Atmospheric Issues Global Warming Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2554 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Weather

Global warming is a phenomenon that has many opinions, from the scientific, to the political, to the ridiculous. A major rift between the more rational arguments has been the question of whether global warming is actually occurring or if the earth is simply in a geologic time of natural warming. However, scientists have noted that the warming of our earth's atmosphere is occurring at a rate that is unprecedented in the geologic record. Past warming trends have been identified through studying bores of deep ice from the earth's poles (Berger, 2000). The data indicate that while global warming is indeed a part of the earth's natural warm and freeze cycles, the present warming trend is happening much faster than has been previously experienced. The question that persists in the face of such a finding is why the warming is happening at the rate that it is. Global warming refers to the average total elevation in the earth's ambient (atmospheric) temperature, world-wide. There have been widely varied and heated arguments regarding the nature of the global warming trend. Some have held that global warming is a natural process and therefore nothing to be worried about. There have been different phenomena cited as causes of the current warming trend (Haley, 2002). The following report discusses the phenomenon of global warming. First an overview on the concept of global warming is provided. Next a discourse is offered on the causes of global warming, as indicated by different viewpoints. Impacts of the process of global warming are examined. An evaluation of sustainability strategies is reviewed. A plan for sustainability in light of the global warming issue is given. A conclusion is provided to highlight the salient points of the paper and to synthesize the issues.

Overview of Global Warming

Term Paper on Atmospheric Issues Global Warming Assignment

Global warming is essentially the heating mechanism that is happening in the earth's atmosphere, and this relates to the concept of climate change in general. Climate change of the earth's atmosphere, which impacts the bio-zone of the earth (where life persists), is caused through an accumulation of green-house gases. While greenhouse gases are naturally occurring elements of the earth (such as methane production from animal waste), the problems that result from the build-up of these gases is manifest (Berger, 2000).

The average temperature of the earth is 13°C, or 55.4°F. Scientists surmise that without the heating characteristics of naturally occurring greenhouse gases, temperatures would drop by about 54°F, which would create a climate that would not support most life on earth (Daly, 2002). The particular greenhouse gases are methane, CO2 (carbon dioxide), and nitrous oxide. While these are naturally occurring gases from earth processes, and which warm the biosphere and enable life on earth, too much of a good thing is ultimately bad. Greenhouse gas carbon dioxide comes from burning wood, fossil fuels (oil, coal) and from burning solid waste such as a trash incineration plant might produce. Without the impact of greenhouse gases as naturally occurring processes, the temperature of the biospheric portion of the earth would be raised, as noted. The greenhouse gases essentially hold or trap the heat that is delivered to the earth from the sun; the normal processes that hold the heat, or radiation, is absolutely necessary for life as we know it. Yet when the infrared radiation is trapped by greenhouse gases (if there are more gases present, then more heat is trapped), the earth will 'heat up', hence global warming (Berger, 2000).

The primary concern and overriding issue is not that greenhouse gases exist, indeed, life on earth as we know it needs the services the gases provide. The issue is from the build-up of greenhouse gases in that they tend to trap the heat from the sun's rays that reach the earth. Naturally this leads to an increase in overall global temperature. Though the heating process is slow and can take years to become apparent, the problem has likely reached a crisis stage at the point when it is actually recognized. Global warming is the result of natural processes, and the present rate of global warming is resulting from the abnormally high buildup of greenhouse gases (Haley, 2002; Daly, 2002).

Greenhouse fossil fuels include oil and coal that release their CO2 by-product into the biosphere once they are burned (consumed) by people. Sources of greenhouse gases are also the burning of wood and solid waste. The current problem of global warming is the unprecedented rate at which it is occurring; therefore, while natural earth processes do indeed release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, many scientists and lay people believe that global warming is the result of human activity and not natural processes (Langholz & Turner, 2003).

Causes of Global Warming

There are many differing viewpoints on the causes of global warming, which have led to problems of policy implementation to address the problem. Oftentimes, politics gets in the way of sustainability practices. It is not without note that capitalistic trends continue to dominate public policy, even in the face of direct environmental threat. Global warming is not exempt from this framework in which opposing forces of opinion comprise the tug of war over sustainable practices to combat human-induced global warming (Haley, 2002).

Some theorists hold that global warming is not caused by human activity to any notable extent. Indeed, the issue of solar variability has been held up as one source of global warming. Essentially, the mean output from the sun has slight variations which impact the atmospheric factors of the earth. Solar wind carries solar dust and radioactive solar particles. The earth's magnetic field diverts the solar wind as a first defense, and the earth's ozone layer deflects solar radioactive particles as a second defense. Yet variations in the suns' output are not met in kind by variable degrees of defense by the earth's inherent defense mechanisms. Therefore, increased solar output, that is to say solar variability, contributes to global warming because more of the 'output' reaches the earth at varying times and degrees of intensity. Varying radiation from the sun, therefore, is the cause of global warming (Daly, 2002).

Human activity has been held up by politicians, scientists, and concerned world citizens as the number one reason for the increased rate of global warming. The null statement to this is that human activity is not the cause for the unprecedented warming. That would raise the question of what else would be causing the warming, if not human activity. Sources of greenhouse gases caused by human activity are the burning of fossil fuels, the burning of wood and wood products, and the burning of solid waste (Meitei, 2010) (Berger, 2000). Another source is the destruction of the rainforests. The scope of the world's rainforests is on a grand scale, with the largest being the Amazon rainforest in South America. The forests serve as a 'carbon sink', absorbing a great deal of circulating atmospheric carbon dioxide. In return, the trees provide oxygen and other bioservices (Langholz & Turner, 2003). With the ongoing destruction of the rainforests, the earth (and residents) loses the precious bioservices, carbon dioxide is not used as it was, and global warming increases. The earth maintains a very delicate environmental homeostasis, any changes have an impact on related ecosystem processes. It is inevitable that the disturbance of some natural process that utilizes carbon dioxide would result in some type of impact on the world's ecosystems (Space Daily Staff Writers, 2010). Another related cause of human-induced global warming is on the crisis end, the management portion of dealing with the problem. Lack of commitment among global leaders to engage in a collaborative process of sustainability and reduction of greenhouse gases compounds the problem by failing to address it (Haley, 2002).


As noted, one major impact of global warming is the heating of the earth's atmosphere which has downstream effects upon world ecosystem processes. Some areas of the world will become colder, and some will get warmer, with an overall imbalance in the processes which sustain life, especially those forms of life that are dependent upon very specific environmental conditions, such as coral reefs, or wetlands for example (Mitsch & Gosselink, 2007).

With the continued destruction of the rainforests and the reduced ability of the rainforest ecosystem to act as a natural carbon dioxide sink, the excess CO2 that would normally be taken up by the trees is left to circulate in the atmosphere, trapping more heat. Add on top of that additional human-caused elevations of greenhouse gases and the problem is compounded (Killeen, 2007).

Global warming can have adverse affects on human health. Reports of increased rates of asthma and related breathing and inflammation disorders have risen over the previous decade. Smog increases in the atmosphere as more Greenhouse gas is trapped, causing destruction of the ozone layer, which in turn contributes back to the cycle of smog; it is a vicious self-perpetuating cycle that needs to be broken. Warmer temperatures may be a blessing for vectors that thrive in such conditions. Bacteria, virus',… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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