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The Global Warming Debate


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The Global Warming Debate

  1. 1. The Global WarmingDebateKaushik Srinivasan9S1/9J“If all insects on Earthdisappeared, within 50 yearsall life on Earth would end. Ifall human beingsdisappeared from the Earth,within 50 years all forms oflife would flourish.’ - Biologist Jonas Salk
  2. 2. The Global Warming DebateGlobal warming is the increase in temperature in near-surface atmosphere. A million yearsago, the average temperature on earth has fluctuated predominantly due to naturaloccurrences such as volcanic and tectonic activity, insolation, fluctuating distance betweenthe Sun and the Earth, etc.,. Also, the Ice Ages changed and lowered the averagetemperature for a certain period of time.The average temperature began to rise significantly after the Industrial Revolution.Industrialization grew in cities to accommodate personal requirements such as electricity,transport, clothing, etc. Machines were manufactured to reduce human labour; in turn itused up fossil fuels and polluted the atmosphere, thus strengthening the Greenhouse Effect.The Greenhouse effect is a process where the thermal radiation is absorbed and reflectedback to the surface by Greenhouse Gases, thus increasing average temperature. Theamount of Greenhouse Gases is directly proportionate to the average temperature – themore amounts of Greenhouse Gases, the higher the temperature. The primary GreenhouseGases are Nitrous oxide, Methane, Carbon dioxide and Water vapour.Majority of the Greenhouse gases emitted is due tohuman activities. Carbon dioxide is emitted from theburning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.Deforestation is also a significant contributor.Methane is emitted in agricultural areas – rice fieldsand livestock – and also the decay in landfill sites.Ruminants on grass fields such as cows which havemultiple digesting tracks release huge amounts of methane which also contributes a pinch.Nitrogen-dependent crops require nitrogen-fertilised soil. The excess amounts areevaporated into the atmosphere and adds to the greenhouse gases. Water vapour isextracted from the surface by evaporation. Vapour released by airplanes and soot fromburning also affects the contributions.Global warming is caused by and causes a chain reaction. Industries which burn fossil fuelsrelease bulk amounts of Greenhouse gases such as Carbon dioxide and Sulphur dioxide.These disperse into the atmosphere and elevate the content of Greenhouse gases in theatmosphere. The Sun’s ultraviolet rays penetrate the atmosphere and directly heat up thesurface. As the surface gets hotter, it releases the heat in infrared wavelengths. Some ofthem escape into space, while others are retained due to Greenhouse gases (these particleshave the capability to withstand the infrared rays; making themselves hotter) – the moregreenhouse gas content in the atmosphere, the more heat is reflected back. It eventuallyleads to the heating of the Earth’s atmosphere. This causes ice-caps to melt, whichultimately raises the sea level. Habitat is also lost, which might drive the specific species tonear extinction. All the organisms which are dependent on that specific species for food willalso being to perish, thus causing an imbalance in the ecosystem. Rising of sea level willcause flooding in low-lying areas (Maldives’ government have begun to save money to buy anew homeland in case the country disappears into the sea). These floods can destroyagricultural plains and homes. Food crops destroyed can cause famine to linger in the Page 1 of 5
  3. 3. region. Economy fails in the region due to lack of export. It also increases the likelihood ofmore extreme events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, storm, hail, drought and many others.Global warming will have a major impact on our future, albeit not all scientists believe inglobal warming. Even renowned scientists disregard the fact that global warming is causedby human activity – they believe in natural causes. Some find fault in the accuracy of reportsand experiments. Nicola Scafetta, a research scientist in the physics department at DukeUniversity stated in his report, "At least 60% of the warming of the Earth observed since1970 appears to be induced by natural cycles which are present in the solar system. Aclimatic stabilization or cooling until 2030–2040 is forecast by the phenomenologicalmodel."Clearly, his mind set and research is different from others.Super Storm Sandy, a recent hurricane which blew the east coast of America is an exampleof a by-product of global warming. This storm sparked a debate on whose actions was itcaused by – humans or nature? Somemeteorologists believe that Sandy was caused by longterm human activities. They also believe that this storm is just the beginning to variousstronger ones.Carol Werner with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute says climatechange scientists have long predicted that intense storms, droughts, and forest fires wouldresult from the rising temperatures and sea levels caused by global warming.Meanwhile those opposing the human-caused disaster such as Patrick Michaels, CatoInstitute said,“It was the moon’s fault. This storm hit at full moon which raises the tide therea couple of feet, so the storm set a record. If it had occurred any other time in the lunar”As mentioned earlier, the temperature has risen drastically after the Industrial Revolutionwhich has been illustrated by the graph below - the graph is a collaboration of different datafrom different organizations. It shows that after 1950, there has been a significant increase inthe temperature in all graphs. According to the graph, the average temperature hasincreased by 1°C since 1950. Page 2 of 5
  4. 4. US President G. Bush denied special environmental exemptions for China and India sincethey "are emitting increasingly large quantities of greenhouse gases, which haveconsequences for the entire global climate".The US and the EU repeatedly chant that Chinaand India, as the second and fourth largest emitters of greenhouse gases, cannot wash theirhands of responsibilities by claiming differential treatment. But what is out of their picture isChina and India account for more than 30% of the world’s inhabitants. If this was lookedupon on a different perspective – measuring pollutants on a national basis and on a percapita basis, we would be able to see a difference.Per capita emission is the unit of comparison, Australia, UK and Chad with much smallerpopulations, are far above China and India in pollutant rankings (see table below). From thisperspective, the list is topped by small countries with energy-intensive industries, and thelarge developing nations such as India and China look significantly less polluting.Greenhouse Gas emitters on national basis Greenhouse gas emitters on a per capita basis (tons of carbon per person per annum)1. China: 7,216 Metric Tonnes 1. Australia: 19.6 tonnes2. US: 6,931 Metric Tonnes 2. United States: 17.7 tonnes3. Brazil: 2,856 Metric Tonnes 3. Russia: 11.2 tonnes4. Indonesia: 2,046 Metric Tonnes 4. Germany: 9.3 tonnes5. Russia: 2,028 Metric Tonnes 5. UK: 8.4 tonnes6. India: 1,870 Metric Tonnes 6. China: 5.8 tonnes7. Japan: 1,387 Metric Tonnes 7. World average: 4.5 tonnes8. Germany: 1,005 Metric Tonnes 8. India: 1.4 tonnes9. Canada: 808 Metric Tonnes 9. Africa average: 1.1 tonnes10. Mexico: 696 Metric Tonnes 10. Chad: 0.03 tonnesThe Guardian, 21 April 2011Some people have been looking at the brighter side of global warming. The Arctic Ice hasmelted exponentially since the starting of this millennium. This has caused much tension inenvironmentalist. Although proves to be a dangerous situation, forsome Scandinavian sailors this has brought a smile on theirfaces. Companies have taken advantage of the recedingArctic sea ice to plan several voyages across the north ofRussia shows that the "northern sea route" can saveeven a medium-sized bulk carrier 18 days and 580tonnes of bunker fuel on a journey between northernNorway and China. The voyage would normally takeupwards of 40 days. This route will save time, money,fuel and emission. This could save them £180,000-300,000 on each voyage, they say. Page 3 of 5
  5. 5. On 26th October 2012, 100s of scientists from different countries stated that Global Warmingis accelerating. The year 2011 was believed to be the hottest 12 months we have ever livedin and it showed the 2nd smallest area of ice on record. Pictures now show that Arcticglaciers are now melting 30 times faster than they were a decade ago. In the past hundredyears, sea levels have risen 10 inches and by 2050 (like picture on the right), it would haverisen another foot. If that is true, parts of low-lying cities like Miami and New Orleans will beunderwater.The way these scientist say that thesedisasters are man-made is that they havenoticed all the greenhouse gases are on a riseand they are at its highest point since theyhave been keeping record. Scientists also saythat they were not able to detect natural rises. Thus stating that man’s actions is the maincause of increase in greenhouse gas content.Experts on global warming have conflicting ideas and thoughts around the causes for theglobal warming. There have been numerous articles and research on how to efficientlyreduce carbon emissions and how global warming can affect the future generation. Thesearticles give the readers multiple perspectives. One such article regarding CO 2 emissionsposted by username ‘Nakor’ on a BBC articlein which he said, “I do have to say though tothose here quoting that 97% of CO2 is natural. That may be the case but that extra 3% ofman-made CO2 might be all that it takes to throw the cycle out of balance. Just like its thatlast pint down the pub that gets you drunk when you forget the fact that youve been drinkingall afternoon.”An another comment in the same article with a different perspective wasposted by ‘Episkopian’ in which he stated, “It is acknowledged by almost all relevantscientific bodies that the earth is getting warmer but that comes under the heading ofClimate Change. I seriously doubt that man is having any really significant effect on climate.Until there is universal acceptance that mankind contributes to global warming I will continueto believe that this view is derived from biased analysis or misinterpreted data.”Some scientists also say that it might be too late to stop global warming. Greenhouse gasespumped into the planets atmosphere will continue to grow even if the industrialized nationscut their emissions down. At this rate, during the time they use to cut their emissions down,so much greenhouse gases would be released that it would make it inevitable to stop it inlater stages. While others believe there is still little time to act, and the time is now. Page 4 of 5