Global Warming: Cause and Mitigation
SCI 110 - Introduction to Physical Science
June 12, 2013
Global warming, also referred to as climate change, is real. The question remains, is man or Mother Nature responsible for causing it? The Nobel Prize-winning chemist Svante Arrhenius first proposed the idea of global warming in 1896. He knew that carbon dioxide traps heat in the earth’s atmosphere and that burning fossil fuels releases CO2 (Bryan). We know that there are some things that naturally cause climate change and are not in our control. Among them are small explosions on the sun which cause an increase in the normal heat output emitted by the sun, volcanic eruptions that cause a decrease in temperature due to the smoke and gas they put into our atmosphere, and the axis and tilt of our planet earth. Because the earth does not rotate around the sun in a perfect circle, a change in orbit can move the earth closer or farther away from the sun, our provider of heat and light, which can have a major impact on our climate. According to NOAA1, the “tilt” of the earth will give us either more severe weather –warmer summers and colder winters; or less severe weather –cooler summers and warmer winters. The earth is naturally colder than the sun, but thanks to our atmosphere and the greenhouse effect, it’s much warmer here than it is in space (Blue). Our planet is unique because it has the ability to absorb and reflect radiation from the sun and our atmosphere has multiple tiers and contains greenhouse gases. The greenhouse effect is natural and necessary to sustain life on earth by providing heat to the lower atmosphere. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Under normal atmospheric conditions, they work in harmony to prevent part of the heat emitted by earth from escaping into space (greenhouse gases and climate change. [Video]. In Encyclopedia Britannica) Other greenhouse gases are manufactured, like chlorofluorocarbons (aka CFC’s) used in solvents, refrigerants, and aerosols. There was a large concern in the 70’s over CFCs breaking down the earth’s ozone layer, the layer of the atmosphere responsible for absorbing the sun’s radiation. When the natural balance of the atmosphere is disrupted, the sun directs more harmful infrared rays towards the ground and amplifies the warming of the planet. The world took notice in the 70’s and the realization was made that CFCs were indeed harming our earth’s fragile ozone layer and in 1985 the Vienna Convention was adopted to formalize and tackle this world-wide issue. The Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987 further reducing the use and production of CFCs. It is believed that due to these measures, the ozone with heal itself in about 50 years (EPA.gov) The Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) has contributed to a steep rise in man-made global warming. During this period, factories started burning fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide to fuel automobiles, and provide heat and light for our homes. According to NASA, as of 2009 CO2 levels have risen 38% and Methane levels have risen a staggering 148% since 1750 causing a rise in temperature on the earth’s surface. Other contributions arise from things we need to survive and sustain a more comfortable life for humans including an increase in agricultural farming and livestock practices, production of oil and natural gas, forest clearing, and decomposing garbage and sewage (Encyclopedia Britannica). Methane is the fastest growing greenhouse gas with cows and livestock accounting for largest amount of human related activity (EPA.gov)
Skeptics of global warming will argue that the earth is subject to “cycles” of warming and cooling, or “little ice ages”. I don’t argue with this, but what I do argue is that mankind is contributing to the speed and intensity of the...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document