Global warming is a real problem for everyone on the globe, because it will affect our way of life in the future and because human activity can be shown to be a major cause of the problem. The mentioned concept can be defined as the rise of the Earth atmosphere's average temperature, notably a steady growth, large enough to result changes in the weather conditions. Our planet has undergone many periods of global warming throughout historical development, and nowadays seems to be going through such a process. The current manifestation of the analyzed phenomenon is, as a rule, credited to an augmentation of the greenhouse effect, caused by growing concentration of greenhouse gases, mainly because of the consequences of human activity. The estimated long-term impacts of present global warming are the polar ice caps’ and glaciers’ melting, the sea levels increasing, inundation, and variations in temperature and precipitation, etc.
The documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, addresses these concerns in a detailed and scientific way, but not everyone agrees that the problem is real or that, in some cases, is even the result of human activity, claiming that the current changes are just part of the normal cycle of changes over time. This film points out a number of facts to support the claim, that these changes are not part of a normal cycle and that human activity is a major cause of global warming. This is a problem that has already begun to affect all of us and could affect our way of life in the future.
In 1958 scientists began measuring the level of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) in the atmosphere. The fact is that the level of CO2 rises and falls each year naturally, but the overall level has continued to increase higher and higher every year. From studies done on core samples of ice in Antarctica scientists can show that for the last 650,000 years the level of carbon dioxidehas risen and fallen regularly, but has never grown above 300 parts per million. In recent years, it has risen above that level dramatically and continues to go up. According to an analysis by the Global Carbon Project, “Emissions rose by 5.9% in 2010…” (Gillis, par.1). CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) get trapped in the atmosphere and global temperature increases as a result. The Global Carbon Project report also said that, “the increase solidified a trend of ever-rising emissions that scientists fear will make it difficult, if not impossible, to forestall severe climate change in coming decades.” (Gillis, par. 1).
Scientists have also kept track of the amount arctic summer ice and found that it is gradually and increasingly disappearing. In itself, that is not a problem and would not cause sea levels to rise, but without the white ice’s reflective ability, less heat is reflected, and the water absorbs more heat. “. . . the disappearance of summer ice cover replaces a white, reflective surface with a much darker ocean surface, allowing the region to trap more of the sun’s heat, which in turn melts more ice.” (“Global Warming and Climate Change” 2012).
The trapped heat is also a problem for the Greenland ice sheet. “The extra heat in the ocean appears to be contributing to an accelerating melt of the nearby Greenland ice sheet, which does contribute to the rise in sea level.” (“Global Warming and Climate Change” 2012). If it were to go away completely, world maps would have to be redrawn because the sea level would rise by 20 feet. In the area of Calcutta and Bangladesh, 600,000,000 people live in areas that rising sea levels can completely cover. In Africa, the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro are gradually disappearing, and the Columbia Glacier at Glacier National Park in the U.S. is retreating, year-by-year. The hottest 10 years ever recorded have occurred since 1990, and 2005 was the hottest.
There is general agreement among scientists that as a result of the warming of the oceans we should expect to see larger, more severe weather events. In an on-line discussion at Scientific American magazine’s website the moderator stated that,
“Extreme weather does not prove the existence of global warming, but climate change is likely to exaggerate it – by messing with ocean currents, providing extra heat to forming tornadoes, bolstering heat waves, lengthening droughts and causing more precipitation and flooding.” (“Is There a Strong Link” 2012)
In 2004, the US had a record for the number of tornados in one season, and Japan had the most typhoons. In 2005, hurricanes Emily, Dennis and Katrina also hit the US, and, in 2011, the US experienced 14 weather-related disasters, each costing in excess of a billion dollars, and many more disasters of lesser magnitude. Just recently Super storm Sandy devastated many areas of the East Coast of the US.
“A Japanese government report has shown that global warming has already been causing serious problems in a range of fields in Japan, from agriculture, fishery and water supply to ecological systems.” (“Problems from Global Warming” par. 1). The report proposed things like new cultivation methods for crops to avoid expected higher temperatures in the future.
According to the documentary, there are three main factors that hinder our ability to address the problem of global warming properly: 1) Population. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people living on the planet, straining food, water and natural resources. 30% of the CO2 that is accumulating in the atmosphere is the result of the burning of forests for development and lumber. 2) Science and technology. We have the ability to do things like diverting rivers for irrigation and agricultural development, but the unintended consequences of these actions can be devastating. 3)Disagreement. There is, generally, no disagreement among scientists about human activity as a cause for global warming, contrary to what we sometimes hear in the news. The main disagreement centers on the problem of what to do now and how we will pay for it. Increasing fuel economy standards for automobiles, for example, will increase their cost to the consumer. In a presentation by the World Resources Institute, a Washington, DC environmental policy group, cited in a July 25, 2004 New York Times article by Danny Hakim, “Ford would have to spend $403 more on each vehicle to meet the expected new standards . . . and G.M. would have to spend $377 more.” (par.4). Besides, Justin Gillis noted that,
“Scientists say the rapid growth of emissions is warming the Earth, threatening the ecology and putting human welfare at long term risk. But increasingly urgent pleas that society find a way to limit emissions have met sharp political resistance in many countries, including the United States, because doing so would entail higher energy costs.” (par. 9)
By this point, hopefully, it is clear from the evidence presented that global warming is a real and present problem for all of us – a problem that demands our attention if we are to avoid the severe consequences posed by rising sea levels, the warming of the oceans and severe weather events. The final question is “What can we do about the problem?” Some of the solutions will require government action, like more laws limiting CO2 emissions and supporting more green energy sources. Buying and using more energy efficient lights bulbs, appliances, cars, etc. are all things we can do to reduce the need to burn more fossil fuels and start to bring down the level of carbon dioxideemissions, which contribute to the problem of Global Warming.
In his 2001 Newsweek article, “The Politics of Apocalypse”, Christopher Dickey quotes environmentalist Jeremy Rifkin who said, ‘“the scientific establishment is saying this looks real to us, and we're following their lead.’ Maybe the establishment is being misread. Maybe it is plain wrong. But who wants to take the risk of apocalypse tomorrow because they guessed wrong today?” (par. 7).