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The atmosphere is something that is around us everyday, but do we really think about the changes that occur in it. It isn’t that we just aren’t paying attention, but more of the fact that it is hard to notice slight changes over long periods of time. Everyday gases are released into the air by all living material. The gases in the air are used for many important things. For example, hydrogen is released by volcanoes, which can give energy to the cell; photosynthesis has evolved to take the gas carbon dioxide and create food and release oxygen; nitrogen is a gas used in our air, oceans, and solid earth, as an essential part of living things. Carbon dioxide is also involved in processes where it is stored as limestone and marble, as gas and oil and coal, and is in organic material in the soil. Not only do these gases make up our atmosphere, but they also keep the temperature of the earth stable. Carbon dioxide absorbs the radiation that would otherwise escape the earth. By adding oxygen and taking away carbon dioxide this causes the earth to be cooler than it would otherwise be. These are just two of the many gases that make up the atmosphere we live in today. The temperature in our earth is directly determined by these five gases. If not enough are in the air, then the earth is too cold, but if too many gases are released into the air, then we have the problem of things heating up. Even though the causes of global warming are known, the exact effects it will have on us in the future are yet to be determined. People need to understand that they need to act now in order to keep the world as we now know it the same in the future.
The earth’s atmosphere is made up of five layers of gases that act as a blanket covering the earth. This blanket keeps in some of these gases to keep the planet warm. It is called the greenhouse effect. This is because it acts like greenhouse windows by letting in sunlight to warm the surface and air, and hold in most of the solar generated heat. The greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, oxygen, nitrogen, ozone and water vapor, as well as other atmospheric gases. These greenhouse gases cause the greenhouse effect by capturing and absorbing solar energy. For without the greenhouse effect, the planet would be inhospitable to life because the surface temperature of earth’s surface would be cooler by 63 degrees F (Roleff 12). This world mean the average temperature would be 19 degrees C which causes the earth to be barren (Bilger 23).
Many scientists believe that the increase in temperature is caused by humans. The greenhouse effect increases because of the burning of fossil fuels such as natural gases, oil, and coal. These cause more heat to be trapped in the atmosphere than needed. Carbon dioxide is the most important gas that humans have affected. It has increased by nearly 30% since 1700 because of human destruction’s (Roleff 18). The amount of fossil fuels we burn each year has increased dramatically. Between 1850 and 1950 60 million tons of fossil fuels were burned. Now the world burns at least five billion tons of fossil fuels each year. This means that we are adding between 15 and 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every 12 months (Firor 50). This is causing a steady increase of carbon dioxide into our air.
Another way humans increase the amount of carbon dioxide is by deforestation. Huge numbers of trees are cut down each year to clear land for farming and building. The rain forest are really needed because they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into our atmosphere. Also, when trees decay or are burned, the carbon dioxide that was absorbed is put back into the air. George M. Woodwell and KilapartiRamakrishan said, “Deforestation is the second biggest source of carbon dioxide, . . . only the burning of oil,
coal, and gas produce more, . . . If [global warming] is to be slowed, the world must not only stop cutting and burning large forests, but replace the many millions of acres that have been destroyed.” (Roleff 13). Deforestation is most severe in the tropical regions where the rain forests grow. Most of the rain forests are around developing countries. The people of these countries have to find a way to get land, buy food, and get money. The only way they know how is to go into these forests and clear land to create more space for farms.
More recently, the amount of rain forests destroyed each year is causing attention. Thirty-three acres of rain forest are chopped or burned down every minute, and up to 25% of the world’s species will be extinct by the next century (Bilger 36). The great plains that we have now were once one enormous forest before the Europeans settled. It is said that if deforestation continues at its current rate, all of the world’s forests could be destroyed within only a few decades. It is very important that we stop destroying our forests and replant what has been destroyed.
Another cause of global warming is El Nino. From December through March, off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, a warm ocean current appears called El Nino. It is said to have the long-term effects of drought and severe storms. Nicholas E. Graham says that there is a link between El Nino and the rising global temperatures. This warm current has caused the ocean and atmospheric temperatures to rise. This is just a natural way of global warming that we can do nothing about.
Methane is the second most important green house gas. Even though there is less methane in the air than carbon dioxide, methane is much more absorbent of infrared radiation than carbon dioxide. Methane comes from many places. Large amounts of methane gas come from cattle. The plants and grass that the cattle eat are broken down by different types of microorganisms. Methane is then produced by their digestion process. These cattle belch every two minutes and release methane gas each time they do
it. Since one cow emits a half pound of methane a day and there are 1.3 billion cattle in the world, more than 100 million tons of methane are released each year into the air (Bilger 50). Another type of animal that releases methane gas is a termite. Even though they are very small, they are also very numerous. Their population is increasing at a fast rate because of deforestation, causing us to pay attention to their effect on global warming. Termites thrive on barren land that is left by the destruction of trees, causing them to multiply greatly.
Another source of methane is microorganisms that live in water logged soil. This is places like rice paddies, bogs, and swamps. Rice paddies have stems on their rice plants that act as tubes where methane can travel from the soil through the tube and into the atmosphere. Methane also gets into the atmosphere from garbage dumps and coal mines. One potential methane source is the arctic tundra. The soil is very rich in peat which stays frozen year round. If global warming were to eventually melt this soil, it could release all of this methane gas that is in the peat and cause the greenhouse effect to become much worse.
Nitrous acid, also known as laughing gas, is also a greenhouse gas. It comes from the burning of fossil fuels and from an automobile’s exhaust. Not mush is known about how much is in the atmosphere, but it is to be taken very seriously. It causes many problems because it can stay in the air for more than a century. Since it can stay in the atmosphere for so long, it makes it very hard to get it out. Even if no more of nitrous acid is released into the air, whatever is up there will be there for over one-hundred years.
CFC’s or chlorofluorocarbons are chemicals that are used in factories, air conditioners, refrigerators, spray cans, and in paint thinner. It not only absorbs infrared radiation, but can stay in the atmosphere for 70-150 years. The reason for concern is that it eats away at the ozone. There is already a large hole over the Antarctic and the ozone is thinning over the North pole.
The greenhouse effect can cause many impacts on the world we now know. One impact that it will have is it will cause a rise in temperature. This will probably occur greater at higher latitudes that at placed closer to the equator. The North and South poles temperatures may rise twice as fast as the temperature of the average of the world’s temperature. Another impact is the rising of the sea levels. As the temperature increases, the surface waters of the ocean will slowly warm causing the sea water to expand. This expansion is known as thermal expansion which is where as water is heated it expands and takes up more space. Just thermal expansion itself will cause the sea level to increase by many inches. As the temperatures continue to increase, many more changes will occur. Mountain glaciers will melt, as well as the great masses of ice and snow that cover Greenland and Antarcrica. As the snow melts, large amounts of water will fill the ocean. This will raise sea level by many feet. The Arctic cape at the North pole will melt, but it won’t cause a rise in sea level. This is because it takes up as much room in its frozen form as it does in its liquid form.
Global warming will cause the waters to rise.
Approximately one-third of the world’s population lives within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of the coast. If global sea levels rise only 2 feet (.6 meters)over the next century–a conservative estimate–the cost to human society will be enormous. Bangladesh, a country that is nearly at sea level, would lose millions of acres to flooding. If sea levels rise by 6 feet (2 meters), 28% of the country would be flooded, and 27% of the population would be displaced. The Maldive Islands, southeast of India, with a population of 214,000, would fare even worse. At a average of only 6 feet above sea level, the islands could be almost completely submerged if the
worst-case scenarios for global warming come true. Without seawalls,
many of Indonesia’s seaside rice paddies would be destroyed by salt water, and groundwater reserves for many coastal cities around the world would become contaminated with salt, rendering the water undrinkable. In the United Stated, 20% to 45% of all wetlands would be lost to a 2-foot rise in sea level, and between 2,000 and 6,000 square miles (5,200 and 15,000 square kilometers of dry land would succumb to flooding (Bilger 63).
Our pattern of precipitation will change also. More precipitation will fall each year. It also means that some areas might get more precipitation or less precipitation than what they are used to getting. Also, plant zones will shift. In order for certain plants to survive, they have to be in a very specific environment with certain conditions. Global warming causes dangerous weather to occur. Hurricanes could become 60% more intense with tornadoes becoming more powerful and destructive (Bilger 64).
As the climate changes, so will the seasons. Winters will be shorter and milder, and snows will melt earlier in spring. Summers will be longer and warmer, causing growing seasons to change. The temperature extremes will be more common during this time with the summers reaching record breaking highs. Also, many habitats could be destroyed by the warming of the earth. While people can move themselves and their crops, trees and coral reefs have to stay put. If the heat is hot enough it could destroy the trees by forest fires, as well as the coral reefs. Coral can’t handle extreme temperatures and will die, while everything that lives off of it will die too. Many different types of species may become extinct because of the warming the earth that we now inhabit.
These are just some of the causes that global warming will have on just the environment around us.
Not only will the greenhouse effect affect the planet, but it will cause us to have to
adapt to these changes. Agriculture will change because the climate effects when, where,
and how food is grown. If the climate changes, then it will mean we have to change how we produce our food. Rising sea levels could also effect us. It could cause flooding of coastal cities, wash beaches away, cover cropland, and push millions of people out of their homes. Small islands like the Florida Keys could disappear altogether in 60-70 years. Droughts could also come from global warming. Rivers and wells could dry up, and salt could get into underground sources of water. Our health could also be affected. As the temperature rises disease carrying mosquitoes, ticks, and flies could invade high latitude countries. Tropical diseases such as malaria could be more common. If we are not careful we may lose a lot of our population to these diseases that we are not used to.
In order to stop this global warming from happening so soon, there are many things that can be done by everyone. The first thing that needs to be done is cut the amount of carbon dioxide by half the amount. This can be done by three ways. The first way is by conserving energy. Energy conservation can be done by learning to use energy wisely. Making smaller, more fuel efficient cars can help conserve energy. Try riding a bike instead of jumping in your car or using a bus to get somewhere. Making new houses that are well insulated helps to save energy. Learning to use energy the right ways involves turning off the lights, the TV, and the stereo everytime you leave a room. Another way is to use fans during the summer when it isn’t too hot yet instead of just using energy with the air conditioner. Also, public buildings and industries need to be more energy efficient. This can be done by recycling paper, glass, plastic, and aluminum. All of these things will reduce the amount of fossil fuels used and help keep the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air at a minimum. Another way to reduce carbon dioxide is by planting millions of new trees all over the world. Since trees reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and add oxygen, planting them can do nothing but help. Something else that can
be done is find new energy sources. There are many energy sources that are clean, safe, and renewable. Solar, wind, geothermal power, and nuclear power are all other sources of energy. We have to find ways in which we can harness these natural energy sources so that we can use them instead of burning fossil fuels. These are just many ways in which we can reduce the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by half.
The other greenhouse gases also need to be reduced in the atmosphere. First there is methane. Even though methane is a gas that needs to be reduce, we can’t really limit the amount that is released. Can’t stop livestock from belching, or ride of waste, or drain rice paddies. We have to have our “beef”, garbage is just something that comes from everything, and many people depend on rice paddie farms. Nitrous acid can be regulated through the same ways as carbon dioxide can be eliminated. The burning of fossil fuels also releases nitrous acid, so by conserving energy it too can be reduced. The CFC’s have already been taken care of . In 2000, they were banned because of it increasing global warming. The only thing is is that it will take 100 years to cleanse itself from the atmosphere. Until then, it will still eat at the ozone and cause it to thin.
The only way to help prevent global warming is to work together. The whole world has to for once take action in order to succeed. It doesn’t just affect one area of the planet, but the whole earth! One thing that is being done is a Kyoto Conference. On December 1, leaders from more than 150 countries met in Kyoto, Japan to discuss global warming. It’s so rare to have a meeting over something that might not effect the people of these countries for 75-100 years or more. Many scientist wanted to discuss the effects of global warming and the catastrophic consequences it could have. Things like flooding of low-lying areas, droughts, and more severe weather that could cause food shortages, and the death of millions of people. The thing is is that no one knows really how soon these effects could start affecting humans, while others are skeptical of the whole idea. They
think it has been blown out of proportion and causing more alarm than necessary.
The industrialized countries such as the United States, Japan, and European Union want to set ways to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere. They want the major developing countries of China, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico to also cut the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted, The problem with this is that the developing countries don’t want to cooperate. They say that their economic futures should not be limited now to fix a problem that is legacy of the past policies of the industrialized countries. So they don’t think the initial round of targets should apply to them.
These greenhouse gases are formed by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Every country would then have to consume a smaller amount of these fuels by their industries. It would limit them in their electricity used by industries, as well as the use of the fuels by their people, such as in their automobiles. The expense of energy would rise, causing people to change the way they use energy. Even if people won’t cooperate, some how something must be done about global warming because the balance of Earth is in our hands. (Kyoto Conference).
For hundreds of years humans have brought about huge changes in the environment. In our efforts to improve the quality of our lives, we have polluted the waters, the land, and the air. Usually we are not really aware of the consequences of our actions. Even if its brought to our attention, we just continue our lives like the earth will be able to recover from all the terrible things we do to it. Right now, it seems that our actions are catching up to us. The nature of our atmosphere has been irreversibly changed by our own hands. The greenhouse effect may be the most serious environmental
problems the human race has ever experienced. Never before in recorded history have people been faced with the possibility of such dramatic and rapid environmental changes occurring on a global scale.