Thursday, May 23, 2013

Global Warming

Global Warming Global warming is one of the most complicating issues that the leaders of the world are facing today. It is a term used to explain a slow but sure rise in the standard temperature of the earth’s atmosphere and the oceans. It is an extraordinarily rapid rise in the average surface temperature of the earth over the last century mainly caused by greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere from burning of fossil fuels (Silverstein, 2009). Climate scientists are increasing warning on the arising dangers from the continuing upsurge of greenhouse gases that are mainly produced by burning fossil fuels and forests. In addition, the sun’s variation have alternated and therefore causing a rise or fall in the amount of solar energy that gets to the earth. Emission of carbon dioxide globally was recorded highest in 2011 and it was expected to further increase in the subsequent years. However, the latest figures reveal that these emissions are slowly falling in some of the developed countries like the U.S (Weart, 2009). The temperature of the earth is normally determined by the sun and almost 30 percent of the light that comes to the earth’s surface is usually reflected back to the space by surfaces that are bright like ice and clouds. The rest 70 percent that remains is absorbed by the ocean, land as well as the atmosphere. As the land, the air and the oceans get hot, they produce energy which then moves into the atmosphere and is then absorbed by the long-lasting greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide and water vapor as well (Silverstein,2009). When the water vapor and these greenhouse gases absorb energy scorching from the surface of the earth, the greenhouse gas molecules or microscopic water are converted into tiny heaters and they produce heat even more in all directions. The energy that gets back into the earth heats both the surface and the lower atmosphere this enhances the heating from direct sunlight. However, it is worth noting that by the atmosphere absorbing and radiating heat is useful for supporting life on the earth (Weart, 2009). Eruptions from volcanoes also create particles that replicate light from the sun hence brightening the earth and providing cool climate. Moreover, volcanic activities have increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the recent past thus significantly playing a role in incidences of global warming. However, in comparison to emissions by human beings, the levels of carbon dioxide produced by the volcanic eruptions are extremely low and the activities human beings is the most contributing factor in the incidences of global warming (Silverstein, 2009). The biggest concern for alarm by the environmental scientists is that for about two centuries human beings have been synthetically increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a continuous rate particularly through cutting down carbon- absorbing forests and the burning of fossil fuels. Research has revealed that since the beginning of industrial revolution the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen to about 38 percent by 2009 while the levels of methane have risen to 148 percent. Presently, the atmosphere has more molecules of greenhouse gases and therefore more of infrared energy that is emitted by the surface is mainly absorbed by the atmosphere. The temperature of the earth’s surface increases because part of the extra energy that comes from the warmer atmosphere is radiated back to the surface of the earth (Weart, 2009). Today’s warming is different from the past as evidenced by scientific studies on ice layers in glaciers, coral reefs, ocean sediments, tree rings and layers of sedimentary rocks. Unfortunately, the various states in the world signed a formal treaty and pledged to limit the warming but almost all of them have little or no effort in living up to their pledge. For a long time the United Nations has funded yearly global conventions, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to considerately discuss changes on global climate and its impacts (Silverstein, 2009). . The controversies and conflicts discussed are usually well-known; the differing responsibilities of developed and less developed countries, the issue of who will assist the less developed countries to cope with these changes, the urgent need to protect tropical forests and the requirement to quickly develop and put in place clean energy technology. The effects of global warming were clearly felt in the U.S. and the National Climatic Data Center recorded 2012 as the hottest year to be experienced since they started keeping records in the year 1895. Environmental scientists agree that an increase in global warming contributed more to this extraordinary heat and drought that was recently experienced (Weart, 2009). Some fluctuations in the temperature of the earth are unavoidable regardless of the activities of human beings largely because of long decades of ocean cycles. However continuous rise in temperatures and seas will be experienced even more if the emissions of fossil fuels and deforestation is not curbed. In addition, a group called Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report in 2011 which forecasts that global warming will bring about more dangerous and unexpected extreme weather conditions in the future (Silverstein, 2009). Some unresolved questions despite the many research studies that have been carried out points out to contribution of human beings to this warming. The level and rate at which the sea levels are rising as ice sheets erode is not clearly known even as the long-term projections of retreating shorelines have remained intact. Scientists are under pressure particularly to unravel how the heat accumulating in the atmosphere and the seas will affect the magnitude of and occurrences of tropical cyclones. Recent scientific studies reveal that there will be more typhoons and hurricanes with more hazardous intensity in the future (Silverstein, 2009). Despite the various countries of the world coming together and signing a climate treaty to shun dangerously interfering with the climate through building up of green house gases, the treaty did not define the amount of warming that is deemed too much. However, most countries recognized that the original treaty was ineffective and as a result all the developed countries of the world with the exception of the U.S. signed the Kyoto Protocol that strictly binds them to control their emissions of greenhouse gases in1997 in Japan. This accord was effectively applied in 2005 and the restriction on emissions of gases was due to expire on 2012. Although the U.S. did sign the treaty, she did not submit it for ratification against the opposition of the senate since the treaty steps by China and other fast-growing economies of the world (Weart, 2009). In 2009, leaders from the largest economic countries of the world agreed on a dangerous climate threshold. In addition the G8 member countries also agreed on the goal of reducing the global emissions by 50 percent by the year 2050, with the most developed countries leading by example by cutting down their emissions by 80 percent. However, they did not set a threshold that would be used to measure this reduction and therefore such targets are not defined adequately. Simultaneously, the fast-growing economic countries like China and India were against the compulsory obligations of curbing their gas emissions and they would only do so provided the growth of their economies is not affected by such move (Silverstein, 2009). In different ways, the dispute regarding global climate policy is caused by lack of consensus among countries of the world. For instance, in India the emission of carbon dioxide per person is almost 2 tons per year whereas about 400 million people do not have electricity. In contrast, in the U.S. carbon dioxide emission per person is more than 20 tons per year! Richer countries are therefore in a position to protect them from climate hazards using their wealth and technology while poor countries that emit least amount of these gases are the most exposed. In the year 2010, a convention called United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was held in Mexico and it did not resolve tough issue although modest achievements were attained (Weart, 2009). To better understand and comprehend the causes and costs of global warming and be able to better forecast future warming, scientists are using climate models. They are created to replicate the interactions and responses of the atmosphere and the oceans and to account for both human induced and natural changes in the land surface. Despite the complexities in the utilization of these models, precise tests have been conducted using real-world data have proven them to be great tools that permit the scientists to research and better comprehend the climate patterns. The models forecasts reveal that as the world uses more and more fossil fuel, the concentrations of greenhouse gases will also continue to increase (Silverstein, 2009). Besides greenhouse gases another significant contributor is the variation in one component of the climate system that leads to further changes in the way the earth reflects or absorbs energy. These are secondary changes and also referred to as climate feedbacks. Hey are mainly caused by the carbon cycle, clouds, water vapor and, snow and ice. Snow and ice are arguably the most recognized feedback that occurs mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. The warm temperatures have already begun to melt significant portion of the arctic sea ice which exposes the dark ocean waters. Further more, percentages of snow cover in the surface of the earth has dwindled in many parts. Such places are not experiencing bright sunlight that reflects the surfaces which cools the earth. They have dark surfaces which absorb more sunlight that brings more heat to the earth’s surface hence causing global warming. Water vapor also a significant contributor and it is deemed as a strong greenhouse gas because it is plenty in the atmosphere and it causes almost 70 percent of the greenhouse warming (Weart, 2009). Therefore, it is the responsibility of each human being to take charge in mitigation of greenhouse effects and taking care of the environment. Reference Silverstein, A et al (2009). Global Warming. New York: Cambridge University Press Weart, S (2009). The Discovery of Global Warming. - Boston: Beacon Press