Term Paper: Global Warming Appeared Within the Strata

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¶ … Global Warming appeared within the strata of social understanding as a major and serious environmental issue, it has been the subject of contentious debate. The question of whether or not it actually exists as an environmental phenomenon is perhaps the most hotly debated topic of the past century. Not since the theory of evolution has something sparked so much social debate and created such a rift within the scientific community. Global warming can be defined as the warming of the earth by greenhouse gases, emitted into the atmosphere naturally or by mankind. This definition, though solidified through scientific inquiry has many question at its core level of both its causes and its real effects. Many people even question whether or not global warming exists, and if such a phenomenon does exist, whether or not the consequences are as severe as many prophetic scientists claim that they are.

The purpose of this following detailed examination is to understand the fundamental roots of global warming and how it has come about. More importantly however, it is to establish the validity of the claim of global warming, and to understand whether or not the average lay individual believes in the theory of global warming or understands its context. Since the EPA and many other high power world organizations have noted global warming as a possible severe risk for the world, there has been severe debate in many arenas over its real efficacy. This analysis will look to analyze how lay individuals see the debate and test their understanding of global warming.

Background Understanding:

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control, the global average "near surface" atmospheric temperature rose by.6 Celsius during the 20th century. The majority of the scientific establishment interprets the rise of temperature within this era and attributes it as "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations" (IPCC, npg). The increase in greenhouse gasses are related to common activities that humankind engages in such as the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing techniques and chemical use, and the world agricultural institution.

The causes of global warming are still a contentious subject. The Earth's climate system varies through natural processes that could cycle at the rate of millions of years. This internal process can be influenced by variations in external forcing from both human and natural causes. These factors could involve solar activity, volcanic emissions and also different variations in orbital force, and of course greenhouse gases. The current warming cycle of the planet has many scientists have confused, because it is extremely hard to attribute a singular cause to the warming trend. The consensus within the scientific community however, is that greenhouse gases is one of the primary influences upon the warming cycle. Although there is no debate in whether or not the greenhouse effect actually exists, the current contention among the majority of scientists is whether or not greenhouse gases achieved the net effect of global warming. There are many mitigating and compounding factors of our current climate system that could compromise or reduce the actual affect of greenhouse gases on the planet's surface.

The consensus among the scientific community in the reality of global warming has caused nations-states, corporations and NGOs alike to attempt to implement measures to prevent the affects of global warming from harming the Earth. An increase in global temperatures can have severe consequences on the planet itself. Most dangerous is that it fundamentally changes the climate system of the United States, including a rising sea level, and changes to the pattern of precipitation. The changes garnered by global warming could lead to such events as floods, droughts, heat waves, hurricanes and tornados. Overall, the consequences of global warming will become much more evident with time. Even small changes to the climate system will lead to fluctuations in agricultural yields, the destruction of glaciers, reduced water flow from spring to summer, and even extinctions of existing flora and fauna. Some affects of Earth's current climate system are already being attributed to global warming. There has been an observed glacier retreat, especially along the Larsen Ice Shelf, and a noticeable sea level rise within the past three decades. Such details such as the changing of rain patterns, as well as increased appearance of extremely dangerous and intense hurricanes and other natural destructive phenomenon are all attributed to global warming.

Although the majority of the scientific community believes in the existence of global warming and its stated effects, this may not true of the general public. There is severe political and social disagreement and propaganda on the issue. The below survey and interview process will attempt to answer the question of lay-interpretation of the current global warming crisis.

Survey:

The intent of the following survey was to find out both the actual knowledge of lay individuals as well as to understand their perspective on the global warming dilemma. Questions were formulated and intermixed to achieve two results, test the sophistication of the target participants and compare their knowledge to their own opinions on global warming. In all there were 22 individuals who took this survey. This study was done with many factors blind, such as sex, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc. Since the purpose is to discover the lay individual, it is extremely difficult to find a complete amalgamation of the general American populace. All of the individuals surveyed are university students, making them slightly more knowledgeable than the average American. However, their responses should represent an accurate measure of how individuals in general interpret the current debate on global warming. Individuals were asked a series of six questions that are listed below:

How strongly do you believe in global warming?

Very strongly

Somewhat strong

Somewhat skeptical

Very skeptical

Which of the following do you attribute to Global Warming?

Hurricane Katrina

Rise in sea level

Melting of ice shelves

All of the above None of the above How much do you believe the temperature of the Earth has risen in the past century?

01 C

C

None of the above What do you believe has led to the rise in temperature within the past century?

Earth's cyclical climate system

Human exploitation of Natural Resources

Natural solar variations

General pollution

How much do you believe global warming is an extreme environmental crisis?

Very strongly

Somewhat strong

Somewhat skeptical

Very skeptical

How did you learn your information and impression of global warming?

Through classroom lectures and readings

Through the media (newsources and movies)

Through books and novels

All of the above None of the above an implicit examination of the survey data shows that the majority of individuals do believe in global warming as a phenomenon and that they also believe that global warming is an extreme environmental problem. However, an interpretation of their scientific understanding of this phenomenon shows that the majority of these individuals who affirm their belief in global warming know little of the solid facts. Despite the fact that the majority of individuals answered "very strongly" for their belief in global warming, only three people could correctly identify the level of temperature increase in the past century. The fact that the most of these individuals have received their information from the media is very informative of how these biases have developed. In order to have a greater detailed understanding of how such results came about, an interview process of ten of test subjects will shed light on their understanding and opinion of global warming.

Interview:

Ten individuals were randomly chosen from the survey pool to conduct detailed interviews on their opinions of global warming. Individuals were chosen for a mixture of reasons, four answers that they "very strongly" believed in both global warming and its extremely dangerous affect on the environment. Three of them have answered skeptically to global warming in general as well as the dangers that they present. The final three answered all of the scientific questions correctly. An understanding of how these individuals came about with their opinions will strongly impact an accurate interpretation of how common lay-individuals perceive global warming as a possible threat and environmental crisis.

Of the four individuals who strongly believed global warming, they received the majority of their information from media sources. Two of them explained that they have recently watched the movie "An Inconvenient Truth," starring Al Gore, which strongly influenced their view on global warming. Despite their strong and adamant belief in global warming, they professed no actual scientific understanding of global warming. They receive their information purely through media channels and profess their ignorance on the details. All of them seem to take it as implicit fact that everyone believes in the existence of global warming. However, they could not give a concrete reason for or definition of global warming in general. Only one individual could identify greenhouse gases as the culprit behind global warming. When asked how pollution actually affects global… [END OF PREVIEW]

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