Global Warming and Major Changes to the Earth

For the past ten thousand years the earth s climate has been extremely beneficial to mankind. However, nowadays major changes are taking place. Humans beings are changing the face of the entire planet by destroying the rain forests and pumping our pollutants into the air and water. Some of these gases are very toxic and they are destroying our ozone layer which allows life to exist on earth. These things are changing the make-up of the earth s biosphere and its heat balance in a very negative way. In the past decade the greenhouse effect has gained much attention with the media. Because of the pollution in the 1980's and early 90's attention was brought to the greenhouse effect. In overpopulated areas, the amounts of methane and carbon dioxide was growing. Some scientists believe the greenhouse effect is directly related to the earth's warming, others believe it's a cycle of earth's temperatures.

Global warming is an increase in the earth s temperature due to the use of fossil fuels and other industrial processes, leading to a build-up of greenhouse gasses. It has been known that using these gasses stop the suns rays from getting into space. This basic natural process of atmospheric heating is called the greenhouse effect. A rise in temperature could and most likely would cause major climatic changes. This could have serious effects on agricultural productivity. Research shows that the average temperature rose 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit from 1850 to about 1998. Although this rise could be just a natural fluctuation, it could also be from humans pumping fossil fuels into the atmosphere. It can be hard to tell if it is natural or man-made, but according to recent statistics, 1995 was the hottest year on record. Back in the 80 s, four of the warmest years ever were recorded in North America and Western Europe.

Some scientists predict that if greenhouse gasses are not reduced quickly, it could raise the average temperature 1.8 to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. This says the temperature is rising faster because of more fossil fuels and CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere. These increases of temperature, scientists predict, could cause sea levels to rise as much as 10 feet, melt glaciers, and inundate coastal cities and lands. It is also said that potential consequences are so great that many are urging immediate action, and are asking for international cooperation.

Climate change has caused some extreme weather related events in recent years. There have been heat waves in Europe and North America, floods in Africa after nearly 2 decades of drought, and nearly continuous rain and cold weather in the middle of summer in many other locations. In the 80's, six of the hottest years of the century were recorded. This could be a result of a global climate change caused by the chemical pollution of the atmosphere.

The Greenhouse Effect is the roll that the atmosphere plays in insulating and warming the earth s surface. The atmosphere is the part of the earth that is covered by a thin blanket of gasses. Nitrogen and oxygen are the main gasses in our atmosphere. When the sunlight hits the earth it turns to heat or infrared energy. Some of this heat energy is absorbed by soils, plants, and water on the earth s surface. However, a majority of this is reflected back toward space. Carbon dioxide and other similar gasses absorb this heat, and prevent it from going back to space. Carbon dioxide absorbs this heat and warms the atmosphere. It is comparable to a window in a car on a hot summer day. The glass lets in sunlight, but keeps the heat from escaping; like a glass or plastic window in a greenhouse traps heat in order for its plants to grow.

The carbon cycle is a natural process of carbon dioxide entering the air. It is present in some rocks and in coral reefs. Large amounts are also stored in soils, in ocean waters, and in sediments at the bottom of the oceans. It is released by erosion, plants and from decay. The scientists learn about the earth s atmosphere and past by studying glaciers. By drilling more than a mile deep in Greenland glaciers, scientists have collected cores of ice formed a hundred thousand years ago. Their studies show gas bubbles in the ice, which reveal changes in the earth s atmosphere. The scientists have learned that the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth s atmosphere has changed as temperatures and other conditions have changed over thousands of years.

Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere really began to increase in the early nineteenth century with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. When fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are burned, carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Human use of fossil fuels has quickly added large amounts of this gas to the atmosphere. Cutting down forests also adds carbon dioxide, because when wood decays it releases its carbon slowly. Each year many square miles of forests are burned to clear land for farming especially in the tropics. This cutting down of the forests has released at least a billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Methane gas is another gas released during coal mining and the production of petroleum products. Natural gas is also methane, so any leaks during the production or distribution adds methane to the atmosphere. It is produced when forests or grass lands burn, but mainly when dead things decay. It arises where ever decay occurs and there is little oxygen present, like in swamps and rice paddies, from garbage buried in land fills and even from the guts of cows and termites. Cattle are one of the greatest sources of methane because their numbers have more than doubled the number of people. Methane is chemically twenty times more effective than carbon dioxide as a heat trapping gas. Gases called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are also dangerous because they are used as coolant gasses in refrigerators, air conditioners, and insulation. They also use CFC s as propellant gasses in spray cans and in things like the foam in car seats. When we go to a McDonald s or any fast food place, all the plastic containers the food is served in is usually made with CFC gasses. High in the atmosphere the long-lasting CFC's destroy the atmosphere which protects the earth from the suns rays. A CFC molecule absorbs heat ten thousand times more than CO2. Evidence shows that they are adding to the greenhouse effect in the earth s atmosphere and are contributing to the warming of the earth.

Results of Global Warming have been debated heavily among scientists. Some have wondered if the rise in temperature might simply be a result of the growth of cities near weather stations. Urban areas are heat islands because of all there pavement and rooftops that absorb more heat than soils. Research shows that cities have warmer climate than rural areas. However, other research shows that today s most sophisticated climatic models estimate that global temperatures will rise between 3 and 9 degrees by the year 2030. Some of the results from this could be in the warming of oceans and rising seas. Glaciers melting due to the warmer seas will cause them to rise. Some predict a rise of 20 inches to 5 feet in the next 50 years. Just a one foot rise in the sea level can cause shorelines to recede 100 ft, and in flat terrain 1000-ft. Salt-water would pollute freshwater wells that we use for drinking water. Coastal marshes that are vital for fish and other ocean life could also be endangered. Low lands, islands and cities in these areas, like the Caribbean Islands, or the Florida Keys, could actually disappear. Another major factor could be changing weather patterns. Scientists predict that winter temperatures will rise causing less snow, which could mean dryer soils, rivers and lakes.

The oceanic currents that are generated by the contrasts in the temperature between masses of water could shift direction or slow down, and cause some extreme climate changes. On land, rainfall patterns are likely to change in very unpredictable ways. There will be droughts in some areas that can ruin food production that would effect the entire world. Flooding would be a problem, as would more forest fires that would have a devastating effect also. As the ocean temperatures rise hurricanes will become stronger and more frequent with devastation as well. Reducing greenhouse gasses is a must and people must act soon. One of the easiest steps would be to stop the use of CFC gases. They are harmful and trapping heat in the atmosphere and destroying the ozone layer. This allows more cancer causing ultraviolet light to reach the earth. This is a big challenge because we depend so much on coal and oils and the other by-products made from these. Natural gas would be better than burning coal because it emits half the CO2 that coal does. A clean and safe source for electricity would be wind, water, and solar power. There are several small solar energy plants already making electricity in California, and the cost of making it is dropping. Another solution for using less fuel would be to change to electric cars that don t put out any CO2 emissions. We would need to research battery powered or solar power cars. Fuels used to heat buildings could be cut back greatly by doing things like adding insulation and replace windows that easily lose heat. The greenhouse effect has a great impact on the earth. The pollution in our society is gaining day by day. There are many ways to cut down on all of these unnecessary amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. If our society can learn to use less waste, cut down on the smog; the world will be bright in the future as well as pleasant right now.

Scientists believe there needs to be a 50% decrease in CO2 to slow down its increase in the atmosphere. I think it would be a good idea to have a carbon tax on manufacture utilities, so they would consider switching to natural gases. They have to pay a fee for using these gasses. We could put the largest amount of tax on coal, because it has the most carbon. The tropic countries should have to go more towards solar power, because they have the most light. The United States should help the third world countries develop in ways that don t hurt the atmosphere.