Global warming is now recognized by almost all scientists, and they recognize that humans are increasing the rate of global warming. Global warming has become a major concern of humanity since the middle of the 20th century. It was namely then that the first increase in the Earth’s temperature was registered. The temperature became less than one degree higher, but on a global scale, this is very high. Global warming is increasing each year. Humanity's contributions to global warming are in the form of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), which prevent heat from escaping the earth. The result is increasing temperatures, up to 4 degrees, across the planet. In such a condition, many forms of plant and animal life can and will die.
Per unit of mass, methane has 25 times the greenhouse effect as carbon dioxide, but there is more than 50 times as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as methane, so carbon dioxide has the larger overall greenhouse effect. However, the increasing temperatures can cause the permafrost in Siberia to melt, and if that melts, millions of litres of methane will be let into the athmosphere.
We now stand at a fork in the road:
- One path leads to more money for entrepreneurs and politicians influenced by major corporations, but will most likely further damage our world for our posterity. This is the easy route. We do nothing different.
- The other path leads to recognizing the threat that global warming is, and its effects on climate change. Should the United States sign the Kyoto protocols at last, so will many other nations, as the United States is the example that many other nations follow.
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Consequences of global warming
Global warming has become a major issue. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is so far beyond normal that the ice caps will continue to melt way past 2050 and we are continuing to add more. This will speed up global warming, giving us less time to prepare for the consequences or to invent new technology to prevent it.
There have been 5 ice ages in the past 600,000 years. In the past 600,000 years carbon dioxide has never exceeded 300 parts per million. Today it is 450ppm, and in 2050 it will be 700ppm.
- Ocean ice at the North Pole does not increase sea levels when melted, but land ice in Greenland and Antarctica does.
- The ice thickness at the North Pole has decreased 40% in the last 40 years. The polar ice reflects 90% of sunlight. Without the ice only 10% will be reflected, thus further melting the ice and increasing ocean temperatures.
- Greenland's ice would increase sea levels by 7 metres (about 20 feet). This would flood our largest cities and displace more than 100 million people.
- The ice on the entire continent of Antarctica has never completely melted in recorded history of 500,000 years. But there is a possibility, that if the global warming continues, then all of Antarctica will melt, increasing sea levels by another 45 metres (about 150 feet). A positive effect to this will enable many places on Earth that were too cold to live to become more bearable for human settlement. People could start colonizing Antarctica, and start populating the currently less inhabited areas of Canada and Siberia. As the Greenland ice sheet continues to melt, Greenland's climate will become more of a habitable tundra and even some forests may grow in the southern edges, resulting in more opportunity for human settlement. Antarctica and Canada could become new world economic superpowers because of the change in climate.
The United States is one of the few countries not to have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and since the U.S. is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gasses, this is disastrous. Canada has ratified but the current federal government refuses to implement it. 11 states and 86 U.S. cities are implementing the Kyoto Protocol.
The average American car gets 20 miles to the gallon. We can't sell our cars in China because they don’t meet the Chinese environmental standards. California passed a law stating that by 2017 all cars sold in California must get 30 miles to the gallon.
See also: Gas Mileage Standards
- More hurricanes will be category 5 or above. A new category 6 rating could be considered for hurricanes that have sustained wind speeds of 200 mph or higher.
- Hurricanes will happen every year in the South Atlantic affecting Brazil. Which never was supposed to happen until the hurricane that occurred there in 2004.
- Rainfall will become more frequent in some regions and less frequent in others. This will turn some forests into swamps, cause rivers to dry out and in general cause massive floods and droughts.
- Sweltering heat waves such as the heat wave that impacted Chicago in 1995 and the heat wave that impacted Europe in 2003 will be more common. Temperatures in some parts of the Middle East, Sahara Desert, Australia, and the Southwestern United States could have temperature surpassing 140 degrees F or higher, with 130 degree temperatures becoming almost as common as 120 degree temperatures in some places. Even at lower temperatures such as around 100 degrees F, heat waves would become even more unbearable for humans because of a high wet bulb temperatures, making it more difficult or even impossible for humans to naturally cool off from the intense heat. This effect is very similar to the temperature and humidity conditions of a hot shower or a steam room. People can only withstand temperatures of a hot shower for only a few minutes before becoming uncomfortable. The same effect will take place with high wet bulb temperatures, making places such as the Southeastern parts of the United States very unbearable during some heat waves.
- Pollution is increasing.
- Deforestation is containing.
- Forest fires happen more frequently.
- Topsoil is disappearing.
- The permafrost is melting. Billions of tons of methane & carbon dioxide are being released from methane hydrates & the permafrost.
- 50% of all species since 1492 will be extinct. Polar bears are drowning because of melting polar ice, and many other habitats are also being destroyed.
- Coral reefs are in trouble. 25 million tons of carbon dioxide is being absorbed into the ocean every day. This increases the pH level and makes the ocean more acidic. Hot water that holds more carbon dioxide holds less oxygen. Fish need oxygen. Red tide is also terrible for fish. Less fish means less sea food, and less sea food means more famines.
- Brazil is energy independent. 86% comes from renewable resources. There is a 59 cents per gallon United States tariff on Brazilian ethanol.
- 40% of the world’s water supply comes from rivers and lakes. That water comes from mountain ice. All mountain ice will be gone. The Rio Grand will almost never reach the ocean. Lake Chad will be gone. Kilimanjaro's ice will be gone sometime during the next 5 to 7 years.
- The Amazon River dried up for the first time in 2005. The rainforest will turn into grassland, then desert, or, as some have suggested, a large swamp.
- Ground water in desert regions is very low and will soon be gone.
- Crop yields will decrease with less water. Insects that eat crops are increasing with warmer winters.
- Less oil means higher oil prices. Higher oil prices mean higher fertilizer prices. Higher fertilizer prices mean higher food prices.
- Trees are being cut down without new ones being planted, causing less CO2 to be turned into oxygen. In poor regions, the trees are being burned and the ash used as fertilizer, but once the plants are harvested, the area is useless and turns into desert. Burning trees also increases the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.
- Diseases under control by the cold will become uncontrollable. West Nile virus spread in just 5 years across the United States.
- Parasites that cause diseases will be able to survive at higher elevations.
- Parasites will be able to survive for a longer periods of time during the year, and year round in some places.
- Heat waves will kill the weak, the old, and small children.
A new ice age?
Though global warming is most often associated with rising temperatures and the formation of large uninhabitable deserts, there is also a great possibility that a new ice age will begin (like in "The Day After Tomorrow"). This is because, that when the ice in the North Pole and Greenland melts, the Gulf Stream becomes unbalanced, thus cooling Europe and North America instead of warming it, and this can possibly cause a new ice age.
Technologies to fix the problem
Plans are currently under way to avert the effects of global warming and greenhouse gases. Since the primary culprits are carbon dioxide and methane, all of these plans involve carbon/methane “gasses”—ways of storing atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane in various locations, both natural and artificial. These involve the following:
- A project known as “iron seeding” involves dispersing bits of iron across the oceans to stimulate plankton growth as a biological carbon sink. You can read more about this topic at iron seeding.
- Currently a method under investigation involves pumping carbon dioxide into underground oil stores. This process will force the oil out of the underground caves for commercial use while simultaneously trapping carbon dioxide under the ground.
- In most developed nations, forest/tree restoration projects are underway. It is hoped that these trees would not only beautify their surroundings, but also act as an effective carbon sink.
- Some chemical processes are able to convert methane into carbon dioxide. Since methane is about 25 times as effective a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide, this will greatly reduce the effects of the gas on world temperature.
- 'Cloud seeding' —forming clouds by starter molecules dispersed by aircraft. These clouds will help to reflect sunlight and thereby reduce the effects of global warming.
While many scientists warn of the risk of a 1 to 10 meter rise, few speak of the nightmare scenario, a rise in ocean levels by 100 meters. However, this is highly unlikely as the melting of all ice on Earth would "only" increase sea levels by 60-70 metres.
- Climate Change - A consequence of global warming, more extreme weather already seems to be happening. It is notable that the length and severity of the hurricane season depends on the temperature of water in equatorial lattitudes. A increase of just 1 degree Celsius in the temperature of the water represents a huge increase in the energy and potential severity of tropical storm.
- The Canary Project is a superb website with photos of landscapes undergoing extreme change as a result of global warming.