SOC 207: Dependence of Man on the Environment
Dr. Jeff Kingsbury
August 23, 2010
Will Going Green Help Save Our Planet?
Global warming is one of the most widely debated issues in our world today. There has been a large amount of research conducted to support both sides of the issue. Regardless of the opposing viewpoints, it cannot be denied that the earth is, in fact, warming up. Some people say that global warming has caused the temperatures on Earth to increase. Sea levels are at all time highs and causing beaches to erode. Some skeptics believe this is just a ploy by the government to make us believe in something that does not exist. There are two sides to every story which makes this debate so interesting.
The implications of global warming are becoming more and more evident every day. Some of the evidence includes increasing temperatures, Arctic sea ice is thinning, ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula are breaking up and disappearing rapidly, sea levels are rising, frequency of droughts, animals breeding earlier or extending their range into new territory, disappearance of amphibians, and storms becoming stronger and more damaging (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2009). The fear is that the earth’s temperature will continue to increase.
Scientists have already noticed a 40 percent reduction in thickness of Arctic Ice due to global warming and climate change (Bird, 2008). If ice continues to melt within these regions the sea level will rise and wipe out various islands and coastal cities. The threat of sea level rise spans an enormous range of possible impacts from the relatively small and manageable to the catastrophic. The idea that serious disasters like these could happen from global warming is cause for alarm. It is even believed that Hurricane Katrina was “enhanced by global warming” (Dye, 2005). Many lives will be affected by global warming if something is not done to reverse or prevent its progression.
According to scientists “global warming” often refers to the warming that can occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gasses from human activities. Since global warming appeared during the last decade as a serious environmental issue, it has been the subject of a lot of debate. “There’s no question that the Earth is getting hotter – and fast. The real questions are: How much of the warming is our fault, and are we willing to slow down the meltdown by curbing our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels?” (Appenzeller & Dimick, 2004). Since the Industrial revolution in the mid 1700’s, there has been a significant increase in the production of greenhouse gasses. Greenhouse gasses, such as water vapor and methane, occur naturally in the environment. Other greenhouse gasses, like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride are created as a result of the industrial process which is used by humans (West, 2009). Greenhouse gasses are the main contributing factor to global warming and climate change. These gasses allow the Sun’s radiation to heat the earth, much like the glass panes in a greenhouse. These gasses also prevent the escape of infrared energy that is radiated from the Earth, which ideally would escape into space (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2009).
Greenhouse gasses have been pinpointed as the main cause of this increase in temperature. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, can be blamed on a sudden and steadily growing increase in the greenhouse effect. Over the past two-hundred years, atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations have increased about thirty percent (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2009). If this trend continues, it could mean an increase in global temperatures. If this increase in the greenhouse effect turns out to be harmful, it will be a matter of too much of a good thing, because the greenhouse effect is a live-giving...