Global Warming

Every time you drive a gas or diesel powered vehicle, light a fire, use electricity, or kill a plant you are contributing to the phenomenon know as global warming. Global warming is the increase of average world temperatures as a result of what is known as the greenhouse effect. All of the previously mentioned activities release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which act like glass in a greenhouse, allowing sunlight through to heat the earth\'s surface but trapping the heat as it radiates back into space. As the greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, the Earth gets hotter. That will cause temperature increases which will have momentous impacts on human activities: where we can live, where, how, and what food we grow, and if the human race even survives.

Why is this happening to us? Humans can’t stop releasing gases that are toxic to the Earth’s climate into the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2).All living or once living things have carbon in them including wood and dinosaurs which turned into fossil fuels. Something that unquestionably isn’t helping is deforestation, because plants and trees take carbon dioxide from the air and release useful oxygen. Then when the tree is killed all the CO2 is put back into the air. However, as large a contribution as deforestation makes, it causes less than 40% the total of CO2. The rest comes from the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. These fossil fuels are burned in cars, power stations and factories of the wealthier nations such as the USA, Western Europe and Southeast Asia. So every time you flip a switch to turn on a light, or turn on your TV you are contributing to global warming.

As harmful as CO2 sounds, and is, it contributes to only about 50% of the greenhouse effect. The other gases are methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and nitrous oxide (N2O). Methane is released during coal-mining activities, oil exploration, from wetlands, from animals, and from the most recognized way, cow farts. The biggest problem with methane is, as the world population increases so must agricultural activities which release more methane. Nitrous oxide comes from fossil fuel combustion, use of nitrogenous fertilizers, human and animal waste. Last and worst of all are chlorofluo-rocarbons or CFCs. They come from operating refrigerators, air conditioners, and using aerosol containers. Although there are lower concentrations of CFCs than CO2 in the atmosphere, a CFC molecule is 10,000 times more effective in trapping heat than a CO2 molecule. Methane molecules survive for 10 years in the atmosphere and CFCs for 110 years. It is this that causes most people to want to ban them completely.

If we continue the way we’re heading the greenhouse effect could lead to a rise in average global temperatures by almost 6 degrees Fahrenheit as early as the year 2030. These rises will have great and devastating consequences besides making life near the equator impossible. Storms and hurricanes will be more frequent and stronger as oceans heat up; these will demolish coastal cities. Droughts and heat waves will be worse and longer, making hard lives in now desert areas completely impossible. Floods from the increase in rain and melting polar ice caps will obliterate the already ruined costal cities. Subsequently, all of the above effects will contribute to global warming making it grow worse even faster.

So the end is near? Not necessarily, it is important to slow the warming as much as possible. This means using less fossil fuel, eliminating CFCs altogether, and slowing down deforestation. We can best be saved through energy conservation, including better use of public transport and cleaner, more efficient cars; also through renewable energy such as solar, hydro, wind, and nuclear power. We need to stop destroying rain forests and start replanting trees to soak up carbon dioxide. Nuclear power is the best alternative to fossil fuels because it does not produce CO2. But finding an effective means of safely disposing the radioactive waste that can remain dangerous for hundreds to thousands of years presents a whole new problem.

I hope this inspired you to do what ever you can to reduce greenhouse gases and prevent global warming. So until alternative means of energy become widely available remember every time you unnecessarily make a