules are expected to produce half the world's greenhouse gases by 2035. (web) The most influential opponents of the protocol, however, find it too strong. Opposition to the treaty in the United States is encouraged by the oil industry, the coal industry, and others which manufacture or depend on fossil fuels. They say that the economic costs to carry out the Kyoto Protocol could be as much as $300 billion, due mainly to higher energy prices. (web) There are many things we ourselves can do to reduce the emissions of fossil fuels, and in turn prevent global warming.
For example, things as simple as: car pooling, keeping your vehicle well-maintained, and using energy efficient appliances, We, as an entire race, need to become more aware of the future repercussions of our seemingly harmless daily activities and choices. This will ensure a safe, temperate future for generations to come.