Thesis: Global Warming. The Reality

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¶ … global warming. The reality of global warming has raised alarm bells as well as intensive debate in many sectors of contemporary society. The implications of global warming and climate change are widespread and complex and affect every sector of modern society -- including the social, economic and political dimensions.

The situation becomes even more problematic when we consider that we live in a world where international isolation and barriers between countries have been largely eradicated through modern travel and communications technologies. The effects and consequences of global warming therefore cannot be understood in isolation. This is an important factor to consider in terms of the present study. While environmental problems have always existed, they are"…increasingly global in nature because interdependence and globalization connect people and issues in new and different ways…" (Balaam and Veseth 432) As a result these climatic and environmental issues now become, "…more difficult to deal with than any single nation's ability to solve them. (Balaam and Veseth 432)

In 1990 a panel of eminent scientists concluded after a lengthy investigation that global warming was a reality that could not be doubted. The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPPC) stated that the main reason for global warming was increased emissions of carbon into the atmosphere. (Balaam and Veseth 444)

Among the many predicted effects of global warming is the social impact on aspects such as human health, migration and the displacement of people and resources. As will be discussed in this paper, these aspects also have implications for the economy and politics.

The issue of global warming has resulted in some dire prognostications for the future. It has been linked to factors, such as shortages of food supplies and the increase in infectious diseases, as well as changes in the various biological ecosystems of the world which are already experience problem in terms of human health. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted that by 2030 climatic changes will cause the deaths of 300, 000 people annually. (D'emilio) It is estimated that in Asia a rise in the sea level coupled with an increase in the intensity of tropical cycles "would displace tens of millions of people in low-lying coastal areas & #8230; trigger decreases in agricultural productivity and diminish food security." (D'emilio) Disasters like these also apply to Africa where global warming could cause a decrease in the grain yields as well as floods and drought which would have a devastating effect on human health. These aspects all have an impact on social, economic and political factors internationally.

2. Social Issues

2.1. Overview of the social issues

The most dramatic and immediate effect of global warming is an increase in the levels of the oceans of the world. According to the commercial forecaster, Accu-Weather, "Global air temperatures as measured by land-based weather stations show an increase of about 0.45 degrees Celsius over the past century." (Krause) There are other indications that global warming is in fact taking place. A wide range of evidence suggests that there has been a significant rise in temperature over time since the start of last century. For example, " Since the beginning of the 20th century, the mean surface temperature of the earth has increased by about 1.1° F (0.6°Celsius)" and " Over the last 40 years, which is the period with most reliable data, the temperature increased by about 0.5 " F (0.2-0.3°Celsius)." (Global Environment ) It has been found that the amount of warming during the Twentieth Century was greater than at any time during the past 400 -- 600 years. (Global Environment)

These and other factors clearly indicate that global warming is a reality and that this translates into increasing sea levels. As the ice-caps melt the temperatures rise, causing sea level increases. This has a wide range of important social implications. "Many are agreed that climate change may be one of the greatest threats facing the planet. Recent years show increasing temperatures in various regions, and/or increasing extremities in weather patterns. (Shah) These implications point to the complex relationship between human activities and the natural environment.

The following quotation suggests that the increase in global temperatures has as multivalent effects on human health and society and different repercussions for each region of the world that is affected. "…climate change affects local environments differently, according to characteristics of local geography. Further, the vulnerability of each human population varies as a function of locality, level of material resources, technological assets and type of governance." (McMichael and Woodruff) In other words, the effects of global warming are not uniform but could have varied effects dependent on the areas and on variables such as infrastructure, economy etc.

One of the most important ways in which global warming affects society is the potential increase in the spread of infectious diseases. An increase in temperature as well as subsequent changes in climate and environments can increase the risk of various infectious diseases -- especially those diseases that already occur in warmer climates. An example of this is the increase of tick-borne (viral) encephalitis in Sweden as a result of the succession of warmer winters of the past twenty years. (McMichael and Woodruff)

The effect of global warming on the environment can also have a negative impact agriculturally and consequently on the provision of food and nutrition necessary for human health. It is estimated that "Regional climate stress on agriculture may mean up to 300 million additional victims of malnutrition world-wide each year. " (Sustainable Living) In addition, temperature changes also result in floods and droughts which are becoming more severe as global warming increases. Another important factor affecting health is that these changes might also affect safe drinking water.

… abnormal storms and flooding that have devastated many communities across America in recent years, may also become more common. As the number and severity of these events increase they will pose not only an immediate threat to human health and well being, but also bring dangerous long-term consequences.

(Warming Master File)

Pollution as a result of global warming is also another factor or consider in terms of social consequences. Air pollution, for example, especially when there is a sudden and widespread change in climate and temperature, can result in a number of negative health issues. Adverse weather conditions also increase pollution, particularly through increased temperatures. Hotter temperatures can also increase the likelihood of "secondary air pollutants such as ground-level ozone." (First Annual Science and Policy Research Conference) All of these aspects have repercussion in terms of society and the economy

2.2. Specific aspect of an increase of sea level.

The impact of increasing sea levels has been noted in a report by The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The report entitled Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region examines "…multiple opportunities for governments and coastal communities to plan for and adapt to rising sea levels." (Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region)

Among the findings of the report are the following.

Rising water levels are already an important factor in submerging low-lying lands, eroding beaches, converting wetlands to open water, and exacerbating coastal flooding. All of these effects will be increased if the rate of sea-level rise accelerates in the future.

Most coastal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic would be lost if sea level rises one meter in the next century. Even a 50-cm rise would threaten most wetlands along the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay.

Possible responses to sea level rise include seawalls, bulkheads, and other shoreline armoring; elevating buildings and land surfaces (including beaches and wetlands); and allowing shorelines to change and moving structures out of harm's way. Those three approaches have very different environmental and social impacts. (Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region)

The report also found that, "A substantial acceleration of sea-level rise is likely to increase both the costs and environmental impacts of actions taken in response." (Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region) An

Important factor that the report highlights is that that there are still existing policies that prevent the implementation of measures that would help to prevent the negative social effects of increased sea levels.

One of the most devastating effects of increased sea levels is the displacement of the population as a result of the inundation of low-lying areas. With an increase in sea-level people, people may have to find safety and residence elsewhere and this can result in a refugee situation, with concomitant social problems. As one study notes, "This problem of land loss due to relative sea level rise is pervasive in coastal areas, and is aggravated by high levels of local subsidence." (Impacts of sea level rise)

Many studies point out that developed counties with large coastal populations are especially at risk. "…developing countries with large populations in or near deltas and other low-lying areas… [END OF PREVIEW]

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