Monday, May 27, 2013

Is Global Warming a Threat to The Way of Life On Earth?

Global Warming has been the topic of discussion in U.S. and World Politics for the past few decades. As most would say, you can make a case for each side for a variety of reasons, but in the end you cannot pinpoint the exact causality of global warming. In Al Gore’s documentary, he reiterates this idea of a human-created global warming problem. In his documentary and book, he backs up his beliefs with data expressing that human caused carbon dioxide emissions are the leading cause of the heating up of the Earth.  The rise in global temperature has significant effects on a variety of different aspects of life on this sacred planet.  For example, the rise in global temperatures has an adverse effect on the ecosystem and climate of some areas causing non-human animals to have to adapt to new environments or decide to move further north or south depending on what side of the equator these creatures are on.  In addition, the polar ice caps have been on a steady decline in the past several decades.  This decline in the polar ice caps melting is directly linked to human caused carbon emissions which is leading to rising global sea levels. In rebuttal to such claims to humans being the leading cause of global temperature rise, if one looks throughout the history of the Earth, one can see it has gone through cycles of heating and cooling which may give one the impression that it is the Earth’s natural course.  In the end, one cannot excuse the increasing rise of carbon emissions by human beings since the start of the industrial age in the 1800’s.
            Since the beginning of the Industrial Age of the Human Race, we have needed increasing amounts of energy to fuel our consumption and energy needs.  As a result, carbon based products were discovered to be a natural resource that could satisfy the growing needs of the humanity.  The use of coal and other carbon based fossil fuels such as crude oil and bio-fuels release CO2 during their imperfect combustion process which leads to a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the troposphere, which is the lowest section of the atmosphere.  Because of the increase of CO2 into the atmosphere, and taking into account the effects of CO2 as a greenhouse gas, one can insinuate that rises in surface temperature in the lower atmosphere will increase over a period of time as a result of such emissions.  Not taking into account the fact that weather processes such as rainfall are a natural cooling process of the Earth, the Earth still wishes to stay in an equilibrium known as homeostasis.  As a result, as CO2 is added to the atmosphere, the Earth will continue to right itself by balancing out the excess Carbon Dioxide into heat that is displaced throughout the atmosphere leading to higher global climate temperatures. “The atmospheric CO2 has increased from preindustrial levels of around 250 parts per million by volume to around 378 parts per million or higher today, a level probably not seen since the Pliocene era, around 3.5 million years ago.”(Shapiro, 468)  As one will see, this exponential rise in CO2 has had a dramatic effect on not only the climate and the ecosystem, but is a threat to the bio-diversity of life on Earth.
            Human caused carbon emissions have a direct correlation to the decrease in mass of the polar ice caps.  This decrease in the polar caps volume can and will have dramatic effects on the Earth’s climate and way of life in the next few hundred years if human intervention does not take place on a  global scale.  “A satellite that measures minute changes in the Earth’s gravitational field found the mass of Greenland to have decreased by 50 cubic miles in ice in 2005.   West Antarctica ‘s mass decreased by a similar amount.”(Hansen, 457) Such large decreases in polar ice caps can have significant effects in a variety of different ways.  For example, as the ice caps melt, this decreases the structural integrity of the total glacier or ice cap causing rapid breakup of the entire ice cap.  Subsequently, this breakup of the ice caps at such a tremendous rate can and will lead to the rise in sea levels.  “The Earth’s History reveals cases in which sea level, once ice sheets begin to collapse, rose 1 meter every 20 years for centuries.”(Hansen, 457)  If this occurrence were to happen in modern times, the destruction of hundreds of coastal cities would occur leaving millions stranded or forced to move causing urban and rural cities to grow in population never before seen since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  As the polar sheets melt, it released Methane, which is stored within the permafrost of the ice caps.  Methane, which is also a greenhouse gas, is many times stronger than Carbon emissions in terms of being a greenhouse gas. Without the permafrost’s ability to capture and store Methane, the global climate temperature will continue to rise to unforeseen levels over the next few centuries.  “The last time the Earth was five degrees warmer was three million years ago, when sea levels were eighty feet higher than today. Fifty million people in the U.S. would be below sea level, 250 million in China, 120 million in Bangladesh, and 150 million in India.”(Hansen 457)  According to the TED Talk by David Roberts at Evergreen State College, “the Earth’s temperature will be 170 degrees by 2300 if we continue on our path of using fossil fuels.  If we do not change in the next few decades, we will be a path of no return in terms of saving our planet.”(Roberts)  Today, scientists, governments, and the general public are now concerned about the real threat of human caused global warming.  The UN created the Kyoto Protocol to increase international awareness and intervention across the globe to combat and decrease carbon emissions.  The application of green energy projects to use non-carbon energy sources such as a wind and solar powered devices have grown in recent years, but the use carbon-based energy sources are still cheapest up-front means to create and use energy to drive our economy and ever growing electricity and energy needs forward through time.
            The increase in global temperatures as a result of human caused CO2 emissions has significantly affected the eco-system and is a threat to the bio-diversity on Earth.  As a result of the warming of the Earth, the climate in which plants and animals have adapted in thrive in would be significantly changed.  As humans, we can manipulate the climate in which we live in to an extent by putting on more or less clothing, changing the temperature within our homes, while other plants and animals do not have the same luxury as us.  Over time, these creatures have adapted to live in certain temperatures and climates, and if that system or climate balance is altered in some type of way, those plants and animals will either:  die out, or be forced to migrate further north to reach an area in which the climate is suitable for their existence.  As the temperature begins to rise across the globe, these suitable environments will be less and less abundant as these creatures start to enter urban areas causing a disruption to the human’s lifestyle, and who knows what kind of intervention humanity will have as animals creep further north as a result of climate change.  As temperatures increase, tropical animals that thrive in places like Florida will start to migrate northward.  From watching National Geographic last year, I learned that snake size is directly proportional to the warmth of its climate that is why in New Jersey we only have moderate size snakes while the Amazon and Florida sees snakes that grow in excess of 15-20 feet.  As temperatures rise, these reptiles such as the Burmese Python which is causing a dramatically negative effect to the Everglade eco-system, and is creating a nuisance in housing developments according to my relatives in Florida, will start to migrate northward as temperatures increase.  “Studies of more than one thousand species of plants, animals, and insects, including butterfly ranges charted by members of the public, found an average migration rate toward the North and South Poles of about 4 miles per decade in the second half of the twentieth century.”(Hansen 454)  From an email from a man in Arkansas, Hansen found out that the armadillo is migrating further north according to this man.  “I had not seen one of these animals in my entire life. I drive the same 40 mile trip every day, and have seen these animals slowly creep northward every year and their not stopping.  Every year they move several miles.”(Hansen, 454)  As one can see, CO2 emissions not only have a significant effect to the surface temperature of the Earth, but that increase in temperature has a negative correlation in terms of threatening the bio-diversity of the planet and the eco-system.  As migration of plants and animals occur as temperatures rise, what issues will over-crowded areas cause for both humanity and plants and animals alike?
            Some may say that global warming is but a hoax made up by politicians and lobbyists who are lobbying for a green energy.  Money and politics can truly taint the bigger picture for the average person.  In the world of humans, consolidated power and money controlled by the few seems to take priority over the outcry of the overall populous.  This deceit and confusion that members of the Democratic and Republican parties in America truly leave one in a mind-boggling situation in terms of what to believe about climate change.  The money to be made off fossil fuels will continue to flow into the pockets of executives, lobbyists, and shareholders as long as the price of such energy sources does not increase in rapid fashion.  This market manipulation is known by oil and coal businessmen and women, for as soon as the price of such energy grows higher than the public will pay, then the public will want to move onto new means of energy to fuel their houses, cars, and means of producing electricity.  Both political parties will say whatever it takes to get one to believe that one energy movement is better than the other, but in the end, they do not care about the public individual, they simply just want your money and backing for their economic gains.  In the end, global warming is a fact, but whether it is only caused by humans is evermore clear, but politics can taint the evidence to go either way.

            Global Warming of planet Earth has been caused by the increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Age.  The globe has seen a significant rise of CO2 levels from 275-280 ppm to about 380-400 ppm in today’s world.  According to an article by CNN writer Elizabeth Landau on May 13, 2013, “For the first time, scientists measured an average concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide of 400 parts per million in Mauna Loa, Hawaii, where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observatory is located, on Thursday.”  As CO2 levels rise as a direct result of carbon emissions, it will increase the trapping of heat within our atmosphere from the burning of oil, gas, and coal, but also from cosmic rays or high energy particles coming from the sun or other parts of the local galaxies and beyond.  This trapping of heat greenhouse gases will inevitably challenge humanity like no other time in our history.  Can we reverse this climate change and stop destroying our planet, or will money and politics be the true destroyer of worlds?

Works Cited
Hansen, Jim and Shapiro, Kevin.  Taking Sides: Clashing Views in U.S. History Since 1945. Pg.354-368.  McGraw-Hill Higher Education. New York. 2008. 3rd Edition.
Kaplan, Auren.  “Climate Change Biggest Threat To Ending Poverty, Human Progress.” 18 April 2012. 5 November 2010.
Roberts, David. “Climate Change is Simple.” 25 April 2013. 12 June 2012

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