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Global Warming: Climate change

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Global warming as a climatic aspect refers to the continuous rise of temperature in the earths atmosphere. The issue of global warming has dominated discussions in the media, among scientists and politicians, as well as the public. The debate as to the cause of the considered phenomenon is all split in the middle, with one side of discussion suggesting that it is a natural cycle while others are of the belief that it is human-induced i.e. anthropogenic global warming. Climate change has been occurring since the past warming and cooling in turns for different reasons, albeit of human action.

The prevailing wisdom within the general public and the popular media today tend to buy into the argument that the global warming being experienced at present is purely as a result of human activity. While there is some scientific backing to this theory of human induced global warming, there exists a plethora of evidence to the contrary. In the context of global warming, natural cycle refers to naturally-occurring causes of climate change that are devoid of human action. On the other hand, human causes refer to any phenomenon which results from large of greenhouses produced by human activity. This paper presents solid research and scientific arguments pertaining to the debate of whether the current global warming is anthropogenic (human-induced) or another natural cycle with less catastrophic effects.

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Global Warming As a Natural Cycle

Skeptics of global warming argue on the premise that natural cycles are responsible for the current warming of atmospheric temperatures. In his book The Science of Global Warming,the award-winning scientific and literary author Don Nardo provides shows the reality of the global warming concept as a consequence of both human activity and natural cycles. The concept of climate change as a natural cycle can be best understood by examining the climate variations that occurred thousands of years ago as a result of natural variations and natural causes (Nardo 13). In Encyclopedia of Global Warming,Steven Dutch a Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences exposes the flaws in arguments pertaining to the issues of global warming. Dutch observes that natural warming factors have frequently warmed the climate even before the existence of human being on earth, and indeed, prior to the industrial revolution period of the 18th century (Encyclopedia of Global Warming 89). These natural factors include solar variability, changes in the earths orbit, continental drift, mountain-building, and volcanic eruptions. There have been at least four cold and warm periods of major proportions. Major ice ages have occurred between the warm periods.

Over the last 2000 years, it is known that the global temperature was generally on a downward trend (cooling). As the Earth scientist for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Julie Kerr Casper espouses in her book Global Warming Cycles: Ice Ages and Glacial Retreat, earth has always experienced patterns of warming and cooling over the centuries. The book gives a detailed comparison between natural cycles of the past and activities of human that have contributed to todays rapid global warming. The temperature trend of the earth has remained constant over the last 700 years while it has been on an upward trend since the 1800s to date (Casper 11). The current global warming is projected to have begun in the early 17th century, immediately after the earth had just come out of the Little Ice Age a relatively cold period. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the earths temperature trend since 1895 to present was 0.1oF per decade. This did not happen on a linear, steady trend. The period between 1910 and 1940 is known to have recorded most of the warming in the 20th century. Mark Maslin presents incontrovertible evidence on this issue in his book Global Warming: Causes, Effects, and the Futureof 2007. The author shows that the time frame from 1940 to 1975 was characterized by a cooling trend, which elicited world-wide concerns of an imminent Ice Age (Maslin 21). That cooling was succeeded by another warming trend through 1998. The 1998-2008 decade has indicated a net cooling of 1.1oF (0.6C), effectively bringing the planets atmospheric temperatures back to the 1980 level that were the same as the period shortly after the 1940-1975 cooling (Nardo 22). Since 2008, there is an agreement that the world has not experienced any upward trend in atmospheric temperature.

Further, geological records reveal a constant 1,500-year cycle of both warming and cooling going back at least at million years. Similarly, the period before the Holocene epoch (about 11,000 years ago) is known to have experienced global warming following the end of the last ice age the Medieval Warm Period (Maslin 36). The Holocene epoch period was characterized by a fairly stable global climate in spite of the global expansion in human life and increased farm production together with domestication of animals.

The book Unstoppable Global Warming co-authored by Fred Singer and Denis Avery presents probably the strongest argument for global warming as a natural cycle. The authors rely on in-depth scientific evidence to prove that global temperatures have risen entirely because of a natural cycle. It is expressly explained why the planet is warming, and why it is not as dangerous as thought, and why it cannot be stopped. The sunspot activity is another natural cause of climate change, where few sunspots results in less solar energy reaching the earth surface resulting in cooling of temperatures (Singer 52). Scientific research has revealed to us that here is an 11-year cycle of sunspot frequency that significantly influences weather.

The explosive volcanic eruptions experienced occasionally around the world usually release high amounts of sulfur dioxide aerosols that often circulate around the earth, causing cooling as sunlight is reflected before reaching the planets surface. There are also short-term climatic fluctuations such as El Nino and La Nina, which represent periods of natural warming and cooling. On the global scene, El Nino periods are characterized by higher temperatures as evidenced during the 2008 La Nina year (Casper 45).

In view of these, therefore, human-induced increases of CO2 levels are negligible to the whole aspect of climate change, particularly global warming. To this end, it is evident that radical climatic changes have occurred to earth long before the coming into the picture of humans. In fact, since the early 1820s, scientists have appreciated the important place of greenhouses in regulation of the earths temperature. There is consensus that greenhouse gases serve as a shield in the atmosphere to keep heat in the lower atmosphere (Nardo 25). While they account for a negligible percentage of the earths atmosphere, greenhouses are crucial in maintaining the warmth of the planet so that it can support life as we know it. The mechanism of the greenhouse is such that when the suns energy hits the surface of the earth, some of the heat is reflected back to space when a significant amount of it is absorbed by the oceans and land. The absorbed energy is thereafter radiated upwards from the planets surface in the form of heat. The absence of greenhouse gases would spell disaster because the heat would escape into space, making earths surface temperature fall below freezing (Casper 89). The greenhouse are thus responsible of redirecting a portion of the energy downward and in so doing maintaining heat near earths surface to sustain life.

Global Warming as Human Induced

The argument of global warming as being human-induced is founded on the premise the human activity over time has produced large amounts of atmospheric CO2 that have affected global temperatures significantly. This is because the human industrial and domestic activities since the period of Industrial Revolution had resulted in increased levels of carbon dioxide, 35 percent higher relative to what it was almost 200 years ago (Singer 45). Such human activities detrimental to the environment include industrialization, pollution, and deforestation which have considerably raised the concentrations of carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, and methane. All these are greenhouses gases with greater affinity for infrared (heat) radiation. Methane, for instance, accounts for 5 percent of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (produced by coal and gas industries, rice paddies and wetlands etc.) does reflect the suns light back to earth (A Global Warming Counterfeit 69).

Similarly, the concrete, steel, macadam, and glass used to construct a metropolitan area absorb relatively more radiant heat from the sun in the day compared to pre-existing natural vegetation. Human activity in this regard has, therefore, greater effect on the local climate (the urban heat island effect). In The Encyclopedia of Global Warming Science and Technology a collection of 300 articles of scientific articles on global warming Bruce E. Johansen comprehensively presents the issues surrounding the global warming and climate change. Most works in the encyclopedia argue for the natural causes of the processes such as sunspots. This serves to legitimize the suggestion that increased practice of humans to burn fossil fuel over the years is directly responsible for the enhanced greenhouse effect (Johansen 214). All these statements prove that indeed changes in climatic temperatures occur interchangeably, on a timescale. A 30-year cooling trend raised fears of a forthcoming Ice Age, which was short-lived. Thereafter, a ten-year warming trend made people develop fears about catastrophic warming, which only persisted to 1998 (Singer 87).

The blame on human activity as a causal factor for the current global warming has also been based on climate models that scientists have brought forth. Through these models, scholars have strived to simulate what would have happened had humans not modified the earths climate in the course of the 20th century significantly. In other words, the undisturbed earth simulations have been used to demonstrate how global temperature has evolved had purely natural factors were influencing the climate system (Maslin 98). Taking the human effect away, the simulations have demonstrated that there would be negligible warming, if not slight cooling, throughout the last century. Introduction of greenhouse emissions along with other activities in the models, however, has shown changes in the resulting surface temperature similar to the observed changes. Furthermore, in a book titled Global Warming: The Last Chance for Change, Paul Brown, a correspondent for the Guardian UK, bolsters the theory of human-induced global warming with supporting color picture depicting the impact of human activity on the planet. The issues he considers are from rising sea levels, dust storms, traffic-clogged cities, devastation of massive hurricanes, to desertification. If greenhouse gas emissions are not controlled, it may result in the collapse of both the global economy and human civilization (Brown 52).

Interventions to Global Warming

Interventions to lessen or prevent the negative effects have been pegged around projections on the future global warming as a result of continued CO2 emission along with other greenhouses. Following the science advice of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), governments of mainly industrialized societies together with their respective economic advisors have strived to adopt policies that the public was assured would stop global warming (Johansen 215). The greatest emphasis has been on measures aimed at inhibiting the continued emission of the greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere. This response involves green measures such as reforestation, use of alternative fuels, and using recyclable products (Brown 74). Such efforts are being championed by environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Sierra Club. Countries across the world are taking steps to increase their fuel efficiency standards for automobiles significantly while rich nations are undertaking climate financing for poor nations.

However, it must be admitted that the efforts geared to slowing globalization are highly insufficient. There have been the unsuccessful two-decade UN talks to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions substantially and maintain the global temperature rise below 2C (Encyclopedia of Global Warming 62). This is because there is the lack of global goodwill towards achieving the goal as those most responsible emitting high amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have not lent their full cooperation to such treaties as the Kyoto Protocol. The world is currently highly dependent on factories, vehicles, and other electronics that consume a lot of fuels and electricity which contribute to pollution (Singer 85).

To contribute towards reducing our individual and collective carbon footprint, it is in our potential. Each of us can contribute by cutting down on pollution through such actions as driving less, taking bikes, walking or carpooling whenever possible. People can also save on energy by replacing the bulbs in their homes with energy-efficient bulbs (Brown 45). Only energy-efficient home appliances should be purchased and make sure to unplug the electronics when not in use. We can also consider using showerhead of a low flow. This way the amount of hot water used in the process will be decreased whereas the pressure of water will be maintained.. Similarly, we should run the clothes washer and dishwasher only if those are full-loaded, better still turn to the setting of saving energy and use environmental friendly non-toxic cleaning products (Singer 78). It would also help if each of us brings his or her canvas shopping bags that can be reused and buy recycled paper products.

In order to help matters greatly, the interventions need to take into account how different technological, socioeconomic, and policy factors will evolve over time. Such factor as global economic activity, population growth, energy technologies, energy-conservation practices, and land use would have to be considered and responded to accordingly as relates to global warming and its effects (Johansen 217).

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Conclusion

Concern relating to the human impact on climate and indeed the environment stretches back to the early 20th century. However, the recent impetus on the theory has been championed by the United Nations body the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has fronted views and advice to that effect. The IPCC stance has come to be popularized by the worlds press and politicians, and thus shaping the public opinion. This has been especially the case due to the superb marketing of human-induced climate change by the IPCC coupled with support from influential scientific and environmental organizations. Moreover, the situation is impacted by strong media bias in favor of alarmist news items in general; need to maintain political correctness on the global warming issue; and lack science and environmental sound knowledge among the general public. This has rendered our societies more vulnerable to frisbee science or spin.

In general, the evidence from these results has shown that global warming is more of a natural than a human-induced phenomenon. The natural factors influencing warming and cooling of the earth have been around for a long time and still exist.

Finally, the debate as to whether the current global warming has been caused by actions of human beings or is a natural cycle has persisted for quite some time, and it is bound to be around for a long time. Global warming skeptics hold that individuals have nothing to do with the negative climate change while proponents argue to the contrary. In the end, the skeptics present more convincing evidence. However, it is clear that, as human, we have our fair share of contribution towards global warming, and there is plenty we can do to reduce it and save the planet for our subsequent generations.

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