Since its first mention at the UN General Assembly, global warming has come to be regarded the greatest human development challenge for the 21st century (McInerney-Lankford, Darrow, Rajamani and Banque, 2011). This has prompted multiple studies, conventions and policy development meetings aimed at arresting the situation. One such study was the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Findings released in 2007 showed that global temperatures were unequivocal and accelerating. The magnitude - an average increment of 0.74 degrees centigrade in the past century, was notably the highest warming trend in recent times. The worrying aspect is that the warming trend is bound to continue with a predicted increment of about 1.8-6.4 degrees centigrade in the coming years (McInerney-Lankford, Darrow, Rajamani and Banque, 2011). The increasing temperatures will have profound effects on life on earth as it is expected that the warming will disrupt normal weather patterns leading to a situation of extremes. Extremes in this case refer to severe droughts, high intensity floods and cyclones, desertification, and land degradation. These will in turn affect the quality of life and eventually the human race will have to contend with increased disease incidence and mortality rates.
At the moment, unlike in the 1970's and 1980's, the debate no longer revolves around whether the globe is really warming or not? This is largely because the warming trend has already been established. The greatest question now is how this increasingly dangerous phenomenon be stopped. The answer to this question depends on our understanding of the cause of global warming. This way, we can start to grasp exactly "where the rain started beating us." These two concerns form the basis of this study. The first question this study seeks to answer is whether global warming is as a result of human actions. Secondly, the study will propose the measures humans can undertake to halt global warming.
Is Global Warming Due to Human Actions?
The simplest answer to the above question is founded on Berg's conclusion. He writes that over the past half a century, scientists have been engrailed in studying global warming, and as evidence accumulates they are convinced that climate changes results from human activity (Berg, 2008). Much of these findings are aggregated in the IPCC findings. The most revealing observation is that over the years, human-produced air pollutants have continued to alter the atmosphere. This has resulted to the warming evident in the past 50 years. This observation has been attested by multiple scientists who also contend that the warming process will continue throughout the 21st century. The only unclear point is the speed at which the warming will proceed as well as the severity of the same. All researchers and scientists have are indicators and expected disruptions which were mentioned at the beginning of the study. The eminent risks as well as the uncertainties surrounding the global warming issues have informed the confusion evident among many policy makers who continue to seek for solutions so as to chart the way forward. The main concern is the means and ways of safeguarding the human race and securing the future for the forthcoming generations.
Agreeably, global warming occurs due to the accumulation of the greenhouse gases. These gases are: Carbon dioxide (which is the main greenhouse gas), and other trace gases which include methane, surface ozone, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (Berg, 2008). Over the past century, these gases have increased in volume and this has been noted as the main course for the increasing global temperatures. The increasing volume and the heightening temperatures have a direct relation.
Global warming takes place because these gases take up infrared radiation this is inform of heat available in the atmosphere. The absorption of heat, (also referred to as trapping of heat) is in some studies similar to that of a glass roof in a greenhouse. This has informed the greenhouse reference used frequently when discussing global warming. As the gases trap/absorb heat, the natural heat flow process is hampered. This forces the lower atmosphere to warm. For many years, this has been a critical process which has helped in maintaining ideal global temperatures (Berg, 2008). This is because without the gases, the global temperatures could possibly decrease to negative levels, making the world inhabitable. However, as the gases have increased in volume, the radiation process has greatly increased leading to excessive trapping. This is effectively raising temperatures in the lower atmosphere.
Human activity has largely been at the centre of this phenomenon. This is because the greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere as a result of burning fuels containing carbon. The other human activity leading to increased concentration of greenhouses gases is deforestation. This has two effects. First, it leads to a decline in forest cover. Forests are a major way of controlling the levels of carbon dioxide through the photosynthesis process. Secondly, deforestation and the consequent combustion increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Though not solely responsible for global warming, carbon dioxide is considered a major cause due to its high concentration (Maslin, 2006). Not withstanding, the levels of the trace gases has also risen at the same alarming rate.
Even though the current rates of deforestation and combustion activities are high, scientists are still convinced that the rapidity in warming is still slower than the rate at which carbon dioxide has increased. The main reason for this observation is that water needs more heat as compared to gases present in the atmosphere to alter the temperature levels. For this reason, scientists have postulated that the effects of global warming will become more evident in the later part of the 21st century as the ocean temperatures rise.
This cycle of events will have specified effects. One of these is the rising of sea level. The increasing global temperatures will imminently lead to the thawing of the glaciers as well as the polar ice caps (Berg, 2008). In the long run, the sea levels will rise as a result of expansion resulting from continuous absorption of heat. The reason for this is that water, just like solids, also expands when heated.
The other effect is a change in precipitation patterns. As global temperatures increase, computer simulations have shown that there will be more frequent cases of drought. Additionally, there will be an increase in the frequency of snow storms and rainstorms which may also increase the frequency and intensity of floods.
The other effect is a change in the range of organisms. The changes will mainly affect plant growth processes as well as flowering patterns. In regard to animals, global warming will affect migration patterns which may be a recipe for future human-animal conflicts.
The other effect is on human health. This is particularly considered a major factor in developing countries which have high levels of greenhouse gases. Increased industrial activities are responsible for the increased release of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Health issues have already been well documented. For instance, this century has seen an increase in heat related deaths among elderly people (Berg, 2008). Other health concerns include cancer and increased malaria cases as flooding becomes a factor.
These effects as well the risk of prolonged global warming has raised the need for all stakeholders to explore ways through which global warming can be halted. Fortunately, these efforts have been bolstered by improved research and knowledge which has directly linked global warming to human activity. This has pointed to the fact that addressing global warming will entail addressing the specific human activities that have led to the same. Notably, this is not an involvement of any single government; it requires concerted efforts as the effects of global warming are not limited to national and international borders.
Can the Human Race Take Action to Stop Global Warming?
From the previous analysis, it is evident that global warming is largely as a result of human activity. This means that the human race can take action to halt, or at least reduce the rate of global warming. This will be possible through specific solutions that provide alternate ways through which humans can accomplish their goals with limited effects to the environment. However, long-term solutions will necessitate the cooperation of all the relevant stakeholders in order to have desirable outcomes. This is mainly because all countries share some responsibility towards the current levels of greenhouse gas emissions. This is entrenched in the fact that developed countries, mostly the United States and other Western Europe countries, are responsible for about 35% of greenhouse emissions. However, these levels have remained at this level since the 1970's. This effectively means that developing countries are now major emitters of the greenhouse gases (accounting for 65% of emissions) (Peach, 2005). Thus these is still a significant level of shared responsibility and need for concerted effort in mitigating the effects of global warming as well as arresting the causes.
Action/Response to Global Warming
The uncertainties surrounding global warming have been a major stumbling block…