Name of the Student
26th October 2015
Background and Burden of Global Warming
Over the past few decades, the average temperature of our earth’s surface has increased steadily. Global warming refers to the increase in average temperature of the earth’s surface over a period (www.solar-center.stanford.edu). It has been speculated, that during the 21st century, the average temperature of the earth’s surface would increase around 0.3 to 1.7-degree centigrade, even with stringent mitigation measures. However, without stringent mitigation measures the expected rise would be around 2.6 to 4.8-degree centigrade (Randel, Shine & Austin D02107).
Data suggests that average temperature of our earth’s surface rose to around 0.85-degree centigrade, during 1880 to 2012. Hence, the predictions and data reflect that rate of global warming has hastened during the present decade, and the anticipated increase is much higher than earlier decades even with the robust mitigation strategies. It is a fact that increases in the average temperature of the earth’s surface are a spontaneous process (Randel, Shine & Austin D02107).
Average surface temperature of the earth indicates land temperatures and ocean temperatures together. Land temperature has been shown to increase much faster than ocean temperature. This is because oceans had a higher heat capacity and increased the potential to lose heat through evaporation. Both this phenomenon has contributed to the increased land temperature, thus increasing the average surface temperature of the earth (Randel, Shine & Austin D02107). The present article will evaluate the causative factors for global warming and the impact of Global warming on our society and the environment.
Causes of Global Warming
The major cause of Global warming has been attributed to the increased concentration of “Green House” gases in the earth’s atmosphere. Apart from green house gases there are several factors that lead to the issue off global warming.
The common notion of global warming is due to the green house effect. In brief, green house effect refers to the trapping of infrared radiations on the earth’s surface and reduced reflection of such radiation back into the atmosphere. The major green house gases are attributed to water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrous oxide (www.solar-center.stanford.edu). Green house effect is usually a protective effect that warms the earth’s surface otherwise various ice zones would have been formed on the earth’s surface (Tranter & Booth 54-164).
However, increased green house effect is not desirable, and it is the increased concentration of green house gases that leads to the issue of global warming. Normally, the infrared radiations are absorbed and emitted by the gases in earth’s atmospheric layers that produce the warming effect. If radiations are totally reflected back (which can happen hypothetically if there is no atmosphere), it would lead to freezing of the earth’s surface including land and oceans (www.solar-center.stanford.edu). The green house gases produce an overall warming effect of around 33-degree centigrade. Water vapour and carbon dioxide are the predominant green house gases (Tranter & Booth 54-164).
The major source of emission of green house gases has been attributed to anthropogenic causes. In fact in 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change concluded global warming was predominantly induced by humans (www.globalissues. org). The advancement and radical changes in the socio-economic scenario all across the globe have witnessed Industrial Revolution in the past few decades (Tranter & Booth 54-164).
Increased use of fossil fuels for energy production, increased transportation, and increase in conventional farming methods with heavy usage of mechanized approaches has to the increase in green house effect. Such activities liberate oxides of carbon by reacting with atoms of oxygen, which ultimately forms carbon dioxide, leading to increasing in green house effect. Refrigerators and air conditioners release chlorofluorocarbons that add to the burden of green house effect (Tranter & Booth 54-164).
Water vapour of the atmosphere can rise due to both direct and indirect effects. The direct effects include anthropogenic effects of industrialization while the indirect effect is due to the warming effect on oceans. Oceans have improved the potential for evaporation with higher heat capacities. This leads to the formation of water vapour, which potentiates the impact of green house effect by increasing the land temperatures (Randel, Shine & Austin D02107).
Decrease in global dimming is also one of the factors that contribute to the menace of global warming. Global dimming is a process whereby suspended aerosols efficiently reflect back the infrared radiations that enter the earth’s atmosphere. However, processes like clouds sway away the aerosol levels of the atmosphere causing their depletion. This effect leads to global warming, as the infrared radiations are unable to get reflected back efficiently (Randel, Shine & Austin D02107).
A process called Twomey effect leads to an efficient global dimming process. The process refers to the formation of clouds which has greater density. Such effect leads to increased reflection of incoming infrared radiations. However, reduction in aerosols causes a decrease in the Twomey effect because aerosols act as suitable cloud condensation agents (Randel, Shine & Austin D02107).
The other speculations regarding global warming include an increase in radiation temperature from the sun. However, such speculations have not been proved conclusively. On the other hand, it is recognized that a variance in orbital cycles may lead to increase or decrease in global warming. Decrease in global warming is popularly identified as the ice age that hits the earth around a gap of 50,000 years. Such ice age marks the beginning of glacial periods (Berger 1287).
Global warming is also potentiated through a loss of forests and plants due to increased habitable areas. Such deforestation leads to a decrease in the density of plants and trees. Plants and trees act as effective barriers to green house effect as they absorb the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere to synthesize their food. The trapping of carbon dioxide and fixation of carbon reduces the chances of global warming (Randel, Shine & Austin D02107).
Social Significance of Global warming
Global warming has a significant impact on social and environmental parameters which is elucidated in this section. The social impact of global warming is strongly related to the environmental impact that global warming has already created or predicted to create in the coming time periods. An increase in average surface temperature of the earth will lead to the melting of ice caps across the globe that will result in floods, and some of the well-renowned cities across the global coastlines will be permanently sunken. Habitat destruction would be one of the primary impacts of global warming.
Moreover, the disease burdens on humans are expected to increase with the increase in heat stress indices. Such burdens may include heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat hyperpyrexia that may affect the normal productivity of human beings in their place of work. In some areas such increase in heat stress indices can create local endemics of heat-related disorders and may contribute to increased mortality and mortality.
The next impact that is predicted is an increase in food insecurity. The resultant floods from the melting of ice caps will lead to increase in water levels of the top soil creating water logged zones. Such zones would be non-productive for agriculture, and per capita area of agricultural land is bound to decrease. This is an alarming situation as there would also be a simultaneous increase in growth of the population. Such inverse relations between available agricultural land and predicted population growth will foster the concern of food insecurity. The only way to combat such social crisis is to plan effective mitigation and prevention strategies, which would holistically minimize global warming.
With the loss of agricultural and habitable lands, industrial zones will also be minimized. Coupled to a loss of agricultural lands it may increase unemployment in areas which are heavily dependent upon agricultural productivity.
Way Forward: Mitigation Strategies
Currently, there has been a global awareness on the menace of global warming and various strategies for effective mitigation of global warming are being evaluated. One of such strategies is to utilize non-conventional forms of energy in preference to conventional forms of energy (Tranter & Booth 54-164). Conventional forms of energy include combustion of fossil fuels leading to increased concentration of carbon dioxide (a potent green house gas) in the atmosphere. On the other hand, non-conventional forms of energy like solar energy, wind energy or tidal energy will not lead to increased concentration of green house gases (including carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere (Tranter & Booth 54-164).
The other method of mitigation is the technological advancements in reducing chlorofluorocarbons from the air conditioners or refrigerators. Such dehumidifiers are redesigned with different cooling systems and materials, which have a lower potential to cause the green house effect (Tranter & Booth 54-164).
Another strategy that is gaining in popularity is the implementation of organic farming in preference to conventional farming. It is estimated that different types of agricultural activities contribute to around 13.5% of the green house effect. Such contribution stems from the use of mechanized approaches including agricultural machinery and transport systems that utilize fossil fuel for energy production. Although organic farming produces lower yield per hectare of agricultural land, it has certain advantages in preserving the global temperatures. This is because organic farming utilized lesser mechanized approaches and decreased usage of fossil fuels, it can mitigate the issue of global warming to a great extent (Venkat 620-649).
However, organic farming is not pacing up as was earlier speculated, due to its lower yield, and increased the cost of production. Various governments across the globe should take initiatives, to safeguard the financial aspects of individuals deployed in organic farming. Such encouragements may be ensured through government aided subsidies and incentives (“Organic versus Conventional farming” 1-10).
There should be self-awareness regarding the importance of plants and trees in mitigating the effects of global warming. Cutting of trees or deforestation should be minimized and made punishable by law, to protect the environment and ensure its sustainability. Forestation should also be ensured through mass awareness programs, and incentives should be done to encourage such actions.
Further, there should be certain standards that should be governed by legal litigations. In the United States, the electrical power plants emit nearly 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, which is alarming. The National Defense Research Council has proposed interventions to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions through the “Clean Air Act” (www.nrdc.org).
Global warming is an inevitable process that would continue to increase with routine anthropogenic activities. Global warming is indeed a global issue, and until positive initiatives are taken, such issue could never be mitigated or prevented in the eve of Industrial revolution, which is growing at a brisk pace all across the globe. However, the silver line that can be observed is the increase in mass awareness on the issue and increased venturing of possible mitigation strategies.
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