Global Warming Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1847 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Weather

GLOBAL WARMING is probably one of the most heatedly discussed and debated subject in political and social circles today. The globe is warming up and that should be a serious concern for the inhabitants. The question arises: what is GLOBAL WARMING and how is it dangerous to the world.

Global warming and ozone layer depletion are often discussed together because they are both causing warming however we must make it clear that these two are different problems. Global warming is caused by the "greenhouse effect," which is otherwise essential to human life. Electromagnetic energy coming from the sun is absorbed by the Earth, but as this energy is absorbed, some of it is radiated back in the form of infrared energy (heat). Interestingly, the system is such that as some of this infrared energy goes back into space, it is absorbed by "greenhouse gases" in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere) and is radiated back to the Earth as heat energy.

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The greenhouse effect, then, is a natural warming system of the earth that makes it livable for the inhabitants. It is due to warming effect that Earth's surface becomes hospitable to life. Without the greenhouse effect, the earth would not be conducive to human life or life in general because it would then be freezing cold at frigid -100 [degrees] F. however while we do need warming, we certainly don't want to get roasted and thus we want to avoid a "runaway" greenhouse effect, like that found on the planet Venus, which has resulted in surface temperature of 900 [degrees] F. Or more. Greenhouse gases, including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are produced as part of the natural system (for example, [CO] and [H] are by-products of respiration and combustion). These gases act much like the glass roof of a greenhouse, letting sunlight through, but keeping heat locked in.

Term Paper on Global Warming Is Probably One of the Assignment

Greenhouse effect is sadly not caused by the natural absorption and radiation of rays alone; there are other factors that have contributed to the problem. Since the time of Industrial change, people have regularly invented machines that would make life easier for them including motor vehicles but these machines while being very useful also produce large quantities of greenhouse gases. Humans have also created problems for themselves by developing molecules that themselves are greenhouse gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and some CFC-substitutes that are used as coolants and solvents. Increased amounts of all types of man-made greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere endanger the atmosphere and increase the "greenhouse effect. The gas that is most responsible for enhancing the greenhouse effect is [CO, because human activities create so much of it and it has a long "lifetime" in the atmosphere (meaning that molecules are present in the air for a long time before being used by plants or being "bound" or broken down in other chemical events).

In the last three centuries, greenhouse effect has continued to rise and it has now risen by about 30%. The question is how do we know that greenhouse effect has increased? There are many ways of telling this including tree rings, pieces of old coral, and cores taken from glaciers and from mud at the bottom of the ocean. They provide scientists with samples of atmospheric changes that go back 150,000 years. This increase in [CO] comes largely from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) in automobiles and electrical power plants. People burning tropical rainforests (biomass burning) to clear land also contribute to the problem of too much atmospheric [CO.sub.2]. This practice is doubly destructive because it also upsets the balance of the "carbon cycle." Living trees and other green plants play a major role in taking carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis, the process whereby plants use energy from the sun to make food; photosynthesis utilizes carbon from [CO.sub.2]. Accordingly, green plants are known as a carbon "sink." The oceans also are a carbon sink because small plants--phytoplankton -- in the water "take up" great amounts of carbon from atmospheric [CO]

Most atmospheric scientists are now convinced that human industrial activity has caused an enhanced greenhouse effect, leading to an increase in global warming: "IT]he further accumulation of greenhouse gases commits the Earth irreversibly to further global climatic change and consequent ecological, economic, and social disruption." However, there continues to be debate in the scientific community over the best way to predict how much warming will occur, how much of the warming humans are responsible for, and what might be the best ways to decrease the production of greenhouse gases. To complicate matters, some scientists even speculate that the effects of global warming may perturb ocean circulation patterns so much as to throw us into another ice age. Despite these uncertainties, a growing scientific consensus is urging governments and industries to work together to reduce man-made greenhouse gases. Such international cooperation is not just a dream -- it happened recently with regard to another problem of atmospheric change: damage to the ozone layer.

The year 1998 was the warmest since reliable temperature records have been kept, and the twentieth year in a row in which the average global surface temperature was higher than the 119-year average. The next year, 1999, was the fifth warmest on record; the six warmest years on record have occurred in the last decade.

Another interrelated subject is that of ozone depletion. It is important to study this in order to understand the warming effect more clearly. An ozone molecule ([O.sub.3]) is composed of three atoms of oxygen. Ozone in the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere) is referred to as the "ozone layer" and protects life on Earth by absorbing most of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by the sun. Exposure to too much UV radiation is linked to skin cancer, cataracts, and depression of the immune system, and may reduce the productivity of certain crops. Accordingly, stratospheric ozone is known as "good ozone." In contrast, human industry creates "ozone pollution" at the ground level. This "bad ozone" is a principal component of smog. The ozone layer is reduced when man-made CFC molecules (comprised of chlorine, fluorine, and carbon) reach the stratosphere and are broken apart by short-wave energy from the sun. Free chlorine atoms then break apart molecules of ozone, creating a hole in the ozone layer. The hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic in 1998 was "the largest observed since annual holes first appeared in the late 1970s."

CFCs were once used in aerosol sprays and as foam blowing agents. Their manufacture is now banned by an international treaty, the Montreal Protocol, signed by 160 nations. But because CFCs have a long atmospheric lifetime (about 50 years), those manufactured in the 1970s continue to damage the ozone layer today. The amount of CFCs in the stratosphere is now peaking. The good news is that scientists forecast that the ozone layer will return to its earlier, stable size by the middle of the 21st century -- assuming that nations continue to comply with the treaty.

When the ozone hole was first detected, there was emotional debate in which many U.S. industries fiercely resisted a ban on CFCs. It took a few years for scientists to show conclusively that human activity was causing the damage. It did not take long for scientists to invent other chemicals that could replace CFCs for industrial and commercial purposes, but would not harm the ozone layer. CFCs used as propellants were first banned in the United States in 1978.

Global warming has turned into a political subject now as Pierce (2007) writes:

The details of the determinants of the economic effects of global warming are complicated, but some of the most important determinants are easy to understand. For example, India is a very hot, heavily agriculture-dependent country in which the level of agricultural production depends largely on the strength of the annual monsoon. India's economy would be devastated by reductions in agricultural output attributable to temperature increases and changes in the pattern and strength of the annual monsoon. By contrast, Russia is very cold. Its agricultural output would increase significantly as a result of increases in its average temperature. In addition, Russia would save many billions of dollars per year in reduced heating costs, and increased temperatures would provide improved access to the enormous natural gas reserves of Siberia."

Global warming and ozone layer depletion will doubtless receive continuing attention from the media and professionals in the fields of science, economics, and social studies. Jane Lubchenkco, professor of at Oregon State University, contends that humanity is entering the "Century of the Environment" and calls for "A New Social Contract for Science," that would attend to societal problems and social justice issues resulting from "human impacts on the ecological systems of the planet." People in developing countries stand to suffer disproportionately greater problems than those living in wealthier countries. If so, developed countries need to seriously consider the ethics of the status quo, in which… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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