Global Warming Due to Increased Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions
Concerns over the continual heating up of the atmosphere on Earth are one of the most important environmental issues in the world today. The unpredictable climate and heat changes in the atmosphere are often associated with an increase of substantial amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It is often discussed that the primary reason why the global warming situation is increasing is due to the increase of the amount of greenhouse gases present in the Earth's atmosphere, primarily the amount of carbon dioxide emissions. The increased carbon dioxide amount in the atmosphere that causes global warming is a cause of concern for many people because of its potential dangerous effects to the Earth's atmosphere and the environment (including all living things). However, there are opposing arguments against this claim, and they refute that it is not accurate to mainly attribute the problem of global warming to the increasing carbon dioxide emission caused by human activities. This paper will discuss the issue of global warming and explore what are the reasons behind the argument that carbon dioxide emissions are most likely the cause of the global warming. This paper will also provide the necessary information needed to support the argument presented, as well as discuss and analyze the opposing arguments that are given in light of this controversial environmental issue. In the last part of the paper, the researcher will then contend that despite opposing claims refuting the main argument, increased carbon dioxide emissions are still the primary reason why global warming has been prevalent over the years.
To further understand this paper, the reader must first know some terms and its definition that will be used throughout the course of this paper. According to the NOAA Paleological Program, global warming "refers to the observation that the Earth is warming, without any indication of what might be causing the warming" (2000). This definition clarifies that global warming can be due to various factors, and one of these factors include the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse effect, meanwhile, "is a warming near the Earth's surface that results when the Earth's atmosphere traps the sun's heat" (Gille 407). The greenhouse effect happens after a series of several events that will happen in the atmosphere. Light radiated from the sun in the form of solar or short wave radiation enters the Earth's atmosphere then to its surface. The surface will "re-radiate" the heat from the sun's light back into the atmosphere in the form of infrared (or "long wave" radiation). However, infrared radiations do not easily penetrate beyond the Earth's atmosphere because certain gases, called greenhouse gases, trap these radiations in the atmosphere (Stark 1995). These greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and ozone. When the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap the infrared radiations, heat is released (coming from these radiations), and global warming results.
Unknown to many, global warming is a necessary condition for the earth's atmosphere provided that it occurs in moderation. The greenhouse effect that causes global warming gives the average temperature needed in the Earth (about 33° Celsius) that provides the warmth living things need for survival (Gille 407). However, the problem of too much heat present in the atmosphere is one of the primary concerns in the field of environmental issues at present. Excess amounts of greenhouse gases results to excessive trapping of infrared radiation released from the Earth's surface. When this happens, too much heat is generated, thereby resulting to rising temperatures beyond the necessary average temperature needed by the Earth. The condition that was just described is exactly the same process presently happening that eventually led to increased occurrence of global warming.
The excessive global warming our world experiences today led researchers and scientists to discover what could be the reason behind this unusual occurrence. One primary reason given to explain this unusual phenomenon is the increasing amount of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere, particularly that of carbon dioxide. In fact, in a study conducted by Swedish chemist Syante Arrhenius in 1896, it was discovered that the start of the Industrial Revolution triggered the continuing increase of carbon dioxide amount in the atmosphere (NASA 2001). The prevailing use of fossil fuels during that time contributed to increase in greenhouse effect.
This situation continued until the 21st century, wherein people consume and use a large number of carbon-dioxide generating products and materials. In a report given by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the increase in carbon dioxide emission alone went up to 30% since the Industrial Revolution, and this percentage continue to increase at present (2001).
Before going to the discussion of the effects of excessive carbon dioxide emissions, it is necessary that this paper will provide background information about carbon dioxide and its effect in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a compound that is "odorless, and colorless" in form (Rose 206). CO2 helps regulate the Earth's temperature, and is needed to produce certain materials requiring its chemical composition. It is also essential for plant respiration, which is very important since plants release the oxygen gas that humans need to survive. Carbon dioxide is generated in several ways, such as by release of carbon dioxide in animal respiration, fermentation, and "burning of substances that contain carbon," which includes coal, gasoline, and wood (Rose 206). This last example by which carbon dioxide is generated is the primary cause of the excessive presence of carbon dioxide amount in the atmosphere. Substances that contain carbon are often used in daily human activities. Such activities include industrial activities, transportation and electric appliance use. EPA (2001) reported that in the year 2001, the United States alone contributed to almost one-fifth of the carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Individual emissions comprise about 38% of a fraction of the total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, while 68% can be attributed to major industries. These emissions came from activities such as the use of appliance that require electricity and burning of coal or fossil fuels; transportation (also uses fossil fuels), and industrial companies that heavily emit carbon dioxide generated through manufacturing and production (EPA 2001). Continuous consumption and use of materials that generate too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes the greenhouse effect to escalate, thereby resulting to increase in global warming.
There are significant effects in the health of human beings and the environment due to global warming. Human health is threatened because too much heat in the atmosphere causes certain deadly diseases to propagate. Malaria is an example of this disease, which propagate under local climates (hot and humid climates). Excessive heat also result to respiratory ailments and death. Heat strokes attack many people especially when they encounter heat more than their body temperature can take or adapt to. Environmental elements such as water resources dry up due to excessive evaporation. Climate changes occur when excessive precipitation happens because of uncontrollable conditions in the atmosphere. Different landforms become barren and dry, making it impossible for plants to thrive. When this happens, animals that live in their habitats will leave, and may not survive. All of these effects in the environment contribute to the imbalance in ecological diversity.
Although the following effects are detrimental to the ecology and poses a threat to the planet, some scholars do not guarantee that increasing carbon dioxide emissions are really the primary cause of global warming. Studies have proven that carbon dioxide amount have increased over the years since the Industrial Revolution, but it cannot be guaranteed that the climate change experienced at present is a result of the increased CO2 emissions. Further, in an article written by Audrey Leath of the American Institute of Physics, former House Science Energy and Environment Chairman Dana Rohrabacher delivered a speech questioning the "accuracy of computer models of global warming and projections of potential impacts (1995). She criticized the inconsistent projections made by researchers concerning climate changes, which determine whether an increase in global warming is occurring or not. Similarly, scientists refute the fact that carbon dioxide emissions causes climates to change, since, they reason, climates are ever-changing, and whatever changes in climate that the world is experiencing may only be a "normal occurrence."
Another contention was raised by United Nations. The UN published an "Information Sheet" clarifying certain issues about the effects of increased carbon dioxide emission in the atmosphere (CO2 Science Magazine 1999). One example is the threat to plant survival due to global warming. The UN refutes this claim because in the study that was conducted, it was found that plants would actually thrive under such conditions, meaning, plants will still survive in a warmer climate. Therefore, threats to plant survival are only "issues" that should not be a cause for fear even if there will be an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Landforms will also survive despite global warming conditions, according to the UN study. Forests that serve as important habitats for different animals and plants will not "die" even if global warming will increase.…