Environmental effects of global warming
The greenhouse effect and global warming are issues that are talked about by geologists
all the time. The greenhouse effect is a natural process that keeps the earth at temperatures that
are livable. Energy from the sun warms the earth when its heat rays are absorbed by greenhouse
gasses and become trapped in the atmosphere. Some of the most common greenhouse gasses are
water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane. If there were no greenhouse gasses, very few rays
would be absorbed and the earth would be extremely cold. When too many rays are absorbed, the
earth's atmosphere starts to warm, which leads to global warming. Global warming can lead to
many problems that affects the environment in which we live.
In order to talk about global warming, we must first learn what causes the greenhouse
effect. A lot of the rays from the sun are absorbed by water vapor that is naturally in our
atmosphere. Water vapor accounts for "80 percent of natural greenhouse warming. The
remaining 20 percent is due to other gasses that are present in very small amounts" (Murck,
Skinner and Porter 488). Carbon dioxide is also a big absorber of the sun's heat rays. Humans
can cause a lot of carbon dioxide to be released. Every time we burn fossil fuels, we release more
carbon dioxide. Emissions from cars also increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere. If there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere more rays from the sun are
absorbed. This will cause the atmosphere and the earth's temperature to warm. The warming of
the earth will cause the oceans to become warmer. When they heat up, more water is evaporated,
causing more carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. Once this process starts, it is
extremely hard to control. If the temperature keeps rising, more carbon dioxide will be released.
Another greenhouse gas is methane: "Methane absorbs infrared radiation 25 times more
effectively than carbon dioxide, making it an important greenhouse gas despite its relatively low
concentration" (490). There have been many studies on how methane is released into the
atmosphere. Methane in the atmosphere is "generated by biological activity related to rice
cultivation, leaks in domestic and industrial gaslines, and the digestive process of domestic
livestock, especially cattle" (490).
An environmental effect of global warming is the fact that higher temperatures will lead to
a change in the water cycle. Some places may experience more rain. Warmer temperatures will
cause a greater amount of evaporation from lakes, rivers, and oceans. In some areas this could be
good, and in others it could be considered bad. In northern regions of the United States, an
increase in the temperature and amount of rain could actually extend the growing season of crops.
This would in turn mean more money for farmers in the northern region. It could also hurt some
farmers. Too much rain is bad for some crops. Certain areas will actually get less rain, which
would lead to more droughts and have a negative impact on crops. Warm and wet weather is
usually a factor that promotes tropical storms. Global warming would lead to tropical storms'
appearing with greater frequency. More rain will also force plant life to adjust. Forests and plant
life migrate naturally, but scientists say that global warming would cause them to migrate at a
much faster rate. If the climate changes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says,
"some forest species in North America will shift by as much as 300 miles to the north"
(www.pirg.org/enviro/global_w/fact.htm). If a region is getting more rain and plants on the
border of that region need rain to survive, they will naturally begin growing in the new region.
The Environmental Media Services Organization has found that...
Cited: "Fast Facts" 1999. Environmental Media Services. 20 Jan. 2000
"Malaria and Dengue Fever" World Wildlife Fund for Nature. 20 Jan. 2000
Murck, Barbara, Brian Skinner, and Stephen Porter. Environmental Geology. New York: John
Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996.
"Stop Global Warming." Mar. 1999. Public Interest Research Groups. 20 Jan. 2000
Tarbuck, Edward and Frederick Lutgens. Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology. New
Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996.
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