Over the past several years, the media has literally bombarded the public with a plethora of information pertaining to the implications that the greenhouse effect will lead to global warming. Alan Caruba
explains that it is because of the media’s goal to capture a sizeable audience that these predictions are constantly in the news (58). Some people are convinced that global warming is a serious issue, while others view the information as a bunch of hype and see no reason to be concerned. The evidence presented can be looked at in different ways, and often is, when viewed by different scientists. While Robert C. Balling Jr. admits that the global temperature has increased over the last 25 years, he states that former Vice-President Al Gore and some scientists have overstated the figures (46). On the other hand, Darren Goetze warns that global warming does, in fact, exist and is a real threat to human life, as well as, plants and animals (26). It is because of these conflicting theories that we need to examine the evidence so that we can come to some sort of conclusion and see what, if anything, can be done to preserve our earth.
Recent Atmospheric Changes
For thousands of years, the atmosphere has gone through many stages of warming and cooling. The process has been so slow to progress in the past that plant and animal life have had time to adjust to the changes. Geoffrey Saign warns that “if the current predictions of increased global warming are accurate, the earth’s average temperature would rise higher than it has in the past 125,000 years” (149). Mark Bush has stated that one statistic about hot and cold seasons in not enough proof that global warming is actually taking place, but he also concedes that the 10 highest recorded temperatures have occurred between the years 1980 & 1995 (320).
The above graph shows the record of global average temperatures that has been compiled by the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research of the United Kingdom Meteorological Office. Could the climate’s natural variability be the only cause of these changes? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change doesn’t think so.
Their Second Assessment Report provides evidence that heat-trapping human activities— such as carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil, and gas—are in part driving global warming by increasing the amount of the sun’s heat trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. This extra heat is making the global climate system unstable. The Intergovernmental Panel concluded that the rise in temperature and change in climate are “unlikely to be entirely natural in origin” and that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate”. (Goetze 26)
The Greenhouse Effect & Human Activity
The greenhouse effect is a natural process that occurs when heat from the sun is reflected off the earth’s surface and then held in the atmosphere, instead of escaping into space. Bush explains how this works;
The greenhouse effect is thought to be increased as concentrations of water vapor and carbon dioxide rise or to be lessened as they decline. As air warms, its capacity to hold water vapor increases. If atmospheric pollution causes air temperatures to rise, the water-holding capacity of the air will increase, and it is this additional water vapor that would be the primary greenhouse gas of global warming (Bush 321).
When there are more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then more heat gets trapped in the air around the planet. Saign fears that “humans are influencing the temperature of the planet by releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases” (156). The U.S. Congress states that the impacts on greenhouse gases due to human activity include the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, fertilizing croplands, and heating, air-conditioning, and lighting buildings (3). Some of the gases that are responsible for warming the Earth are; chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxide. Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas and an emission of this gas is added to the atmosphere by burning gasoline in cars, trucks, airplanes, & deforestation. Methane is second in line of importance and is derived from such things as; rice paddies, bovine flatulence, & bacteria in bogs (ecobridge).
Effects of Global Warming
Geoffrey Saign warns people to expect changes to take place due to the effects of global warming. Some of the changes would include; more erratic and unpredictable weather patterns, a melting of polar ice would cause the sea levels to rise, because of increased heat, more moisture would be in the air and this would cause some areas of the world to experience more rain and flooding while other areas would experience major periods of drought, & a loss of biodiversity would make the natural ecosystems highly unstable (150). According to Goetze, “a rise of 6 to 37 inches in sea level with persistent flooding endangering coastal wetlands and human settlements” (27) is a major possibility as well as, a greater chance of more human diseases in tropical areas.
Changing For a Better Earth
Saign suggests several things people can do to help preserve our Earth.
• Practice energy conservation
• Drive less, buy fuel-efficient vehicles, more use of mass transit
• Recycle & use recycled products
• Check into solar and wind energy systems for your home
• Plant more trees in your yard
• Ask your legislators to call for the U.S. to lead the world in required lessening of carbon dioxide emissions
“If we wait for absolute proof that global warming is a serious problem that humans are causing, and it does occur, it may be too late to reverse the trend” (Saign 150).
There are many different solutions, that have been identified by scientists and economists, which are technically feasible and cost-effective if we are serious about reducing emissions in an effort to take care of our planet. By investing in new vehicle technologies, renewable energy sources, and cutting oil and coal subsidies, we would not only help preserve the Earth but, we would have the added benefit of cutting down on air pollution and creating more jobs in the field of technology.
As long as there are individuals with their own opinions living on this Earth, we will continue to hear conflicting viewpoints about whether global warming is real or just a bunch of hype. What we cannot ignore is the fact that the temperatures have been getting warmer every summer and the weather patterns have become very erratic. Whether we are convinced or not that this highly controversial issue is actually taking place, preserving our planet is something that everyone should be concerned with, if not for ourselves, for the future generations to come.
Balling Jr, Robert C. “The Threat of Global Warming Has Been Exaggerated.” Conserving the Environment os (1999): 46-52.
Bush, Mark B. Ecology of a Changing Planet. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1997. 3-350.
Caruba, Alan. “The Media Exaggerate Environmental Crises.” Conserving the Environment os (1999): 58-62.
“Global Warming: the Evidence.” Ecobridge. 12 Apr. 2007
Goetze, Darren. “Global Warming is a Serious Problem.” Conserving the Environment os (1999): 26-29.
Saign, Geoffrey C. Green Essentials-What You Need to Know About the Environment. 1st ed. San Francisco: Mercury House, 1994. 149-164.
Sullivan, W T., comp. United States. Cong. Changing by Degrees-Steps to Reduce Greenhouse Gases. 101st Cong. Washington: GPO, 1985.