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Global warming has a negative impact on all of us in spite of which country one comes from. Thus, it is important to have a deep understanding of this issue. This research paper explores scholarly research articles on global warming to determine the causes, effects, as well as sustainable solutions to this global threat.
Among the biggest global issues in our world, today is global warming. It is a phenomenon that jeopardizes our future especially given its adverse effects on climate change.
There are constant reports of the ice caps at the poles melting, rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, and the loss of coral reef ecosystems from the media and other stakeholders. The political discourse has not been left behind in this discussion with the United Nations (UN) spearheading the campaign. This is proof of the urgency of this issue. It is, therefore, of great importance for everyone to understand this threat. This fact necessitates close scrutiny of this occurrence to understand the causes, effects, and the possible solutions to global warming.
Causes of Global Warming
Global warming, as the name suggests is a long-term rise in earth’s climate average temperature. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has noted that the surface temperature on average has risen by approximately 1.62° F in the last century. But what is causing this change? Global warming has been attributed to the greenhouse effect (Anderson, Hawkins, & Jones 178). The greenhouse effect is the process whereby our atmosphere warms the earth’s surface to a higher temperature than it would be if the atmosphere was absent. To explain this further, the earth receives heat from the sun to its surface upon which it is radiated back into space. However, some of the radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere hence keeping our planet warm.
Not all the gases in the atmosphere are involved in the greenhouse effect. Those that play this role include methane, Carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor, nitrous oxide, and ozone (Chen et al., 1432). In his article, Anderson et al., however, notes that the greenhouse effect is necessary for maintaining the earth’s temperature. Without it, the planet would be at a temperature of below freezing point. An increase in the greenhouse gases, however, leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect. Thus, the root cause of global warming is the rise in the levels of greenhouse gases.
CO2 has been found to be the greenhouse gas that is mainly contributing to the increased greenhouse effect. CO2 emissions have continually increased since the era of industrialization began. The economic development that we value so much comes at a great cost by being closely associated with a rise in carbon dioxide levels. All these industries require a source of energy for their machines. The same case applies even to residential areas as urbanization is on the rise. Unfortunately, the major source of energy around the world is fossil fuel. For instance, coal is a leading source of electricity whose combustion releases copious amounts of carbon dioxide (Cronshaw 572). Additionally, the increased use of vehicles which also use fossil fuels cannot be ignored. In fact, the transportation sector has been identified as the largest carbon dioxide emitter (Berntsen & Fuglestvedt 19155). This encompasses all transportation means including planes, ships, trucks, cars, and trains. Having obtained an understanding of global warming and identifying its causes, it is also significant to understand the effects that arise from this menace and why we need to act now.
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Effects of Global Warming
One of the most adverse effects of global warming is the rise in sea levels. Studies have found that a rise of 2° C in global temperature can result in a 20cm rise in the ocean levels (Jevrejeva et al. 13342). Given that many cities are urban areas are situated in coastal areas, the threat is imminent not to mention the danger posed to wildlife in such areas. Flooding of such areas would lead to a lot of displacement from such area. The rise in these levels is as a result of the melting of ice caps that are situated at the poles due to the increased temperature. Besides flooding coastal areas, this occurrence is also a threat to the wildlife at the poles such as the polar bears (Prop et al. 33).
Other than a rise in the level, the oceans are also impacted negatively in another way. This is through ocean acidification. The increased amount of carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean surface leading to a reduction of the water’s PH. The ocean water’s PH is notably basic normally, and this ensures that marine ecosystems have the required environment and materials to build their structures. For instance, in areas such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, it has been observed that the greatest coral site is slowly diminishing due to changes in PH as well as temperature levels. In addition to affecting the ecosystems, the increased levels of CO2 in the water allow invasive weeds to thrive which may end up covering great areas of water bodies.
In recent times, cases of severe weather conditions have been on the rise, a factor which scientists have attributed to global warming. Examples include heat waves, flooding, drought, and even frequent hurricanes. Increased temperatures lead to more warming of the earth’s surface leading to increased evaporation of soil moisture content as well as the loss of moisture from plant leaves. The high levels of moisture in the air lead to high precipitation which results in flooding. Additionally, the increased warming of the surface results in heat waves which are constantly being experienced in many parts of the world. The loss of soil moisture due to excessive heating creates drought conditions as rivers dry up. Scientific evidence is also continually showing that the increased rate of hurricanes has a lot to do with global warming. The rise in sea levels and hot air create conditions that are suitable for the formation of hurricanes that can be very destructive to life and property.
The severe weather conditions also cause several other complications such as food insecurity. Drought conditions lead to drying of crops especially in areas where irrigation is not properly set up. Research has found out that in the US, the maize and soybean yields have been negatively affected by constant drought conditions (Zipper, Qiu, & Kucharik). The trees have not been spared by this menace. There has been a rise of wildfires which are even more intense and vast as compared to the past such as those which have been witnessed in the state of California. These adverse effects call for effective solutions to evade such a crisis to make our world more habitable.
Solutions to Global Warming
It is not enough to simply understand the impacts of global warming but rather steps must be taken to curb this threat. At the international level, the UN established the Paris Agreement. This is an agreement with most of the states to keep the average global rise in temperature to below 2° C. Under this accord, the states that are a party to it are expected to implement sustainable solutions to deal with global warming (Rogelj et al. 631). Several sustainable solutions which are effective in reducing the greenhouse effect have already been proposed including the use of renewable energies, increasing energy efficiency, implementing sustainable transportation, and forest management.
One of the biggest contributors to the greenhouse gases is non-renewable energy which mostly includes the use of fossil fuels (Cronshaw 573). The combustion of fuels such as coal produces abundant amounts of carbon dioxide. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, on the other hand, do not emit such gases. For this reason, a move into renewable energy is highly encouraged as a measure to control global warming. Even in cases where renewable energy has not been fully adopted due to perhaps, financial constraints, increasing energy efficiency and conservation can make a great difference. Energy saving appliances such as LED bulbs are continually being advanced. These appliances consume less energy compared to traditional ones such as the incandescent bulb. Simple practices such as switching off lights and appliances which are not in use also make a huge difference by conserving energy. This ensures that less non-renewable sources are used hence reducing carbon emissions.
Global warming cannot be sufficiently dealt with without addressing the greatest emitter of carbon dioxide, the transportation sector. Great strides have been made in the advancement of electric cars, quickly outdating the internal combustion engine. Hybrid cars which are battery or hydrogen powered are already being embraced (Wilberforce et al. 25696). If we are to control global warming, then more and more people must discard their fossil fuel powered cars and adopt the new generation of clean energy vehicles
Forest management is a great way to reduce global warming as forests act as carbon sinks. Carbon sinks absorb more carbon dioxide than they emit. Trees absorb this gas during photosynthesis to release oxygen. For this reason, it is very important to conserve our forests to reduce the amount of CO2 and hence stop any further global warming (Farrior et al. 7215).
Global warming is a growing threat to our very existence. It is, therefore, important to understand it from all perspectives. It is not a complicated issue as it can be understood by the masses. The causes and effects are clear. It is not too late. We can still act before the situation becomes very dangerous. Once we embrace renewable sources, reduce the use of fossil fuels, and manage our forests, the world will be a better and more habitable place. Although the government plays a huge role by formulating and implementing effective policies, every individual has a role to play by reducing their carbon footprint to make this world a better place.
Anderson, Thomas R., Ed Hawkins, and Philip D. Jones. “CO2, the greenhouse effect and global warming: from the pioneering work of Arrhenius and Callendar to today’s Earth System Models.” Endeavour 40.3 (2016): 178-187.
Berntsen, Terje, and Jan Fuglestvedt. “Global temperature responses to current emissions from the transport sectors.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105.49 (2008): 19154-19159.
Chen, Chih-Chun, et al. “Hydrogen production and carbon dioxide enrichment from ethanol steam reforming followed by water gas shift reaction.” Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017): 1430-1441.
Cronshaw, Ian. “World Energy Outlook 2014 projections to 2040: natural gas and coal trade, and the role of China.” Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics59.4 (2015): 571-585.
Farrior, Caroline E., et al. “Decreased water limitation under elevated CO2 amplifies potential for forest carbon sinks.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.23 (2015): 7213-7218.
Jevrejeva, Svetlana, et al. “Coastal sea level rise with warming above 2 C.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113.47 (2016): 13342-13347.
Prop, Jouke, et al. “Climate change and the increasing impact of polar bears on bird populations.” Frontiers in ecology and evolution 3 (2015): 33.
Rogelj, Joeri, et al. “Paris Agreement climate proposals need a boost to keep warming well below 2 C.” Nature 534.7609 (2016): 631.
Wilberforce, Tabbi, et al. “Developments of electric cars and fuel cell hydrogen electric cars.” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 42.40 (2017): 25695-25734.
Zipper, Samuel C., Jiangxiao Qiu, and Christopher J. Kucharik. “Drought effects on US maize and soybean production: spatiotemporal patterns and historical changes.” Environmental Research Letters 11.9 (2016): 094021.
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