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Global Warming and Its Effects
For many years, people have been talking about how the weather has changed over the past ten years. In fact, you may have witnessed these changes first hand. The earth's climate has been continuously changing for millions of years. Currently, studies indicate that the Earth is undergoing global warming. The first time I ever heard about global warming was a television commercial. I remember that the commercial featured two children and an adult. In the commercial, the adult started to explain global warming, however his explanation was beyond the scope of the children's understanding. The little girl in the commercial was too confused by the explanation that then prompted the adult to flash-forward into the future to show the children the effects of the climatological concept he was talking about. While the trio are seen in a luscious park at the beginning of the commercial, future shows them living on a barren and deserted island; the island is devoid of trees or animals, is so hot that their feet burn from just standing on the ground, and they can't even go into the water because the island's surrounding waters are boiling. This commercial introduced me with the concept of global warming, however as the years progressed, the subject faded from the spotlight. Until recently, I had not heard more about global warming, that is until I saw the movie An Inconvenient Truth. After watching the movie, I realized that global warming had not gone away, but in fact was getting worse. After watching the movie, I wanted to know more about the phenomena and started researching global warming and even talked to my biology teacher about it. After conducting research and talking to my teacher about it, I realized that global warming poses a real threat. Global warming is threatening our everyday lives and has contributed to an increase in average temperatures, made natural disasters more harmful, and has aided in the spread of diseases. If we do not take action now, our future is doomed.
One of the most readily visible signs of global warming is the change in weather and climate. Because global warming is the result of greenhouse gases becoming trapped within the atmosphere with less infrared light escaping, temperatures within the atmosphere begin to rise. Over the last hundred years, temperatures around the world have increased slowly, yet steadily. For instance, since 1980, the average temperature, globally, has gone up 0.2 degrees Celsius, or 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, per decade. As of 2006, the eight hottest years on record were from the past ten years.
One of the greenhouse gasses that get trapped within the Earth's atmosphere is carbon dioxide. When carbon dioxide becomes trapped in the atmosphere it creates a blanket that insulates the Earth and does not release heat into space. Dramatic changes in the Earth's overall average temperature during the past 150,000 years indicates that there may be a direct correlation between global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels. Evidence supports this theory as historically, temperature fluctuations have been directly proportional to carbon dioxide levels. Currently, carbon dioxide makes up 0.03% of the gasses found in the atmosphere. Given this low percentage, and how levels affect global temperatures, any slight increase or decrease of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will have a disproportionate effect on the environment. There are many ways in which carbon dioxide gets put into the atmosphere, but industrial civilization has contributed the most through the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gasoline
Global warming's effect is magnified because of humans trying to compete with natural cylces. It is predicted that if people keep outputting the same amount of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere at a steady rate, by the year 2030, temperatures will be rising by as much as 0.5 degrees, or more, per decade. That said, it is estimated that global temperatures could rise an average of five to nine degrees over the next 50 years.
An increase in global temperatures could have potentially catastrophic consequences. A rise in temperatures could mean that the growth and harvesting of crops at or near the Equator would be crippled because of an increase in heat and insufficient rainfall. The loss of these commodities would greatly affect the economies of unindustrialized, third world countries that rely on agriculture.
Additionally, high temperatures could cause the polar ice caps to melt and raise the sea level one to three feet. This rise in sea level would destroy small islands, coastal cities, and eliminate shallow rivers. For instance, the Florida Everglades, New York City, and Miami would all be affected, and destroyed, by this rise in sea level. Additionally, because global warming also impacts the surface temperature of the bodies of water around the world, weather disturbances like El Nino become stronger and more frequent. Also, hurricanes will become larger and more severe because they feed off the heat of ocean waters. The impact of global warming on hurricane behavior is already evident. During the past two decades, there has been a drastic increase in both the frequency and power of hurricanes.
Furthermore, as warming continues, established weather systems shift and become more extreme, which may result in more extreme droughts and floods. A potential for conflict arises if water shortages affect certain regions of the world. For instance, it is believed that the genocide that has occurred in Darfur may be a response to water shortages that have arisen from global warming.
Fragile ecosystems that are dependent on specific and stable climate conditions are at risk of disappearing as temperatures and precipitation patterns are altered. There are many species that run the risk of becoming extinct, or find their numbers greatly reduced, if they cannot adapt to the changing environment. Scientists estimate that up to 30% of the world's species may go extinct with a rise in temperature as little as two degrees.
The change in climate, and the eradication of sensitive species, is also caused by deforestation. While trees naturally help to eliminate carbon dioxide gases in the atmosphere, if they are cut down, then the natural process by which carbon dioxide is converted back into oxygen is eliminated. Moreover, carbon dioxide is released when trees are burned and soil is exposed to sunlight. It is estimated that up to 90% of native forests in the United States have been destroyed through slash-and-burn practices, intensive livestock production, and logging. However, deforestation can be stopped and reforestation can be implemented to help decrease global warming.
In addition, carbon dioxide pollution is on the rise due to an increase in industry and growth in transportation. These two causes of carbon dioxide pollution are directly related to the increase in global population. As the global population grows, the need for food and other commodities also increases; industry grows in order to meet the demands of these needs. There is also an increase in transportation needs that need to be met in order to support these demands; transportation affects everyone, from the general population to industries that need goods and services transported from one place to another.
It is of utmost importance that people take steps to help curb global warming. While climate is an imminent threat that people will have to face in the future, the effects are already affecting people. Through collaboration and the combined efforts of government, business, science, and individuals, it is possible to reduce the effects of global warming. People should work together to reduce emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases and need to find ways to help to restore a balance between man and nature.
There are many ways in which people can help to stop, or reduce, global warming. For instance, a person can plant a tree, which will help with…[continue]
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