Research projects can focus on any topic related to themes or issues related to environmental ethics, including sustainable development, environmental health, animal rights, wilderness preservation, fracking, bottled water, global warming, vegetarianism, mass extinction, environmental justice, the Anthropocene, ecofeminism, and more. Your paper must analyze your chosen topic, and you must use references to support your analysis, including references from class readings (e.g., our class books) as well as references from other readings done outside of class (e.g., books/articles you found that are related to your research topic).
According to the Canadian Institute of Actuaries, Global Warming is a phenomenon of the earth characterized by an increase in the surface temperatures of the earth for the past two centuries. Global warming has a direct correlation to climate change, which considers overall changes on the earth’s climate attributes that include the surrounding temperatures, precipitation patterns, ocean currents, winds and other climate measures. The average temperature of the earth’s surface is kept by a balance between the various incoming and outgoing energy radiations, with the incoming being in the form of solar radiation, while the outgoing is far much different as it is in the form of infrared light associated with heat (Houghton 64). The greenhouse gasses that exist in the environment play an essential role in trapping the radiation from the sun, hence maintaining the temperatures on Earth at average levels capable of sustaining life.
Research indicates that without the greenhouse gasses, the earth would have been 33 times colder than it is, a situation that would have made the earth inhabitable (Mann 105). However, excessive greenhouse gasses in the environment destabilizes the temperature balance as they absorb and retain more heat, resulting in higher Earth surface temperatures. For the last century, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions has been blamed on the ever-worsening global warming as stated by The Royal Society. Global warming has been monitored for over two centuries. Between 1850 and 1950, the earth surface warming was noted to be warming at temperatures between +0.8oC and +1.0oC. Since 1950, the warming on land only was recorded to be between +1.1oC and +1.3oC, considering that land has a higher tendency of responding to the changes in climate faster than the oceans (The Royal Society). Conventionally, global warming has always been measured on multi-decadal scales, considering that measurements for periods lower than 30 years are tricky due to internal associations between the sea, atmosphere, land and oceans (Singer and Avery 141). The variations are normal and occur without any external influence, thus considered as noise as far as climate change index is concerned.
The Green House Gas (GHG) Effect
The GHG effect refers to the phenomenon responsible for global warming. Long-term scientific research appreciates the role of some greenhouse gasses in regulating the earth’s temperature. Greenhouse gasses include methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and water vapor, all which unite to create a blanket-like cover on the atmosphere, responsible for keeping the temperature lower on the earth’s surface. Despite forming a minute fraction of the atmosphere, the gasses play a crucial role in keeping the earth warm and capable of sustaining life (Canadian Institute of Actuaries). As the sun’s rays reach the earth’s surface, most of the rays are absorbed by water bodies and land, while a smaller fraction is reflected back. The absorbed portion is then radiated back into the atmosphere as heat, which under normal circumstances is expected to escape to space, thus lowering the earth’s surface temperatures below the freezing point (Hardy 241). However, the existence of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere absorbs and redirects a smaller portion of the heat back to the surface, hence maintaining warmer temperatures. An increase in the amount of GHG in the atmosphere leads in an enhancement of the greenhouse effect, forming a thicker blanket-like layer of gasses. Instead of redirecting back a smaller heat portion, the layer reflects a substantial amount, thereby resulting in the heating up of the earth’s surface, which is an implication of global warming (The Royal Society). From the highlight of the greenhouse gas effect, it is justified to consider the causes of an enhanced greenhouse effect as the causes of global warming.
Causes of Global Warming
The core causes of global warming are those that result in the rise of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. However, the influence of greenhouse concentrations by human activities is challenging, considering that most greenhouse gasses exist naturally. Carbon dioxide, for example, is consumed naturally by most processes and emitted by a few. The exploration of fossil fuels by humans led to the release of a higher amount of carbon gas to the environment, more than what is consumed in the carbon cycle, resulting in surplus gasses in the environment (Haldar 29). Other activities such as the burning of charcoal and deforestation contribute to a rise in the amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Scholars presumed that the oceans could take up all the carbon dioxide emitted from human activities, only to realize after an analytical research that there was more carbon than the oceans could take. Analysis indicated that at least 45 percent of carbon remained in the atmosphere, which was a substantial amount (Hardy 225). The high rate of carbon emission than uptake is outstripping the earth of its capability to balance the gasses in the environment naturally. Other activities that result in excessive carbon emissions include the dumping of wastes, smoke from factories, carbon emissions by motor vehicles and excessive use of plastics (Venkataramanan and Smitha 227). From research, it is evident that most of the carbon gasses in the environment are majorly associated with fossil fuels, which link it to human activities.
Gasses emitted from the combustion of fossil fuels by factories and motor vehicles results in air pollution, considering that the gasses are trapped in the atmosphere as smoke. The smoke builds up in the air and in return form poisonous gas clouds, which result in acid rain; responsible for the destruction of nonliving materials and the death of living organism such as plants (The Royal Society). Since plants emit oxygen and take up carbon dioxide, their death implies that less carbon dioxide will be absorbed from the atmosphere. Hence a significant amount of it will be retained in the environment. This leads to an increase in the amounts of greenhouse gasses, which emit heat back to the earth’s surface resulting in global warming.
Depletion of the Ozone Layer
The ozone layer is an external layer of the atmosphere protecting the earth from harmful ultraviolet rays and infrared radiations, which are detrimental to life. The increase in greenhouse gasses within the atmosphere damages the ozone layer; mostly chlorofluorocarbons. The depletion of the ozone layer thereby allows UV radiations into the earth’s surface, thus making the earth warmer and resulting in global warming (Canadian Institute of Actuaries). Since the depletion of the ozone layer is biased to the poles, UV radiations are the ones responsible for global warming in the Polar Regions, leading to the melting of glaciers, a significant rise in temperatures and increase in sea water levels.
Plants are responsible for the release of oxygen into the atmosphere, which is necessary for the survival of animals. On the other hand, they take up carbon dioxide and sunlight as raw materials for photosynthesis. The lack of forest cover due to deforestation results in a lack of enough oxygen in the air, hence an increase in carbon dioxide that is harmful to animal life and also disturbs the natural water cycle, leading to an imbalance of the atmospheric system (Venkataramanan and Smitha 228). Being one of the greenhouse gasses, excessive carbon dioxide in the environment results in global warming.
The increasing demand for various products to satisfy the ever-growing world’s population has led to the booming of industries and factories, which require high volumes of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum for power that is necessary to drive the machines (Venkataramanan and Smitha 228). As these fuels are burnt, large quantities of carbon dioxide are released into the environment, and as it mixes with other greenhouse gasses, the result is an enhanced greenhouse effect that reflects back a majority of the surface radiation, leading to higher temperatures on the earth’s surface and global warming.
The current adoption of organic farming techniques has resulted in the use of chemical fertilizers which are rich in nitrogen oxide, a gas that is far much toxic than carbon dioxide. The nitrogen oxide is responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer at a rate far much faster than any other greenhouse gas (Haldar 33). A depleted Ozone layer permits harmful Ultra Violet rays into the earth’s atmosphere, thereby making the earth warmer, leading to global warming.
The melting of Permafrost
The cold temperatures in the Polar Regions of the Earth resulted in the freezing of large quantities of carbon dioxide in the form of permafrost. Any disturbances such as forest fires and volcanic activities result in the melting of the permafrost, releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere (Houghton 67). Since the carbon in the permafrost had been out of the air for many years, a sudden release will result in an imbalance of gasses in the environment. Hence, melting of the permafrost leads to increased amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Effects of Global Warming
Killer Heat Waves
Global warming results in an unexpected rise in global temperatures to levels that are unsustainable. In 2003, Europe experienced the hottest summer in history, with temperatures rising to 38oC in the UK and about 40.2oC in Germany. At least 27, 000 people lost their lives as a result of heat-related fatalities (Venkataramanan and Smitha 225). During the period, the European economies were significantly undermined as the heat wave resulted in over 13 billion Euros losses in the forestry, agriculture and electric power sectors. The temperatures in India were far much worse during the period, with temperatures rising to 50oC and resulted in the death of over 1200 people. The previous heat wave in 1998 had also affected India substantially, with over 3000 deaths recorded (Venkataramanan and Smitha 226). Excessive demand for electricity for refrigeration purposes more so in hospitals went far beyond the supply in the country, considering that rivers had dried up, reducing the hydropower generated in the country. Hence, the demand for power surpassed the available supply.
Torrential Rains and Flooding
High surface temperatures result in speedy evaporations of surface water, thus resulting in high humidity in the air, which leads to heavier rains that increase the risk of flooding. Other regions of the world experience El Nino effects, which are associated with more warmer waters than normal in the east Pacific and weaker than normal trade winds. As a result, most parts of America, Australia, and Africa experience heavier rains than expected, leading to catastrophic impacts (Casper 180). Projections indicate that with the increasing global warming, frequent and long-term El Niño’s will be experienced in future, resulting in extreme droughts and floods. In the year 1999, Venezuela experienced the highest amounts of rainfall in history, resulting in floods and landslides killing over 30,000 people (Wang and Chameides 15).
Droughts and Wildfires
Higher temperatures lead to the increase in evaporation levels, and if precipitation is not replenished in time, then the soils become drier. When the soils become drier, more energy will be used during evaporation of the water, an implication that surplus energy will be available to increase the ground temperatures and that of overlying air, making the situation even worse. In extreme circumstances, droughts develop an adverse cycle, whereby the lack of water in the soil to be evaporated implies no precipitation in the air to form rain leading to droughts. The lack of water in the environment suggests that there is no life, vegetation will be depleted, and animals will die due to lack of food and water (Wang and Chameides 19). The devastating drought creates a condition favorable for the spread of wildfires. Forest covers will be dry due to lack of water; hence a small fire accident results in a fire disaster. In 2004, Alaska experienced a total of 703 fires, which consumed over 2.6 million hectares of forest (The Royal Society).
High surface temperatures result in the melting of snow into water. A sudden rise in temperature results in high rates of snow melts. Snowpack is a major source of clean water in streams and rivers. Gradual melts are necessary for the continued flow of water. However, the sudden melts pose a threat to the winter tourism, ski industry, and the fresh water reservoirs. The continued decrease of the Snow Mountains implies that in future, a larger population of people in the US and other regions will lack access to clean and fresh water (Canadian Institute of Actuaries). The previous snow melts currently experienced imply that streams are filled up and with all reservoirs are full, and to avoid flooding; the excess water is released to the oceans. However, by the time summer starts, the stream flow will be highly degraded, reducing the water supply all through the dry months, which in turn causes a shortage of clean water.
Solutions to Global Warming
Reduction in the Use of Fossil Fuels
The current state of climate change that has resulted in global warming is a fossil fuel problem. Fossil fuels contribute up to 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. To combat the issues of climate change, it is recommended that there should be a shift from the use of fossil fuels to greener technologies in the home environment, industries and travel (Hardy 237). Renewable energy offers reliable, safe, and cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuels for all the energy needs. By acting as a substitute, the renewable energy will substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and result in the management of global warming associated with climate change.
Forest play a crucial role in balancing atmospheric gas by taking in carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. It is necessary that the forest and other vegetative covers are conserved all over the world, so as to ensure a controlled existence of carbon dioxide in the environment. Lesser carbon dioxide implies a weaker greenhouse effect and warmer surface temperature (Canadian Institute of Actuaries). Also, forests play an essential role in maintaining a balance in the atmospheric precipitate, hence responsible for the making of rain, and the occurrence of drought is avoided.
Governments should come up with environmental policies that regulate and determine the minimum allowable emission levels by motor vehicles, and industries. The policies should devise ambitious emission targets and provide a sustainable framework that is committed to implementing the policies (Wang and Chameides 13). The motor vehicle manufacturers should be forced to manufacture automobiles that meet a given emission threshold. On the other hand, factories and industries should implement alternative techniques of achieving heat power used in their processes that have limited emission levels, reducing the amount of gasses released into the atmosphere. Reduced greenhouse gas emission undermines the development of greenhouse effect and hence, controlled earth surface temperatures. Also, the policies should include other areas of the economy such as agriculture by prohibiting the use of organic techniques, which include the use of toxic chemicals that have adverse effects on the ozone layer (Mann 111). Inorganic farming techniques reduce the emission of poisonous gasses into the environment, hence protecting the ozone layer from depletion and in return shields the earth from harmful UV rays that warm up the earth’s surface causing global warming.
Cutting Down on Transportation
Research indicates that transportation is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world. By avoiding long distance travels and adopting modern technology in automobiles will ensure that carbon emissions are reduced. People should opt for using public means of transport to work, which include rail and high capacity buses, or if near the working locations shift to walking or cycling (Singer and Avery 154). In so doing, the number of vehicles on the road will be significantly reduced and hence, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the use of flights for short distance travels can be limited, considering that a single plane emits up to ten times the amount of greenhouse gasses compared to motor vehicles (Hardy 281). By managing the transport industry, gas emissions will be significantly reduced, and a control of global warming can be achieved.
From the analysis, it is evident that global warming is a threat to the planet, and if measures are not taken in time, the effects will be devastating, leading to an inhabitable planet. Global warming results majorly from human activities which can be well managed and cases of global warming controlled. The devastating effects of the situation as noted earlier are a threat to human life and comfort on the planet. Measures should be taken by all people from all levels of life to ensure that the emission of greenhouse gasses which are the core contributors of global warming are reduced, and in turn, lead to a safe and healthy environment capable of supporting life at all times. The best approach towards managing the rise in global warming is by creating awareness among all the stakeholders, who in this case are all humans on the causes and effects of global warming, so that it becomes a collective undertaking, whereby each contributes to the reduction of causative agents.
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