Is global warming real? Global warming is defined as an increase in the average temperature of the earth's atmosphere. There is evidence of global warming all around us. For example, if we were to look at a graph of recorded global temperatures from the civil war on we would find that 20 of the 21 hottest years recorded happened in the last 25 years. (Al Gore 72) But for many skeptics this alone is not enough to prove that we are in real danger and that global warming is real. The fact of the matter is that global warming is very real despite what these skeptics might say and we need to learn from it so that we may correct these problems. If we don’t the, penalties could be catastrophic.
So what is global warming and what causes it? Global warming is the increase of the average temperature of earth’s atmosphere. The process of global warming works by the sun’s light waves entering earth’s atmosphere and heating up the earth and is then re-radiated back into outer space in the form of infrared waves. Under normal conditions some of the infrared waves are trapped on earth by its atmosphere. This keeps the temperature of earth at equilibrium so that its inhabitants can survive. Under our current conditions, however, the infrared waves that used to leave earth’s atmosphere are trapped along with the usual amount and this is causing the temperature of our earth to change from its usual equilibrium to a hotter climate which is dangerous to our survival. These infrared waves are trapped by the thickening of our earth’s atmosphere. This occurs from the huge quantities of human carbon dioxide and also other greenhouse gasses that are added to the atmosphere every minute. Greenhouse gasses are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorocarbons. Some are naturally occurring but some are caused by humans burning fossil fuels. Some greenhouse gasses are a good thing. If we didn’t have greenhouse gases the average temperature of the earth would be zero degrees Fahrenheit. Under our current conditions however the concentration of greenhouse gases, is increasing and this is causing the temperature of our earth to rise dangerously. This is the basic idea of how global warming is happening.
So, where are these greenhouse gasses coming from? The first and most well known of the greenhouse gasses is carbon dioxide. It is the most well know because it accounts for about 80 percent of the greenhouse gasses and can come from the most places. Carbon dioxide is recycled by the process of photosynthesis when green plants and other organisms transfer light energy. Photosynthesis transfers carbon dioxide into oxygen and other organic compounds. But under our current conditions there is too much of the carbon dioxide to allow this cycle to change it to oxygen so the carbon dioxide goes to our atmosphere. Methane is the second largest amount of the greenhouse gasses, but its percentage is only at 17. Methane occurs when plants decay and there is not too much air. It is sometimes called swamp gas because it is mostly found near water and swamps. Nitrous oxide accounts for 6 percent of the greenhouse gasses. It occurs naturally from oceans and the bacteria in soil. It is used mostly for an anesthetic because it deadens pain, commonly known as laughing gas. This is the most potent of the greenhouse gasses because it lasts for around 100 years in our atmosphere, which is longer then any other greenhouse gas. The last greenhouse gas is fluorocarbons which make up about 5 percent of the greenhouse gasses. Fluorocarbons are basically any group of synthetic organic compounds that contain fluorine and carbon. Most forms of this can easily go from gas to liquid or vise versa. The current form that is produced in the U.S. is HFC which is used in refrigerators and air conditioners. All of these greenhouse gasses are contributing to global warming and if we do not take action against these the future looks pretty bleak.
What do humans have to do with greenhouse gasses? Humans contribute to all of these greenhouse gasses whether they know it or not. They mostly contribute to the carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere. They do this through the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas which is derived from old dead plants. These three fuels are what we use to run just about everything. Cars, generating electricity, factories, heat our homes, and many other things. All of these things supply carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and thicken it. One other leading contributor to the rising levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is deforestation to clear land for farming and new developments. This releases all the carbon trapped in the trees and also reduces the amount of things that can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Humans contribute to the levels of methane by raising cattle, coal mining, drilling for oil and natural gas, rice cultivation, and garbage sitting in land fills. Each year we add 350 to 500 million tons of methane to the air. Humans contribute to the amounts of nitrous oxide by using it for medical purposes such as a pain killer and also by using it for fertilizer. It is also released from cars but not nearly as much as carbon dioxide is. Each year we add from 7 to 13 million tons of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. This is by far the most harmful of all the greenhouse gasses and something needs to be done. Last, the fluorocarbons are contributed to by humans from the use of air conditioners and refrigerators. All of theses things contribute to the amount of greenhouse gasses and global warming in our atmosphere.
Where is the evidence? The evidence of global warming is all around us. The largest amount of evidence is the fact that all of the glaciers, no matter where they are on earth, are melting at a rapid pace. So rapid in fact, that some scientists predict that they could drown cretin countries partially. This, of course, would be catastrophic and we would be in some real trouble. Another example of evidence is the fact that in certain areas diseases are spreading such as dengue fever and yellow fever which have lain dormant for so long until the earth’s temperature rose enough to take them out of dormancy. Other ways that diseases might come around from global warming is the fact that if earth’s temperatures keep rising mosquitoes and other insects will be able to migrate farther north and south and this will cause the spread of malaria and other diseases that these insects carry. Also with the rising temperature more people will die from heat stroke each year. The Arctic sea which is usually full of ice will soon lose the ice and just be water if global warming continues at this pace. There is evidence that the seas are rising and people who live on islands near the sea are being forced to evacuate their homes. All of the hurricanes that we have had, for instance Katrina which was so powerful is caused by the fact that the oceans temperatures are rising and the warm water is easily taken into the warm air which leads to these baffling storms. The coral reefs in the Caribbean are taking devastating losses. It is projected by some biologists that the coral reefs with the rising levels of carbon dioxide will be non existent as soon as in 50 years. All of this is evidence of global warming but still some people can find excuses to explain all of these phenomena no matter how strong the facts are.
So, what do the skeptics think? Even though it may be hard to believe there are still skeptics out there who think global warming does not exist. They think that it could not be an environmental problem and also that the ice caps and glaciers are not melting. It seems like we must be imagining it. They use the idea that the graph of the climate changes and all the other models that we use to prove that global warming exists is not sound. They say that if the models were correct the last century should have been much worse then it was. They also say that if the climate models are correct then the rise in temperature has happened before and that this is just one of those many warm periods the earth has had. It apparently shouldn’t matter that we are dumping all these greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere it is not effecting anything. But the fact of the matter is that these people are not just uneducated, some of them are even world renowned scientists. This makes people wonder if maybe those people who are saying that global warming is real just might be crazy. Science is all about having proof and the proof is all in front of us. It’s just that we like to imagine that something like this could never happen because that’s what we would want. At first they didn’t believe the man who said the earth was round but look how wrong they were.
Way to fast? The one problem with the skeptics theory is that the temperature is rising at a very fast pace. Never has there been such a steady climb in the levels of heat in their climate until we started using more greenhouse gasses. Also, there has never been a period of time that we have ever experienced such melting of our glaciers and other ice caps. We have never experienced such a time period of warming of the earth. This is the fact, global warming is happening and it’s happening way too fast.
What can we do to help the cause of stopping or at least slowing the effects of global warming? We can encourage the use of alternative energy. Hydro power is currently in use for only about six percent of the world when we have so much water to take advantage of. Wind power is another quite successful way of producing energy. Solar energy is also easy to take advantage of. And Europe even uses nuclear energy quite successfully. All of these energy sources produce no greenhouse gasses. But, by the time we start to fully convert over to these it hopefully won’t be to late. We need to take action now.
Global warming is real whether you accept it or not. Most scientists even predict that in the current children’s lifetime the temperature will raise any where from 2 to 6 degrees. What about their children and their children’s children? Will the kids of the future never know what snow was like? As Winston Churchill said, “The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” Will we be experiencing the consequences or will we leave it for the generations to come. The decision is ours.