Global warming is here, like it or not, and
it looks like, according to virtually all of the world's top scientists, that we
humans are the major source of the problem, primarily due to our
addiction to fossil fuels. For centuries we've been burning abundant coal,
oil and gas and pumping carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse
gases into the atmosphere faster than the plants and the oceans can soak
them up. Our atmosphere's level of carbon dioxide is now higher than it has
been for hundreds of thousands of years, and global temperatures are rising
faster now than at any time in the past thousand years. Since 1850, average
global temperatures have risen about .6 degrees Celsius according to the
A statement made recently
by Jeffrey Severinghaus, a geoscience researcher at the Scripps
Institute of Oceanography sums it all up "There is no doubt that humans
are warming the planet. That's very clear now. The data is beautiful.
It's very strong. Humans are changing the climate, and we're expected to
change it a lot more in the future." There is considerable debate among
the scientific community on the degree and severity of the change but
the consensus is that it is coming, and now is the time to take action
to prevent the worst possible scenarios from happening.
According to a recent CNN
article about global warming, no one knows exactly how, when or where
global warming will play out. And in diplomatic circles, the "who" and
"what" may be the most significant, as in which countries -citizens and
companies alike -will bear the greatest burdens to control greenhouse
gas emissions. But there is no doubt it will take a concerted global
effort of citizens, companies and governments to stop the run away train
before it is too late.
For more information about
the problem of global warming check out the following websites:
Focus The Nation -Global Warming Solutions For America
CICERO -Center For International Climate and Environmental Research
Union of Concerned Scientists -Global Warming
Global Warming -Early Warning
EPA -Global Warming
Just For Kids
Resources Defense Council -Global Warming
Sierra Club -Global
Warming and Energy
The culprit is excess greenhouse gases produced by human activity.
Greenhouse gases include such naturally occurring and man-made impounds
as methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor and nitrous oxide, while others
are exclusively human-made (gases used for instance in aerosols). These
gases allow sunlight to penetrate the earth's atmosphere freely but when
some of it is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation (heat)
they trap this heat in the atmosphere, thereby causing global warming.
And the major greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide emissions, resulting
from petroleum and natural gas consumption, including automobiles. Fossil fuel consumption represents 82
percent total United States human-made greenhouse gas emissions.
For more information about greenhouse gases check out the following
eia.doe.gov article on greenhouse gases
The following is a partial list of
"geo-signs", from an excellent article on Global Warming in a
recent issue of National Geographic, that give an indication of just how
extensive the problem is:
- When President Taft created
Glacier National Park in 1910, there were 150 glaciers. Today there are
only 30 left and most of those have shrunk in area by two-thirds. It is
predicted that within the next 30 years, if things continue as they are,
most if not all of the park's namesake glaciers will disappear.
- The world's oceans are heating
up from the top down. Researcher from the Scripps Institute of
Oceanography have found that the world's six ocean basins show a .5
degree Celsius increase since the 1940's in a pattern that could only be
explained by human-induced warming.
- The snows on Mount Kilimanjaro
have melted more than 80% since 1912, the glaciers in the Himalayas in
India are retreating so fast that most of the central and eastern ones
could disappear by 2035, artic ice has thinned greatly over the past 50
years and Greenland's massive ice sheet is shrinking.
- Spring freshwater ice breakup
in the Northern Hemisphere now occurs nine days earlier than it did 150
years ago, and autumn freeze-up ten days later, and thawing permafrost
has caused the ground to subside more than 15 feet in parts of Alaska.
- Linked directly to melting ice
around the world, the rate of global sea level rise has departed from
the average rate of the past two to three thousand years and is rising
more rapidly at an alarming rate, with grave implications for low lying
coastal areas around the world, since never before hat so many humans
lived so close to the coasts. More than a hundred million people
worldwide live within three mean feet of sea level.
Adelie Penguins of Antarctic Peninsula numbered 2,800 breeding pairs
twenty years ago. Today the number has dropped to about 1,000. The cause
is rising winter temperatures which have shrunk the sea ice, depriving
the Adelies of an important feeding platform from which they hunt krill.
- birds breed an average of nine days earlier than in the mid-20th
century, frogs mate up to seven weeks. Changes in the patterns of animal
species the world over that are due to global warming include tree swallows in North
American migrate north in the spring 12 days earlier than they did
twenty five years ago, and red foxes in Canada are shifting their ranges
hundreds of miles toward the North Pole, moving into the territories of
Artic Foxes. And the list goes on and on.....
- Rising average ocean
temperatures are causing longer and more frequent bleaching episodes
that are fatal to some corals.