Man and Global Warming
Discussions regarding Global Warming or Climate Change are not complete without the arguments surrounding the causes of this phenomenon. It had been noted that the phenomenon began sometime around the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution took into effect, causing thousands of chemicals to be brought to the atmosphere. These chemicals then took a toll over the ozone layer, opening an opening to allow infrared rays from the sun to enter the globe. While many have accepted that the phenomenon had something to do with the evolution of man’s inventions to make their lives easier, some have raised speculation to the main idea that man caused Global Warming or Climate Change. The arguments have continued on up to the present time as governments and experts rally to create policies and steps to end or limit the risks caused by climate change. However, taking into consideration as to how man’s creations and a person’s carbon print each year affect the environment, it is partly man’s fault that climate change exists. While the effects of global warming continues to linger and affect the globe, man slowly strives to find solutions to lessen and eliminate the threats posed by global warming.
The arguments regarding man’s contributions to the current problem in the environment began in the late 18th century to 19th century. According to Maslin (2007), studies pertaining Global Warming and its significant threat over the population began around the 1900s. A Swedish scientist named Svante Arrhenius revealed a study in 1896 that human activity is causing the increasing temperatures to continue as humans continued to produce carbon dioxide that exceeds the normal requirements the globe needs. The study done by Arrhenius was mostly to offer a theory that would discuss the causes that lead to the Ice Ages. Currently, the theory is considered an indispensable argument regarding the issue of the Ice Age. His discovery of the anthropomorphic influence to global warming was only a by-product of his Ice Ages theories. Since Arrhenius’ claims were not given into consideration by other scientists, he moved to other fields. One can explain the reluctance to discuss the issue on the environment was due to the belief that other factors could have influenced the global climate, like sun spots or natural calamities. There is also the common notion that how could humans contribute to global warming, considering that several studies have noted that other factors can indeed influence climate change. The 1940s cemented the belief that other factors affected the global climate as studies in the period noted that the Earth’s change of orbit around the sun caused the waxing and the end of the ice ages. The theories in the 1940s also noted that oceans contain more than 50 times of carbon dioxide as compared to the atmosphere.
However, the theories of 1940 were immediately met in scepticism as technology slowly improved the gadgets and machinery that could understand the transforming climate. Nonetheless, many still believed that man is never at fault to change and considered themselves a small part of the problem on climate change. Experiments were also conducted after the 1940s to see if there is indeed a connection between carbon dioxide and the climate. The results showed that there was no significant change over the climate if carbon dioxide is to double or halved. The studies also pointed out that carbon dioxide is capable of blocking radiation, and it would be alright to add some more without causing many effects to the climate. It has even pointed out that water vapour can also do the same radiation blocking. However, many noted that as air passes higher to the atmosphere, its weight becomes less and pressure drops altogether. The pressure reduction only means that gas molecules are apart from one another, opening gaps to allow radiation to pass inside. Experts who accepted this argument also noted that, with the higher CO2 transmission, it can absorb more radiation once it reaches the atmosphere. In addition to these arguments, others have also noted that water vapour content is more important than carbon dioxide as it was seen in later studies that the upper atmosphere was dry. Gilbert Plass in 1955 supported the water vapour theory and added that more carbon dioxide would mean that the atmosphere would have additional capacity to intercept radiation from the sun and warm up the planet, removing the possibilities of the ice ages.
In the analysis done by Letcher (2009), cosmic weather and ray effects also contribute to climate change. Several space phenomena have been recorded throughout history that has played a key role in warming up the planet. There was the irradiation flux energy record of the Sun, and the solar activity which causes space weather to ensue. William Herschel, a famed astronomer, suggested to the public that there was a relationship between the prices of wheat in England and the sunspots recorded in his study. He deduced that there were less rains when the sun only has a few sunspots, which is similar to the story in the Bible when Joseph the Dreamer studied food production in Egypt. Other studies supported this claim such as the study done by Friis-Christiansen and Lassen that solar activity is connected to the average surface temperature of the northern hemisphere, as opposed to the southern hemisphere. This relationship can be explained due to the sun’s irradiance and the cosmic radiation. Cosmic Radiation is noted to contribute air ionisation, which can influence the transparency of the atmosphere. Cosmic radiation is also playing a key role in creating thunderstorms and lightning, which supports the claim that the cosmic cycle influencing the globe .
However, despite the theories that have been presented over the issue of the global warming issue, some have been speculating as to how the ocean would sustain the extra anthropogenic carbon dioxide. These scientists believe that human influence is indeed to blame for the on-going climate change and must thwart their continuous consumption of products that produces greenhouse gases. By the 1950s, several studies have proven that carbon dioxide molecules are capable of sustaining itself for more than ten years before it dissolves back to the sea. Since the oceans take hundreds of years before it can overturn itself to dissolve extra carbon dioxide, many assumed that extra carbon dioxide would remain in the oceans. However, Roger Revelle of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California noted that it is crucial to understand the nature of the carbon dioxide molecule once it dissolves after ten years. He questions if the molecule would just stay in the ocean or return to the atmosphere. Revelle’s discovery noted that carbon dioxide is immediately returned back to the atmosphere due to the ocean’s chemistry. While there is still the debate as to how much anthropogenic carbon dioxide is taken in by the oceans each year, many believe that the amount reaches up to 2 gigatons or worth a third of the total annual anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide.
Revelle was supported by his colleague, Charles Keeling, to discuss the debate regarding global warming throughout the 1950s to the 1960s. According to Pittock (2009) Keeling concentrated in studying the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide rates in Antarctica and Mauna Loa. His discovery revealed that carbon dioxide continues to increase since 1958, revealing that the increase carbon dioxide rate is one of the major reasons for global warming. Since then, several studies that have been done throughout the 50s to the 60s noted that the globe would experience gradual temperature increases by up to 5.4°F by the end of the 20th century. Magazine editors even showcased photos of coal smoke coming out of factories, noting that they also support the Revelle-Keeling discovery. They also included the caption “Man upsets the balance of natural processes by adding billions of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, and it was showcased in various media platforms throughout the 1980s. It is this time that many remembered the by-product study done by Arrhenius and gave more consideration to the possibility that man has indeed influenced global warming.
Several organizations have started to study if there is indeed human contribution to the on-going crisis in global warming. In 1976, the World Meteorological Organization released their first report, detailing that climate change is a crucial issue needed to be addressed considering its capacity to influence the environment. In a follow up report in 1979, the WMO stated that additional carbon dioxide production could cause significant problems to the globe and must be prevented. Throughout the rest of the period, scientists are now moving towards understanding how greenhouse gas concentrations influence the atmosphere and how it could be prevented. By October 1985, the WMO, the United Nations Environment Program and the International Council of Scientific Unions released a joint statement, which posed as a warning: “it is now believed that in the first half of the next century, a rise in global mean temperature could occur, which is greater than any in human history”. Additional studies followed soon after which supported the warning of the scientific community. One of which is the 1986 SCOPE report which showcases the possible impacts of global warming to agriculture, ecosystems and to people if not prevented. The report noted that with global warming increasing, agriculture and ecosystems would slowly dwindle as water supplies would decrease due to intense heat, causing plant and fauna to die due to the lack of food source.
According to Eastwood (2011), while some would accept the fact that there is indeed a change in the climate, many would say it is not their fault. With the studies that there are other elements that influences global warming, human influence, for some, would just be a small contribution. However, the IPCC recently noted in 2009 that humans are indeed causing global warming. In the case of the United States, the country is being powered up by coal by 50% and by far, causes the highest CO2 emissions. Most of the CO2 emissions coming from US coal bring the United States as the largest consumer of coal. China and India are following up to the United States as the largest users of coal and contributors to the increasing CO2 emissions. China even announced that they plan to create 650 coal fired plants before 2012, which may increase the current CO2 emissions causing additional warming. Studies note that greenhouse gas emissions coming from humans would have to remain steady or decrease for global warming to decline. Emissions would also need to be cut down by 60% in the next decade to avert any threatening global warming scenarios. However, according to several studies, there is a possibility that the largest carbon emitters would not stop using coal. China, for example, is expected to increase their vehicle production and consumption in the next few years. China also has an increasing energy demand which grows up to 4.4% annually. In the United States, it currently has 230 million cars contributing to the country’s emission rates.
Since mankind has accepted the facts that they contribute significantly to the current situation of global warming, several methods have been devised for them to eliminate or lessen its effects. Currently, the world is experiencing scarcity towards natural supplies such as fresh water and food as they are constantly affected by changing weathers and extreme heat. According to Eastwood, there must be the creation of CO2 or greenhouse gas machines that can convert these gases to oxygen or create it as an alternative form of energy . Farrar and Mastrandrea (2007) supported Eastwood’s opinion in ensuring global warming would remain to its place, and noted additional ways man utilizes to lessen the effects. The first thing to consider in eliminating the possible backlash of global warming effects is the elimination or reduction of greenhouse gases as they contribute significantly to the increasing temperatures. They have identified two main solutions to stop greenhouse gases from contributing to global warming: reduction of fossil fuel use and keeping the present gases from reaching the atmosphere. Reduction of the use of fossil fuels is possible if mankind would switch or welcome alternative energy sources. While some may complain it is costly, and a new science, the benefits it can present can allow the environment to recover slowly and eliminate worst consequences caused by global warming .
Aside from the proposals raised by scientists to resolve the problem in global warming, the international community has also pushed for cooperation in eliminating or reducing greenhouse gas emissions and introducing new eco-friendly ideas to the public. The effects of global warming also proves to be a challenge for the international community as several parts of the globe could no longer sustain life for its people and are now slowly losing their natural resources. The WMO and the UNEP were able to setup the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988 to report to the United Nations General Assembly in 1990 as to the current situation of the globe with the on-going climate change. Many noted that the international community should create international agreements and negotiations that can serve as a foundation to limit or restrict greenhouse gas emissions, and to adapt policies to sustain life despite the problems in climate change. The IPCC has already released four major Assessment Reports from 1990-2007, which included possible scenarios for future changes to the climate should emissions increase or decrease.
The United Nations, in its own accord, drafted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in February 1991 that would create a set of policies and principles that would ensure that all member countries would work to stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions from both developing and developed countries. The first meeting of the group happened in 1995 and was called as the Conference of Parties. In the COP-1 meeting, delegates agreed on proposals to fight climate change which became the “Berlin Mandate”. Several meetings have followed the one in Berlin, but the one that stood out the most is the COP-3 meeting held in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. The Kyoto Protocol became the iconic action done by the international community to combat climate change, to lessen its effects to society. In general, the Kyoto Protocol provides guidelines on how to reduce greenhouse emissions from both Annex I and Annex II countries. The protocol also concentrates on containing emissions and creating means to reduce the emissions. The United States did not sign the Protocol, proposing instead to create its own emission reduction system based on one’s GDP. Aside from the collective environmental agreements and negotiations, each region also enforces their own environment recovery projects. Africa, the region that has fewer emissions throughout the decade, for example, created several organizations such as the Energy, Environment and Development Network in Africa to locate new forms alternative energy found in the region. The European Union commits itself to mitigation and the use of alternative energy to reduce their emission
The impact of man’s desire to improve life has proven itself to be a two-sided blade that promotes both benefit and disadvantage. The benefits of man’s desire to life ensured the creation of mediums to make life’s processes faster, and convenient, however, it also served as the cause for the environment’s current situation. While some still remain to be in denial over man’s influence to global warming, many are open in accepting policies and programs to lessen and stabilize the current readings to ensure sustainability and life would continue. With the world slowly becoming open to eco-friendly ideas and products, it is possible that humanity can divert the consequences of climate change and slowly heal the planet. If humanity does not act upon the recovery and stabilization of the planet, it is possible that the younger generation would no longer see the sustainable world the present generation take for granted.
Eastwood, E. (2011). Global Warming: What Else Can You Do About It? Bloomington: iUniverse.
Farrar, A., & Mastrandrea, M. (2007). Global Warming. Edina: ABDO Publishing Company.
Letcher, T. (2009). Climate Change: Observed Impacts on Planet Earth. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Maslin, M. (2007). Global Warming: Causes, Effects, and the Future. Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company.
Pittock, B. (2009). Climate change: the science, impacts and solutions. Collingwood: CSIRO Publishing.