Running head: GLOBAL WARMING 1

Global warming




Global warming

Global warming is the increase in the average global temperature caused by greenhouse

gas effects on solar and thermal radiation (Hansen, 2007). In this regard, Greenhouse gases are

the gaseous components of the atmosphere that absorb and later release radiation at specific

wavelengths. Gases in the upper ambiance such as carbon dioxide, sulphur hexafluoride and

methane trap radiation from the sun close to the earth’s surface instead of permitting it to

disperse into the space; this results in increased atmospheric temperatures. Both human-made

and natural conditions contribute to global warming; however, man’s activities in contributing to

global warming cannot be underscored. While the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

are expected to be severe, human activities are continuously increasing the threat of global

warming. The current discussion explains how human activities impact global warming as well

as the personal tactics to minimize the contribution to global warming.

Many scientists predict that the continuous increase in temperature will cause polar ice

caps and mountain glaciers to melt rapidly. The melting will significantly raise the level of the

coastal waters and hence produce new patterns of extreme precipitation and probably expand

subtropical deserts. The change in precipitation patterns will interrupt agricultural activities in

many regions, and this will lead to food instability. The rising of sea water levels will result in

flooding at the coastal towns and hence destroy life and property. The disruption in temperature

will result in extinction of animal and plant species that are incapable of adapting to the new

environmental conditions. The general effect will be massive extinction that will lead to an

environmental catastrophe. The extinction of species will also result in a sudden collapse of

biological systems. In general, frequent and strong La Nina’s and El Niρo’s, ocean acidification,

extinction of species, forest fires and heat waves will make the environment unbearable to


humans (Hansen, 2007).

The present change in climate is accredited to the increase in greenhouse gases that are

caused by effects of human industrial processes, transportation, land use changes and agricultural

practices (Hansen, 2007). The largest driver of global warming is thus carbon dioxide and

aerosol emissions from human activities such as deforestation, combustion of fossil fuels and

cement production. The presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere alters the incoming

thermal radiations and thus disrupts energy balance. As the atmosphere thickens with greenhouse

gases, more heat is held up. Fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, petroleum and charcoal are

highly carbonated. When burned, they produce a lot of carbon dioxide which is released into the

atmosphere. For instance, when a single gallon of gasoline is burned, it adds 19 pounds of

carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (Pacala & Socolow, 2004).

In particular, the land use practices contribute to global warming. Trees are essential in

ensuring natural regulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They also form a cover that

moderates the radiation processes and determine the amount of heat to be retained or radiated.

The ever increasing human population has led to deforestation to pave the way for human

settlement. Trees are also cut for the purposes of logging, provision of timber and paper making.

Deforestation, therefore, contributes to approximately 25% of the atmospheric carbon dioxide

(Pacala & Socolow, 2004).

Based on the research by Hansen, the burning of hydrocarbons and the decomposition of

landfills (garbage) from human activities results in methane production (2007). The cultivation

of rice and the integration of manure from domestic livestock in agricultural practices is also a

major methane producer. Methane is an active greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but also one

which is less abundant in the atmosphere. Soil cultivation practices, especially the use of organic


fertilizers has resulted in the increase of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere that also contributes to

global warming (Pacala & Socolow, 2004). Human beings use chlorofluorocarbons for

refrigeration and air conditioning; they continuously deplete the ozone layer and hence result in

increased solar radiation.

Since human beings are the major contributors to global warming, they should be at the

forefront in the process of curbing it. At an individual level, I will replace the pollutant fossil

fuels by renewable clean sources of power