experienced a series of extreme and devastating weather events including Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans, Louisiana and other parts of the south in 2005, flooding in Europe in 2005, heavy snowfall in Europe in 2010 and 2011, and flooding throughout Asia from 2005 to the present. Many of these weather patterns are related to El Nino or La Nina storms, which are two-to-eight-year weather patterns where changing wind streams pick up warm surface water from the oceans and increases humidity, according to Tim Flannery in his 2005 book The Weather Makers. When the clouds reach a saturation point, they release horrific storms and subsequent floods in some parts of the world and parching droughts in others.
Extreme weather caused by warming oceans is one of the many environmental disasters scientist link to global warming, which is the increasing warming of the planet. In the midst of a cold winter, the thought of temperatures going up a few degrees actually seems appealing, but the results are actually deadly for all life on the planet earth. In addition to increasingly severe storms brought on by warming ocean waters, global warming is melting icebergs and dissolving ice fields in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. This causes ocean waters to rise and increases the risk of flooding to coastal areas around the world. It is also diminishing, at a rapid rate, certain species of animals that depend on specific temperatures for which to live. Global warming is possibly the greatest danger that humans and all living creatures on earth face today. And we're barely doing anything about it.
Summary of Theories on Global Warming
Most scientists agree that the earth is getting warmer at a faster than usual rate. Over the 20th century, the earth's temperature rose approximately 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit and it is expected to go up another degree over this century. This may not seem like a very big increase, but given the fact that a temperature change of much less, one-tenth of one degree, can trigger an ice age, according to Tim Flannery in his 2005 book The Weather Makers, it is something about which to be concerned.
The controversy with global warming is not that it is happening. Most scientists agree that the earth is getting warmer. The controversy is what exactly is causing it to happen. Until recently, many scientists said the earth throughout history has cooled and warmed at fairly regular intervals and that this warming trend was part of a natural pattern. The last known warning trend, according to Al Gore in his book, An Inconvenient Truth (based on his Oscar-award winning documentary), occurred in the first part of the 1300s and was called "the Medieval Warming Trend." As temperatures have been somewhat cooler than usual since that last warming trend, some scientists believed the rising temperatures were an indication of another warming trend or, remarkably, another ice age.
However, many scientists say this warming trend is different. To start, it is much hotter than previous warming trends. Warming trends before this one brought temperatures up by a mere 0.1-degree Fahrenheit. This current warming trend has increased temperatures over the last century (since 1900) by just over one degree. At the same time that temperatures are increasing, the world's burning of fossil fuels has been going up dramatically. Fossil fuels emit tons of carbon dioxide and as more countries in North America, Europe, Asia and South America industrialize manufacturing processes and use more cars, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases. The direct correspondence to increased carbon dioxide levels and rising temperatures clearly point to humans as the primary cause of global warming, scientists say. In his book, Al Gore illustrates this belief on pages 66 and 67 by pairing the rates of carbon dioxide and temperature changes over the last 600,000 years. The two graphs match each other almost exactly in the timing of rises and falls and the rate at which temperatures went up or down.
Given the complexities of the components that cause global warming and the disparate theories on the causes of the earth's rising temperatures, it is important to research not only the definition of global warming and the results, but also understand the potential causes. The average temperature on earth is 57 degrees Fahrenheit. What keeps the earth at this temperature is a thin layer of atmosphere. What happens is the sun shines its rays down on earth and the earth's atmosphere, which is made up of greenhouse gases, traps some of the rays for energy and releases some back into space. This is why the earth's temperature is warm enough for humans but not too hot. If the earth had too much atmosphere, like the planet Venus, then temperatures would soar to the point where nothing could survive the heat. Conversely, if the earth did not have enough atmosphere or no atmosphere, temperatures would drop below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and all living creatures on earth would freeze, which are the conditions on the planet Mars. Until the last hundred years or so, the earth's atmosphere has been able to keep temperatures at a livable rate.
The problem is that the atmosphere is getting thicker because of the increase in carbon dioxide, according to Al Gore. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide, which are produced primarily by automobile emissions (33%), industrial waste (29%), residential uses such as electricity (21%) and business needs (17%), are the main sources of greenhouse gases according to Laurie David and Cambria Gordon in their book The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming. As the atmosphere thickens, fewer ultraviolet rays of the sun are sent back out into space. Instead, they are trapped back inside the earth's atmosphere and making the air warmer.
As the air gets warmer, the water in the oceans also gets warmer. This causes icebergs and glaciers to melt and the air to become even warmer because there are fewer icebergs and glaciers around to keep the air cool. It also raises water levels worldwide, which has caused a rash of floods around the world over the last decade. With so much evidence showing that the planet is getting warming and that the results could be catastrophic, one wonders why there isn't more effort made toward fixing the situation. Part of the problem is that not all scientists agree that the plant's warming trend is the result of human consumption of fossil fuels. This is because the earth over its 4.5 billion year history has gone through many climate changes including numerous ice ages, when temperatures dropped dramatically and much of the earth was covered in glaciers. Between these ice ages were period of moderate temperatures and also warmer than normal periods, when the glaciers melted and many parts of the Northern Hemisphere that had been dry were submerged under hundreds of yards of ocean.
Another aspect that made people wonder whether the earth was actually warming was the existence of colder than average conditions such as colder than average winters in Europe accompanied by record snow falls, damaging ice storms in the American southeast region and blizzards in the Midwest. However, as the facts about the corresponding rise in carbon dioxide and temperatures because more prevalent, more and more scientists who had previously denied the existence of global warming were now beginning to acknowledge that dramatic climate changes were due as much to human excess as to natural temperature fluctuations. Part of the reason for the change may be the increase in the effects of burning fossil fuels. The earth's temperature has been creeping up slowly over the last few decades. As a result, the ocean is warming, which has caused more extreme weather in all parts of the world, from typhoons in South East Asia to hurricanes in the American south and forest fires in Australia and the American Northwest. With the warmer oceans, the polar ice caps in the Artic and Antarctica are melting, raising ocean levels worldwide. Regions like the Pacific Northwest, which under normal conditions had a surfeit of rainfall, were experiencing drought conditions.
As the degree of climate change has risen, so has the research about global warming. As of 2011, hundreds of books and over 10,000 scholarly journal articles were written on the subject. Even before the release of Al Gore's 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which dramatically illuminated the dangers of global warming, awareness of the toll that humans and their habit of burning tons of fossil fuels had brought on the earth was increasing awareness of the need to explore other resources of energy.
Evaluation of the Audience for Global Warming Warnings
When scientists first began to talk about the existence of global warming and the potential dangers it presented, few people were concerned. After all, the earth is a big planet and it was unlikely at millions, even billions of people could have any great effect on the earth's atmosphere or its temperature.…