Can Global Warming Be Contained?
Global Warming is the rise in the temperature of Earth atmosphere. Scientists across the world agree that the Earth is heating up and climatic changes are pronounced since the nineteenth century. The Earth atmosphere is estimated at about 0.8Â°C or 1.4Â°F warmer since the turn of the millennium and if it continues at this rate, the temperature is likely to go up by another 6.4Â°C or 11.5Â°F by the end of this century.
Global warming causes glaciers to melt quickly, raising sea levels and causing many coastal regions of the world to be submerged. Accompanying this threat is a set of climatic changes that threatens to draw many wildlife species closer to their end. Global warming is believed to be the cause of a number of global phenomena such as floods, droughts, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and even volcanic eruptions.
The effect of global warming on human adaptability is perhaps the most worrisome of all concerns. A number of islands in the Indian, the Atlantic, and the Pacific Oceans have shown signs of submergence in the past few years. Maldives, an exotic tourist destination, home to a population of over 300,000, is expected to be completely submerged within a century. Cities like Miami, New York, and New Orleans will be exposed to risks of flooding, and a 13-20 foot rise in the coastline by the turn of the century, scientists predict.
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The hottest temperatures ever recorded on Earth occurred in the past fifteen years. Ever since the Earth temperatures have been recorded starting in 1880, scientists have noticed that the ten hottest years were between 1997 and now.
Arctic Ice has been melting at an alarming rate causing icebergs to be a concern for maritime navigators and sailors. It is estimated that by about 2040 the region may experience its first ice-free summer. The Northwest Passage which was not navigable a century ago due to the ice is now open to vessels and ships.
A reflection of the depletion of glaciers, the Glacier National Park in Montana, United States, has fewer than twenty-seven glaciers now, in comparison to over 150 glaciers in 1910. This is a decrease of about 87% in the number of glaciers.
A number of wildlife species are dying out at a rapid rate due to the rise in temperatures. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division reports that the population of penguins in Antarctica is steadily decreasing. The penguin population has decreased by 50% in the past 50 years. Coral reefs evidenced up to 70% bleach rates in many parts of the world. This is attributed to the rise in ocean temperatures.
The first known instance of relocation due to global warming was when over a hundred residents of the Pacific Ocean island, Tegua, left their homeland due to rising sea levels. Other islands like Maldives may not survive the century.
Each day, over seventy million tons or about 1.4 billion pounds of carbon dioxide is released into the Earthâ€™s atmosphere by industries, automobiles, and other modes. This figure has been increasing over recent years.
It is estimated that the sea levels across the world could rise over twenty-three inches by the end of this century if global warming goes unchecked. Many coastal areas could be inundated.
A 4Â°C or 39Â° F temperature change could eliminate most of the wetlands in southern Europe. Global temperatures are likely to rise about 6Â°C if left unchecked.
In 2004, it was reported that Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is losing about 4 inches annually because of global warming.
The Panama Canal could run out of water within a decade if global warming goes unchecked, warn scientists.
Certain gasses in the Earthâ€™s atmosphere trap or retain the heat while they allow the sunâ€™s light in. This is what is referred to as the â€œgreenhouse effect.â€Â While a certain amount of greenhouse effect is essential for the sustenance of life on Earth, a drastic increase in the quantity of these greenhouse gasses is likely to heat the Earthâ€™s temperature beyond endurance for many life forms. An understanding of the greenhouse effect was the result of Joseph Fourierâ€™s scientific study in 1824. Fourier recorded that the Earthâ€™s temperature would have been too cold to support life had there been no atmosphere. In 1895, Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist, studied the gasses that were instrumental in retaining solar heat. Ozone depletion is another related phenomenon observed due to the production of CFCs and other ozone depleting substances worldwide. Ozone restricts the UVB of ultraviolet rays, preventing a number of harmful biological diseases.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change protocol, called the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at combating global warming, marks China, the US, EU, Indonesia, and India as the top emitters of greenhouse gases. Developing nations such as China and India have, however, refused to commit to specific goals that would help restrict these emissions since this could have major economic impacts. A number of scientists and political theorists worldwide believe that the alarm raised by global warming theorists worldwide is part of a worldwide hoax or a conspiracy. In November 2009, the email server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia was hacked and thousands of emails, exchanged between scientists in the UK and the US, were leaked. Popularly referred to as Climategate, the controversy centered on an attempt to misrepresent and suppress scientific data and to depict global warming as a threat. The validity of various graphs and data, including the â€˜hockey-stick graphâ€™ used by former US Vice President Al Gore, were questioned.
Climategate was taken up by the media at the Copenhagen Summit in December 2009. A number of scientific bodies such as the Union of Concern Scientists (UCS), the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) went on record to state the legitimacy of global warming. Furthermore, eight independent investigations were carried out, including those by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the Science Assessment Panel, the United States Environment Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation. Artificial Trees: Professor Klaus Lackner from Columbia University came up with the idea of using artificial trees to trap atmospheric carbon dioxide. The sodium hydroxide filters of these â€œtreesâ€Â could be used to capture the CO2 and reuse them for industrial purposes. Professor Lackner does not have a prototype for these trees yet.
Ocean Iron Restoration: Planktos, a firm specializing in eco-restorations, commissioned the ship Weatherbird II to set sail from Washington DC and to plant iron ore dust in the ocean beds. The experiment was called off after it was shown that the efforts were inadequate to contain global warming.
Atmospheric Sulfate Infusion: Imitating the eruptions of volcanoes such as El Chichon and Mount Pinatubo, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research suggested infusion of 5.5 million tons of sulfur dioxide at regular intervals to halt global warming. The scientists are still uncertain of the outcome and the infusion methods.
Sun Refracting Space Shields: Professor Roger Angel from the University of Arizona is working on sun refraction shields that can be placed in space. These shields are designed to be three feet wide and are intended to each refract 2% of the sunâ€™s rays back. The cost and the time required to develop these are unrealistic at the moment.
Wrapping Greenland: Dr. Jason Box from the University of Ohio has launched an experiment to cover the glaciers of Greenland with refractive blankets to prevent them from melting. Finding appropriate material and working on a larger scale could prove to be the biggest challenges of this experiment. Six daily steps to reduce global warming â€“
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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle â€“ Recycling and reusing glass, paper, and metal products consumes about 80% less energy and causes far less pollution than producing new products. Recycling paper contains deforestation and in turn contains global warming.
Use energy efficient appliances and devices â€“ Buying and using energy efficient appliances and devices will not only help global warming, but will also slash energy bills in half.
Plant a tree â€“ Planting a tree can help curb the adverse effects of global warming. Trees absorb the carbon dioxides in the atmosphere and breathe out oxygen. Planting trees help mitigate the effects of deforestation.
Support renewable energy â€“ Renewable energy sources such as wind and water energy are your best to combat global warming. Use of solar energy powered devices make for an eco-friendly home, reduce electricity bills and help you do your part to help the world.
Join a carpool â€“ Auto emission is among the top causes for carbon emission and global warming. Riding a bicycle, walking short distances, and joining a carpool are easy ways of beating global warming.
Spread awareness â€“ Spreading awareness is the best effort one can make to combat global warming. In the midst of the popularity of Social Media and online networking, make global warming your own personal cause and spend a few minutes everyday to build up awareness.
A number of governmental, non-profit, and commercial organizations across the world are working to combat global warming and climate change and to ensure a low carbon future. In the US, the Sierra Club, Honor the Earth, the Climate Project, and the Bay Area Climate Collaborative work toward various initiatives. Friends of the Earth, WWF, and Green Peace are global initiatives. Reputed institutions such as the British Council have been working on widespread awareness programs on low-carbon futures and climate change. While most scientists agree that the pace of global warming can certainly be slowed down, even drastically cut, reversal does not seem to feature in the scheme. By cutting down emission of the greenhouse gasses, the UNâ€™s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change vouches that the consequences of global warming may be avoided for a long time to come.
Most predictions rely on current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Human social and industrial behavior could have much to do with slowing down the pace of global warming. The preservation of rainforests and natural ecosystems could play a key role in this effort.
Researchers from the University of Bristol, the University of Manchester, and the Sandia National Laboratories have discovered that the Criegee biradicals neutralize natural pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and eventually lead to a cooling of Earth by cleaning up the atmosphere.
Another major factor that could determine the pace and consequences of global warming is the use of fossil fuel and the support communities receive in an attempt to switch to natural energy sources especially solar energy, water and wind energy. While a number of books, movies, and songs have been written about the disastrous consequences of global warming, many of these have been dismissed as exaggerated accounts. On the book jacket of The Weather Of The Future, Heidi Cullen shows Manhattan on the verge of submersion. The movies 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow, both science fiction disaster films, have made a considerable impact on the minds of people with regard to global warming and its possible outcome. An Inconvenient Truth, a film about former US Vice President Al Goreâ€™s global warming campaign, was directed by Davis Guggenheim and went on to win two Academy Awards and was ranked among the top ten grossing documentary films in the US. "There will be no polar ice by 2060. Somewhere along that path, the polar bear drops out."- Larry Schweiger, President, National Wildlife Federation, 2006
"Global warming is too serious for the world any longer to ignore its danger or split into opposing factions on it."- Tony Blair
"The warnings about global warming have been extremely clear for a long time. We are facing a global climate crisis. It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences." - Al Gore
"Global warming is not a conqueror to kneel before - but a challenge to rise to. A challenge we must rise to." - Joe Lieberman
â€œI'm heartened by the growing awareness of global warming among important communities and organizations in our nation." - Jim Clyburn
Before asking if global warming can be contained, it becomes important for governments, organizations, and communities to judge whether global warming is indeed an alarming phenomena, an â€˜Inconvenient Truth,â€™ or if it is a conspiracy and a hoax. Irrefutable is the fact that global climate changes are occurring, but at what rate? Are the awareness campaigns adequately equipped to make a global effort? Are individual and collective endeavors being addressed adequately? Will the human society survive another couple of centuries or will we perish as a result of our own evolutionary mechanisms?