Global warming occurs when the levels of greenhouse gasses rise and less infrared light, or heat, escapes the earth's atmosphere. Thus, the temperature experienced on Earth begins to rise. Climate change is a part of the Earth's history. There have been dramatic fluctuations in overall average temperature for the past 150,000 years that suggest a direct association with carbon dioxide levels. In the past the temperature highs and lows have been in tandem with carbon dioxide level highs and lows, this does not seem to be a mere coincidence.
Carbon dioxide currently accounts for 0.03% of the gas content within the atmosphere. However, it has a disproportionate impact on the earth's temperature. Thus, minor fluctuations in the percentage of atmospheric carbon dioxide will likely have a significant effect on the global temperature. The percentage of atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen over the past century at an alarming rate. Industrial civilization is essentially driven by fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gasoline, all major contributors to the rise in carbon dioxide emissions. Deforestation also releases carbon dioxide via burning of plant life, and exposing the soil to sunlight. Also, since trees are a major factor in the natural processing of carbon dioxide, needing it to make up their mass, when trees are cut down they can no longer serve to absorb carbon dioxide. Our practices are altering the environment and endangering society in return.
Carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere in many ways; some of which are naturally occurring and others are from human activity. Over 95% of the carbon dioxide emissions are from natural sources, and would occur even if humans were not on Earth. However, Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, due to the cyclic nature of the carbon cycle, would change little if not for human activities that produce so much every year. The present addition of 3% annually to emissions is enough to throw off the balancing effect of the carbon cycle. The result is a build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is currently at about a third higher than pre-industrial levels worldwide.
Throughout the last century our world, reshaped by dams, irrigation, logging and so forth, has seen drastic human population growth. Resulting technologies produced an industrial age that transformed the land, sky, waters, and distribution of the biota of the worlds' nations. The engines and power plants, which evolved from this historical transformation of science and technology, threaten our stability.
A reshaped environment presents a new set of possibilities for cultural reproduction, thus setting up a new cycle of mutual determination. The root of the problem is the historical separation of man from nature. The consumption patterns and lifestyles of the U.S. people clearly indicate our cultural values have shifted far from our perception of our dependence upon the health of ecosystems. Global warming is a crisis of human perception in competition with natural cycles, which we have ignored for far too long.
In addition to raising temperatures scientists discovered that chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's), long used as refrigerants and as aerosol spray propellants, damage the ozone layer. Destruction of the ozone layer is predicted to increase the incidence of skin cancer, damage crops and the marine food web, and to lead to an increase in carbon dioxide, possibly stimulating global warming by decreasing the number of absorbers; trees, plankton, etc.
The environmental crisis we face is the product of a crisis of perception; we as a species can't see that our actions will have tremendous effects. Industrial societies typically have a history of shallow ecological, reactive policy-making as opposed to deep ecological, pro-active planning. With this tradition, how can we realistically expect to survive in the years to come? Yes, perhaps we will survive this threat, seeing as we have so many resources, but what will the quality of life be like? And what of less advantaged nations who may not survive at all? The prospects of future generations being born into a world affected by human-induced warming seem probable unless we act pro-actively as an international community to examine how we contribute to global warming on an individual basis, and correct it.
The future of earth's climate is in the hands of humans. It seems to be that the human influence on the earth's natural balance will only lead to our destruction. With simple measures we, as inhabitants of this planet, can not seal our fate in rising temperatures, but rather we must change our views completely. We have to stop thinking of the natural world as something that we can exploit, and start thinking of it as something that is crucial to our very existence. We must take responsibility for our home. We have but one Earth, one chance.
Global warming is one of the most challenging environmental problems in existence today. It threatens the health of the earth’s inhabitants and the world’s economies every day. With global warming comes longer and more intense heat waves and storms. Along with those climate changes, come more pests which in turn can carry devastating diseases. Forestry and farming are feeling the negative impact of global warming and we’re also seeing traces of a devastated ecosystem. To prevent further damage and begin repairing the damaging effects of global warming, policies must be implemented and diligently enforced.
Energy conservation is the only policy that I would put into effect. This policy would be very broad; encompassing as many aspects of energy use as possible.
The first item on the table would be to force automobile manufacturers to only produce vehicles with high MPG ratings and eventually to develop new models that are not run on gasoline alone. Such vehicles are known as hybrids and are run on a combination of electricity and gasoline. Currently, the technology is available to manufacture cars with 40+ mpg ratings, however, the concern lies with the increasing number of trucks and SUVs that are known worldwide as “gas-guzzlers”. These larger vehicles are becoming more and more prevalent and currently do not meet any efficiency standards. Requiring that all new SUVs and trucks from this point forward be as fuel efficient as their smaller counterparts, would be a large step in the way of vehicle efficiency and pave the way for less gasoline reliance. This in turn will allow for fewer emissions of carbon dioxide from the vehicles that we have all come to rely on for our sole source of transportation.
The next policy to implement would be that technology be developed to make all appliances run efficiently; from refrigerators and stoves on down to video game equipment and lamps. Every piece of machinery or device that we own uses energy in some way, shape, or form. Large pieces of industrial equipment and even residential equipment require a lot of energy to run thereby contributing to the world’s air pollution. If we would require that manufacturers of such items follow strict guidelines of energy efficiency, not only would users save money, but energy use would be at a minimum and thus, less air pollution would be created.
Some headway is being made in this area, but not enough and not nearly fast enough. We see most progress being made in the residential areas: examples are Energy Star appliances and compact, fluorescent light bulbs. However, everything coming onto the market needs to be required to be energy efficient according to pre-determined standards and we can’t continue to bypass the industrial aspect of this.
The last policy that I would implement revolves around recycling. I would require that all packaging be recyclable and that it be made from recycled materials. Recycling helps the environment by conserving our natural resources, saving energy, reducing air and water pollution, and reducing the need for landfill space. Currently, many recycling programs are in place worldwide, but there are no policies that enforce its unequivocal use, yet this is one of the easiest ways of protecting our environment. In order for my policy to be successful, all businesses and consumers need to actively participate. Following the reduce, reuse, and recycle methodology will help to reduce the amount of energy that is used during the elimination of waste products.
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