Causes, Effects, and Solutions of Global Warming
Over the past decades it has been observed that there is a continued increase in world temperatures the world over. With increased concerns to save the world from ever increasing temperatures, United Nations formed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that is tasked with evaluating the source and impact of global warming and coming up with possible solutions to mitigate this natural menace. Human activities like deforestation, fossil fuel combustion, greenhouse farming, failing sinks, livestock and rice paddies, arctic tundra and other nitrogenous gases from human agricultural activities are the primary contributors to global warming (Casper, 2009). Global warming has severe effects and consequences and therefore we are called upon to come up with measure that will help slow down the rate of global warming. This paper seeks to discus critically the causes, effects/consequences of global warming and giving an evaluation of possible solutions.
Several greenhouse gases have been found to be responsible for global warming. It has been established by scientists that the major cause of global warming is due to the rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere (Dauncey, 2009). Burning of fossil fuel emits Carbon dioxide; most human activities that involve burning ; for instance cars, airplanes, factories and other coal plants burn fuel on daily basis hence emitting and rising the levels of carbon dioxide in the air.
Deforestation is another critical factor that cannot be left out; it has been discovered that as human beings continue to convert forests and grasslands into farmlands and urban centers they facilitate the increase of carbon dioxides levels in the air. Scientists have also found out that all living things store carbon. Studies have revealed that when these living things die and decompose they effectively release the reserved carbon into the air (Adger and Brown, 1994). Therefore, it is true that through deforestation many organisms are destroyed and left to decay, the huge amounts of carbon dioxide emitted result to global warming.
The above mentioned human activities have resulted into warming of the earth thus causing the usual natural carbon sinks to fall short (Adger and Brown, 1994). Carbon sink refers to the natural method of storing carbon for a period that last more than a thousand years. Types of sink are peat bogs and arctic tundra. It is believed that if these sinks are destabilized, the stored carbon will be set free into atmosphere and this leads to irreversible feedback loop that result into a catastrophic world warming effect. The ocean also has enormous carbon sink which is estimated to be more than fifty times of the atmosphere. The increase in the thermal stratification of oceans has the tendency of reducing their ability to store carbon and because of this most of the carbon is emitted into the atmosphere.
Methane gas is another significant cause of global warming and in fact it is said to be twenty times a powerful contributor as compared to carbon dioxide. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is created through the decomposition of organic materials subjected to conditions of low oxygen concentration. In ruminant animals, the gas is produced in intestines. Landfills and leakages arising from natural gas fields also increase the concentration of methane gas in the atmosphere. In addition, scientists have also revealed that Clathrates, the frozen chunks of methane located at the bottom of the ocean are melting due to increased atmospheric temperatures thus setting free the methane gas into the atmosphere.
The 20th century green revolution has made it possible for people involved in farming to apply chemical fertilizers and machines to boost their agricultural production. Nitrogenous fertilizers have been processed and used to accelerate crop productivity. These activities have resulted into emission of nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere. Experts have established that nitrogen oxides have a capacity 300 times more than carbon dioxide in heat trapping. The study undertaken by the UN and Agricultural organization established that modern farming contributes to global warming.
Global warming has diverse effects on human health, other animals, and the atmosphere at large. The continued increase in temperatures as a result of global warming has been found to offer a good breeding ground for various serious and lethal viral diseases as well as malaria. Deterioration of human health particularly in poor countries is eminent. Global warming is also responsible for the increase in the death of human as high temperatures result into cardiovascular complications like heart-stroke and other respiratory problems. Ozone concentration in the lower part of the atmosphere is as a result of global warming. Ozone, regarded as a harmful pollutant is associated with respiratory complications that destroy lung tissues thus causing more troubles to people suffering from asthma.
Global warming has resulted into a shift in the climate. For instance, reduced agricultural produce is an immediate effect of global warming due to the rise in temperatures. Increased carbon concentration in the atmosphere, reduces photorespiration thus destroying many crops. The increased concentration Ozone gas in the air causes depletion of crops thus hampering and reducing agricultural productions. It is also true that global warming has resulted into increased number of long droughts which eventually affects the general agricultural output (Dauncey, 2009).
The world ecosystems have been highly affected by global warming. Effects like increased temperatures, decreased snow levels and other weather changes will not only affect human beings but also other living organisms. For instance, due to changes in temperatures birds have been forced to migrate from their traditional inhabitants to new habitation places. Sometimes the conditions change to the worse thus leading to extinction of some endangered species. There has also been a decrease in ecosystems productivity. The glacier retreat which is also brought about by global warming leads to the occurrence of flash floods, landslides and glacial lake overflows.
The only solution to global warming is reducing carbon concentrations in the atmosphere through the: sequestering carbon, improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon intensity, and limiting population growth. We shall discuss each of these measures independently.
Sequestering of carbon entails the process of both capturing and securing the storage of carbon dioxide emissions from power plant through geologic formation. It also implies elimination of carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere through terrestrial and marine photosynthesis and the final storage of the carbon rich biomass in the long term in the long term (Casper, 2009). Carbon sequestering is the most preferred method in curbing global warming as allows the continued use of fossil fuel without disturbances from climate change concerns. However, it is imperative to put into consideration the capacities of carbon storage, the costs as well as the environmental safety concerns before implementing carbon sequestering methods on large scale basis.
There are three types of carbon sequestering; terrestrial carbon sequestering which involves the control of atmospheric carbon dioxide through plant photosynthesis and long-term biomass accumulation in both underground and standing plants. Terrestrial sequestering increases with increasing reforestation, a forestation and through changing soil management exercise, promotes the creation and retention of organic matter in the soil. Geological carbon sequestering entails storing carbon dioxide in underground reservoirs that includes the worn out oil and gas fields, un-mineable coal seams and saline aquifers (Dauncey, 2009). Carbon sequestering in ocean comes in two different schemes of sequestering i.e. disposing carbon dioxide into deep or mid ocean or adding fertilizers into the sea to catalyze the development of phytoplankton that are responsible for storing huge amounts of carbon.
Reduction in carbon intensity of energy sources needed for performance of economic activities will automatically reduce the threats of global warming. This can be achieved by shifting from the dominance use of carbon-rich fossil fuels like coal to use of hydrogen-rich fuels like natural gas. Secondly, de-carbonizing of fossil fuels is essential fro creating carbon dioxide free energy. Changing to solar energy sources like, wind, biomass, solar, and hydroelectric. And lastly, reviving nuclear energy will automatically reduce carbon dioxide intensity and hence reducing threat of global warming (Dauncey, 2009).
Overpopulation is another primary cause of global warming. Increase in population results into increased use of energy. Limiting population growth will probably decrease the pressure on the available sources of energy hence reducing the rate of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere. Rapid stabilization of human population will significantly reduce future carbon dioxide emissions. In developed countries, there are developed ways and means to lower fertility rates in order to forge a head in economic development and reduce carbon emissions in the long run (Casper, 2009).
Limiting economic growth is also another way of curbing global warming. It has been established that without limiting economic growth and consumption, then it is difficult to avert global warming successfully. Extreme reductions in carbon dioxides emissions in order to stabilize the atmospheric carbon dioxide to avoid global warming can only be realized if the world economy is kept constant (Casper, 2009).
In conclusion, global warming is a big threat to the world at the moment; without extreme ventures and studies about this natural calamity, then the world is likely to end. The main causes of global warming have been found to be human activities. Agricultural and industrial activities have resulted into emission of global warming causing gases. CO2, methane, nitrogen oxides and other greenhouse gases are responsible for depletion of the ozone layer that has culminated into a continued increase in atmospheric temperature. Global warming has diverse dangerous effects to nature, human beings and other living things at large. Many global warming mitigation measures have been put forward to counter global warming. These measures include: sequestering carbon, improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon intensity, limiting population growth, and limiting the world economic growth.
Adger, N. and Brown, K. 1994. Land use and the causes of global warming. New York: Wiley.
Casper, J.2009. Changing Ecosystems: Effects of Global Warming. New York: Hermitage Printing Services.
Dauncey, G.2009.The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming. New York: New Society Publishers.