greenhouse effect and global warming, and the scientific concepts behind these issues affecting the world today. The greenhouse effect and global warming are two of the most important scientific issues facing the planet today, and for the future generations, they will be one of the biggest issues to be addressed and managed.
The greenhouse effect, contrary to popular belief, is actually what keeps this planet habitable and comfortable for all living things. It is a natural process that keeps the Earth warm by keeping certain gases in the atmosphere, where they reduce some of the radiation from the sun’s rays, and keep the planet a comfortable temperature. One scientist notes, “The amount of heat energy added to the atmosphere by the greenhouse effect is controlled by the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere” (Pidwirny). Without the greenhouse effect, the planet would be too cold for life; the average temperature would be about -18 degrees Celsius, while the current comfortable temperature is 15 degrees Celsius (Pidwirny). The greenhouse effect gets its name from the fact that it resembles what happens in a greenhouse – the sun’s rays warm the greenhouse and keep it warmer than the surrounding area because it holds the heat inside, just as the greenhouse gases and atmosphere hold the heat around the Earth. That is one of the things us environmental lobbyists have to face many times. People think the greenhouse effect is something to do with global warming, and of course, it has to do with the atmosphere and gases in the atmosphere, but as you can see, the greenhouse effect is a necessary part of life, while global warming is not.
Global warming is related to the greenhouse effect, however, because the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have been increasing in the last decade, and that means the heat from the sun, radiating back to Earth as the greenhouse effect, is becoming warmer, leading to climate change and disruption of many areas here on Earth. Much of the evidence that global warming is occurring comes from ice core samples from the Arctic and Antarctic, which indicate a drastic increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the last century, which have helped create more greenhouse gases, which leads to global warming. Another scientists notes, “Over the past 260,000 years, the period for which a detailed record now exists from ice cores, temperature and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane have been closely correlated” (Johansen xiv). The most probable cause is man, using more machinery than ever before in history, and this machinery, which largely runs on fossil fuels, leads to more carbon dioxide emissions and more greenhouse gases. The key determinate is that carbon monoxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been in the last 20 millions years, according to the ice core samples (Johansen xiv), and they are continuing to rise, and global warming is continuing to occur. The key link to humans is that the rise in the use of machinery since the industrial revolution, which correlates with the rise in carbon dioxide levels. Scientist Johansen continues, “With the exception of a minority, the human role in a rapid warming of the Earth has become nearly incontrovertible” (Johansen 33). This is not based on conjecture, but scientific study that includes history of the problem, charting for the future, and actual examples of the effect global warming or climate change is having right now on the weather and climate here on Earth.
There are those who believe global warming is a myth, and that the ice core samples are misleading. A reporter notes, “Ice core samples from Antarctica have been used as proof of how warming over the centuries has been accompanied by raised CO2 levels. But Professor Ian Clark, an expert in palaeoclimatology from the University of Ottawa, claims that warmer periods of the Earth’s history came around 800 years before rises in carbon dioxide levels” (Wheldon 28).
However, these critics are in the minority, and more scientists than ever before believe global warming is occurring right now, and we are close to (if not already there) the “tipping point,” where no matter what measures we take, we will not be able to overcome the effects of climate change on the planet.
There are several models using the scientific method used to measure and support the concept of global warming. Scientists are measuring items that have remained on Earth for millions of years, such as the ice core samples, but they are also measuring tree rings and other living indicators of the Earth’s temperature. Scientist Johansen continues, “By 1998, the Earth had sustained 20 consecutive years above the 1961 to 1990 average temperature, with the upward curve steepening toward the end of the period” (Johansen 34). This has continued into the 21st century at an even steeper rate, and the scientific evidence points to even greater warming in the next decades.
The bottom line on global warming is that people need to take it more seriously. It seems that many people still do not understand the reality of global warming, and that if the planet continues to warm the way it has been over the past 200 years, there will be a time when it becomes inhabitable for human life. In addition, there will be dire consequences for humans before that, (such as the ocean levels rising, wiping out millions of miles of coastline and cities), the rain forests disappearing, weather becoming much more drastic, and many other situations. The risks are great, and the benefits (additional rainfall in some areas, for instance), are few.
Of course, something must be done. People can conserve and begin to think “green” in an effort to conserve carbon dioxide, and they can drive cleaner vehicles, and many people are already doing that. However, a larger, global solution must be developed that can tackle the problem on a larger scale. That is why my environmental group is proposing to fund a project to wrap the Earth’s ice sheets in plastic wrap or another material, retaining the ice and keeping it from melting, which helps to reduce the effects of global warming, because the ice actually reflects the sun’s rays, helping to keep the Earth cooler. As the ice disappears, it actually enhances global warming, so keeping the ice is one key element of helping to stop global warming. A test project in Greenland indicated that covering the ice with a layer of reflective white plastic does indeed protect the ice from melting, and on a grand scale the project could cover the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, which would help keep ocean levels from rising due to ice melt, as well.
There are two problems with our proposal. First, the cost of creating the plastic wrap is heavy, and producing plastic uses fossil fuels, so another type of material should be developed that would withstand the drastic weather conditions at these sites, but would still protect the ice from melting. The other problem is actually deploying the covering – it is labor intensive and requires dedication from the individuals working to deploy the coverings. The other risk is that this is just one part of a solution that must be addressed globally. Reducing energy emissions, more research, and other creative solutions will need to be developed, and quickly, if we are to truly stop global warming and turn the climate around.
In conclusion, global warming is a serious issue that most people seem to be ignoring. You cannot “see” global warming, but it is as dire a threat as the threat of terrorism is to our country. Scientific evidence supports the idea of global warming, and even if some people choose to believe it does not exist, there is overpowering evidence that it does, it is affecting our lives right now (larger storms, more and more devastating hurricanes, etc.), and it is going to continue to affect our lives in the future. We need to think outside the box when it comes to global warming, and we need to start now.
Editors. “Wrapping Greenland.” Discovery.com. Oct. 2008. 19 Dec. 2008. http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/project-earth/lab-books/greenland/greenland-guide1.html
Johansen, Bruce E. The Global Warming Desk Reference. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.
Pidwirny, M. “The Greenhouse Effect.” Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition. 2008. 19 Dec. 2008. http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/7h.html
Wheldon, Julie. “Greenhouse Effect Is a Myth, Say Scientists.” The Daily Mail 5 Mar. 2007: 28.
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