Global Warming Can the First Wedge Issue Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2086 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Weather

Global Warming can the first wedge issue of the 21st century.

Jim Manzi, National Review

This is a real wake-up call for people who mistakenly think Global Warming is only going to be a problem way off in the future or... has no impact on their lives in any meaningful way. The problem is here today..."

Christine Rogers

Exposure, Epidemiology and Risk Program

Global warming occurs when the earth's average atmospheric temperature increases and leads to corresponding changes in climate (Random House Unabridged Dictionary 2006). It may also be the consequence of strong greenhouse effect. Certain gases in the atmosphere trap energy from the sun, raising the earth's temperature. This is the normal green house effect. Examples of these gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. When the green house effect is strong, the earth's temperature becomes warmer than usual and creates problems for human beings, animals and plants (Environmental Protection Agency 2006).

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The causes of global warming are man-made gas emissions from fossil fuels (Current Events 2007). Of these emissions, carbon dioxide accounts for 84% from fossil fuel combustion, land-use conversion, and cement production; methane at 9% from fossil fuels, rice paddies, waste dumps and livestock; nitrous oxide at 5% from fertilizers, industrial processes and combustion and other gases, 2%. The U.S. energy sources are 39% petroleum, 24% natural gas, 23% coal and 15% non-fossil fuels. These sources emit carbon dioxide from petroleum at 42%, 27% from coal and 21% from natural gas (Current Events).

TOPIC: Term Paper on Global Warming Can the First Wedge Issue Assignment

New evidence showed that other gases and elements in the atmosphere can be more harmful than carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide or methane (Science World 2001). The deadlier heat trappers are black carbon soot, sulfur hexafluoride and chrolofluorocarbons or CFCs. Black carbon soot is not a gas but the by-product of burned coal and diesel fuel. It is mostly found in populated areas. It decreases the amount of cloud in the sky. Clouds ward off 40 to 90% of the sun's heat rays and send these back to space. Thinned clouds will trap more heat in the air and in the atmosphere. Sulfur hexafluoride or SF6 is the gas by-product of energy production, such as in insulating electric switches or cables. SF6 can trap heat 25,000 times more than can carbon dioxide. SF6 also increases in the atmosphere at 8% each year. CFCs are also gaseous by-products of aerosol sprays and refrigerants. Both were commonly used until CFCs were banned for use in aerosols in the U.S. In 1978. The gases, however, still remain in the atmosphere (Science World).

The known culprits are nitrous oxide or N2O, methane and carbon dioxide (Science World 2001). Nitrous oxide exists naturally in the earth's soil and oceans. But its increased use in fertilizers, chemical manufacturing, and car emissions has also increased its volume in the air. N2O traps heat 270 more times than carbon dioxide, the most frequently blamed cause of global warming. Methane is also a naturally occurring gas from livestock, rice paddies and wetlands. But its increased used in natural gas and oil production has also markedly increased its presence in the air. It traps heat 20 times more than does carbon dioxide. Like methane and nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the atmosphere from respiration by human beings and animals and as by-product of burning of wood. But its great increase in oil, gas, factories and refineries has immensely increased its volume in the atmosphere by 30% in the last 150 years (Science World).

A recent study conducted by German and Swiss scientists suggested that the sun's increased brightness could also account for the global warming phenomenon (Environment 2004). Director of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research Sami Solanski said that the sun's brightness has increased in the past 60 years. Its impact of brighter rays on the ozone layer and cloud cover could explain the phenomenon. He and his team deduced the connection from the increase in the number of sunspots and that of the temperature. But they said the connection should be made in combination with the other factors, like greenhouse gases, sulfate aerosols and volcanic activity, in forming a more comprehensive view (Environment).

Increased heat is only one of the dire consequences of global warming. When the amount of trapped heat reaches a certain level and becomes steady, heat waves may happen more frequently (Perkins 2004). Localized diseases may spill out into farther areas of the globe and for shorter periods each year. These diseases may also stay longer in those afflicted. Deadly gases and other airborne irritants will also soar as the atmospheric temperature rises. Lung diseases will also increase. Global warming is not only a portentous probability threatening to occur. Gleaned from its symptoms, it has already snuffed out thousands of life. Doctors and scientists have notice the rise in asthma and other respiratory cases among the young in inner cities with the increase of atmospheric temperature. The condition is believed to continue and get worse as carbon dioxide and the other gases become more concentrated in the air and the earth's climate gets warmer. Regions in Western Europe, which were stricken with heat waves, had longer and unusually warmer and dry weather. These regions included Switzerland, Italy and France. The heat waves, which struck in Europe in 2003, killed more than 30,000 and made it the largest natural disaster in 50 years (Perkins).

Records say that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were only 280 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 1850s (Perkins 2004). These increased by roughly 1.8 ppm every up to the 90s. Now, they are estimated to rise by approximately 3 ppm yearly. The estimate today is that the atmosphere holds about 379 ppm of deadly carbon dioxide. Improved air conditioning may ward off only a small percentage of the ill consequences of increasing heat in the air. Higher levels of heat will blow tropical diseases to distant regions of the world. A typical example is malaria. With fast populations growth trends, increased land use and industrial pollution, the possible health consequences of a warmer atmosphere are myriad and further increasing. Two atmospheric pollutants, which adversely affect human health are ground-level ozone and airborne particles. These are breathed in deep into the lungs and are associated with high numbers of emergency room visits, hospital admissions and deaths from lung diseases. Asthma has afflicted approximately 16 million American adults and an increasing number of children. It requires approximately $3.2 billion to treat it in patients under 18. Carbon dioxide concentrations in thickly populated areas of Phoenix, New York City and Baltimore have carbon dioxide concentrations of up to 600 ppm. Children are more prone to diseases associated with increased atmospheric heat because they typically breathe faster than an adult (Perkins).

American Public Health Association or APHA warned about the increased risk of asthma among inner-city youths in particular because of heavier concentrations of molds and pollen in the air as a result of global warming (Townsend Letter to Doctors and Patients 2005). This combines with, and is made worse by, the burning of fossil fuel by cars, trucks and buses. APHA said that asthma had reached epidemic levels at 160% between 1980 and 1994 or more than twice the total U.S. population. A report by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard Medical School specified low-income African-American toddlers, mostly living in the urban areas, as the most vulnerable. It explained that increasing levels of carbon dioxide not only traps more heat. It also enhances pollen production in plants and fungal growth and changes the composition of species among plants by favoring the growth of weeds. Other emissions from burning fossil fuels in vehicles produce smog, which brings on or makes asthma worse. Diesel particulates, moreover, facilitate the transfer of pollen and mold allergens to the lungs. Higher levels of air pollutants, aeroallergens, heat waves and overall unhealthy air masses change the climate and injure the respiratory systems, especially of the young. These young people in the inner cities are also mostly poor and belong to minority groups. According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 7.5% of the adult U.S. population is afflicted with asthma and that the cost of treating those below 18 years old is estimated at $3.2 billion annually. Allergic diseases, including asthma, are listed as the sixth leading chronic illnesses in the U.S. Roughly 40 million Americans suffer from rhinitis, a form of asthma. About $18 billion annually is spent on its treatment. These figures also translate into 3.8 million lost work and school days (Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients).

Yet government policies on the serious threats of global warming are anything but certain. Most developed countries in the world signed the Kyoto Treaty, which requires the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 5% below 1990 levels by the year 2012 (Weidenbaum 2005). The U.S., Europe and the struggling Asian economies did not sign the Treaty,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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