Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Global Warming

         Do you really think the Earth is undergoing abnormal temperature increases?  Do you really think that greenhouse gases emitted from human activities such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation are causing massive changes in our climate?  How harmful do you think the 1 degree Fahrenheit world wide rise in surface temperature over the course of the 20th century could really be?  Is global warming really real or are some people just using the issue to make billions of dollars and increase the government's role in our lives from the cars we drive to the foods we eat?
     Global warming is more than just surface temperatures increasing.  A lot of research into temperature changes in the upper layers of the atmosphere as well as the deep oceans shows warming.  More obvious signs include the retreat of glaciers in Greenland, Alaska, Himalaya, and the Antarctic Peninsula.  Also, the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean during summer, melting permafrost in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia, and the rise of sea levels and increases of extreme weather all indicate that global warming and climate change are really happening.
     The cause of global warming can be described through the greenhouse effect.  This means that gases in the atmosphere prevent some sunlight from being reflected back into space.  By keeping sunlight that has been reflected, this causes the Earth  to warm.
     The greenhouse effect isn't a bad thing and is essential for life on Earth.  If the greenhouse effect was non existent, temperatures would swing wildly from 225 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to -243 degrees Fahrenheit at night.  This would not be a good place for life.  The greenhouse effect is only troublesome when it occurs too rapidly and things warm too much which is what is currently happening.  For the last 150 years,  people of industrialized nations have extracted vast amounts of buried fossil fuels and burned them.  Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased nearly 30 percent, methane has more than doubled, and the nitrous oxide concentration are up about 15 percent.  These extra greenhouse gases mean increased amounts of solar energy is being trapped in the atmosphere speeding the greenhouse effect and making things warmer.
     But what are the effects of global warming?  Some of the devastating effects of global warming include heat waves, droughts, increased hurricanes, and massive sea-level rise.  The effects which are happening all around us include more intense heat waves that will disproportionately affect the elderly and poor, more severe storms that wreak havoc in our homes and communities, and all kinds of changing cycles in the natural world.  Regarding the economy, global warming is big business.  Some economists say that a warmer climate would benefit some crops and the farming communities.  However, property insurers predict that worsening storms caused by global warming could eventually bankrupt the insurance industry.
     The causes of global warming include carbon dioxide from power plants, cars, trucks, airplanes, buildings, and deforestation.  Methane, another cause of global warming, is emitted from sources including rice paddies, bacteria in bogs, and fossil fuel production.  Most of the world's rice is grown on flooded fields causing the organic matter in the soil to decompose releasing methane into the atmosphere by chemical reactions that involve sunlight.  Nitrous oxide, another source, is commonly known as "laughing gas" and is sometimes used as an anesthetic.  Man-made sources include nylon and nitric acid production, the use of fertilizers in agriculture, cars with catalytic converters, and the burning of organic matter.  Nitrous oxide is broken down in the atmosphere by chemical reactions involving sunlight.
     The good news is it is not too late to act.  One way to stop global warming is the nuclear option.  Nuclear power produces clean energy but at a high risk.  Take the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Ukraine, where serious contamination spread throughout Ukraine and Russia.  Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated and millions were left to live in areas that were dangerous to their health and lives.  Studies show that the full consequences of the Chernobyl disaster could cause up to 250,000 cancer cases with nearly 100,00 that were fatal.  Dangerous situations including uncontrolled reactions have occurred in the last ten years in Japan, the US, UK, Sweden, Bulgaria, and other places.  Recently, the Spanish Asco nuclear plant experienced numerous errors and safety system failures resulting in radioactivity being released.  In my opinion, nuclear power is just not worth the risk.
     Another solution is creating a new power grid.  We could do this by using Super Cables to transport energy in both chemical and electrical form.  Using such system, electricity would travel nearly resistance-free through pipes made of a super conducting material.  Chilled hydrogen in liquid form inside the conductors would keep the temperature near absolute zero.  Transitioning to a Super Grid would take at least a century to complete.  The evolution would incorporate new technologies into every level of the energy infrastructure: generators, transformers, power transmission, and consumption.  This system would greatly increase efficiency, reliability, and our ability to harness electricity from renewable energy.
     Another plan is Greenpeace's Energy Revolution.  This plan demonstrates that phasing out nuclear power and massively reducing carbon dioxide emissions is possible.  The plan comes close to completely phasing out fossil fuels and reducing CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050.  It incorporates green technologies including wind energy, solar energy, hydro power, geothermal energy, biomass, and wave-tidal energy.  Click Energy Revolution to view this plan.
     But how can we act on the individual level?  Green Living is the latest trend.  Green living is a lifestyle intended to insure that one's impact on the environment is as minimal as possible.  An easy ways you can make a big difference is by replacing your light bulbs with energy efficient CFLs.  It will save you about $30 dollars over its life time and pay for itself in about six months.  They last about ten times longer and use 75 percent less electricity than an incandescent bulb.  Another way is to reduce the amount you drive by carpooling, using public transit, cycling, and walking.  Also, you can install a low flow shower head.  This will reduce the energy used by the hot water system and reduce your water consumption.  Additionally, you can turn off appliances when you are not using them, shop with a reusable bag, lower the brightness of your computer screen, buy locally grown food, buy alternative energy, and wash your clothes with cold water.
     All this climate change data seems pretty straightforward, so why do some people deny global warming?  Solving global warming will require government action.  Most people don't want any more governmental control in their lives.  The fear that individual freedoms will be infringed on may make some people think it's a governmental hoax.  Some have close ties with the huge fossil fuel industry.  Some people deny it because they passively absorb misinformation from various media outlets or their social groups.
     I think global warming is a serious threat to our well being and survival.  The evidence is clear, the Earth is warming at a pace never before seen.  Global warming has occurred throughout the history of our planet but the rate at which it is occurring is too quick for life to evolve.  As a result, we are undergoing mass extinctions.  Fossil records show that in previous warming cycles, animals didn't become extinct at rates anywhere near what they currently are.  I think that if we are going to prevent catastrophic consequences from occurring, we have to act NOW!  From replacing our grid, to replacing our gas hogging cars with electric and fuel cell powered cars, to using more efficient appliances, to ending our fossil fuel addiction, we must act now before it is too late.  On the individual level, we can go green.  If you don't think a one degree Fahrenheit temperature increase is that much, think about when you have a fever and that one degree is making the difference between your well being and sickness.  The evidence is clear that the Earth is experiencing unprecedented increases in temperature, storm intensity, and glacier melting.  Act now before it is too late. 
  • For more information on global warming and climate change, visit my environmental website at www.makeearthabetterplace.org       
  • Check out the products below and take action before it is too late.

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