There are many problems concerning the environment. Pollution, destruction of the rainforests, and the consumption of all of our planet's natural resources are just a few. None of these issues quite compare to the problem of global warming. Global warming is a problem that affects not just some people, but everything and everyone. People must take action to stop global warming and must realize the severity of this problem before it is too late. The future depends on what we do now to slow the process of global warming.
What exactly is global warming? Global warming is a problem that emerged as a major issue in the late 1980's. Global warming can be defined simply as a rise in the average land temperature around the earth (Hynes 181). Currently, the average temperature of the earth is roughly 57 degrees Fahrenheit (Schneider 16). This temperature could be the result of several different factors. Some of the factors that cause the earth's temperature to rise are natural, but humans have caused many others.
Surrounding the issue of global warming is the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect plays an important role in the issue of global warming, but it is not the reason behind why global warming is occurring. The earth produces greenhouse gasses naturally, and without this gas, humans along with many other forms of life, would not be able to survive. The reason for this is that earth would be much too cold for many life forms to exist if it did not have some form of gas to heat up the environment. Without the greenhouse effect the earth would be 40-60 degrees cooler than its current temperature (Hynes 176). The problem though, is that the earth is producing an abundance of this gas, and we are going to become much too warm (Schneider 13). Life cannot survive in a certain amount of warmth as well, so a middle ground must be sustained.
Although some scientists dispute that humans are in any way responsible for the rise in the amount of greenhouse gasses many others believe that humans are partially responsible (What is global warming?). Numerous things can cause the amount of greenhouse gasses on the earth to rise. The Industrial Revolution of the early 1900's is said to have increased the level of carbon dioxide by 30 percent, methane by 100 percent, and nitrous oxide by 15 percent (Global Warming). Another one of the factors that can increase the levels of greenhouse gasses is the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels make up 90 percent of the commercial production of energy in the world today (Gribbin 235). This percentage is far too high for the environment to handle.
Along with the variety of causes for global warming, there are also many results from global warming. Several of these results are negative; there really are not any benefits from the earth growing warmer. One of the major negative effects of global warming would be an increase in disease (Hynes 182). Diseases such as Malaria, Hantavirus and many others would be much more common because they would survive better in a warmer climate. Another negative effect of our planet growing warmer would be an increase in the number of natural disasters (Hynes 182). There are a number of natural disasters that would occur more frequently in a warmer environment.
The occurrence of hurricanes most importantly, along with a slight increase in the number of tornadoes, floods, droughts, acid rain along with warm and cold extremes as well, would be much more common if the balance of our planet's temperature was thrown off. Natural disasters such as "superhurricanes" for example, would occur because of warmer surface temperatures of ocean water (Hynes 182). Storms of this magnitude would produce winds up to 225 miles per hour (Hynes 182). An increase in the number of floods and tornadoes would be a result of these storms.
In spite of the fact that many of the problems concerning global warming are very serious, a large number of them would be able to be dealt with by humans through some action. The biggest problem, though, is something that humans cannot control: rises in sea levels and thermal expansion of our oceans. Thermal expansion takes place when the average temperature of the water in the ocean is increased (Gribbin 20). Because the water is warmer it expands, and therefore occupies more space. Because of this, a one-to three-foot rise in ocean levels could occur. If the seas do expand at the current rate, by the year 2075 the oceans could be as much as seven feet higher than they currently are (Houghton 176). This could cause the arctic ice sheets and some glaciers to partially melt. The melting of ice and its replacement by forestland would only add to the amount of water in the oceans. This rise in the level of our oceans could have a tremendous impact on the earth. It would cause $10-100 billion in repairs along some shorelines in the United States alone (Hynes 181). This is only including the East Coast of our country. Since a significant portion of the country consists of shoreline, the amount of the damages would be massive.
The many effects faced by humans because of global warming are of course very important. Because global warming is a global issue it will effect more than just human beings. It will have a profound effect on plant and animal life as well. With an increase in the earth's temperature of just 3 degrees Celsius, seven to eleven percent of the North American plant species would be threatened (Global Warming). Many would not survive the change in temperature. With just a 1 degree Celsius change in temperature it could potentially change some temperature zones. In order to stay alive many plants would have to migrate up to 100 miles northward of where they currently are just to stay alive. Many plants would not survive this (Global Warming). Along with plant life, many fish and other animals are strongly associated with climate. With a rise in the temperature there would be a great loss of the amount of cold water fish that are able to survive in the oceans (Global Warming). This would in turn have and effect on many other species that are involved with fish in the food chain.
Global warming is not a problem that will be impossible to solve. It has become a large political and social issue in recent years. The government and numerous other organizations have already come up with many solutions. Some solutions to global warming involve the development of federal admission standards and laws (What is Global Warming?). This means that the amount of fossil fuels and carbon dioxide that will be burned is going to be controlled. Other solutions would be to make people aware of the fact that too many fossil fuels are being used. Some examples to stop the use of fossil fuels would be car-pooling, using public transportation, and building vehicles that are more focused on electric power and are safer for the environment. Along with many other solutions, one that would have a large impact on the environment, is nuclear power use. Nuclear power needs to become safer and more widely known. The effects on the environment are not as profound when nuclear power is used because it does not put out the pollutants that substances like gasoline and oil do, but the technology is still very expensive and not very much is know about it.
Cost is a very big issue when it comes to global warming. Almost all of the solutions for stopping global warming involve the need for money. The great need for money is due to all of the research that needs to be done to come up with real solutions to stop global warming. Whether it is to build something, or to fund research, the question many people have is; where is this money going to come from? Private organizations and government agencies are the two major sources of funding to stop global warming.
Action must be taken against global warming before it is too late. According to environmentalist Stephen Schneider it could take another decade or so of record heat, forest fires, intense hurricanes, and droughts to convince skeptics of the global warming problem. Public awareness is of great concern when dealing with the issue of global warming. Many people do not realize the magnitude of the problem and have not done their part to stop it from happening. Global warming is a problem that 2,500 of the worlds leading experts say is definitely occurring (Global Warming). Although some scientists do not agree with this it is better to be on the safe side of the issue. The year 1998 was the hottest year recorded in the history of the world and the temperature around the globe is currently higher than it has ever been since the year 1862 (Global Warming). The rate of global warming in the last 20 years has been the fastest ever (Hynes 171). If this issue is not addressed, future generations of the world will be forced to suffer the consequences of our actions, or the actions we did not take.