Global warming has been defined as the increase in the mean temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere since the mid twentieth century and its projected increase. This has been attributed to the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases resultant from human actions such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. However, the overall effect due to increased atmospheric aerosols has been self-regulated by global diming in which these aerosols block the sun’s rays from reaching the earth’s atmosphere. Projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change state that temperatures are likely to rise in the 21st century from 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F). However, these estimates may be biased since there are differing estimates in the sensitivities to the effects of greenhouse gases and future predictions in greenhouse emissions.
It is projected that these increases in global temperatures are like to cause higher sea levels, changes in precipitation patterns and climate and the expansion of tropical deserts. These effects shall be most widely felt in the Arctic such that glaciers shall retreat while permafrost and sea ice are expected to reduce. Other projected effects are the increase in intensity and frequency of global environmental disasters attributed to weather; reduced agricultural yields and extinction of species (Dimento, pp.68).Already, acidity in oceans has been observed to be rising, a sure sign in support of global warming. There is a general consensus by scientists that global warming is real. However, this does not imply that the end to this controversy is in sight even after such world wide events as the Kyoto Protocol, ratified by 187 nations, takes place. This disputes range from the nature, causes and consequences. The most disputed issues are the global average air temperature especially in comparison to the Middle Ages which signify the temperatures in the world today are still lesser than those in the past; humankind’s contribution to global warming and the validity of estimates in climate sensitivity that shed light on future situations. (Boykoff, pp. 125-136)
There are various reasons that have been put forward by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These are based on over 100 physical processes and 450 biological findings. First, in the Russian Arctic, soaring temperatures are leading to the melting of the permafrost resulting in the slump of 5 story apartments. Precipitation, such as rain, has intensified, resulting in severe floods and storms, while changing climatic conditions have been recorded whereby rivers freeze late into the season. Secondly, there is a general consensus in predictions that in the 21st Century, temperatures shall rise to 5.8°C by 1.4 °C. This shall change earth circulatory and regulatory systems such as the ocean circulation, hydrological, nutrient and carbon cycles. This implies a total change in natural ecosystems that are vital in the provision of basic living things needs such as water and food. Further, environmental problems will arise such as ozone layer depletion, decline in availability and quality of water, urban air pollution such as in Los Angeles and Toronto and natural loss in forest cover due to aridity coupled with deforestation. There is widespread evidence that the United States can no longer avail sufficient water for its citizens and is already negotiating for water deals with neighboring Canada. This shall not only lead to the extinction of major world species but it shall also pose a danger to mankind’s existence in such a volatile environment.
Secondly, it has been documented after recent in-depth research on polar ice that The Arctic and Antarctic are warming up more rapidly than estimated. This has the merit of expanding seas and oceans for navigation by ship. However, the demerits far outweigh the merits. It shall lead to rising water levels in the oceans with a potential of submerging low-lying islands and coasts thereby widespread losses not only in financial terms such as infrastructure and habitable land but also in natural and indigenous species found in such areas. Based on the findings by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, coastal shorelines are eroding at a rate of one to four feet per annum. This presents tangible evidence in support of global warming. A cognitive example is the Cape Hatteras lighthouse located in North Carolina. It was built in 1870 at 1500 feet from the shoreline. Over a period slightly more than a century, this distance had reduced to 160 feet from the shoreline prompting relocation in 1999. Generalizing this concept, the United States has approximately 95,000 miles of shoreline, which has provided homes for more than 50 percent of its citizens since 1960 (Weart, pp.6)Therefore shoreline erosion, as attributed to the rising oceanic water levels, poses a serious threat. Further, receding permafrost layers shall also be detrimental in that animals such as polar bears, walruses and seals that predominantly depend on this ice levels shall be faced by extinction. This shall not only lead to large losses in biodiversity but shall also lead to a pit in the balance of certain ecosystems. Indigenous people, who chiefly depend on ice, such as in Alaska, are already being affected since they can no longer conduct their fish hunting and food gathering activities as in the past.
Thirdly, flooding has been brought about by the heavy and unusual precipitation. Already in British Columbia, parts of Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia and Eastern Europe have been adversely affected by these heavy rains. Peak stream levels, previously experienced in spring, have advanced into winter due to heavy rains that are not letting up to snow that is characteristic of the winter season.
Fourthly, global warming has resulted in massive changes in the climatic situation in tropical lands. Long periods of drought have been recorded in the near past, a shift from the previous heavy rains experienced in the tropical equatorial climate in areas such as Senegal and the basins of Niger. There is danger of extinction of vast water resources such as Lake Chad whose waters have declined by a percentage estimated to be between 40 – 60%. The resultant situation, aridity and desertification, is already expanding at a higher rate in the tropics, wiping out vast resources of water, and along with it, endangered animal and plant species. It is estimated that 25% of mammals and 12% of birds are facing complete and rapid extinction in the next five years. Changes in the food chain supply attributed to the ongoing greenhouse effect has placed 89% of these animals are at an extremely high risk.
The fifth reason as to why global warming is real has been evidenced in the reducing production levels. Increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have led to the diminishing protein content in wheat and rice. Further, the little food produced is under threat from the spreading pests and diseases. This has been especially the case in wheat whereby wheat rust has become a dogmatic and incurable disease that has led to vast losses. Productivity in the United States grain belts, and those in Australia and Asia have been observed to decline marginally. It is projected that the warmer temperatures likely to be experienced in future coupled by the increasing evapo-transpiration rates shall reduce agricultural yields to two-thirds of the current output. In the tropics, irrigation has become expensive due to the scarcity of water resources rendering it out of reach for farmers. Further, crops in these areas are deemed to be at their maximum temperature tolerance beyond which they cannot survive.
The sixth reason in support of the global warming concept is the current wave of heat waves that have been so far experienced in Greece and Russia; cold snaps, intense floods, droughts, highly destructive hurricanes, high pollution rates and allergens. Not only shall there be increased widespread financial losses but also an increased compromise on air quality thereby leading to a diverse range of illnesses in the populace. It is vital to note that costs attributed to global weather disasters has increased from $3.9 billion United States dollars to an estimated $40 billion in 2000. The frequency and intensity of such risks as floods and wild fires due to heat waves has rendered them uninsurable. Tsunamis and earthquakes such as the recent occurrence in Haiti are expected to increase in intensity and severity. This is since glaciers exert immense pressure on the earth’s surface and weigh over 1 ton per cubic meter. If this pressure reduces due to the continuous melting, this shall be released explicitly through tsunamis, volcanoes and earthquakes. A look at the 2004 Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 Asian Tsunami are evidence enough in support of this.
However, despite the multiple reasons put forward that global warming is real; opponents to this concept have put forward various reasons that negate the existence of this principle. First, most scientists do not believe in the existence of this concept. Over 17,000 scientists are signatory to a petition disseminating from the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine which states that there is no substantial scientific proof that human activities that lead to the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane shall cause catastrophic heating in the earth’s atmosphere in the near future. Surveys conducted by climatologists are in support of this statement rendering the claim on global warming null.
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