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Global Warming and Our Oceans Global warming and climate change has become one of the most heated environmental issues recently that has triggered a lot of controversial responses. Because sunlight is constantly falling on the earth, the law of physics says that the planet has to radiate the same amount of energy back into space. Infrared radiation is sent out by the earth through the atmosphere, where molecules (carbon dioxide) hold outgoing radiation for a while, warming the surface. The molecules are kind of like glass in a greenhouse which is why this process of warming is called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect has been operating since the beginning of time. Without the effect, the surface of the earth would be - 20 degrees Celsius, oceans would have frozen, and there would be no life on earth.
The Washington Post has reported that the earth is warmer than it has been in 1, 200 years. Recently, the summer of 1999 set records for heat in much of the United States. The average world temperature has increased one degree Fahrenheit over the last 120 years, making the world hotter than it has been in 100, 000 years. (Philander 77) From the beginning of the industrial revolution, concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased by 30 %, concentrations of methane have doubled, and nitrous oxide has risen by 15 %. (Philander 79) The increases of these chemicals have enhanced the heat trapping capability of the atmosphere of the earth. Sulfate aerosols, cool the atmosphere because they reflect light back into space, but sulfates do not live long in the atmosphere. Scientists still do not know what exactly is heating up the earth. Some say the earth is going through a natural cycle because the earth has gone through cold periods as well as hot periods.
Mounting evidence is saying that humans are to blame for the rise in temperatures over the past 120 years. When we burn fossil fuel, oil, gasoline, and natural gas to run power plants, cars, and heat homes, we produce carbon dioxide. An increase in carbon dioxide magnifies the greenhouse effect. All this energy accounts for 80 % of society's carbon dioxide emissions, 25 % of methane emissions, and 20 % of nitrous oxide emissions. (Ramankutty 38) In 1994, the U. S. emitted one fifth of all the greenhouse gases in the earth.
Carbon dioxide amounts are now 360 parts per million today, verses 315 per million parts in 1958, when modern technology started, and 270 per million parts in pre-industrial times. (Ramankutty 39) Scientists cannot actually predict what the climate will be like in the future, though. James E. Hansen, a director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says that scientists know too little about the climate to make accurate predictions. In 2000, oceanographers demonstrated that warming is now detectable in the top 10, 000 feet of much of the world's oceans. One question that has always troubled climatologists is how long it takes a change in the atmosphere and near-surface temperatures to be reflected in that deeper ocean. To get a handle on this, we could compare temperatures in the thin oceanic surface layer with those in the deep (10, 000 -foot) column.
There has to be some type of lag, and that lag can help to define how long it takes overall temperature to come to grips with what humans are doing to the atmosphere. Correlation between surface ocean temperatures and those in the surface- 10, 000 -foot depth. The correlation reaches a maximum at around 35 to 40 years. The Bush Administration ignores the terror of environmental peril and denies the reality of 2, 500 United Nations scientists, who tell us that unless we find ways to stop global warming, sea levels could swell up to 35 feet, submerging millions of homes under our present-day oceans. NASA climate scientist James Hansen explained to her how such a storm was consistent with global warming because global warming heats up the oceans surface. That evaporates more water.
Then, when it's cold, all that water vapor makes more snow. Note that this was during the period when Hansen said that emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate. A cursory inspection of the dynamics of mid-Atlantic snowstorms reveals that their limiting factor usually is cold air, not the air's moisture content. The coastal cyclones that cause mid-Atlantic snowstorms typically produce a lot more rain than snow. As a consequence, unless warming causes cooling of the thin wedges of cold air required to make it snow in the mid-Atlantic. The forcing that drive long-term climate change are not known with accuracy sufficient to define future climate change, Hansen said. (Houghton 93) Many people believe that carbon dioxide is nothing to worry about.
And many scientists are turning away from the debate about whether human-induced global warming is taking place. It is true that Earths ocean, plants, soil, and animals naturally release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And other gases such as methane and water vapor trap solar radiation like the way a greenhouse traps the suns warmth. Human activities are adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than are being naturally recycled.
This is what scientist believe is causing global warming. And what are the effects of global warming? Rising temperatures are expected to raise the sea level and change local climate conditions. By changing these conditions, the climate could alter forests, water supplies, and crop yields. This could also threaten human health, and harm many ecosystems of animals. Deserts could expand into range lands and many National Parks could be altered.
And many of the most important impacts depend upon whether rainfall will increase or decrease. The rate of climate change is also much more important than how much the change will be because the rate will determine whether humans and ecosystems can adapt to survive. A decreased day and night temperature and night warming may happen when an increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases takes place. Emissions are a major problem contributing to the greenhouse effect. These gases are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and consist mostly of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. These gases react in sunlight with nitrogen oxides to form photochemical smog.
A lab experiment was done to simulate typical outside conditions. Stems of fescue grass and white clover were cut and tested for VOC content and researchers found that emissions of certain VOCs spiked immediately after cutting, while others continued at a high rate for the next two days. Uncut grass also gives off VOCs and cutting grass makes it worse. In a city like Los Angeles, mowing accounts for 10 % of the VOCs in the atmosphere, say researchers. (Houghton 140) President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore had different stands on the global warming issue. Al Gore was pushing for a radical stand and wanted to cut back on emissions to ten percent below the levels of 1990 and this would require a 20 % cut in the fossil fuel usage. Al Gore even called for a White House conference with weather forecasters saying that the U.
S. should fund more abortions in order to cut down on the number of people populating our world. (Houghton 146) Gore believed that Americans would be thankful in the long run for him saving the world from ecological disaster. Not many people seem to be in favor of a rise in taxes on energy so we can cut usage and stop the warming trend. Steve Forbes is also speaking out on the global warming issue. Forbes believes that practically all of the global warming that has occurred in the past one hundred years took place before green house gas emissions took off. During the 1990 s, many people thought that there was a connection between economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions because emissions have risen and fallen with the nations economic output. (Philander 114) Ever since 1991, emissions have grown nearly 2 % each year because the economy demanded a greater use of fossil fuels.
But now research shows that there is not a link between the economy and emissions. Changes in economy such as the growth of the Internet are allowing economic growth without fuel consumption. And the Energy Information Administration says that the consumption of coal, oil, and natural gas went down last year. Now environmentalists have recommended emissions be cut to prevent the effects of a temperature rise.
But many industry advocates disagree because they are afraid that doing so will lessen their economic growth. Photos of the Arctic ice sheet taken by satellites were released recently. These photos show that the ice is melting at a very rapid pace. Researchers from the University of Colorado and the British Antarctic Survey reported that 1, 100 square miles of ice off Antarctica had broken off in the last year. The researchers say that the ice shelves are in full retreat. (Houghton 181) A couple of years ago a giant iceberg the size of Rhode Island broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and posed a great danger to ships traveling through the South Atlantic Ocean.
If the polar ice caps continue to melt for the next 100 years at the rate they are melting at now, all the worlds coastal cities could possibly be submerged in the sea before the end of the 21 st century. (Philander 166) And even before that happens, the temperature rise would disrupt the Earths climate. Scientists have observed other warning signals about the greenhouse effect. 1998 was the warmest year recorded in history in the northeast U. S. Scientists from the University of Munich reported that spring has started to arrive earlier in Europe and autumn has arrived later. The highest temperatures ever recorded in the Pacific caused the largest die-off of corals in history.
This warm weather destroyed up to 70 % of the corals. (Houghton 202) A Hemisphere-wide climate cycle called Arctic oscillation is stuck in one of its two alternating phasing, which is causing surface winds to sweep larger quantities of ocean air across the northern continents. Many scientists until now even believed in the "Medieval Warm Period" theory where temperatures supposedly rose through Europe and sea ice retreated in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, which allowed Vikings to colonize England. (Houghton 207) Global warming skeptics cite the area where this happened very frequently as an example of climate variation. These skeptics say that the climate changes without the aid of people and they believe that warming would be beneficial. But now new research says that the Medieval Warm Period never even happened. By studying ancient tree rings, glaciers and other measurements of past climate, the thaw seems to be limited to northern latitudes in Europe and North America.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Deputy Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere James Mahoney, taxpayers have already disbursed $ 20 billion at the scientific community for global warming work since 1990. That money would not have arrived if AAAS promoted either the notion that climate change was likely modest or claimed that we knew enough about it that little further research is needed. Rather, it has demonstrably done the opposite in Science, arguably the most prestigious scientific journal in the world. Science publishes a section called Compass that includes perspectives and commentaries, which are subject to peer review.
Since 2000, roughly 75 of those commentaries have been consistent with the view that global warming is a serious problem requiring a massive solution. Not one has emphasized the obvious truth, detailed throughout this book, that warming in the next 50 and 100 years is already known to a rather small range of error and that it is likely to be very modest. But the bias is obvious and understandable. One thing being done to fight global warming is when officials from 150 nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to figure out a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A treaty was agreed on called the Kyoto Protocol, in which the industrial nations pledged to lower their emissions by 2012. (Raloff 325) The U. S. Senate still has to ratify the treaty and other nations such as China, which produces vast amount of carbon dioxide, has refused to sign it. Other action is being taken at every level to reduce, avoid, and better understand the risks associated with climate change. Some cities and states have prepared greenhouse gas inventories and others are pursuing programs and policies that will result in the greenhouse gas emission reductions. The U.
S. Global Change Research Program coordinates the worlds most extensive research effort on climate change. The Administration is aiming at addressing the challenge of global warming and at the same time strengthening the economy. Martin Parry, a geographer at University College in London proposes these measures in the reducing of global warming: Breeding food crops that can better withstand drought; discouraging people from living in flood plains; making irrigation and use of water more efficient. In the United States, some scientists are forming partnerships with public officials, business people, and the public to make their research known.
They are going to assess what climate change means at a local and regional level. (Houghton 249) Deforestation is another issue that is often discussed as a problem contributing to global warming that can easily be stopped. Deforestation has many negative effects such as ecological imbalance, bio-diversity loss, and climate change. Most areas in which deforestation is a problem are located in 3 rd world countries. Deforestation leads to a massive extinction of species as well as vascular plant species, such as trees. When this happens, atmospheric carbon dioxide is increased because the carbon in forests is higher than in the agricultural areas which replace them. Although many skeptics have opposed the issue of global warming, the fact remains that over the course of the twentieth century, the global temperature has increased approximately a half a degree Celsius.
Moreover, it was noted by the World Meteorological Organization that the earths average temperature in 1998 was the highest ever since the first measurements have been taken (Houghton 282). Global warming impacts many of earths environmental factors, such as temperature, sea levels, and precipitation. These environmental factors are all dependent upon each other, and if one factor becomes altered, then all can become unbalanced, resulting in a continuously altered cycle. According to the EPA, a recorded increase in global climate already denotes several changes worldwide. The recent back-to-back major hurricane season, which is not...
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