Global warming is a natural phenomenon that has resulted in continued increase in temperatures of land masses, water bodies, and atmosphere on earth. This phenomenon has been proved to occur at a rapid rate and would result in negative effects to humanity, environment, and social systems. There is however scepticism in the cause of global warming. One opinion is that it is human induced while the other is that it is just a consequence of climatic change. The paper analyses two opinions bringing out their similarity and differences.
“The term ‘global warming’ is used to mean the continued rise in temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, ocean, and land masses (Haley, 2002, p. 4).” It is believed that the earth has cooled and warmed for many years in its life time that is believed to be approximately 5 billion years. Presently, Earth appears to be in the trend of warming with many scientists attributing the rise to be as a result of human activities while others attributing it to natural climatic phenomenon. The increase in temperatures is seen to be very risky as it would result in raised levels of oceans and seas that would ultimately influence patterns of precipitation and increase of sub-tropic deserts. Consequently, there are two opinion groups that have emerged concerning global warming. The opinions are that global warming is caused by human activities or it is a natural phenomenon, hence the question “is global warming scepticism just smoke and mirrors?” However, the common ground is that both groups agree that global warming is a reality and it is happening at a rapid rate and will cause vast environmental damage.
The essay will analyse the two theories—global warming by human activities and global warming as a natural phenomenon—bringing out facts that would be essential in comparing and contrasting them. Thereafter, a conclusion will be formulated that would summarise the comparison coupled with a personal statement.
Global Warming due to Human Activities
This opinion is sometimes referred to as the scientific opinion that proposes that the increasing temperatures are as a result of human activities. The opinions by scientists are generated by synthesis reports, international scientific affiliations, and surveys done by environmental scientists. According to Nielsen-gammon, (2007), “what causes global warming is as a result of green house gases which include methane, carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapour (21)”. These gases found in the thin outer atmosphere shut in radiations from the sun—green house effect—and ultimately cause increased temperatures in the earth. The strongest evidence that triggered scientists to focus their attention on human induced global warming was in the increasing temperature of the sea in the last forty years (Gritzner, 2010). Specifically, Increasing Ocean and sea temperatures have been recorded to rise by half a degree over the last forty years and can be best be attributed to increasing green gas emissions. A study by Gall-up poll, in 2008 done in 128 countries recorded that majority of individuals in America and developed countries believed that human activities caused global warming (Climate Change, 2011).
The reasons why numerous scientists believe that human activities are the major reason of global warming is that vary many activities contribute to addition of the listed gases to the atmosphere. Human activities like petroleum cracking, de-forestation, and usage of aerosols containing chlorofluorocarbon among others have contributed in altering the composition of these gases in the atmosphere pushing them to the higher limit (Haley, 2002). The heat trapping ability of green gases are factual but the doubt comes about on how the earth’s climate responds to these gases. Increasing amounts of green gases—especially carbon dioxide—is well documented according to Haley, (2002), but figuring out the extent of the amount of human induced green houses since pre-industrial times has not been easy. This is because other aspects that are both human and natural have contributed in adding these green gases in the atmosphere.
Synthesis reports that have provided better understanding on global warming caused by humans are numerous. They are reports that combine scientific literature and findings by individual scientists with the aim of obtaining a general understanding of a topic. Some of the reports are IPCC (INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL OF CLIMATE CHANGE); US global Change Research Program; and Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. The IPCC in 2007 concluded that, “human activity was the likely cause of global warming a probability of 90% (Rowland, 2010, p. 1164)”. The global warming in the report was indicated to be increasing at an annual rate of 0.75 since the last 100 years. The change research program in 2009 also produced a report where the global warming was indeed obvious and that over the last fifty years the increasing temperatures was due to human activities such as de-forestation, agricultural practices, and fossil fuel burning among others (Rowland, 2010). The last report from the arctic impact assessment program in 2004 also supported the idea that the major human activity that caused global warming was fossil fuel burning.
Other supporting organisations have of late come out clearly demonstrating that humans are the reason why global warming is occurring. Therefore they are campaigning for strategies that would effectively control global warming or even reverse the changes that are human based. The major strategies that are advocated for include (Gritzner, 2010): banning of aerosols that add chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere; setting limits on the amount of fossil fuels burned by industrialised countries; re-forestation and forestation programs; and individual discipline in practicing of agriculture that would reduce emission of the gases to the atmosphere. Gritzner, (2010), highlighted another practical avenue that was human based in dealing with green house emissions, which was population control. He highlighted that the increasing population of the world from a billion to over six billion has resulted higher amounts of carbon dioxide due to many people breathing out. Some countries have resorted to population controls such as one child per couple that is practiced in China but still the effects have not been realised. However, there is a conclusion that can be brought out from the study by Nielsen-gammon, (2007), in that the earth is finite in handling certain amount populations and that there will reach a limit where natural causes such as global warming will wipe out humanity.
Global Warming due to Climatic Changes
A study in 2008 by Gall-up poll conducted in 128 countries globally proved that there were certain people who did not believe that global warming was caused by humans. These people were largely from under-developed countries in Asia and the whole of Africa (Climate Change, 2011). The common notion among these populations is that global warming has been changing naturally from the past; and not when the industrial age arrived. Scientific organisations such as the American Geological Institute advocated for global climate change as the main drive for global warming, they further challenged the opinion of human activities instead campaigning for research on factors that drove temperatures higher (Haley, 2002).
Individual scientists such as Lidzen Richard from MIT, Hendrik Tennekes an environmental scientist among others have also come out to support the opinion. The former scientist—Lidzen—concluded from his thesis that carbon dioxide was not a greenhouse gas and if so a very minor one because the gas could have resulted to even higher temperatures by now (Haley, 2002). Lidzen also bluntly called himself a global warming sceptic and further announced that there was no evidence of global warming with even the future being that temperatures would be cooler due to the errant behaviour of the sun.
The solar variation theory tries to explain climatic changes and its contribution to increasing temperatures. The theory states that changes in out-put of solar radiation have resulted in both cooling and warming of the earth since its existence. The factors that cause changes in solar radiation are not known but recent studies in the last decade have come up with contradicting facts. Certain researchers have found that earth has cooled in the last decade while others have proposed quite the opposite (Climate Change, 2011). Specifically, while both greenhouse gases and solar rays contribute to higher temperatures at the troposphere, a conflict is seen at the stratosphere with higher solar activity causing warming and more greenhouse gases causing cooling at the stratosphere. This was proved by a weather balloon data which showed that since observations in 1958, the stratosphere had been continuously cooling (Rowland, 2010). Related hypothesis on climate changes is by Svensman Henrik, who concluded that the sun’s magnetic activity resulted in deflection of cosmic rays that affect cloud formation hence affecting climate (Nielsen-gammon, 2007).
Politics has also played a part in selling the idea of climatic changes as a cause of global warming. Many scientists have been put pressurized to hide or distort facts that support human induced global warming theories. In the US, during the Bush administration scientists were arm twisted to tailor their reports on global warming to fit the climatic change theory (Haley, 2002). Furthermore, many climatologists have come out claiming that the US government tries as much as possible to censure information that human activities are the cause of global warming since the emergence of the Kyoto Protocol. In addition to political pressure, many scientists working on global warming have come under intense public pressure. The harassment has been in various forms with one form being through threatening emails, with other websites having images of some scientists with the word ‘Jew’ branded on the image (Haley, 2002). There was also an instance where a climatologist interviewed on TV, found a dead animal at his door step making him walk around with bodyguards since the incidence.
There have also been instances of funding sceptics of human-induced global warming. Organisations like ExxonMobil have been linked with certain scientists such as Fred Singer and Fred Seitz who have been at the fore front of promoting global warming scepticism (Gritzner, 2010). These sceptics have even claimed that grants have been discriminately allocated to scientists of human induced theories at their expense. They say this has ultimately resulted in less education of the climatic change theory. They have however come out to call for communal efforts to make sure that the global population is not caught off-guard in global warming.
The phenomenon of global warming has been proven to be a reality through various research and surveys. However, the scepticism that results from this phenomenon is what causes it. There have been bodies that have strongly come out with proof that human activity such as fossil burning, agricultural activities, and aerosol usage are the major reason for global warming. The other school of thought are sceptic of the idea of global warming, and they argue that if it really is occurring then it was due to climatic changes.
The similar thing about the two groups is that global warming is a bad thing and that without proper strategies then humanity is at risk. Both opinions agree that the effects of global warming are: disappearance of land masses due to flooding; extinction of species; migrations and conflict; droughts; and reduced food supplies (Haley, 2002). Therefore both opinions call for combined efforts in dealing with global warming. The other similarity with both opinions are that there are no concrete evidence as to what actually is causing increasing temperatures and what they advocate for is just a high probability. Both of them are therefore advocating for more research and surveys as to the real reason for the phenomenon.
Contrastingly, both opinions have many differences which are largely attributed from the major cause of global warming. Climatic change opinion believes that global warming has been occurring since earth originated and can therefore not be reversed. Advocators of climatic change also claim that the best way to combat the phenomena was through preparedness and furthermore, there was even a possibility of the climate cooling in the future since the solar radiations varied. Human induced global warming opinion on the other hand insists that the phenomenon is reversible and have even carried researches on how to reverse the trend.
The difference in both opinions is also witnessed in the strategy they take in dealing with global warming. While human induced opinion have a strategy of carrying out more research that is based on reducing greenhouse gases, climatic change opinion is based at campaigns that advocate for preparing for any changes whether cooling or warming since humans have no influence on the phenomenon. Furthermore, it can also be seen that research on human induced global warming is very much whereas that of climatic changes are few with the latter depending on political pressures to advance their opinion.
Global warming is a fact and research, surveys, and individual studies have all attested to the hypothesis that the earth is warming at a rapid rate. However, the scepticism has been in what has caused the phenomenon. One school of thought is that it is human induced while the other claim it is just a nature of climatic change. The opinions are very different although both claim that something should be done to combat the situation. Therefore, my personal contribution from this subject is that both opinions are right in their own way and that they should be used together in carrying out further research that would unearth the real reason of global warming since most research is not very concrete.
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Gritzner, C. F. (2010). Changing Climates. New York: Infobase publishers. Pp. 87-99
Haley, J. (2002). Global Warming: Opposing View Points. California: Greenhaven Publishers. Pp. 3-98
Nielsen-gammon, J. (2007). An Inconvenient Truth: the scientific argument. GeoJournal, 70(1), 21-26.
Rowland, M. (Decemebr, 2010). Will the Sky Fall in? Global Warming- an alternative view. Journal of Environment and Resource Management, Vol. 84-326. Pp. 1163-1171