Dincer et al. (2010) defines global warming as a gradual increase in temperature that is experienced globally. They note that the latest studies done like that by a panel that had been convened by the National Research Council of the U.S. in the year 2006, had found out that the world is presently experiencing its highest temperatures. However, there has been a continued controversy over the debate on the extent to which human is responsible for the global warming being experienced currently. With studies indicating that temperature has been rising by approximately 0.1oF every decade, this write-up will be interesting as it endeavors to find out the truth.
Because Global warming is majorly caused by the increase in the percentage of the greenhouse gases whose major producers are humans and the human-based activities, the vice has largely been blamed on the human beings. Bashkin (2003) noted that the principle greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide and methane which are majorly released when man burns fossil fuels. Other human activities that have been related to global warming include industrialization, farming and deforestation. Global warming has been a concern because of its present and potential effect on both human beings and animals. Braasch (2009) observes that the animal species that are not able to adapt to the warming environment are increasingly becoming extinct while the humans are also not excluded because the temperature increase has come with increase in the spread of diseases like malaria.
Is Global Warming Caused by Human Actions?
Reports from various studies have demonstrated that human activities are the major causes of the increase in the greenhouse gases percentage which contain carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons and ozone. According to Bashkin (2003), these gases are majorly released from human’s burning of coal, natural gas and oil. Other human activities that contribute to the release of these gases include a number of agricultural and industrial practices. Together, these factors have greatly changed the atmospheric composition resulting into the currently experienced changes in climate.
The burning of the fossil fuels (coal, natural gas and oil) by man produces carbon dioxide gas. According to Bashkin (2003) the largest percentage of this gas is produced when the fossil fuels are burned to generate energy that is used majorly in transportation, generation of electricity, manufacturing, cooling and heating by man. Besides the carbon oxide gas being added into the atmosphere, the burning of the fossil fuels alone contributes between 80 to 85 percent.
The other human activity that has greatly contributed to the increase in the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is change in the land use. Drallos (2008) observes that the initially fallow pieces of land preserved for wildlife are increasingly being encroached for logging, agriculture and ranching. The vegetation for example contains carbon which it releases into the atmosphere whenever it is left to decay or if burned by man. Even though the amount of carbon dioxide released in this way is minimal, studies have shown that a number of countries have experienced increase in the percentage of carbon dioxide being released and therefore temperatures as a result of changes in land use. Drallos (2008) also notes that the effect of change in the land use pattern has been experienced majorly in the tropical regions due to large scale logging. Overall, change in land use accounts for between 15 and 20 percent of the total amount of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere currently. This shows that the human race is to a large extent linked to global warming.
Equally man has played a major role in the release of natural gas/methane. Bashkin (2003) notes that the gas produced mainly by cultivation of rice, ranching of sheep and/or cattle, and by the materials decay taking place in the landfills. Additionally, the gas is also released during the process of coal mining and oil drilling. Other sources may be the use of the gas pipelines which allow leakages of the gas. Studies have shown that human activities have led to a 145 percent increase in the concentration of methane in the atmosphere.
Another greenhouse gas is nitrous oxide. According to Braasch (2009), its production results from various agricultural and industrial practices. Researches have shown that the amount of nitrous oxide resulting from human activities has led to about 15 percent increase in the amount of the gas in the atmosphere above what would have been present under natural circumstances. Concerning chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), humans have contributed to its release through refrigeration, air conditioning and the use of various solvents. Robinson (2008) notes that even though its effect as a green house gas is minimal compared to the other gases, the increase of its release has come with a great concern internationally. This is because the gas has an effect of depleting the stratospheric ozone layer.
Another greenhouse gas, ozone is produced from various industrial activities. Bashkin (2003) notes that even though the gas is also produced naturally, a greater percentage results from certain reactions occurring in the atmosphere between gases which are generated from human activities, principally nitrogen oxides released from motor vehicles and power plants.
Additionally, the human activities identified above have resulted into the increase in the amount of the small particles found in the atmosphere. This means that such activities as the burning of the fossil fuels and the changes that have occurred in the way in which man is using land can potentially cause a change in the amount of energy the atmosphere can absorb and/or reflect. In addition to this, Drallos (2008) notes that such particles have also been proved to have a modification effect on the clouds by causing variation in their absorption and reflection abilities. Even though the overall effects of these particles is not yet known, it is thought that their net effect is to cool the climate partially offsetting the warming effect that results from the increase in the greenhouse gases concentration.
Drallos (2008) in explaining the mechanism behind the working of the greenhouse gases model emphasizes that, studies have shown that there exists sufficient greenhouse opacity in the tropical latitudes. This results into the conduction of heat away towards the poles from the Earth surface in fluid motions. According to the author, it is this mechanism that has allowed the escape of the emitted thermal radiation to the space.
Although man is still continuing with deforestation activities such as logging, in some parts, man has also championed the need to re-grow vegetation. Robinson (2008) notes that this has especially happened in the north where an increasing percentage of the carbon dioxide is being taken away from the atmosphere. This means that man has worked to reduce the effect of global warming. Another counterargument has been that the effect of ozone would have still remained because apart of being produced from industrial human activities, the gas is also produced naturally. Additionally, Drallos (2008) admits that the contribution of ozone to temperature change is also minimized by the fact that it does not last for long in the atmosphere. It is also argued that ozone hole at the Antarctic does not cause increase in temperature but this increase instead results from the ozone depletion by CFCs and other gases.
It is also argued that global warming had been experienced long before the existence of human beings. Drallos (2008) notes that a group of scholars has emphasized on this to argue that such changes resulted from natural processes whose effects were not initiated by man. This means that the scientists can never ignore the role that is played by natural processes in global warming. This questions the credibility of any general assumptions entirely linking the recent experienced global warming to the effects of human activities.
In explaining the natural causes of global warming, some scholars have also used the relationship exhibited by Milankovitch Cycles. Drallos (2008) explains that this group of scholars has based their explanation of the temperature increase or the variations in solar flux on the basis of the variations of orbits. Positive mechanism in which the increased reflectivity is explained as resulting from snow seasons which is in turn brought about by Milankovitch cooling has been used to further illustrate on the issue with some scholars arguing that the effect can potentially lead to global warming.
Another argument has been that when the issue of global warming is looked at in tens and thousands of years, it reveals a correlation between the change in temperature and that of the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere. Dincer et al. (2010) notes that the point here is that the change of temperature normally precedes that of CO2, changes in the level of CO2 cannot be the possible cause of the current temperature change.
Other natural factors identified include the solar activity. Drallos (2008) notes that though the change in luminosity of solar cannot fully account for the global warming, studies have proved that it has an effect on the temperature of the Earth. He explains that the increase in solar activity also causes increase in solar wind which in its turn has the effect of shielding the Earth from cosmic rays. According to Drallos (2008), it is the cosmic rays which in turn facilitate the formation of the clouds which means that the deflection of the cosmic rays usually increases with the increase in solar activity. The end result of this process is the decrease of the formation of the low-altitude clouds which allows more sunshine on to the Earth’s surface. This is illustrated in figure one of the appendices section and is a clear proof that global warming may as well have resulted from natural causes.
Can the Human Race Take Action to Stop Global Warming?
With the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases and therefore global warming being Carbon dioxide, it is possible that human race can take action to stop global warming. This would be efficiently done by addressing those human activities and changes in various land uses that have the effect of increasing the percentage of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Drallos (2008) argues that putting measures in places to ensure reduction in the amount of fossil fuels being burned is of key importance in such a process. Other key measures would be those aiming to limit/eradicate the destruction of forests. This way, human race would be able to reduce the human caused emissions of the greenhouse gases by 74%.
With the current threat of global warming, various countries and different regions are increasingly coming together in attempts aimed at reducing the amount of fossil fuels being released into the atmosphere as well as promoting the culture of wildlife preservation. These would be possible through various measures aiming to conserve energy as well as promoting the use of the renewable energy sources. Such measures will however require the political will for them to be implemented.
Such attempts may include the signing of membership to various environmental conventions, treaties and other forms of agreement between various nations and regions over the need for environmental conservation. Robinson (2008) noted that one of such conventions is the Framework Convention on Climate Changes which was signed in Rio during the Earth Summit. The convention that was signed by over 160 countries began its operation in 1994. The major agreement was that the amount of CO2 emitted from the industrialized countries should be reduced to the levels where it had been by 1990. The formation of such bodies as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which brings together environmental scientists from all over the world has also demonstrated the willingness and the ability of human race to reduce global warming.
Robinson (2008) identified another agreements as the Kyoto Protocol which brought together 141 countries from 2005 in agreement aimed at bringing different countries into a commitment to cut their emissions. The protocol encouraged the countries to work together on purpose to implement the clean development mechanisms.
Other scholars have argued that human beings with their very nature of wanting more for themselves will never reach a consensus over the appropriate measures to bring global warming under control. Moreover, human’s influence is limited to the human causes of global warming while he can do less to control the natural processes discussed in this paper.
Impact of Global Warming on a Sustainable World
Braasch (2009) has identified various ways in which global warming has impacted negatively on the world. His first argument is that it has led to increase in temperature with that at the Arctic being more severe. He also argues that there is increasing rise in sea level. Drallos (2008) supports this point of view by noting that studies have revealed that there is an increase of the sea level at the rate of between 10 and 20 inches per decade. Braasch (2009) also notes that, global warming has been responsible for various unexpected droughts and floods in various parts of the world. It is estimated that with the current CO2 emission level, the South West of the United States for example may experience a permanent drought by 2050 with the impact being even worse for the Mediterranean region.
The forth effect of global warming according to Braasch (2009) has been the increase in severe weather events. He reports that research has shown that for every 10C rise in the temperature of the sea surface, there is 31 percent increase in the global frequency hurricanes of the categories 4 and 5 annually. The fifth impact of global warming is mass extinction of more than a half of the world’s species. Braasch (2009) reports that research has established that there is an increase of the carbon level which has in turn caused an increase in the level of the acidity. According to Robinson (2008) this has caused a threat to the calcification process. This means that such organisms depending directly on such processes as the creation of shells by the phytoplankton are forced to die or migrate. This is worrying because the loss of these organisms would bring to an end the ecosystem of the ocean. Equally, numerous of the land species have had to migrate from one place to another depending on the changes in climates.
In conclusion, it is clear that even though there are natural processes that may have also contributed to global warming, human race remains to be the major contributor. It is therefore the same human beings who can take measures aimed at reducing the further increase in global warming. This would majorly be through bringing the world together in agreements aimed at reducing the emission of various greenhouse gases as well as those aimed at conserving the environment. Consequently governments must provide the leadership which is needed at all levels through promoting efficient use of energy and other appropriate conservation measures like promoting the use of clean energy technologies.