This research paper investigates the literature available on global warming. It elucidates the factors that have significantly contributed to the menace of global warming. In addition, the research paper establishes how human activities have adversely affected the ecosystem since the beginning of industrialization. According to the research paper, global warming a real threat to humanity and should be tackled with a lot of sobriety. In light of this, the research paper seeks to come up with ideas on how the global society can be organized in such a way that environmental conservation becomes part of their everyday life. The climate of a location can change due to some external processes, which may include radiation, changes that influence the composition of the atmosphere, changes in the degree of solar luminosity, volcanic activities and the orbital variation of the earth as it moves round the sun.
The recent changes in climatic conditions have been mainly attributed to effects of greenhouse gases on the globe, since the orbital variation has little effect over a short duration. Greenhouse effect is an example of radiation, whereby the absorption and emission of the solar infrared radiation by the gases in the atmosphere lead to warming of the lower atmosphere and the surface of the earth (Gupta 321). When greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere in high concentrations, they act like a partial blanket, thus, allowing short wave radiations from the sun. Eventually, these waves are reflected back as long waves, which are not able to penetrate the ‘blanket’, thus, retained, thereby causing terrestrial warming. According to the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report”, the major greenhouse gases include water vapor (36-70%), Carbon (IV) Oxide (9-26%), Methane (4-9%) and Ozone (3-7%). In addition, clouds, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrous oxide also have the same effects as the green house gases. Essentially, human activities have led to tipping of the balance of these gases in the atmosphere to the upper side, thus, amplifying their warming effect. Moreover, the Industrial Revolution witnessed the highest production of these gases, with methane and carbon dioxide alone, experiencing increased concentrations of 36% and 148% respectively from around the 1750s, when the revolution started (Adger 2007).
Carbon dioxide, which is certainly the best known greenhouse gas, usually enters the atmosphere through combustion of fossil fuels including oil, coal and natural gas. Factories and electricity generators that release their gaseous wastes directly to the atmosphere also constitute a huge percentage. In addition, methane gas is emitted from landfills and also the guts of grazing animals. These, together with nitrous oxide found in fertilizers, emissions from chemical industries and refrigeration gases significantly cause global warming. Moreover, chlorofluorocarbons, which have the effect of degrading the ozone layer, have been observed to trap heat thousands of times more as compared to carbon dioxide. However, since carbon dioxide has higher concentration in the atmosphere, it contributes more to the menace of global warming. Undoubtedly, water vapor, which has the greatest volume in an average atmosphere, is also a factor in the rising temperatures. The high temperatures in the natural environment would lead to a higher water vapor, holding capacity of the atmosphere, which further increases the temperature (DiMento 2007).
Due to the fact that vegetation naturally acts as carbon sinks, destruction of the vegetation such as forests for other purposes has led to inadequate sequestration, thereby causing the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to remain high. Besides, burning of wood releases carbon in the form of carbon dioxide gas, further causing its accumulation in the atmosphere. Therefore, the destruction of forests is a major factor in global warming in the planet. Global warming has had diverse effects on the world and this is quite visible everywhere in the environment. For instance, it has affected the fundamental systems that life on the planet depends on, such as the carbon nutrient cycle, ocean circulation and hydrological cycle, thus, affecting the production of food and water to the ecosystem. Essentially, these trends would later lead to desertification, ozone depletion, declining quality of water and air pollution. Nonetheless, the cause and effect of global warming has been viewed to be a bit complex and its timing cannot be easily quoted with certainty (Dessai 2010). The Polar Regions have been observed to warm faster since the onset of global warming, increasing by about 5%u1D52C, while the Arctic sea surface temperatures are rising by about 1%u1D52C. Consequently, the Spring Sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased by about 15% from the 1950s. The Arctic Sea ice, on the other hand, has reduced by about 40% in the last three decades. Besides, there has also been increase in the amount of precipitation in the Antarctic due to an increasingly warm trend over the last half decade (Crapton 2010).
The effects of global warming have been considerably felt in the Southern Ocean, which has grown warmer and less saline in the past decade. In fact, the major areas, where seals breed have been seriously affected, thereby causing a reduction in their numbers. The Antarctic and the Arctic are, therefore, expected to grow increasingly warmer so that melting sea ice can allow more access to the areas, which were previously blocked with the ice. This would certainly lead to the tundra vegetation being replaced with forests, thus, threatening the polar bears, walruses, marine mammals and seals since they depend on the ice floes for breeding and even feeding. In the end, the original occupants of the frozen North will be affected since the change in climate would disrupt their vital knowledge on when and where to fish or hunt. However, these will be more pronounced in the Northern hemisphere that has been observed to warm faster than the Southern Hemisphere since it has more land mass and only covered by seasonal snow and sea ice (Drahl 2002).
The modern towns in the far north are currently experiencing permafrost. This is basically characterized by frozen soils that thaw due to higher temperatures, thereby causing surface to subside, hence, leading to great damages to buildings and infrastructure. This region will further amplify the effect of global warming in the rest of the world since it is a major driver of the global weather pattern. For instance, when the tundra vegetation dies due to excessive melting of the ice, it produces methane and carbon dioxide on decomposition that are greenhouse gases. Global warming has also influenced circulation of the ocean currents. For example, the melting glaciers generally make the surface of the ocean water less salty, and therefore, not dense enough to sink to the bottom of the ocean. It is feared that this effect could eventually stop the circulations, and hence, cut the supply of marine nutrients to aquatic wildlife (McKibben 2011).
The Polar Regions are regarded as very vulnerable to changes in climate since adaptation is not very rapid as in other areas of the world. As such, global warming is more pronounced in these areas. For example, rainfall patterns have significantly changed in these areas as well as in most parts of the globe, a trend that currently threatens water supplies. Moreover, the amount of precipitation in the mid and high latitude areas, majorly in the Northern hemisphere, have become very intense. In the Tropics, however, there has been marked decline in the distribution of rainfall. Nevertheless, when it finally rains, it is often very heavy and torrential, leading to erosions and heavy flooding in low lying areas. In various parts of Europe, mainly the eastern parts, the rivers have peak flows from winter to spring since precipitation has become more of rainfall than snow, and thus, the water gets to the streams faster (David 2006).
The low and poorly distributed rains have encouraged desertification in the tropics. As a result, erosion and reduced soil moisture have complicated the conditions that would favor agriculture. In most cases, the summers are characterized by heavy drying of vegetation due to the high temperatures, and hence, resulting in droughts. Besides, tropical cyclones have also been observed as a result of global warming. The level of the sea has considerably risen and salty water from the sea or oceans found their way into the aquifers and estuaries, rendering them unsafe for the ecosystem. This implies that low lying islands that depend on underground water are not only likely to experience water shortages, but also affected by the rise in sea levels; some of which may get submerged (Solomon 2007).
These effects of global warming, though gradual, if left unchecked, may cause major disasters in future. In order to avert that, humanity must take some very decisive steps to ensure sustainability and create an ideal environment for natural co-existence. Protection of the environment from destruction is, therefore, a sure way to secure the environment for the next generations. These effects can be combated by practicing better land management, thus, reducing the effects of droughts on dry areas. Ideally, this should incorporate all players in that specific locality. Besides, reservoirs should be constructed as well as other infrastructure that might be useful in soil conservation. Moreover, the agencies concerned should regulate the exploitation of the natural environment by applying appropriate technologies and offering incentives so as to promote resource conservation (Bruce 1996).
Strategies for adaptation should also be implemented to the natural habitat by the use of monitoring systems to aid in noticing the behavioral changes, caused by alterations in climate. This would enable people to put forward the adaptation strategies to the effect of such changes. Certain species or genotypes that are no longer well adapted to given locations can, therefore, be moved to a better suited locality with the conditions that they require, hence, preventing them from being faced out. In addition, network of game reserves can also be created by introducing corridors that connect such areas so as to avail better dispersal and migratory routes. In some places, seed banks and captive breeding can be practiced. This, together with the construction of botanical gardens, can help preserve the affected species. Moreover, human management of pollination or even dispersal of the seeds that may not occur naturally due to the effects of global warming could help increase the total global vegetation cover (Susskind 2006).
Integrated management of fisheries could significantly ease the pressure on the coastal fisheries by human activities. For example, practicing of a more sustainable agriculture and the development of rural areas can increase diversity of the ecosystem. Forests should also be conserved and more efficient stoves introduced to help curb the over reliance on wood fuel. In the developed societies, carbon sinks should be established to absorb the excess carbon dioxide in the environment, and therefore, ensure that “the blanket effect” is reduced. In addition, afforestation can be introduced as a way of regulating the temperatures of such areas, and hence, reducing the effects of global warming. Furthermore, the United Nations should introduce statutes to be sealed into by all countries, preventing them from releasing the greenhouse gases and, hence, reducing the concentration of the gases (Drahl 2002).
In conclusion, global warming is an issue that has to be taken seriously by every individual since its effects will impact negatively on several generations to come. It is, therefore, the duty of humanity to ensure a cleaner environment by abolishing activities that may lead to production of the greenhouse gases to levels that are dangerous to the natural ecosystem. Industries should also be compelled by legislation to cut down on their release of these gases and a heavy penalty levied on any entity that goes against such law since it is a matter of global concern.