This is an article on global warming. Information about global warming is urgent to share as there are so many dubious myths about the climate in cyberspace.
First, I'll try to 1) define the expression "global warming". Then we'll explore 2) the relationship between climate change and global warming. 3) Global warming causes will be discussed - natural as well as causes which originates from activities of humanity. On the other hand the 4) consequenses of global warming will be outlined.
It is no secret, though, that it has been difficult to achieve consensus on the subject. Thus, we won't neglect to describe 5) the global warming controversy. After having discussed, what is global warming - fact or fiction? - some 6) global warming statistics will follow. Finally, some 7) global warming solutions will be proposed.
As an appendix below I have collected some pictures of global warming. Images, which are quite revealing, I think.
1. Definition of global warming
The term denotes the increases in the average temperature of the atmosphere and oceans of planet Earth, observed as well as projected.
2. Global warming and climate change
After this short definition of the term we now have to take another term into consideration, namely the global climate change. Global warming is not necessarily an effect of climate changes. On the other hand climate change will necessarily be the outcome of the global warming. Climate change, thus, though related to global warming, isn't identical with the term. Climate change may also have the opposite outcome, that is, a fall in temperature.
That said, when the average temperature of the globe increases, the climate may change, for example may the duration and severity of storms and drought be affected. More about the climate changes following the warming of the globe will be developed below.
3. History of global warming
People have for centuries suspected that human activity could affect the local climate. For example, already the ancient greeks discussed whether cutting down forests might bring more - or perhaps less - rainfall to a region. Nevertheless the major changes of climate seemed to happen by themselves.
In 1896 something crucial happened: The Swedish scientist Arrhehius published a new idea, namely that the average temperature will raise when humanity burns fossil fuels, due to the CO2 added to the atmosphere.
In the 1930s it was realized that the average temperature in the North Atlantic region had increased during the previous 50 years. Many scientist denied that this was a problem, but an amateur, G. S. Callendar insisted steadily. In 1938 he argued that a greenhouse global warming was underway.
In the 1950s Callendar's theory and global warming essays provoked a few scientist to make calculations with improved tehcniques. In 1956 Philips Electronics produced a realistic computer model of the atmosphere, and Plass calculated that adding CO2 to the atmosphere would have signicifant effect on the radiation balance. In 1957 Revelle stated that CO2 which was prduced through human activity would not readily be absorbed by the oceans.
In 1960 Keeling measures an annual rise of CO2 in the atmosphere. In 1965 Lorenz pointed out the chaotic nature of the climate system, and that shifts could suddenly happen. This was somewhat confirmed the year after, in 1966, when Emiliani's and Broecker's analyses of deep-sea cores and ancient corals affirmed that the climate system is sensitive to even small changes. In 1967 Manabe and Wetherald calculated that doubling CO2 would raise the average world temperature a couple of degrees. And the doomsday scenario intensified: In 1968 studies suggested that a possible collapse of Antarctic ice sheets would raise sea levels catastrophically.
In 1970, though, Bryson argued that increasing aerosols in the atmosphere counteract global warming and may even bring cooling. 1972 is a year of drought in Africa, Ukraine and India, spreading fear that this is caused by climate change. In 1975 investigations of the stratosphere leads to the discovery of danger to the ozone layer. The following year, 1976, it is reported that ozone ( and methane ) can make a contribution to the greenhouse effect. Likewise ecosystem changes such as deforestation are recognized as being serious factors in the future of the climate. In 1977 an increasing consensus is emerging that global warming - not cooling - is the real threat to the future.
With the dawn of the Reagan era, 1981, a sceptic attitude towards the theory of global warming is growing in the U.S. In 1982 strong global warming since the mid-70's is observed, 1981 being the warmest year so far ( on record ). In 1985 Ramanathan states that global warming may come twice as fast as hitherto predicted, due to the rise of greenhouse gases, while Broecker warns that a reorganization of the North Atlantic circulation can bring radical change in climate. In 1987 the Montreal Protocol imposes restrictions on the emission of gases destroying the ozone layer, on an international level. In 1988 studies confirm that ecosystems give feedback by way of methane. 1988 is also the year for the establisment of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ). In 1989, though, Global Climate Coalition is formed by among others the U. S. oil industry, asserting that the results of the cllimate science are to uncertain to justify action.
In 1991 sceptics asserts that 20th century temperature changes took place because of solar influences. In 1992 the Rio conference produces the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, but US blocks. 1993: Greenland ice cores seems to suggets that huge climate changes can take place within a single decade. In 1995 the second IPCC reoprt declares that serious warming is likely in the 21st century. Breaking up of Antarctic ice is affecting the public opinion. In 1997 Toyota introduces the first mass produced hybrid car. Other alternative energy forms are really getting on the agenda now. The Kyoto Protocol trying to make an international agreement on the reduction of gas emissions is rejected in advance by the US. In 1998 El Niño is causes serious disasters. Warmest year on record so far.
In 2000 the American oil lobby ( again ) shows its influence making the US administration play down the climate problem. In 2001 the third IPCC report states that global warming is "very likely". Now there is almost consensus among the scientists, even about the risk of an abrupt climate change. In 2003 several observations indicate that the collapse of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic may raise sea levels faster than expected. In 2005 the Kyoto treaty goes into effect. The efforts to retard the emissions accelerates, even in the US, which has to cope with the serious damages made by the hurricane "Katrina". In 2007 the fourth IPCC report states that the effects of global warming has become "evident". Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are found to be shrinking faster than predicted. In 2009 several experts warn that warming is faster and more dangerous than foreseen only few years earlier. The Copenhagen conference fails to establish an agreement. This was considered by many as the last chance to avoid dangerous climate changes.
As this brief historical resume shows the last several decades have been a long deroute. And the world is still suffering under the global warming. 2011 was a year of "extreme weather" the World Meterological Organization reported.
4. Why is global warming happening?
An interesting issue here is of course the overall question of global warming causes and effects. But before we conclude too much about the effects of human activities - after having asked what cause global warming - one has to realize that there are indeed natural causes of global warming. These include volcanic eruptions and changes in the Earth's solar radiation level.
That said, no doubt human activities have the most serious impacts of global warming. One might speak of four main factors:
1) The production of cement is a sometimes by the media almost forgotten cause. How is global warming caused when producing cement? Well, cement is made by burning limestone. This process genereates so much CO2 that it has become one of the major threats to the Earth's atmosphere.
2) The impact of global warming from the burning of fossil-based fuels is, on the other hand, well known. Not only CO2 but also monoxide ( CO ) and oxides of nitrogen pollute the air from cars, ships, electricity etc.
The two factors of burning of fossil-based fules and procuction of cement alone generates much more CO2 in the atmosphere than natural processes can remove.
3) One factor which can in fact reduce the CO2 pollution is large forest, because trees breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen. Therefore the rapid deforestation is a serious threat to the climate. We'll take a more detailed look at this problem below.
4) All the concrete used to build cities with roads, buildings and tunnels absorbs and stores the heat, so that temperatures in city areas are significantly higher than temperatures in the surrounding countryside.
Deforestation and global warming
One of the answers to the question what is causing global warming, is, as menitioned, the rapid deforestation going on around the world.
Though forests still cover around 30 percent of the world's land area every year more than 75.000 km2 forest is swallowed by deforestation. At this scale there will be no forests in a hundred years.
Deforestation is not only happening because of greed or profit. For many people deforestation is necessary to provide for their families. Often small farmers will clear some few acres and burn the trees, a method known as "slash and burn agriculture".
Other reasons may be the needs for the wood and paper industries, but also roadbuilding shares its part.
Deforestation is a threat to several species living in the forests, but it also drives climate change. The soils dry out, and many former forest lands quickly become deserts. More extreme temperature swings also results from deforestation.
Most important in this context, though, trees play an important role in absorbing the greenhouse gases which generate global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
5. Global Warming: Consequenses
What are the effects of global warming? Well, scientists warns that temerature may increase with 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit during the 21st century if we do not reduce the emissions of fossil fuels. This will cause dramatic changes. Changes which have partly already begun:
Some examples are: 1) more wildland fires than earlier, 2) negative effects on people's health, 3) wildlife conditions changed, especially around the poles.
Such examples on the effect of global warming, though, are only phenomena resulting from three more primary processes:
Ozone layer depletion
This might seem a minor problem to humanity due to the fact that the holes in the ozone layer are around the poles where there are almost no human life. But in fact ultimately this will affect everyone. And it already does, causing worldwide shifts in the climate.
Recently an ozone hole five times the size of California was observed over Arctic, now for the first time matching the ozone loss over Antarctic.
The ozone layer filters the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This is an important process, as too much radiation is very damaging to the enviromnemt and in particular it may damage the DNA of living organisms,causing diseases such as cancer. This fact should make us concerned as we also obeserve that the cancer rates of the human population is increasing. Also among the animals increased cancer rates are disruptive for the food chains and damage the ecosystems.
According to IPCC the number of serious droughts worldwide has been increasing since the 1970s, affectting food prices and drinking water recourses. The ultraviolet light may also affect the ability of plants to create ripe fruit. Even the micorscopic plant life in the oceans is facing serious attack.
Another dramatic effect of global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer is the forecast of bigger storms. According to IPCC the tropical cyclone activity has become more intense since the 1970s, resulting in loss of human lives and expensive damages.
Scientists also warn that the climate may be disrupted, as the radiation will have an impact on the movements of wind in the upper atmosphere. This may have serious effects in time to come. The movements of air affects the local temperatures and may cause a shift in the amount of rain falling in an area.
So, all in all, the consequences of the depletion of the ozone layer are serious.
Greenhouse effect and global warming
About 30 percent of the beams from the sun towards the earth is deflectede by the outer atmosphere. From here it is scattered back into space. The remaining 70 percent hit the earth and is then reflected upwards again, with a slow moving energy called infrared radiation.
The heat produced by this infrared radiation is absorbed by so called "greenhouse gases", including carbone dioxide, methane and ozone. This slows down the escape from the atmosphere.
Though greenhouse gases make up only about 1 percent of the atmosphere, they are traaping the heat and regulate our climate this way.
This is what scientists call the "greenhouse effect". Without it would be much colder on the planet and thus impossible to sustain our current ecosystem.
The problem in our context, meanwhile, is, that global warming causes to much of this process. This happens because human activity accelerates the process by producing more greenhouse gases than necessary to warm the planet to an ideal temperature. More infrared radiation is held, and the temperatue of the Earth's surface and of the air in the lower atmosphere is increasing.
The temperature is today increasing with an unprecedented speed. During the entire 20th century the global temperature increased with about 1 degree Fahrenheit. The most optimistic estimations predict an increase during the 21st century by 2.5 degrees. This is more than a double. The most pessimistic predictions say 10.5 degree!
Rising sea levels
Sea level is rising around the world. Higher temperatures are expected to further this process, by causing Greenland and Antactic ice sheets to melt, as well as mountain glaciers. IPCC estimates that the average sea level on the globe will rise between 0.6 and 2 feet during the 21st century, dependent on how rapidly ice sheet will be smelting.
This issue is quite complex, though. Some processes are not determined solely by climate, and besides climate changes from the past are influencing the data. Furthermore the rise in sea level vary from region to region. Som places sea level has even fallen! Nevertheless IPCC concludes that the impacts are "virtually certain to be overwhlmingly negative".
Rising sea levels are causing floods in wetlands and low-lying areas, and erosions. The salinity of rivers and groundwater is increasing as well
6. Global warming? Evidence?
The discussion on the evidence of global warming has been going on for decades by now, and the global warming debate is often tough and implacable. Few years ago the advocates of the pessimistic theories of global wamring got a prominent representative: Al Gore. Global warming is a serious threat to humanity, is the message of Mr. Gore. Undoubtedly his interference has intensified debate, provocing severe resistance among people who for one or another reason are fighting against the "global warming hoax".
Thus, there is a hardcore circle for whom there'll never be any proof of global warming, no matter how many arguments you may state. Nevertheless; I'll briefly resume some global warming facts which by themseslves can hardly be denied:
7. Facts on global warming
1) Average temperature has increased 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, escalating in recent decades, according to NASA studies.
2) 11 of the past 12 years have been among the warmest dozen since 1850
3) Arctic ice is rapidly disappearing. Serious consequenses for animals and regional cultures can be observed already now. Average temperatures in Alaska, Western Canada and Eastern Russia are increasing twice the average of the globe.
4) Mountain snow and glaciers are rapidly melting. In 1910 Montana's Glacier National Park had 150 glaciers, now only 27.
5) Increasingly extreme weather is observed: Heat waves, strong tropical storms, wildfire, just to mention a few.
6) In the northern hemisphere, thaws come a week earlier, freezes a week later ( average ).
7) Coral Reefs are highly sensitive to temperature changes. 1998 was the most damaging year to coral reefs ever recorded. In some areas around 70 percent were bleached
These facts about global warming cannot be discussed, unless you are willing to deny facts!
8. How can we reduce global warming?
And now, finally to the basic question of this article: How to prevent global warming. Well, it's always easy ( and free! ) to blame the politicians and influential people for not doing enough. But what about you and me. If we want to change the world we should start with ourselves! Imagine that everybody was thinking that way! What a world we could create!
So, when it comes to the question how to reduce global warming this article will focus on you and me. What can we - as ordinary people - do?
This is about responsibility. And in fact there are things to do for you and me. The following list contains some pieces of advice for taking action:
Step 1: Knowledge. If you want to save the earth, you must know how to save the earth. This does not only mean that you must know what to do. You must also know the background of the problem so that you understand why you must do this and that. Well, by reading this article on ways to prevent global warming you are already now on your way to complete step 1!