“It’s gettin’ hot in here, so take off all your clothes” The famous words of R&B star, Nelly, are truer than one might think. It really is getting hot in here. The world’s average temperature is rising every year and is expected to be 5 to 10 degrees higher by the end of the century, which is faster than they have increased in the last ten millennia, according to the National Resource Defense Council’s website. But why is this epidemic happening?
As the Defense Council states, global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other types of heat trapping pollution that are collecting like a blanket in the atmosphere, trapping heat from the earth as it tries to radiate back into space. As a result, the planet is getting warming. In fact, 2002 was the hottest year yet. In an article in World Almanac and Book of Facts, 9 out of the10 hottest years have been in the 90’s. There are a few major causes of theses heat trapping gases.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Gerald Meehl, Warren Washington, T. M. L. Wigley, Julie Arblaster, and Aiguo Dai from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado, the main contributors to global warming are derived from human activities. Since the start of the industrial revolution, atmospheric concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O have increased by 30%, 145%, and 15%k respectively. The gases are emitted mainly by cars, power plants, and other industrial sources that burn gasoline, coal, and other fossil fuels. Obviously, the emissions of these greenhouse gases in excess are leading to the planet’s consistent increase in temperature.
For example, in a study conducted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, it was confirmed that earth’s early century warming was caused by mostly solar and volcanic forcing, and the late century warming, from 1940-2000, was mostly caused by the increase of greenhouse gases. The National Resource Defense Council states, if global warming persists, there will be more air pollution and problems with water supplies as precipitation patterns change, as well as huge threats to ecosystems from the Everglades to the glaciers.
Not only will there be hotter, longer heat waves and more intense storm systems, but also forests, farms and cities will face troublesome new pests and more mosquito-borne diseases. As a result, past predictions show that as long as the population continues to emit these harmful gases into the atmosphere, the planet may heat up at an uncontrollable rate. This trend will even be noticeable the next few decades. It is essential to following generation’s comfort that this trend stops now because, according to author Kathryn Schulz, Chicago will start to feel a lot like southern Missouri in this lifetime.
For instance, the Qori Kalis glacier in Peru is shrinking at a rate of 200 meters per year, 40 times faster that in 1978. Ice is disappearing from the Arctic Ocean and Greenland, spring is starting sooner in 200 other countries, and animals are moving to cooler areas (Carey & Shapiro, 2004). Ecologist Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution states, “Even the most modest warming today is having large effects on ecosystems. The most compelling impact is the 10% decreasing yield of corn in the Midwest per degree of warming,” (Carey and Shapiro, 2004).
Moreover, robins, traditional indications of spring, have been showing up earlier and earlier at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado. The bird’s change in arrival time relates with increasingly warm spring temperatures in the area. In addition, many of the woody plants of Boston’s Arnold Arboretum are blooming earlier every few years. In a study conducted at the Arboretum, from 1980-2002 plants flowered eight days earlier than they did from 1900 to 1920.
What the study is showing is that plants are very responsive to global warming,” says biologist Richard Primack. “And the global warming we are seeing in the Boston area right now gives us a preview or window into what’s going to be happening throughout the rest of the United States over the coming decades or centuries,” (Jensen, 2004). However, one may ask, “Does it really matter if the robin comes out earlier or a rhododendron blooms earlier? ” As indicated by the Cooperative Research Centre for the Tropical Rainforest Ecology in Australia, it most certainly does matter.
They conducted a study using bioclimatic envelope modeling (using information based on an organism’s climatic requirements) and mapped out where 65 species could live if the warming increased by 1. 4 degrees Celsius. The results were catastrophic. Austrailia would be losing half of their endemic species and the rest would be reduced to very small areas (Jensen, 2004). Obviously, this study showed a window into what could be expected to occur throughout the world in the next century. If people are concerned about the planet’s future and the lives of future generations, steps need to be taken to take better care of earth’s atmosphere.
Limiting the emission of the gases will require some work from the population, but is not out of reach. According to the National Resource Defense Council, the largest contributors of greenhouse gases are power plants, but there are ways to help fix this. Old power plants running with outdated equipment can be replaced with the most up to date technology. In addition, beginning to rely more on renewable energy sources, like wind power and solar power, can significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
People can start to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient, saving them money and limiting environmental disturbance. Although it may be costly, the benefits far outweigh the detriments of ignoring the problem. Moreover, people can also reduce the release of greenhouse gases through automobile improvements. Author Ian Frazier from the April edition of Mother Jones says that automobiles are the second highest heat trapping pollution in the U. S. , but this can be helped says the Defense Council.
Using hybrid gas-electric motors can cut heat-trapping gases significantly. Additionally, by making SUVs and trucks as fuel-efficient as cars can cut the carbon dioxide emission rate bye 270 tons by 2010. The future of the planet does not look bright if releases of these gases are not slowed. According to the article Global Warming Right Now, many concerns will rise along with the temperature. Alaska could warm up as much as 18 degrees by 2100. There will be an increase in air pollution, no only in cites, but in the country, mountains, and beaches.
Heat related death and illness could increase five fold in New York City and other large cities across the nation. The temperature increase could also lead to an increase in infectious disease spread. Diseases like lime disease, dengue fever, hantavirus, and malaria could be on the rise. By mid-century, 30% of the snow on the Rocky Mountains and 50% of the snow on the Cascades will be gone. The article also says the problems will not be limited to land areas. There is a predicted one to three-foot increase in sea level in the next century.
This increase would flood parts of New Orleans, several barrier islands, and erode the beaches people enjoy. The growth of the ocean could mean catastrophic effects on weather patterns as well. Severe weather could become more prevalent. Furthermore, slowing and controlling the emission of greenhouse gases can reduce the risk for future generations and species. “We’ve blocked species into very small wild areas–reserves, national parks–and with climate change, those areas may not be the right spots anymore,” says Camille Parmesan, an author in a recent study published in the journal Nature.
This poses a problem for the animals that have a limited range for their living conditions. Animals start going out into human populated areas in search for food or house, where they simply cannot survive and are either killed or die. There are a number of animals that are subject to extinction if there is a quick temperature change, including polar bears, manatees, condors, and cranes. The increase in air pollution would cause more breathing and allergy problems with future human generations as well, says the National Resource Defense Council.
Although there are so many risks at stake with the future of our planet, some organizations and people disagree with enforcing new policies about the emission of the greenhouse gases. The Global Climate Coalition is an organization for voicing the opinion of big businesses. The coalition opposed Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol that would assign such stringent targets for lowering greenhouse gas emissions that economic growth in the U. S. would be severely hampered and energy prices for consumers would skyrocket.
The GCC also opposed the treaty because it does not require the largest developing countries to make cuts in their emissions. However, both Congress and the Administration agree that the U. S. should not accept the mandatory cuts in emissions required by the protocol. If the emissions of these gases are slowed, the future of the planet looks cooler. By lessoning the amount of heat trapping pollution, the planet should be better enabled to heat up naturally and at a slower pace. There will be less environmental risks, cleaner air, beaches, mountains, for people and animals worldwide in the years to come.
In order to ensure the health of our planet for future generations and species, we should better control the gases emitted into the atmosphere. Controlling the gases that are released into the atmosphere can protect the health of you and your family, the survival of plants and animals, and the quality of life for future generations. Take action now by not only writing to your senators concerning the emission of these harmful gases, but also buying more fuel efficient cars and promoting an atmosphere friendly lifestyle.