HOW GLOBAL WARMING WORKS
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How does global warming work?
The Greenhouse Effect, Gases, and Global Warming
The greenhouse effect is able to take place because of
natural substances that are found in the air. While a century ago, the levels of
these substances were at normal levels and posed no threat, since the Industrial
Revolution, humans have been producing much more of these substances and it’s
the increase of the substances that are harmful. These substances come mainly in
the form of 3 main gases.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas that is produced when
organic matter is combusted. While the amount of CO2 on Earth should make up
approximately 0.04% of the Earth’s atmosphere, it’s due to human activity that
these levels are climbing to alarming rates. Carbon dioxide also absorbs
infrared radiation, which is the energy that allows heat to escape the Earth’s
atmosphere. This in turn makes carbon dioxide one of the biggest threats in
global warming because it’s trapping more of the sun’s heat on Earth.
Nitrous oxide is perhaps an even more dangerous
greenhouse gas than CO2 because it absorbs 270 times more the amount of energy
than CO2. However, nitrous oxide is not produced by humans nearly as much as
carbon dioxide is. Still, when greenhouse gases are trying to be reduced, it’s
important to reduce the emission of nitrous oxide as well. Fertilizing crops is
one of the biggest releasers of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.
Methane is a gas found within natural gas. It’s
combustible and is often thought of as ‘swamp gas.’ Although methane is formed
when organic material is combusted, there are also ways for man to create
methane gas. These ways include taking it from coal, from livestock, from rice
paddies, and from decomposing garbage in landfills. Methane also traps heat on
Earth the same way that CO2 does but there is also not as much of this gas as
there is CO2. However, methane has the ability to hold and release 20 times more
infrared rays than CO2. Some believe that large releases of methane at one time,
such as when it’s released from under melting glaciers, can lead to short
periods of intense global warming. So what does all of this have to do with the
melting glaciers and flooding that we’re always hearing about being related to
The Effects of Global Warming
Studies have shown that it’s the dropping of
temperatures just a few degrees Celsius that results in an Ice Age so it’s
obvious that if the temperature were to change in the other direction, the
opposite effect would occur. Because the planet has never seen such extreme
temperature increases that we have seen the very worst of what could happen, we
can only look at what has already happened and rely on researchers and
scientists to make educated guesses based on the different climate patterns.
It’s been proven that the glaciers and the icecaps
of the world continue to melt at alarming rates. This contributes to global
warming because the melting causes there to be less reflective surfaces to that
are able to put the heat and energy back into the atmosphere. As the glaciers
continue to melt the sea levels continue to rise and while an inch or two won’t
make a lot of difference, it might be enough to send the lowest-lying areas of
the coast under water. However, if enough of the glaciers and icecaps were to
melt, such as the West Arctic Ice Field, it would raise sea levels by as much as
10 meters and many coastal areas would simply disappear.
Another problem occurring within the sea due to global warming is that we would
likely see a huge increase in the number of tropical storms such as hurricanes.
This is because these storms gain their strength by the heat of the water that
they seemingly glide over and the warmer this temperature is the stronger, and
more recurring, the storms will be.
Many are worried that global warming could cause
the polar icecaps to melt due to the increasing ocean temperatures and that this
could also cause a significant rise in sea levels. There is no concern of this
happening with the South Pole in the Antarctic. This is because the ice here is
so cold and so thick that it’s not expected to begin melting any time soon.
There are some areas of the ice that never see temperatures above well below the
freezing mark. However, if the Antarctic were to ever melt, it would raise sea
levels around the world approximately 61 meters.
The Arctic, on the other hand, has very thin ice
and often sees temperatures above freezing. The icecaps here are simply floating
in the water and are not solid structures within the water. If this ice melted
however, it would not affect sea levels at all. The ice that covers Greenland,
which is about 7%, would cause an increase of approximately 7 meters if it
melted. The biggest problem with the ice in the Arctic melting is not the rising
sea levels but that these icecaps are the homes of the polar bears that live in
the Arctic. When these melt, the polar bears have no place to rest from hunting
or perches to swim from or sit on while they are looking for food. This is where
the images of the polar bears sliding down the icecaps are so often seen. Rising
sea levels, although just one of the problems caused by global warming, is
definitely the biggest.
Is Global Warming Real?
Despite all the research that has been done to point
towards the climate shift and the beginning effects of global warming, some
still don’t believe that global warming is an actual problem. There are many
different reasons for this. Some believe that the information that has been
collected does not show a drastic rise in temperature or that the rise is so
insignificant that it’s not worth worrying about. Although there are many
scientists that believe that the evidence clearly shows a trend in global
warming, there are other scientists that believe those looking at the data and
finding global warming are seeing it simply because they believe in global
warming and want to see it. And still others claim that the temperature shift
has nothing to do with global warming or that something other than greenhouse
gases is causing it.
Although most experts agree that global warming is occurring, not all of them
believe that it’s something that anything can be done about or that any measures
to stop global warming from happening are necessary. The scientists that are
skeptical of the concept of global warming are generally looking at the
less-disastrous results of global warming such as prolonged growing seasons and
increased precipitation while others think that the blow the human race would
feel in the economy from reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be far worse
than any ill-effects global warming could bring. So, is it real?
Whether or not global warming will be the end of
the planet Earth as we know it is not known. What is known and a generally
accepted fact is that global warming is an occurrence on Earth, even though the
extent of it may be debated. It cannot be argued then, that any global warming
is a negative thing and that if there is even a slight amount of global warming
happening, it’s in our best interests to stop it. So how do we do that?
Preventing further global warming from happening is easy. We simply need to stop
using the things that are causing it – greenhouse gases. How can you do that?
Reduce the energy you use by doing things such as turning off lights when you
leave a room; making sure your car is properly tuned so it will run better or
better yet, walking or bicycling instead of driving. Even if you don’t believe
that global warming is a threat, it never hurts to help the environment and cut
down on the use of these substances.
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