Global Warming

Executive summary
Human activities are behind the current climatic changes in the world as a result of global warming. These activities have been necessitated by the need to create more wealth to sustain the increasing world population. The need to expand the agricultural production has resulted in large scale deforestation to create more land for farming and grazing activities. Greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere have come from power generating activities, industrial processes and exhaust fumes from vehicles and air planes. These gases such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and methane have contributed to the greenhouse effect which is the phenomenon behind global warming.  

The implications of global warming are many and some of them are severe. Most of the food chains that have been established naturally between species have been broken by the effects of global warming. To cope with these impacts, most species have been forced to move from their original ecological occupation to other ecologically favorable areas. The interrelation between different species in a given ecological niche therefore has become disrupted by the threats posed by global warming. Global warming is also related to the depletion of abiotic resources due to their overexploitation. These include fossil fuels, metals and minerals whose utilization is closely interrelated. There are various economic, social, ethical and political issues that are associated with global climatic change. These issues largely address the aspects of equity and responsibility. Different cultures such as the traditional livestock farmers in Africa have felt the pinch of global warming. Solutions to global warming must be practical and also require strong political will to implement. Policy makers have a big role to play since the nature of these policies and the will to implement them forms the basis of having solutions to global warming.

1.0 Introduction
In the past century, the Earth has experienced a drastic change in the climatic patterns which has been influenced by a new force that did not influence it before. This is because temperatures on a global scale are increasing at a faster rate than ever which cannot be explained by the natural processes. This force is humanity. Global warming is an environmental issue which has currently caused massive concern over the sustainability of the ecosystem and life of every living thing on earth. Global warming is the unusual rapid increase in the average temperature of the air near the surface of the earth and the oceans over the past century and its projected continuation. The causes of global warming have been attributed to the emission of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. The major concern is that the rapid industrial growth accompanied by non-structured methods through which humans have adopted to sustain themselves have resulted in environmentally harmful processes that are eroding the ecosystem at an alarming rate.

The early warning signs of this environmental issue are many and can be divided into two. There are those which have a direct manifestation and are long-term and there are also those which foreshadow the effects that are imminent following widespread continued warming. The direct manifestations include the melting of glaciers, unusual warm weather and heat waves, warming of the Arctic and Antarctic, ocean warming, rise in sea level and coastal flooding. On the other hand, the events foreshadowing these impacts include bleaching of the coral reef, heavy snowfalls, downpours and flooding, rapid spread of disease, range shifts of plants and animals and changes in their populations, widespread severe droughts and earlier spring arrival (1). The objective of this paper is to discuss the details of this global issue and the possible solutions which can alleviate it.

2.0 Causes of Global Warming
2.1 Greenhouse gases
Scientists have unraveled several causes of global warming which include certain greenhouse gases. These gases are released through human activities such as combustion of fossil fuels, industrial processes, during production of electricity and also during refrigeration. Chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons as the major gases used in refrigeration are powerful greenhouse gases which occur in lower concentrations in the atmosphere. However, their potency is even greater than that of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide for which a large percentage is released from burning of fossil fuels such as oil, kerosene, gas and petrol is a major greenhouse gas that causes global warming. In addition, agricultural activities have resulted in the release of nitrous oxide from fertilizers. Methane is also released from agricultural activities especially from the digestive systems of grazing animals and also from landfills (2). These green house gases are responsible for the phenomenon called greenhouse effect in which the main contributor is water vapor.

2.2 The greenhouse effect
The light from the sun is absorbed by the surface of the earth resulting in the warming of the earth whereas the rest of the light is radiated at a longer wavelength back to the atmosphere. The greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere absorb some of this long wave radiant energy before it is lost to space. The resultant effect is the warming of the atmosphere. Therefore, these gases act like a mirror in the sense that they reflect some of the radiant energy that would be lost in space back to the Earth giving rise to the warming of the atmosphere. Greenhouse effect therefore refers to this aspect of reflecting back of heat energy by the atmosphere. 36-70 of greenhouse effect is caused by water vapor, 9-26 by carbon dioxide, 4-9 by methane, and 3-7 by ozone (3).

2.3 Deforestation
The current rate of deforestation in most parts of the world is a worrying trend since it has increased the severity of global warming. The aspect of carbon dioxide release into the atmosphere is directly related to deforestation. Trees and in deed all plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and utilize it in the manufacture of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats for their own survival. In this respect, plants can be seen as contributing to the reduction of CO2 present in the atmosphere. Following deforestation, the cut down trees are either burnt as a source of fuel therefore releasing more CO2 or left to decay in which the Co2 stored in them enters the atmosphere. The overall effect of such human activities is therefore increase in the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which is directly connected to global warming (4).

3.0 Interrelatedness of species
As global warming is increasing at an alarming rate, human activities carry the bulk of the blame as many animals and plants struggle on how to survive the devastating impacts. However, humans are also largely affected by this phenomenon as the effects grow cumulatively. Global warming has disrupted the food chains upon which nature has established to facilitate the survival of different species in a specific ecological niche. This has as a result interfered with many aspects of interdependence of various species. The rise in sea levels as a result of global warming causes the water to cover the lowland islands. The plants, animals and people inhabiting these areas are therefore faced with a disaster. Most plants die due to much water and this translates into a loss of food source for the people and animals as well as losing their habitat.

As a result the animals may eventually die of hunger. Humans therefore lose two sources of food that is animal food and plant food in addition to losing their homes. This arouses the need for migration from the area to look for new habitat with food. The ultimate outcome of these events is that the original food chain is broken which directly affects the interrelatedness of species in the area. The situation in aquatic life is the similar in that the warming of oceans has destroyed many species of algae due to the rising water temperatures. Algae being a producer in the food chain are a source of food for many consumers such as small fish, some whales, and crabs. Consequently, humans are dependent on these consumers for food. The death of algae means that less food will be available to the consumers and therefore less food for humans and other animals in the sea (5).

Various characteristics in the plant and animal kingdoms have been observed which point to the unnatural climate change. For instance the red foxes have been forced to spread northwards and have encroached the territory originally occupied by their cousins from the arctic. Polar beers of today compared to those of about 20 years ago are much thinner and less healthy. On the other hand, some plants have been noted to thrive in environments in which their growth was formally limited due to the changes in temperatures that have provided heat, more water and sunlight. Butterflies overwhelmed by temperatures in the south are now moving northwards where temperatures are cooler (6).

4.0 Interrelatedness of abiotic resources
Abiotic resources entails all those non-living physical and chemical components that are found in a given geographical or ecological environment The interrelatedness of abiotic resources can be explained from the understanding that the current escalation in global warming is as a result of increased utilization of the available nonrenewable resources such as metals, fossil fuels and various minerals for the production of energy for example electricity and heat. These abiotic resources are interrelated to a considerable extent and hence their continued exploitation may result to their depletion. The elevated usage of these resources has been triggered to a large extent by the modern industrial society whose operations are dependent on a triad of metals, hydrocarbons and electricity which are intricately connected.

This interrelation is such that each of the three resources can only be accessed in the presence of the other two. For instance, global scale generation of electricity is only possible through the use of hydrocarbons for which the same dependence on hydrocarbons is true for the smelting of various metals. The culmination of this has been the imminent depletion of the better types of ores while the remaining types require modern machinery for their processing and more hydrocarbons for their smelting. On the other hand, extraction and processing of hydrocarbons requires the incorporation of metals and electricity in such activities. While these abiotic resources are equally important, electricity emerges to be the most fragile so that its failure signals an early warning of trouble in the other two resources. The production of steel demands heavy utilization of hydrocarbons especially coke from coal.

The high global demand for steel is due to the need to construct large and powerful bridges, machinery, automobiles, skyscrapers and tools in the modern industrial society. Oil emanates from fossils but its production by the oil producing countries has declined due to the depletion of these fossils. As a result more resources and energy must go into getting lower quality and less accessible oil from the ground therefore leaving less money for the production of electricity and metals. This depicts the close relationship between these valuable abiotic resources whose utilization is directly related to global warming (7).    

5.0 Anthropogenic influences on Global Warming
Anthropogenic factors are the human activities which influence the environmental conditions. Global warming have been aggravated by several human activities mainly deforestation, transport and electric power production.

5.1 Deforestation
This refers to the massive scale clearing of the Earths forests which in most cases cause deterioration of the land quality. The current rate of destruction of the rainforests which form an important cooling band in the equator is considered to be one of the major causes of global warming. The increasing world population has caused the need for more land for cultivation in order to ensure adequate food production in addition to the need for more grazing land and settlement.  Human activities such as logging for paper products and wood have resulted in massive destruction of many rain forests. Current research has confirmed that deforestation is the cause of up to 25 emission level of the gases that trap heat or the greenhouse gases. The major forests whose destruction has had the greatest influence on global warming are found in Congo, Brazil and Indonesia (8).

5.2 Transport
Transport as a major human activity has contributed significantly to the current increase in global warming due to the gases that are released from vehicles and airplanes. This anthropogenic influence is rampant in developed countries where vehicles constitute a bigger source than industry. Each year, an estimated 300 million tonnes of exhaust toxic gases are released from cars into the atmosphere. Most of these gases from petrol engines contain hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, traces of sulphur dioxide and solid particles. Exhaust gases from diesel engines contain a lot of particles than the content of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. These vehicle emissions significantly contribute to the phenomenon of greenhouse effect. On the other hand, air transport has over the years become a common means of transport since it is fast and convenient especially in the business world. A single jet plane has the capacity to emit harmful gases as much as 7,000 vehicles over the same period of time. These emissions pose even a greater danger since they are released into the higher atmosphere therefore increasing the possibility of damaging the stratospheric ozone layer (9).  

5.3 Power production
This anthropogenic influence on global warming is also a highly sensitive issue since it emanates from the need for humans to generate power to run various operations that are vital to economic development. Electric power production plants release large amounts of gases which contribute to the greenhouse effects and also affect human health. The main source of these emissions is the burning of coal which results in the release of far more carbon dioxide than natural gas or oil. In addition to CO2, other gases from the burning of coal in power stations include carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust particles which contain heavy metals such as zinc, cadmium and lead. The acid grain phenomenon is also largely caused by the large amounts of sulphur dioxide released from coal burning during power generation activities (9).

6.0 Issues associated with Global warming
6.1 Economic issues
Global warming has elicited world wide economic issues which need to be fully addressed since they have a direct impact on the economies of every country whether in the developed world or in the developing world. The pertinent issues revolve around the costs and benefits attached to global warming, how these costs and benefits will be distributed among all the affected groups of people or countries and also the response to this environmental issue. Such economic considerations are considered paramount due to the fact the greenhouse gases have spread in the whole atmosphere so that all the world regions are exposed to the implications of global warming. However, these economic considerations face the challenge of equitable distribution of costs and benefits since the warming impacts are unevenly distributed across countries, regions and across industries.

For instance, parts of Western Europe and North America have started experiencing early springs and late autumns which has greatly affected the tourism industry which is largely dependent on the attraction of snow and glaciers for tourists and skiers. In the Southern Europe, desertification has been rapidly spreading whereas severe hurricanes have occasionally caused loss of lives and great destruction in the Gulf of Mexico and southeastern US. The fishing industry in many countries such as Bangladesh have been badly affect by the frequent sea-level rise which prevents fishing activities (10).
Despite such losses, there are those who are beneficiaries of global warming especially in the temperate agricultural areas which now experience prolonged growing seasons. This has allowed more agricultural activities thus generating more income though with other costs emanating from increased pests and changes in the farming methods. The costs of global warming are likely to extend over several decades or centuries due to the increase in the degree of its socioeconomic impacts which is also likely to extend over the cause of time. Therefore, in estimating the cost of global warming, it is prudent to consider these factors such that the costs are distributed not only over the current generation but also over several generations to come.

6.2 Social issues
Global warming as an international environmental concern is inseparable with the many pressing social impacts touching on politics, economics and social stratification. For instance, the diverse policies geared towards alleviating the effects of climate change may cause inequalities in different ways. The greatest concern on inequality is that nations and individuals who may have had minimal contribution to global warming might be disadvantaged by the policies adopted in response to global warming. There are also health implications of global warming in which the poor are the most exposed since they have lesser capacity to implement responses such as adaptation.

6.3 Ethical issues
These issues include the areas of allocation of global emissions among nations so that a fair distribution of the costs and benefits is achieved. In addition, the responsibility of the damage caused by global warming ought to be carried in a manner not to burden those who have had minimal or no contribution to the climate change. The issue therefore is ethical since it requires that it be addressed with the interest of people at heart rather than focusing on self interest. The sense of justice and ethics of people have to be considered and incorporated in making decisions on how global warming ought to be handled (11).

6.4 Political
The political issues of global warming have been attracted by the concern over the many asymmetries in the costs and benefits distributions both among countries in the world and in the domestic policies of individual countries. The Kyoto Protocol is the major international agreement whose aim is to fight global warming. Two Kyoto Protocol Annex I countries with large reserves of fossil fuels that is US and Australia have not ratified this agreement. In addition Saudi Arabia has been highly opposed to the Protocol though it is not among the Annex I countries (10). This correlation is further confirmed by the economic policies of Canada who has played a leadership role in the whole fight against global warming. However, a close scrutiny of its Kyoto Protocol ratification process brought in to light the interregional conflicts which can be attributed to its dependence on fossil fuel reserves to drive its economic agendas.

The principal policies adopted as a response to global warming issue are mitigation, business-as-usual, and adaptation. Mitigation policies captures the various efforts by governments, industries, organizations and individuals in bringing down the net rate of greenhouse gas emissions including the aspect of carbon sequestration and other measures of trapping these gases. Such policies rely on practical approaches such as moving away from relying on energy sources from fossil fuels in power generation and transport activities, increasing energy efficiency, switching methods of production and products, and reducing deforestation and increasing reforestation.

Business as usual refers to the agreement of operating business activities and running the government policies along the present paths. However, this response to global warming contains loopholes since disagreements have arisen over whether it is business-as-usual when some countries decline the greenhouse gas emissions intensity. Greenhouse gas emissions intensity is the units of emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents divided by the units obtained from the economic activity for example the GDP. Decline such a policy by some countries results in elevated levels of emissions and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. On the other hand, adaptation entails various measures which would suppress the second order socio-economic effects such as changing the farming methods, building dykes, improving the systems for sending early warning signals on imminent storms, and inoculation against diseases like malaria (10).

7.0 How Cultures are affected by Global warming
As global warming escalates, the impacts are already being felt across the globe. Various traditional cultures are likely to be hard hit by the current trend of climate change. For instance, the disappearing Ice Parks in arctic regions due to the rising temperatures is likely to badly affect the world life in those regions. The polar bears for instance who rely on the sea ice to hunt seals as the major source of food will be deprived of this means. The natives in these areas also depend on the seals and walrus for food and therefore the melting sea ice is a threat to their livelihood. Traditional livestock farmers in Africa have tried to cope with the devastating effects of climate change through rearing different livestock species, embracing economic diversity and moving temporary to areas with greener pastures. However, the worsening situation in climate change will make it more difficult to apply these mechanisms as the available grazing land becomes diminished and the population increases (12).

8.0 Possible solutions and their drawbacks
One of the solutions is the use of alternative sources of fuel in running of cars and airplane engines. Such fuels include compressed natural gas and electricity. However, compressed natural gas has a very low volumetric density so that it would require large car-tanks so as to have a reasonable driving range. Use of electric power to drive car engines has limitations in that it does not facilitate high speed and also the bulk of batteries which have to be installed in the cars. Collective fiscal measures such as taxation are a possible solution. Fossil fuel use for instance can be reduced by imposing a carbon tax on fuel consumption. This is in the effort of reducing Co2 emissions with additional benefits such as increased energy efficiency due to the resultant higher fuel prices. In addition, the revenue generated can be utilized to offset the various damages brought about by the use of fossil fuels or used in intensive research for solutions to environmental challenges. However, some drawbacks include socio-economic problems in that the producers of high cost energy will suffer the most (13).

9.0 Conclusion
Global warming is a highly sensitive environmental issue which concerns every nation in the world. The impacts on the climate being witnessed all over the world have been largely caused by human activities who have adopted various methods of wealth generation with most of these strategies lacking the aspect of environmental consideration. Overcoming global warming is a course worth pursuing by all and calls for collective responsibility of all the policy makers so as to alleviate the survival threat posed by climate change on all the species.    


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