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Friday, July 29, 2011

Research Paper on Global Warming - The Problem and Solutions to Global Warming

Global Warming
Is the global climate getting warmer? Are humans the primary cause for the warming of the global climate? Is the warming of the global climate harmful to humans, plant and animal life? Should the public worry about the global climate getting warmer? Why is it that nothing is being done to stop or control global warming?  These questions are always part and parcel of the debate on the issue of global warming.  This research paper seeks to answer these questions for the purpose of determining which information about global warming is accurate and which is not.

Definition of Global Warming
The National Academy of Sciences defines global warming as the average increase in temperatures near the Earth’s surface and in the lowest layer of the atmosphere. (“Frequently Ask Questions about Global Warming and Climate Change” 3) To put it simply, it means that the global climate is warming.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that it is definite that the Earth’s climate is getting warmer.  Tom M.L. Wigley corroborated his finding and declared that there is an average warming of about 1.3°C over the past century. (p.6)  It added that seven of the eight warmest years on record has occurred since the 2001.  This finding is supported by the National Resources Defense Council which stated that in the past 50 years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate which has never before seen in human history. 

Scientists and researchers unanimously argue that there is definite and unequivocal proof that global warming exists.  A person need not be a scientist to arrive at such a conclusion as it has been the observation by many persons that the Earth’s surface has become a lot warmer now compared to the years before.  It is also a common observation that there are certain seasons where summer is extremely hot.  Another proof is that the glaciers and ice in the coldest regions of the Earth are melting.  That the ice is melting is proven by the many pieces of ice floating in the Arctic and the Antarctic Sea.   The rising sea level all over the world is evidence that the hot temperature causes the melting of the ice in the coldest regions of the world. 

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Causes of Global Warming
If global warming is indeed true, the next question to be answered is who or what causes global warming.  Discussions all point to the disastrous impact of human activities to the environment.  They say that the human race with or without its knowledge is slowly bringing about the destruction of the natural environment (Earth Explorer 3).  Consequently, many questions have been raised whether it is possible that the human race which occupies a small portion of the Earth’s surface can cause its destruction? Are these warnings mere products of the fertile imagination of environmentalists and advocacy groups?

There is evidence, however, that will prove that human activities, lifestyles and habits have disastrous impact on the environment.  In fact, it is widely recognized that without the human element, the problems of global warming would not have reached the same level that it is right now.  The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in a report entitled “Our Common Future” warned that unless the people change their lifestyle patters, the world will face unacceptable levels of environmental damage and human suffering (IFAD 3)

In theory, there is a natural balance in the Earth’s atmosphere.  For many thousands of years, Earth has managed to maintain this balance.  Irresponsible use of technology and other human activities however have triggered a change which upset the balance and caused a change in the Earth’s climate.  These activities have caused the climate to become warmer compared to the climate in the past few decades.  For instance, the carbon dioxide and the air pollution that is emitted from the technologies man created are collected in the atmosphere.  The carbon dioxide creates a thick blanket in the atmosphere that traps the sun’s heat which causes the Earth to warm up slowly. 

Effects of Global Warming
Is it true that we are responsible for the current problem on global climate is it harmful to human, plant and animal life? There are many advocacy groups, researchers and scientists claiming that global warming is harmful to human, plant and animal life.  In theory, a warmer climate may cause changes in rainfall patterns, melting of ice in the North Pole and in the coldest regions in the Earth, and unprecedented rise in the sea level. Indeed, the global warming is the root cause for most of the problems we are experiencing now. 

The warm climate causes the ice to melt in the North Pole which may threaten the survival of polar bears and seals which thrive in the North Pole.  The melted ice turns into water which subsequently causes increase in the water level.  Experts say that the continued melting of ice in the North Pole may cause a rise in the water level by at least 5 meters.  Since majority of the people living on Earth live on beaches and near the coastal areas, they may be affected and driven out of their homes. 

When the Earth’s temperature becomes hotter, it is also possible that cases of wildfire may increase in forests.  According to the USA Today citing fire and climate scientists, over the last 20 years, global warming is responsible for 300% increase in the number of large wildfires and 600% increase in the area burned in the United States. (“Global warming ignites wildfires” 1)

Global warming also causes drought. (Patrick J. Michael 179) When the Earth’s surface become hotter it follows that more water evaporates.  One of the consequences of this change is that rainfall may decline in some regions of the Earth.  According to Dr. Tim Flannery, a scientist and environmentalist, in some areas there has been a reduction in rainfall from 10 to 15 and even 20% over a 50 year period. (“Global warming will fuel a global drought: Flannery” 2)  Because the soils has become hotter when the rain finally drops lesser rain find its way to rivers, lakes and swamps or even dams for use by the public.  Drought follows as a consequence.

As the environment gets a lot hotter, certain diseases which thrive in a hot environment will also spread and cause death to thousands of people. According to Patrick J. Michaels (2004), citing Paul Epstein of the Harvard School of Public Health, since global warming causes the environment to become hotter and since illnesses easily spread in hot environment, global warming, following the simple rules of logic will directly cause the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue. (p.179) 

Lack of Decisive Response on Global Warming
Having emphasized the extent of the problem of global warming and its possible consequences, the next question is why is it that nothing decisive has been done to protect the environment and to reduce the pollutants in the air? 

It is apparent that despite the dangers and severe impact of global warming, the society has continued with its ways and has remained oblivious to the disastrous consequences of global warming.  One of the many reasons why this is so is ignorance.  Many still suffer from lack of knowledge of this problem, its causes and ways to protect the environment.  Many are still unaware that every person’s daily activities and actions have an impact on the environment.  For instance, going to school using a car has an impact on the environment in the sense that cars release pollutants in the air which destroy Earth’s atmosphere, trap the ultraviolet rays of the sun and waste gas and fuel.  Using air conditioner at home even when not needed also increases the emission of chlorofluorocarbons in the air that damages the ozone layer.  Throwing of plastic bottles and containers in beaches or on the streets also puts a strain on the environment because they are non-biodegradable, kills the fishes in the sea. Use of water hose while cleaning the car also involves wastage of precious water which also puts a strain on the environment.

The second reason why humans neglect to take care of the environment is that they do not consider it as a problem of extreme urgency.  Norman Cousins, a prominent political journalist, once said “Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.” (Berger & Nordhaus, 8) The public are starting not to care.  They think that as of present time there is nothing to worry about.  They also think that global warming is a problem of the future.  Majority of us think that there are other problems which are more urgent.  For instance, the unemployment problem, inflation rate, rental expenses, loan obligation, and mortgage are considered problems which are more urgent and more pressing.  They think that the environment is not their concern.  Or, if it is an important concern, there are other people that should worry about it.  They think that it is up to the government, advocacy groups, and environmental organizations to save the environment.  People have forgotten that all people all breathe the same air.  It does not matter whether one is in Africa or in Europe or in Asia.  At the end of the day, all people will suffer from breathing the polluted air caused by cars, trucks and airplanes.  All the people will suffer from the ugly sight of garbage and litters irresponsibly thrown on the streets. 

Solutions to Global Warming
It is worth stressing that global warming is not simply a government’s problem.  Everybody will have to do their share not only to reduce the pollutants in the environment but also to protect the environment from further damage.  In his documentary film, Al Gore is right in saying that we can all do our share in fighting this problem even at our own home. (Al Gore)   Simple acts of refraining from throwing litter on the streets or in seas and other bodies of water can go a long way.  Taking effort to reduce consumption of gas and electricity can likewise help.  Using of water wisely is also effective. 

The most effective solution, however, is to be able to mobilize the public.  The government must be able to propose solutions that will the effect of reducing the pollutants in the air and reducing the country’s dependence on oil and gas.  It is very fortunate that the Obama Administration has vowed to take a swift and decisive action to protecting the environment.  According to President Obama, one of his administration’s primary concerns is to establish strong annual targets that will reduce gas emissions to the level similar to that in 1990 by the year 2020.  He also seeks to achieve an additional reduction by 80% by the year 2050 (Foon Rhee 2008).  In addition, Obama also seeks to reduce the United States’ dependence on oil by investing on alternative energy.  According to President Obama the shift to alternative energy by building solar panels and wind turbines, constructing fuel-efficient cars and developing new energy technologies will provide direct benefits of helping create more jobs and savings and indirect benefits in terms of cleaner and safer planet. 

Another solution to the problem of global warming is the acceptance that at this point, it would not be possible to completely and totally stop pollutants.  The reality is that continued economic growth largely depends on the use of gas, oil, electricity, and factories that contribute to the depredation of the environment.  The government cannot simply shut down factories or prohibit power companies from operating.  Neither can the government prohibit people from buying cars or from driving their cars.  The solution therefore is to balance the need for protecting the environment with the need for economic growth.  Other countries have started to adopt this principle.  In Kyoto, one of the principles being used is the offsetting of what is being emitted.   For instance, if a factory is producing 10 tons of carbon dioxide each year, the company shall be responsible for investing in green project equivalent to 10 tons of Carbon Dioxide.

It is not necessary to rely on sophisticated device and equipment to measure the extent of damage to our environment.  The air we breathe is getting polluted.  The bodies of water are getting dirtier.  Animal species which are once abundant are becoming extinct.  The rainforests are getting denuded and slowly disappearing.  Plants are dying from drought in other parts of the world.  The hurricanes are becoming more frequent and stronger. Flashfloods all over the world are becoming more often.  More people are getting sick and dying from lung diseases.  These are common observations which the public are taking for granted. 

Norman Cousins is right.  Greater than the problem of ignorance is the problem of indifference.  Ignorance can be cured by education and information campaign.  Indifference however cannot be cured by any amount of education and information campaign.  Mother Earth’s greatest problem is the indifference among the people.  It is this indifference that is responsible for the present state of environmental depredation.  It may be because the people have accepted the fact that Earth will soon be destroyed.  Perhaps they may be thinking that by the time Mother Earth starts to die the present generation will all have died.  Unless the people come to their senses very soon, it may all be too late to act. 

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