“Millions of years ago, disaster hit Earth, killing 95 per cent of all species. What caused it? Conditions that was chillingly similar to todays. ” (Lavers) According to the President of USA and his flocks of corporate sponsors, the prospect of so-called “global warming” is nothing that America should worry its pretty little head about. Many people buy into this analysis, dismissing the alarming new trends as merely changes in weather that happen all the time, or actually proclaiming that they would be glad if the earth were a little warmer – just like a day at the beach!
What few people realize is that global warming is no longer even a theory; it is a fact. Moreover, it’s not just a matter of the earth getting a few degrees warmer in the summer; the prospect of global warming truly is a threatened end to life as we now know it. Unless steps are taken to stop the current progression of events, and even in spite of such steps we may try to take, the vast majority of the evidence shows that the Earth will continue to grow warmer, with widespread and even catastrophic results. Global warming is a hot and widely debated topic.
Speculations about the truth and facts of global warming have been questioned for years by both corporate business and respected scientists in our society. Many discarded the available information as less reliable. That was before the permafrost stopped being frozen in huge portions of the Arctic Circle, and before the melting ice caps began to open up that long-sought northern passage. However, it is now an established fact that the Earth’s surface is growing warmer. Global warming is the mutated child of the “Greenhouse Effect,” which itself provides for the very existence of life on Earth.
The earth’s atmosphere is a balanced mix of heat-trapping gases, which include carbon dioxide and methane. These gases form a layer of air similar to the plastic or glass walls and ceilings of a greenhouse, which filter the sun’s light and refract its heat onto the ground below, while simultaneously trapping any heat the earth might attempt to reflect. Without this effect, the Earth’s average temperature would be a chilling zero degrees Fahrenheit (F), at which temperature life would be impossible. Global warming, however, represents an instance of the greenhouse effect gone bad.
Most scientists blame increasing levels of the technological production of CO2, the deforestation of the planet, and an increase in methane-producing practices such as cattle and rice farming. In addition, natural and predictable causes such as volcanic eruption have a significant effect on the level of CO2. Regardless of how it has gotten into the environment, the ratios of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere have been steadily increasing. Since the industrial revolution, CO2 in the atmosphere has gone up 31 percent, while atmospheric methane has increased by 151 percent.
This increase in atmospheric insulation affects the planet in a drastic way. The earth’s temperature has risen, on average, between . 92 and 1. 84 degrees F, counting only changes, which are beyond the scope of normal fluctuation. In various parts of the globe, average recorded change is as much as five degrees. Five degrees may not seem like much, until they are compared with the scope of historical changes: “In the last 10,000 years, the Earth’s average temperature hasn’t varied by more than 1. 8i??F (1. 0i??C).
Temperatures of only 5i?? to 9i??F cooler than those today prevailed at the end of the last Ice Age, in which the Northeast US was covered by more than 3,000 feet of ice. ” (“Global”) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization and includes scientists from about 100 different countries, recently released a report which dealt with the results such a climate change had and would cause. Many effects are seen already.
There are distinct signs of glacial retreat, and a disappearance or snow covers and sea ice. The permafrost in much of the arctic is thawed. Rain is heavier in most of the Northern Hemisphere and in the tropics, even while other areas are having terrible droughts. Plant and animal ranges are moving towards the poles, as warm areas expand. Many species show a decided decrease in numbers, particularly among the “canary in a coal mine” (ecologically sensitive species, such as amphibians, birds, and certain plants).
Other species such as insects, trees, and certain birds have begun their reproductive cycles at surprisingly early dates, while the growing season in mid- to high- latitudes has become longer each year. Contrary to popular devil-may-care approaches to the environment, it is not advisable to warm the earth up a little and increase certain growing seasons. The results are far too chaotic and dangerous: “Because temperature has a direct effect on virtually all ecosystem processes, responses of terrestrial ecosystems to global warming will be even more complex and difficult to predict. (Shaver)
Even at this stage in the progression of global warming, catastrophic results have been seen. The increase in rain has many scientists believing that the current rise in natural disasters and severe weather may be a direct effect of global warming. This is only the beginning of a long hard road into hell if global warming should continue. At best, we can expect the rate of temperature increase to remain constant. Alternately, it may increases due to the continued increase in heat-trapping gases. Either way, over the next hundred years the earth could (according to IPCC and others) undergo some terrifying changes.
Rising sea levels will probably eat at least 400 feet off every coastline, simply because of increased ocean floor space. More land will be lost to a rise in flooding during storms, increasingly severe weather on the ocean surface, and coastal erosion. The oceans might themselves be destroyed: increasing in water temperatures decreases oxygen content, which would kill most oceanic life. A decrease of pole-to-equator temperature variations would decrease the circulation of ocean water. The oceans would stagnate, destroying the entire marine ecosystem. The death of other ecosystems would follow.
Forests, wetlands, farmlands and mountains alike would all be challenged. The life cycles and habitats of plant and animal life would be radically altered. Increased moisture and heat, in addition to damaging many species, increases the population of disease bearing mosquitoes and other insects. Between flooding and coastal erosion, severe weather, disease, loss of farming, hunting, and grazing land, and the loss of inhabitable territory, the very existence of the human race would be threatened. Such a global catastrophe has happened before, according to the fossil record, 250 million years ago, at the close of the Permian period.
The earth underwent mass extinction on an unequaled scale. Approximately 95 percent of all species became extinct, including such hardy creatures as insects and fungi. “What agent of destruction could have wiped out 95 per cent of all species on our planet? The answer emerging from recent research is disquieting, given our current environmental predicament: it seems that the greatest disaster in the history of life was brought about by the combined effects of global mixing and global warming. ” (Lavers) Nothing quite that drastic is certain to occur again in the near future.
The global temperature change during this time was around 6 degrees Celsius (C), while only the most radical analysis of the next hundred years suggests that such a change is in the cards. On the other hand, when planetary warming occurs naturally, it takes place over millions of years. One cannot expect the same results within a few generations. However, the bare fact that in only one hundred years humans have raised the temperature by one tenth of the amount capable decimating most of the life on earth is terrifying for anyone who looks past their own life span into that of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
As those skeptical regarding global warming would be quick to point out, in the Permian era global warming occurred through no fault of ours. Such naturally occurring fluctuation, even with its results in mind, has caused some scholars and many more politicians and corporations, to doubt that humans play any role in global warming whatsoever. While no one can still claim that global warming does not occur, debate is ongoing as to the exact causes of our current predicament. One thing is certain, however: natural rhythms have trouble accounting for the rapidity of the current fluctuations.
Change has always occurred, but very seldom at the rate and in the fashion that it occurs today. By far the most dangerous man-caused warming agent at work in the atmosphere is CO2, a by-product of (among other things) the burning of fossil fuel. Many plans of action, such as the Kyoto protocol, have been proposed to cut back on the emission of CO2. Between resistance by the government of America and that of various other heavily corporate nations, very few such plans are being implemented.
Even if emissions were completely ended today, it would take more than a hundred years before the atmospheric balance was restored to its pre-industrial state. The relative slowness of the ocean to respond to rising temperatures creates a delay between the time emissions are released into the air and their full effect, which guarantees there would be additional damage to the environment even if a solution were found and used today. The IPCC has released several studies demonstrating the various ways in which the future may unfold from this point.
In the worst-case scenario, fossil fuels will continue to be used until they are gone, or technology finds it can replace them easily and with a financial advantage to the fuel industry. In this scenario, the global temperature will rise at least ten degrees F by 2200 AD. This is a sufficient change that the mass extinction of the Permian age is likely to be repeated. The best-case scenario, in which humankind immediately recognizes its danger and switches to non-polluting methods of fuel use and technology, shows the temperature still increase by 3 degrees F before 2200 AD.
This would probably not be enough to kill off humankind, though it would still wreck more limited havoc on the environment. This is all in the distant future of course. In two hundred years, President Bush will be dead. All his corporate sponsors will be dead. Everyone now alive will be dead, unless science discovers a way to end human aging. Therefore, for many of today’s nihilistic leaders and corporations, what may or may not happen in two hundred years really matters very little. They can afford to sit back and smile to themselves and say, “Well, but I’m actually glad we had a mild winter and a good profit margin. It is vital not to forget, however, as mentioned before, that not all the results of global warming are being forecasted into the future.
They are, contrary to popular belief, being suffered right here in the present. “A review for the IPCC in 2000 found more than 400 ‘statistically significant associations’ between climate change and disrupted ecosystems. There was a ‘widespread and coherent impact,’ on all continents and involving all types of plants and animals, it said. ” (“Human”) Inuit Indians in Canada and Alaska are loosing the ecosystem, which supported them, as the tundra dies.
In other parts of the world, the cost in lives is more direct as islands flood. Hurricane Mitch, a direct result of global warming, causes tens of thousands of lives. Forest fires decimated the jungles of Borneo while New Guinea had droughts. Africa had floods during the dry season, meanwhile. Tibet had unprecedented blizzards, as did New England and Quebec. Coffee fails in Indonesia, the coral reefs are dying in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the Panama Canal was dry. That was just the death toll of 1998.
In 1999 two thirds of Europe was a disaster zone after globally warmed storms kicked in. Nigeria had hundreds of villages flooded, and thousands killed. In 2000 through 2002, droughts in Afghanistan led to desperation and eventually terrorism. Fish died on the banks of dried up rives. Children died beside them. Hundreds of animals species are going hungry and even becoming extinct due simply to environmental change.
Polar bears, driven from the broken ice floes wander down into civilization, while hundreds of seals starve. All around, weather has become more extreme. Wet regions of the planet, such as steamy tropical rainforests and the rain-drenched middle and higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere, have become both wetter and stormier… At the same time dry areas in continental interiors have become drier, causing deserts to spread… forest fires rage… “(“Human”) The only people who can honestly believe they have nothing to fear from global warming today are those who are rich enough and American enough to avoid dependence on the earth, or care about its people.
While some city dwellers, some corporate deities and political entities may be able to address the earth as a factor in their bottom line, the people need to know that there is more to nature than that. Global warming, despite corporate doubts and debate, has proven itself to be deadly already, to the earth we live on, and to our continuance as a species. Even in the best-case scenario, it is going to change the way the ecosystems of the world work, and continue to be destructive for centuries to come. In the worst-case scenario, if humankind does not change, it is almost inevitable that we will have created the force that will destroy us.