Global warming is the gradual temperature rise of the earth’s surface. In the past century, temperature on the earth’s surface increased 1.1° F and climate temperatures rose about 0.5°F (Warming, 2000). The cause for this temperature increase is believed to be the work of human beings and their actions.
It is believed that it was the industrial revolution that started the spiraling negative effect on the atmosphere. At the time, carbon dioxide increased by 30 percent, methane concentrations have doubled, and nitrous oxide concentrations rose about 15 percent. All of these pollutants were the beginning of the greenhouse effect. The modern day culture of humans hasn’t helped in reducing these pollutants. The fossil fuels we use to run our vehicles and factories make up about 98 percent of the United States carbon dioxide emissions, 24 percent of methane emission, and 18 percent of nitrous oxide emission (Warming, 2000). These pollutants have added to the greenhouse effect in that these gasses act as glass panels trapping the heat like a greenhouse. This effect has always been around with the natural gasses, but the pollutants have increased the temperature that gets trapped.
In the past century the most recent fifteen years topped the charts with ten of those years having the warmest years on record (Warming, 2000). Other changes have been documented due to global warming as well. In the past century, sea levels raised four to eight inches while, 40 percent of the thickness of the artic ice packs has been lost (Environment, 2003). Humans have been affected by global warming as well. More heat waves and droughts have cause disputes on water distribution. The heat has also caused illness among people and allows for disease to multiply and spread (Environment, 2003).
Is man finally getting punished from Mother Earth for all the destruction he has caused her? Or is there a way that man can get himself out of this pickle. In the following, global warming will be discussed at greater lengths as well as the causes. Plus, what are the social and economic impacts of global warming?
Definition of Global Warming:
Global warming (also called the greenhouse effect) describes the gradual increase of the air temperature in the earth’s lower atmosphere. It’s a popular subject and often a trendy topic for politicians when delivering speeches. Cartoonists like to poke fun at the scientific community about the subject. For such a widespread concept, there is little popular understanding of its true meaning and surprisingly little real news about it in the media. However, global warming is most accurately defined by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences as (2004):
The progressive gradual rise of the earth's surface temperature thought to be caused by the greenhouse effect and responsible for changes in global climate patterns. An increase in the near surface temperature of the Earth. Global warming has occurred in the distant past as the result of natural influences, but the term is most often used to refer to the warming predicted to occur as a result of increased emissions of greenhouse gases.
Although the definition often varies within the scientific community, there is a general agreement that average global temperatures have risen about one degree Fahrenheit over the past 140 years. This temperature hike is a direct result of greenhouse gases, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels and removal of forests and vegetation. “Global warming” in the popular mind, means the connection between the two--increase in temperature and greenhouse gases.
The one degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature has been since the 1850s, the start of what is commonly called the modern Industrial Age. At first, scientists thought this increase was part of a natural cycle of climatic fluctuation. Such variations have occurred over thousands of years, according to paleontologists (Finberg). However, for the last 30 years, there has been increasing concern that a manmade buildup of the greenhouse gases of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons were exacerbating the warming trend. The gradual change in temperature from the average is best illustrated by figure 1 below.
Figure 1. Global Temperature Change from 1880 through the year 2000.