Vice President Al Gore has said about the threat of global warming that it is "the most serious problem our civilization faces" (2). Global warming has become quite an issue internationally because of the threat of increasing greenhouse gasses. It is these gasses, when released into the air, accumulate and then trap the heat inside our atmosphere.
Our climate is greatly affected by this. Therefore, affecting all of the organisms on earth, including humans. Usually these gasses should be able to move out into the upper atmosphere, where they are not as harmful. There are three important greenhouse gasses:
- Sulfur Dioxide
- Carbon Dioxide
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Where Do These Gasses Come From?
Methane primarily comes from the decay and flatulence of animals and plants. It also arises from biomass burning, landfills, coal mining, and gas drilling (133).
Sulfur Dioxide is a gas that is emitted by many natural and anthropogenic sources, for example, volcanoes. It changes from sulfuric acid aerosol to acid rain and aerosol cooling in the stratosphere (167).
Carbon Dioxide is the principal culprit when it comes to gas emissions. Carbon dioxide is the only gas released by human activities that can cause global warming. It can also come from the burning of fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and gas (123).
There are, of course, many myths relating to global warming, but let there be no mistake about it, it is happening, and it should be dealt with. Global warming is a pollution problem. If we continue to burn oil, coal, and other gasses, carbon dioxide will trap the sun's heat, changing the natural balance of the climate.
Trends In Rising Temperature
The increase of use of fossil fuels and concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have led to the warming of the Earth, meaning that the average temperature has risen annually. As the temperature of the Earth rises, there will be a great number of changes to the environment.
There has been a definite trend in the rising temperature over the century. From 1880 to 1990, the average temperature has risen about 0.5º F or about 2 percent (112). NASA has found that since 1958, the temperature has increased about 0.14º F (12). These changes in temperature have not been absolutely consistent though, there have been gradual increases and decreases.
The changes are an average over the years. The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), and international body made up of 2500 of the world's leading scientists, predicts that "global warming could raise world-wide temperatures as much as 6º F in the next 100 years" (Sierra Club). This rise would be bigger than the records have shown over the past 10,000 years. Scientists are hoping to use these findings to create a model of what may happen in the future.
The hard part is predicting the future in all the complications due to human activity, other life forms, changes in forestry, and the state of water (in all forms). Still, models have been able to help in finding whether or not we are reaching destruction or whether or not a decrease in gas emissions will make a difference.
An Increase In Temperature Will Lead To Major Catastrophes for Certain Parts of the World
The higher temperatures will generate higher sea levels (13). This is caused by the melting of glaciers, which leads to the expanding of ocean water. There are two specific worries about the rise in sea level. One problem is that coastal cities that live on land only a few meters above sea level risk and have the possibility to be flooded and then submerged. And if this doesn't happen, then cities who have natural water reservoirs, might have the chance of being mixed with seawater making it undrinkable (125).
Temperatures will effect those who live in agricultural areas (44). Many people depend on crop-growing as a way of living, and with a change in temperature, it could mean that the regions for growing crops could move north. There will be a major impact not just on crop production, but also world food prices as well. This means a major change in these peoples lives.
Its not even just the people who farm that it effects but the people that depend on the crops for food, and that is everybody! In some areas they may experience an increase in rain, while others may get no rain. These can get even more complicated because some places that get more rain, might not be able to deal with it, while places that need rain might not get any at all.
There are growing numbers of extinctions. As the Sierra Club said, "The effects of global warming may be measure in extinctions, not degrees"(Sierra Club). The change in temperature has a great effect on the natural habitat of all animals. As it is, many animals and plants have moved to try to escape and cope with the changing climate.
Not only does variation in temperature effect homes, it also effects their health. Many animals are found to have been infected with diseases that are related to the change in their environment. And don't think that humans aren't effected either. Scientists and physicians from some renowned universities, such as Harvard and John Hopkins Medical School, have said that global warming can cause the increase of communicable diseases.
The scientists say that the warming weather creates a perfect environment for the spread of diseases. They also say that, the health of humans could have a major impact in the years to come. Irregular and unseemly weather, which scientist have already predicted has already taken many lives (Sierra Club).
For example, last year in Texas, where many people suffered an extreme heat wave. It had killed many elderly people, who weren't strong enough to withstand the heat. As part of its research the IPCC, they have examined the effects of global warming and have concluded that, "human induced climate change is likely to have wide-ranging and mostly adverse impacts on human health, with significant loss of life" (Sierra Club).
Attempts Made By Major Countries To Deal With Global Warming
United States Earth Summit in Rio- In 1992, the United States and several other nations came together and discussed possible methods to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal was to reach the 1990 levels of gas emissions by the year 2000. But as of now, many of the nations will not reach that goal. The reason is said to be because the treaty was not legally binding and many nations feared economic repercussions if they tried to meet their goal (Global Warming Org).
Kyoto Protocol- In December of 1997, there were representatives from various nations who met again in a conference in Kyoto to sign another agreement. This time the Clinton Administration wanted to make this pact legally binding, therefore making it more effective (124).
Timothy Wirth, a previous U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, said "We've got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing - in terms of economic policy and environmental policy" (NCPA).
He even pointed out that the Clinton administration was very committed to legally binding limits on gas emissions. The President obviously sees this as an important issue, but it doesn't seem enough. There are still many scientist that are still concerned with global warming even after the conference. There should be more done to reduce the emissions of these harmful gasses into the air.
Global warming has only become a issue within the last decade, and already it has become a major debate. By definition, global warming is the "warming of the earth by greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere naturally or by mankind" (Global Warming Central). Many people question whether global warming exists, there should be no doubt that it does.
There has been a definite increase in temperature over the last few years, even over the last century for that matter. An increase in temperature has many devastating effects on humans, animals, plants, and any other living organism. The increase in sea level, the change in food production, and the spread of disease are just some of the few impacts caused by global warming. Everything must be done to prevent the uses of fossil fuels, since that is the leading cause of global warming. The answers are in front of everyone, but no one wants to face them. The future will be very grim if nothing is done about it now.
"Global Warming has emerged as the most serious environmental threat of the 21st century," as said by the Union of Concerned Scientists (87). The effects of global warming involves a few well known facts, as well as many uncertainties, which have created a great many debates. Although several influential politicians have joined the band-wagon against global warming, more clout is needed to address this issue. It is an important matter that needs to be dealt with immediately. Global warming has put the earth in a dire situation, and dire situations call for drastic actions.
What Actions Need to be Taken to Prevent the Continuance of Global Warming?
First of all, the Federal government needs to get involved. Laws should be made to promote energy efficiency from large corporations to small families. No one is free from the effects of global warming, therefore everyone should participate in the fight against it.
There are many sources, like the sun and wind, which offer non-polluting, economical, and durable alternatives for general electricity. The government must help in the efforts to move towards these cleaner methods of producing energy. They need to continue to fund research for clean energy.
Then, we need to find some ways to encourage the population to continue to conserve energy wisely, perhaps offer some type of tax credit. Energy efficiency is the simplest, most effective way to stop global warming. This concept needs to be dug into the population. And, if it means saving money for them as well, it's all the better.
How Can the Government Get Involved?
The government needs to take action and set an example of how much a priority global warming has become. Here are some steps that should be made-
- Deregulate electricity prices everywhere (198)
- Create a Fossil Fuel Efficiency Standard (213)
- Create tax credits to those who conserve energy
- Continuing the increase on motor vehicle fuel economy standards (88)
It may seem impossible to deregulate electricity because of the monopoly protection laws set by each individual state. The laws are set against monopolies, who generate, distribute, and sell electricity, from raising the prices radically. But honestly, if the companies choose to raise prices it may cause the consumers to rethink their use of electricity. Many may begin to conserve and others will also try to find alternatives from using fossil fuels. Instead of setting price ceiling on monopolies, we should allow them to set prices. This may in turn cause the demand of electricity to fall.
Instead of regulating prices, the government should create a law regulating producers of electricity in their distribution. There should be a mandated Fossil Fuel Efficiency Standard that would be applied to every generator of electricity in the country. It would set a "nationwide allowance for the average fossil fuel used per unit of energy produced and would also include a schedule of cutting fossil allowances in half over the next twenty years" (213).
Afterwards, each year the allowance for fossil fuel to be used would be less from the year before. The companies would be forced to increase the efficiency of existing generators, close down the least efficient fossil fuel based generators, and try find new fossil generation that more efficient than the standard. Otherwise, they should be prepared to pay fines for noncompliance with the standard.
Most of the population wants to save money and they take for granted that conserving energy could actually benefit them. In order to help push them towards conservation, they should be given tax credits. Not only will they be saving on their monthly bill, but they will also be getting an award for helping preserve their environment. The government wont have to be sacrificing large amounts of money in tax credits.
Just the fact they are taking action by paying instead of getting paid, it will make a difference with the public. Many people do not understand what is at stake, but if the government is willing to set an example by showing how important this issue is by giving tax credits, it shows that global warming is significant enough to reward those who participate in conservation.
And last but not least, the government must intervene and steadily increase the motor vehicle economy standard. The population is continually growing which means a growth in automobile sales. Cars are one of the main sources of carbon dioxide emissions (89). The government must set a standard that the automobile industry must follow, while at the same time helping them continue the search for other fuels and technologies that can rid of the carbon dioxide emissions.
They should also allow subsidies to be paid to the companies who engage in developing and promoting new energy efficient technologies. If the companies are given subsidies, it gives them an incentive to find alternative ways to build efficient cars. And at the same time, the standard is in effect to be sure that they conform to the rules, otherwise they will be fined.
Alternative Clean Energy
Everyone needs to realize that renewable energy and other clean technologies offer the promise of meeting our energy needs. It reduces the amount of smog, acid rain, and global warming pollution. People dont realize that over the past few years the cost of using renewable energy had declined by about 60%.
Despite this drop, people are still not using them, only because they are not aware of the alternatives. In the U.S. today, solar and wind energy only account for less than 3% of all electricity used (Sierra Club). Congress has already cut funding for research towards clean energy. Congress needs to get involved again, and create larger funding towards research of renewable, clean energy. The U.S. is living in the 21st century and cannot rely on 19th century fossil fuel technology. The government should help promote safer forms of energy. Hopefully, within years of reintroducing clean energy, people can slowly move away from the past and into the future.
Although the majority of scientist agree that the earth is changing, there are those that believe global warming warnings are highly exaggerated. Many people believe global warming comes second to the economy. The U.S. has agreed to 7% reduction of carbon dioxide. But many people are complaining that this would result in massive restrictions on energy use and large taxpayer-funded subsidies for new technologies.
They need to understand that there needs to be a restriction on energy use. And that at least the tax payers would be paying for something worthwhile, rather than new toilets at the White House. Many are also saying that global warming is likely to help lead to an increase in vegetation. This is false because, the weather is what is effected by global warming. We have already seen the effects of El Nino on farmers last year, and the effects of La Nina this year.
Scientists have predicted that El Nino is only going to get worse with global warming. So, although warmer weather might increase vegetation, the strange weather, year to year, may end up hurting more than helping.
Global warming ought to be a higher priority than what it is now. Many people today take for granted that our electricity actually comes from dirty, heavily polluting, coal fired power plants. Fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gasses account for about 85% of the fuel use in the Unites States.
It is these power plants that let out hundreds of million tons of global warming pollution into our air each year. The pollution contributes to so many problems in our atmosphere, like smog and acid rain. Looking at it from a world point-of-view, fossil fuel power plants produce 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
It is producing the electricity that we depend on so much but it is also causing global warming on our planet. There are alternatives out there to replace the fossil fuels. There are clean, renewable energy from the wind and the sun that can offer non-polluting, economical, and durable alternatives for creating electricity. The most important thing that people also need to remember is that they need to use their electricity conservatively, that in itself can do so much. The government needs to set an example for the public to follow.
Question and Answer
1. What are the impacts of Global Warming?
The earth's climate is predicted to change because human activities are altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of greenhouse gases primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. The heat-trapping property of these gases is undisputed. Although uncertainty exists about exactly how earth's climate responds to these gases, global temperatures are rising.
Rising global temperatures are expected to raise sea level, and vary precipitation and other local climate conditions. Changing regional climate could alter forests, crop yields, and water supplies. It could also threaten human health, and harm birds, fish, and many types of ecosystems. Deserts may expand into existing range lands, and the character of some of our National Parks may be permanently changed. Unfortunately, many of the likely most important impacts depend upon whether rainfall increases or decrease, which can not be reliably projected for specific areas.
2. What makes global warming such an important issue and why should we devote money to funding the prevention of it?
Global warming is important because it involves the whole population and their future. Many people don't realize that they are experiencing the effects of global warming now. The recent fads of weather that we have been undergoing, last year's El Nino and this year's La Nina are examples of the effects from global warming.
And the future isn't any brighter. America needs to invest in the future. It is for the good of the United States environment, economy, health, and climate to use energy more efficiently to develop clean alternative sources of electricity and to use more efficient methods of transportation. We must begin to look towards a cleaner, healthier future.
3. At this point in time, what actions are being made to prevent global warming?
Today, action is occurring at every level to lessen, to avoid, and to better understand the risks associated with climate change. Many cities and states across the country have prepared greenhouse gas inspections. And they are also starting programs and policies that will result in greenhouse gas emission reductions.
On the national level, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinates the world's most extensive research effort on climate change (EPA). In addition, the Clinton Administration is also involving the private sector, states, and the local level in partnerships based on a "win-win philosophy and aimed at addressing the challenge of global warming while, at the same time, strengthening the economy" (EPA).
And on the global level, countries around the world have shown a firm commitment to toughen international responses to the risks of climate change. The U.S. is working to strengthen international action and to widen participation under the protection of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (EPA).
4. What makes your policies to impede global warming any better than other ones?
The actions that I want to take against global warming are any better than other attempts, but they are the ones I believe will work. There are many extremes, some say, get rid of fossil fuels altogether; while another side might say there is no way there is no way to prevent global warming from occurring without repercussions on the economy. I don't want extremities, because that is not realistic.
The good thing about our government being a democracy is that you don't swing from one side to another, but instead take things slowly enough so that you can think them through. This is the pattern that I want to follow dealing with global warming. I know it can't be taken care of in one day, but over a process of time, we can eliminate what is feasible in our hands.
My policies are just another step in the right direction towards preventing global warming. I have researched the actions in the past and have seen what works and what doesn't. These are the policies I believe can be accomplished within reasonable means. Global warming is not going away, and someone needs to take a stand and make it a priority.
5. So you believe that setting standards on fossil fuels and motor vehicles will make a difference?
That is correct, I'm not saying that drastic changes are the solution, but gradual ones. By setting a standard, it subjects the big companies to certain limitations. Setting standards is only one step of many. If the companies can meet the standards, then each year we can continue to lower the standards until new, cleaner energy-efficient technologies are created.
There are alternative out there, and they just need to be introduced to the public. It is expected that businesses will burn more coal and emit more pollution than ever as they seek to maximize profits. I'm not trying to hinder their profits but just simply drawing a line in the hopes of trying to save our environment.
Rules and laws are created to protect people; by setting standards, I'm just trying to protect the environment and the people in it. As an individual, I am attempting to do my part in the fight against global warming. Global warming is real, and the potential damage in the long run to the world far outweighs any present economical issue. People need to realize we need to deal with it now before it becomes too late to do anything at all.
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