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These effects would be unfairly harsh on developing nations, who had little to do with creating the problem; this is one of the reasons that recent international talks in Copenhagen have stalled (WGW 2009). Not only would these countries not be able to develop as quickly and have healthier populations and more stable governments, but industrialized nations would also see negative economic impacts, making many wary of making any major transitions without a more certain analysis of the problem of global warming, and of a human cause behind it.
The Effects of Global Warming
Even if global warming isn't real, or if human emissions aren't behind it, the possible consequences and tangential downsides to the continued release of carbon dioxide and an increase in global warming warrant taking steps to find cleaner fuels and sources of energy. Warmer temperatures would lead directly to more frequent and more violent storms and hurricanes, as adding heat to the weather system adds both energy and moisture to it (NRCD 2009). The recent spate of especially violent hurricanes could be an early result of global warming, some scientists claim, and it is virtually undisputed that warmer overall temperatures would lead to more violent storms occurring more frequently (NRCD 2009).
Not only would existing weather grow more violent and more wet, but there could also be devastating changes to the Earth's overall weather patterns. The world's weather patterns are largely a product of the temperatures of the oceans and the surrounding air, and when these temperatures increase there could be large and somewhat unpredictable changes in these weather patterns (NRCD 2009). Some areas might actually become cooler than they are now, while temperatures would rise in others; lack of rainfall in one place or a sudden inundation in another could drastically change landscape and lead to the irreversible destruction of existing ecosystem (NRCD 2009). The weather isn't generally thought of as such a powerful force, but especially in the long-term it has the potential to completely reshape the world in which we live, and global warming has a formative effect on weather.
The rising ocean levels that are expected as a result of the melting polar ice caps are another way in which our world might be transformed by global warming (WGW 2009). Not only will this lead to the flooding of many islands and coastal areas decimating many ecosystems and large human populations, but this will also have an immediate effect on the weather of newly flooded regions (NRCD 2009). The increased flooding of islands and continents and the encroachment of the world's oceans will also mean that there is simply less land to go around, and resources will become scarcer (NRCD 2009). There are therefore very immediate physical threats and long-term political and social effects of global warming and its consequences, all of which must be fully analyzed and considered when deciding whether or not to act on the possibility of global warming.
Human beings, of course, will not be the only species affected by global warming. Many animals have already begun to shift the regions they inhabit, seemingly in response to global warming (Bryner 2006). As temperatures rise, ecosystems change, and even subtle changes can have large ripple effects. The shifting animal populations that have been noted in some regions have been correlated to global warming figures by computer models, suggesting that warming temperatures are the primary if not sole reason for certain habitat shifts (Bryner 2006). The warming would not only cause habitat shifts, but it could also cause the extinction of many species. Some simply would not be able to adjust to new temperatures and ecosystems, and others would lose in the fiercer battle for resources that would be the natural result of diminishing ecosystems and more crowded living space.
Evidence for Global Warming
Not only would the effects of global warming, if it exists, be devastating, but the fact that many of the predicted effects are beginning to occur provides some evidence that the problem is real despite a lack of scientific agreement. The changing habitation regions of animals were observed and measured before a correlation to global warming was hypothesized, yet the data still seems to fit (Bryner 2006). Average temperature recordings taken by a large number of scientists at points all over the globe, though disputable in their accuracy, do show a warming trend, and the increased rate of melting of the polar ice caps seems to confirm these measurements (NASA 2009). Weather disturbances are harder to link to global warming, but might be another part of the effects.
Though this evidence is still not truly conclusive, it is very persuasive both in its abundance and in the extremity of its predictions. There are no certainties in science, so it will never be "proved" that global warming is happening, and it will be even more difficult to objectively assert that human beings were the cause behind any warming that does occur. But despite this lack of certainty -- or perhaps because of it -- the large scientific consensus regarding global warming and the amount of evidence supporting this consensus makes it a highly probable reality. Certainly, despite the fears of economic and political fallout that might occur from shifting the world away from fossil fuels, the projected effects of global warming are even more extreme, and more of a cause for action.
Global warming is not a fact, but there is a high degree of scientific probability that the planet is indeed getting warmer, and that human activity is at the root of this temperature change. Even if global warming does not exist, however, becoming more responsible with the way in which we use our resources and manage the by products of our consumption certainly isn't a bad thing. There are economic benefits to going green; renewable energy is much cheaper, once the technology for it is in place, so the reduction of emissions correlates to an increase in cash. Also, carbon dioxide is a known pollutant and is bad for human health and the environment in a variety of ways. Whether or not reducing emissions ahs anything to do with global warming, developing cleaner technologies to keep our air wand water clean is a good thing.
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