Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Global warming and Climate Change

Global Warming and Climate Change
Global warming is the increase in the earth’s surface temperatures attributed to greenhouse gas emissions (New Mexico Solar Energy Association, 2009). This phenomenon has in the recent past drawn widespread debates across the world because it has posed a threat to humans and other ecosystems. Greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Nitrous oxides (NO2), have been continuously pumped into the atmosphere which has ultimately altered the climates across the world (IPCC, 1990). As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, heat from the sun easily penetrates them but the heat cannot be reradiated back to space. This has subsequently led to the warming of the earth which has altered climates in many regions (Anil, 2010). Ominously, this climate change has been enhanced by human activities and which has affected terrestrial and marine ecosystems with some other species becoming extinct. Scientists have agreed that the earth is actually undergoing climate alteration which to a greater degree has been attributed to human activities. Scientists further contend that such activities have resulted in the increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Succinctly, a warming planet leads to climate change which has been evident from a number of indicators such as the melting of ice caps, extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels, among others. Anil; (2010) therefore points out, that unless humans contribute to averting this global menace, the earth will ultimately come to an apocalyptic end.
Human activities such as deforestation, agriculture, and transportation have been attributed to the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As the gases accumulate in the atmosphere, they cause the greenhouse effect where light from the sun easily penetrates the gases but does not allow the heat to be reradiated back to space. The end result has been the soaring global surface temperatures which have altered the major climatic patterns of the world. This has been apparent from extreme weather patterns being witnessed such as droughts, storms, typhoons, hurricanes, and cyclones. While certain regions experience huge rainfall and floods, others have experienced droughts which cumulatively have affected many ecosystems. Anil; (2010) indicates that the rate of climate change has reached alarming levels which Shah; (2011) attributes it to human actions such as burning fossil fuels which result in more carbon dioxide being emitted to the atmosphere. Basically, there is little that has been done to address this issue as climate scientists admit that greenhouse gas emissions are increasing each year (Wingerter, 2009).
The melting of ice caps is another indicator that global warming is causing climate change. The global atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, and methane have resulted in the warming of the earth’s surface ("Global climate change," 2011). As a result, glaciers have been retreating and subsequently disappearing. According to Shah; (2011), mountain glaciers and ice caps have significantly decreased in the northern and southern hemispheres. The thickness of glaciers in Polar Regions has also been decreasing over the years. Major disasters have thus occurred as a result of such melting of glaciers and snow cover. Chou; (2011) stresses that melting ice caps have caused rising sea levels, volcanic activities, and earthquakes. The oceans are constantly being fed with melt water subsequently increasing their volumes while a retreat of ice caps and glaciers have also been linked to increased volcanic activities. Earthquakes have also been associated with the retreat of ice glaciers because seismicity is increased during the process of removal of ice (unloading).
With high confidence, Chou; (2011) asserts that global warming has resulted in climate change which is evident from the physical and biological effects that have been witnessed. Some plant and animal species have become extinct while others have migrated to higher latitudes. To a greater degree, such ecosystem trends are a response to the harsh weather conditions brought about by global warming. The human influence on global warming manifests itself from the geographical patterns observed in the warming process where temperatures have been increasing on the land and Polar Regions and rather subdued over the oceans.
Besides other climatic alterations, global warming has been known to modify precipitation patterns including the mean annual rainfall, the frequency, and the intensity("Co2 now.org,”). This has seen a major alteration in weather and climatic patterns across the world. Global warming and climate change has thus become an issue of concern both to environmentalists and scientists because for a sustainable world, this global phenomenon should be curbed. The major causes of global warming have been linked to human activities which have seen increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Research findings and satellite images clearlyshow that there have been extreme weather patterns, melting ice caps, sea levels rising, and major ecosystem imbalances in many parts of the world. These are just but a few indicators that global warming has altered the climates of the world. There is a need therefore for nations to come together and address this issue in order to save the current and future generations. An alternative solution to solve the issue of global warming and climate change is to find new and greener transportation, since pollution plays a big role in ruining our atmosphere.
Because of the increase in green house emissions and the negative effects they have due to global warming, measures need to be taken to alleviate the problem. One of the proposed solutions to global warming is sustainable transport or green transport. Given the fact that fossil fuels are the main causes of global warming, green transport will play a major role in reducing greenhouse emissions. Green transport refers to the kind of transport that has minimal impact on the environment. Transport systems have been suggested to have a considerable effect on the environment, particularly in its contribution to global warming. Transport is argued to account to between 20 percent and 25 percent of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector are increasing at a higher rate than any other energy consuming sector (Pera, 2010). Road transport is particularly the greatest contributor of emissions and other pollutants. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency reveals that the largest part of greenhouse gases as far as transportation is concerned in 2006 were passenger cars accounting for 34 percent and light trucks. Light trucks include sport utility cars, minivans and pick up trucks. Together they accounted for 28 percent of greenhouse emissions. Together with other means of transport such as motor cycles, the light duty vehicles accounted for approximately 63 percent of transportation greenhouse gas emissions. Freight vehicles were other great contributors accounting for 20 percent and domestic commercial aircrafts that accounted for 7 percent.  Other non-road sources combined produced only 7 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions. The figures include direct greenhouse gas emissions from burning of fossil fuel and hydroflourocarbon emissions from refrigerated transport and mobile air conditioners (Evans, 2012). 
Transportation being the greatest cause of greenhouse gas emissions; it is the sector that requires to be addressed in the efforts to address global warming. The answer lies in development of green transport. Various forms of green transport exist including: walking, using some other forms of human powered transports like cycling, and green vehicles like solar powered vehicles, wind powered vehicles, water powered vehicles and electric powered vehicles (Pera, 2010). 
A well research way of reducing carbon emissions in the effort to control global warming is the use of bio-based fuels rather than using petroleum-based ones. Bio-based fuels have been more attractive as a source of energy because of their availability as well as low emissions. Political and environmental concerns have led to the interest in use of alternative engine fuels, with bio-diesel as the main candidate. Bio-fuel is basically the fuel generated from biomass. As already noted, petroleum based fuels are the greatest contributor of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. This means that any effort that can lead to reduction of petroleum-based fuels is worthwhile in addressing the issue of global warming.  Because of the increased concerns on environmental issues such as climate change, various researched have been carried out on the use of bio-diesel as an alternative to petroleum (Demirbas, 2010).
There are various differences between bio-diesel and petroleum that make the former more attractive. One of the major differences between the two feedstocks is oxygen content. The chemical composition of the two fuels is completely different. Unlike petroleum that is known to be major polluters, bio-diesels have been revealed as being non-polluting. This is mostly because unlike petroleum which is a fossil fuel, bio-diesel is derived from renewable sources. It is a renewable energy source that is generated from natural oils and fats. It is not expensive to substitute petroleum with bio-diesel as this can be done without modifying the engine. High quality bio-diesel is currently available and can be pumped and utilized as fuel in a vehicle without any additions or changes to the vehicle. This will mean saving the environment at no extra cost. On the basis of the price of the fuel, it is not a lot expensive as compared to the conventional diesel. It is only without emissions. Besides being biodegradable as well as non-toxic, this fuel is basically free from sulfur and aromatic. As a result, it produces lower exhaust emissions compared to other conventional fuels while offering similar properties as far as fuel efficiency is concerned (Demirbas, 2010). Ethanol is another advanced fuel together with bio-diesel that can be used to save the world from the dangerous effects of global warming. Ethanol or E85 refer to a fuel blend that contains 85 percent ethanol. The fuel can be used as a blend on Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). Flex Fuel Vehicles can be use E85 or conventional gasoline as fuel. There are as many as six million such cars being used currently. Buying cars that have minimal effect on the environment, will contribute a lot to the efforts to address global warming (Evans, 2012). 
Magnetic levitation is one of the emerging technologies in the efforts to address global warming. Rather than using fossil fuel, maglev is a transportation system that utilizes magnet levitation in suspending, guiding and propelling vehicles instead of the use of the mechanical means. Energy use in these trains is far less than in the conventional transportation system. Energy for the trains is required for accelerating the train, and can be regained at the time when the train slows down. The energy is also used for making the train to levitate as well as to stabilize the movement of the train. The most part of the energy is utilized in forcing the train through the air; while little is utilized for air conditioning, lighting, and heating among other systems. Rather than using fossil fuel the train is powered on electromagnetism. Other electric vehicle (vehicles that use electric energy rather than conventional petroleum for propulsion) will reduce greenhouse emissions a great deal (Muller, 1997).  
While we are looking at reducing emissions at a collective level, it is important to remember that is possible at an individual level. There are various measures that an individual can take in reducing global warming. As noted earlier walking is a greener transport than taking a private car, and so is taking public transport. People are being encouraged to walk short distances as taking private cars that use petroleum-based fuel is increasing emissions. Besides walking, cycling is another kind of green transport. Besides reducing the fuel economy, going easy on the pedal, avoiding hard accelerations, and uploading unimportant items to deduce weight are other ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Taking public transport to work contributes a lot to addressing the problem of global warming (Schafer, 1998). This is an effective way of reducing emissions, individual’s carbon footprint as well as enhances the quality of air in the community. In recent studies, conclusive research evidence has revealed that transportation by use of private vehicles accounts for over 25 percent of all the carbon emissions in the United States today. Nevertheless, use of public means of transportation results in various kinds of savings. The savings includes the ones in terms of fuel, which means that less amount of fuel is combusted and thus fewer emissions. The savings include over 1.5 million tons of harmful emissions of CO2 per year. This is a clear indication of how far the use of public means rather than private means of transportation can go in addressing the issue of global warming (Evans, 2012). 
            There are various disadvantages that are associated with the use of public transport such as inconvenience. This is in terms of the need to use different transport means to move from one place to another on a tight schedule. Another disadvantage is having to travel with strangers, and without the comfort of your own vehicle. However, it is important to note that as a green transport the benefits of public transport outweigh the drawbacks. The amount of energy that the country has to rely on is greatly reduced when more people use public transportation rather than private transportation. This means that collectively, the fuel burnt per year is reduced a great deal. Additionally, with more people using public means of transport, the quantity of emissions and other kinds of carbon pollutants that are being released into the air would be decreased by billion tons per year. Car sharing is another strategy similar to the use of public transportation that benefits the efforts to address global warming. Car sharing involves a company or organization buying a vehicle that is used by its employees to and from work. Another way is where vehicles are owned and operated by individuals or organizations that can be used for the same purpose. Sharing rides can also help in reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions (Pera, 2010). 
Besides using public means of transportation and car sharing, being careful when purchasing or renting a car can help in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to look at the most fuel-efficient car in the market. In the United States, tools such as EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide and the jointly-run EPA/DOE Fuel Economy Guide website can help in selecting the most fuel-efficient car in the market. There are resources that offer information on the kind of cars that produce the lowest greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency. This guide provides information on greenhouse gas emissions for each car model. Such information is designed to help buyers in selecting the most clean and fuel efficient vehicles in the market (Pera, 2010). 

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