Despite the controversy that surrounds the causes of global warming, human beings are slowly beginning to appreciate the fact that much of the heating up of the earth’s surface is attributable to their activities. Given the fact that the causes of global warming are seemingly apparent, one wonders why it has taken man decades to appreciate this fact. In a nutshell, global warming can be defined as the overheating of the earth’s surface with time.
It has affected our planet very negatively by, among other things, changing the climatic conditions, affecting biodiversity and causing natural disasters like floods, hurricanes etc. These effects on the planet have an adverse effect on life, especially human life. People lose their lives during disasters, lack basic requirements after the environment and infrastructure is damaged. This paper is an in-depth exploration of global warming as a subject of concern to human beings.
Global warming has been known to exist since the nineteenth century. In fact, scientists had given the suggestion that human activities were contributing to global warming from as early as 1880. This is despite the fact that the hypothesis remained unclear as people viewed it to be too scientific. It had been suggested that burning of fossil fuels led to an increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which in turn led to global warming.
The hypothesis was further viewed as a curiosity since the predictions for the early 20th century that by 1940, the world would have experienced a one-degree Celsius rise in temperature did not hold. However, studies starting from 1980 gave interesting revelations about the relationship between human activities and global warming and thus global warming was demystified (Russel 33). Global warming is having the worst effects in vulnerable parts of the world like the Polar Regions which are made up of snow.
The ecosystem of these regions is used to the snow conditions an thus when snow melts in these regions due to the effects of global warming, the regions become, somehow, unfavorable for the species living there. Other parts being adversely affected by global warming are low altitude areas like Indonesia that are experiencing disastrous floods with shocking frequency. There are also a number of other areas being affected by global warming effects like the hurricanes, high temperatures etc.
Global warming has had very destructive effects on biodiversity. Less resistant species have already become extinct and the menace is still threatening more species. The species which have been able to cope well with global warming are those with a high degree of mobility.
That it, when the ecosystems of such species become difficult to live in due to the effects of global warming, the species move to far off places in which the effects of global warming are not as harsh. For instance, when the grass on which animals in forests thrive on dries up due to increased temperatures, the animals can move to places where the grass weather is cooler because they will be able to find food there (Weart 31).
This implies that, the animal species that will not be able to cover long distances in search of favorable ecosystems will die from the effects of global warming. This could lead to extinction. Plants are affected less than animals by global warming due to the fact that they are able to adapt to harsh temperatures. Additionally, despite the fact that some plants grow in specific ecosystems, plant-species extinction is not as easy as the extinction of animal species.
Different environments are affected differently by global warming. For instance, polar ice caps are continually melting and creating an unfavorable ecosystem in these regions. The melting of the ice caps also accelerates global warming since the ice plays a very important role of reflecting heat back into the atmosphere. Once they melt, the heat is absorbed on the earth’s surface leading to more warming. In the same way, glaciers are continually getting molten. This leads to a problem since some marine species can only thrive in cold conditions.
Once the glaciers melt, such species are forced to go deeper into the ocean in search of favorable living conditions. The melting of glaciers is also leading to a rise in the sea level as more water is coming from the molten glaciers. The heat from global warming is also leading to the death of planktons and other marine life forms. This is a challenge to marine species like fish since most of them depend heavily on the planktons for food. With the rise in sea levels, islands are increasingly vanishing and others becoming smaller (McHenry 36).
Continents, on the other hand are being consumed along the coastline since the ocean is advancing towards continental landscapes. As stated in the discussion above, continental animals are being affected due to the effect of global warming on their ecosystems. Therefore, if grass dries up and rivers dry up, the animals have nothing to live on and they end up moving. The most affected are those which are not sufficiently mobile.
A number of explanations have been put forward to explain the reason for the occurrence of global warming. For instance, some people believe that the phenomenon of global warming is as a result of natural causes that cannot be deciphered by man. Others try to explain this by suggesting that the sun is continually becoming warm.
These people therefore do not support the thought that global warming is as a result of the activities of man. There is also the defense that the world can never produce enough carbon dioxide that could have such adverse effects on climate as we are experiencing.
However, the latter argument is based on the misconception that carbon dioxide is the only green house gas and it also does not put the cumulative effects of emission of these gases. As stated, there are a number of greenhouse gases. These include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These greenhouse gases are released to the atmosphere by burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and bacteria in oceans, soils and organic matter (Samuelson 22).
Among the measures that are productively being employed to curb global warming is the practice of recycling organic matter. This ensures that the organic matter does not pile up and be broken down by bacteria and thus the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are reduced. This is because one of the sources of greenhouse gases is the organic matter broken down by bacteria to release methane to the atmosphere. People are also being advised to embrace a culture of car pooling or use low emission vehicles.
This is because a large percentage of the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere comes from automobile emissions. This combines with emissions from factories to increase the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and consequently increase the rate of global warming. Low emission vehicles can therefore go a long way in reducing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which will in turn reduce the rate of global warming (Hansen 21).
Among the efforts being undertaken to reduce the rate at which the earth is warming is the increased advocacy for reforestation. This is particularly helpful since forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus planting of forests is bound to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This will in turn reduce global warming.
Governments are trying to raise money in a bid to reduce the effects of global warming in developing countries. There has also been an increase in the number of NGOs emerging with an interest in the global warming phenomenon. Agreements are also being reached which are meant to make countries operate in suggested environmental precautions that will ensure that the global warming problem does not escalate.
For instance, 190 countries agreed to operate under the Kyoto protocol that dictates that countries should reduce their emissions and also assist developing countries to use cleaner energy sources. Some of the governments which are actively involved in this are the U.S, England, South Africa and Japan among others. Developing nations, most in Africa, are thus benefiting from the generosity of these governments in the funding of efforts in mitigating effects of global warming and also in efforts to reduce the phenomenon itself.
Hansen, James. Climatic Change: Understanding Global Warming. Journal of Biodiversity, pp. 17-41
McHenry, Gary. Effects of Global Warming. Journal of Environmental Studies, pp. 23- 57.
Russel, Randy. The Greenhouse Effect and Greenhouse Gases. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.
Samuelson, Gay. Humans as the cause of global warming. University of California, pp. 13 -28.
Weart, Spencer. The discovery of global warming. New York. Wadsworth Publishing, 2004. Print.