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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Global Warming Crisis

Global warming is one, if not the most discussed concerns of our contemporary society. In fact, it has engendered protracted debates between and among our top scientists, whose differing theories seek to unravel not only the real causes but also certain viable solutions which can be framed to address it. If only to cite, two schools of thought emerge from these heated discussions. On the one side of the spectrum, one group of scientist-thinkers claims that the rapid increase of carbon dioxide emission, owing much from the exponential growth of industries of the post war era, is the chief cause of the present global warming crisis. By contrast, another group that which strongly disagrees with the aforesaid stance maintains that global warming is not really attributable to an increased carbon dioxide emission as it is to due to the inevitability of the earth’s natural processes of cyclic heating and cooling within a given span of time.

Thus, while it is agreed that the globe is in fact warming, I believe carbon dioxide is not the underlying reason behind it. This paper makes a case for the necessity of continuing studies as regards to the matter, as I am more inclined to believe that, based on my readings, carbon dioxide emission does not constitute the real cause of global warming, if by ‘cause’ we take to mean that the increased production of carbon dioxide acts as the sufficient explanation of global warming, let alone its sole mitigating factor. The stance which this paper takes is a somewhat critical to the more popular understanding of global warming crisis; i.e. this paper is specifically critical to Al Gore, along with some 2,500 scientist who work at the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and roughly about 86% of American citizens, who summarily hold that global warming is a problem brought about by human doing. This paper seeks to underscore the incurable ambiguities which mark the contention that global warming is entirely due to the increased incidence of greenhouse concentrations, which in itself is nothing but the consequential result of the perceived increase of carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon Dioxide Emission as Causative Ingredient to Global Warming?

As previously mentioned, there are many scientists who claim that the current state of the industrial societies is a key determining factor that aggravates the noticeable increase of world atmospheric and marine temperatures. Crucial to this is to cite that world economies’ heavy dependence on fossil fuels, which in turn leads to excessive carbon dioxide emission, is responsible for the increased incidence of greenhouse effect being experienced the world over. For instance, Homer-Dixon, the author of the book The upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization he cites that “concentration of greenhouse gases are increasing fast and the earth is getting hotter” (Homer-Dixon 162). And it, in fact, is not hard to establish that there is a direct correlation existing between the increasing world temperature and the equally rapid increase of carbon dioxide emission recorded in as many years. One only needs to show that many studies, such as the one published by the Environmental Protection Agency, rely on arguing the fact that carbon dioxide discharge and the world’s atmospheric temperatures have risen “by over 35% since the rise of Industrialization” so to make a convenient conclusion that it is the primary cause of global warming(Carbon Dioxide, 2008).

The EPA’s argument is relevant in the discussion since it brings into the fore the tendency of many organizations to take carbon dioxide and global warming under the lenses of cause-effect model. In many respects, this is likewise the crux of the arguments espoused by the Kyoto Protocol – an international environmental accord sanctioned by the United Nations, aimed at decreasing world production of greenhouse gases. According to the agreement, world governments acceding to such an accord must ensure that steps are undertaken to cut their respective carbon dioxide emissions “below the range” which can be devastating to nature (Kyoto Protocol). This, moreover, is also the assumption of those who are advocating the use of nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuels. According to Max Schulz who is the writer of the article Nuclear Power, explains that the world needs to discover viable sources of energy through “clean technology”… “without pollution or greenhouse gas emissions (Schulz 90). Herein, it would be necessary to note that the reasoned premise of the Kyoto Protocol and arguments for nuclear power rests on the plain assumption that there exists a direct cause-and-effect correlation between carbon dioxide production and rapid increase of world atmospheric temperatures. Which is why, these arguments tend to regard global warming as anthropogenic in essence – i.e., it is a phenomenon brought about by human doing.

That having said, there are still reasons to think that no one can really stop the continued warming of the world. Not even the Kyoto Protocol – an already massive initiative, to say the least, taken by humanity to address the problem – dares to dream of averting the rise of world temperatures all together. As indeed, our optimum technologies nowadays have yet to frame adequate solutions to curb the rate of global warming. If this perceived helplessness in respect to global warming speaks of anything about our present situation, it merely proves that there is more into the problem than merely attributing it to human doing. This is because if global warming is really a problem constituted by human fault, then it is with human initiatives that such problem can and must be remedied. Apparently however, human progress cannot be blamed for the recent rising trends of global temperatures.

Global Warming as the Earth’s Natural Way of Being

While it may be easy to establish the correlation between the amounts of carbon dioxide emitted in the last 50 years and the rise of world temperatures, it is nevertheless difficult to construe a necessary cause-and-effect connection between them. For say that carbon dioxide alone is the sufficient explanation to global warming means that we are reducing the problem into a single cause; and this must not be so. In Homer-Dixon’s book he cites a quote from Michel Jarraud who is the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization. Michael Jarraud contends,

“You cannot attribute (global warming) to a single cause. It’s about the very complex interaction between all the elements that make up the very complex machine that is the Earth…But global warming is likely to lead to more frequent extraordinary events and greater intensity of these events” (Homer-Dixon 162).

In the first place, global warming should be seen as a natural process or occurrence, or a phenomenon not generated by human activities. In fact, global warming happens periodically; as this was proven by Petr Chylek who is the Professor of Physics and Atmospheric Science. For instance, in his report, he maintains that during the 1920’s, Greenland’s temperature was recorded higher than it was during many instances 2005. With such telling evidence, he concludes that, “the Greenland warming of 1920 to 1930 demonstrates that a high concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is not a necessary condition for period of warming to arise” (Chylek). The same may be said of the trend which shows that during the period of 1900-1940, the temperatures were rising even when industrialization was not as massive compare to what we have now. After this era, the Post-War economic boom was to commence. Ironically, this was the period when the temperature dropped and did not begin to rise until four decades later. Besides, one must also note with care that the past 150 years have seen a very minute increase in world temperature – only half a degree Celsius. If with the massive production of carbon dioxide the rate of world temperature increase does not appear to be so drastic, then it is evident that carbon dioxide is not the sole cause of global warming.

Secondly, where carbon dioxide is in question, it is certainly insightful to note that human activities do not really generate as much carbon dioxide emission as does nature itself, when it produces the carbon dioxide in manner being more significant, if not undeniably massive. This is certainly an interesting angle to look at; for while we agree to a certain respect that carbon dioxide is a heat-generating compound in the atmosphere, it nevertheless is just one of the many gaseous compounds comprising greenhouse gases. As such, carbon dioxide comprises a meager 0.97% of the total greenhouse gasses present in the air (USA TODAY). Moreover, human activities are not to sole progenitor of carbon dioxide. The earth’s land surface, it must be noted, emits carbon dioxide as well. For instance, when a volcanic eruption occurs, the earth produces more carbon dioxide than the amount produced by industrial factories around the world, and certainly more than the amount of the same emitted by human beings. This is to speak only of the earth’s terrestrial surface, which is roughly about 30% of the world’s surface area. The largest emitter of carbon dioxide is by the larger marine surface, as it makes up the remaining 70% of our world’s geographical composition. Thus, humanity must not be the one to be blamed for the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere right now. Besides, on account of the fact that carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is insignificant, there is a truth in saying that carbon is not the sole reason that explains global warming.

Thirdly, not only must people start to realize that global warming is a phenomenon that happens on a natural basis, they too must take into careful account the significant role which solar radiation plays in ushering the world into another phase of warmer temperatures. In other words, the warming of the earth is in fact believed to be caused by the sun. This is exactly the contention leveled by Jeffrey Gordon in his book called Solar Energy: The State of the Art. He contends that solar energy acts as the major contributor to the warming of the earth. This is because he believes that “urban temperature and the sky view” manifest a direct correlation (Gordon 14). To briefly explain, Gordon believes that cloud formation in the sky is influenced by the amount of solar radiation being emitted by the sun. Ordinarily, we speak of cloud formation as a phenomenon explicable by the rate of evaporation and condensation of water vapor transpiring in the earth’s atmosphere (The World Book Encyclopedia 111). But, Gordon believes that cosmic rays are the actual reason behind the formation of clouds – i.e., sun rays play a role in the formation of clouds. Therefore, if clouds are generated by cosmic rays, and that they absorb and reflect solar radiation, which in turn make the earth’s surface cool or warm according to the cloud density, then it is with good reasons to claim that global warming is indeed caused by natural processes and not by human doing.

Still, there is a need to further underscore the fact that many doomsday prophecies in respect to the true state of the earth appear to be patently exaggerated, if not wholly unfounded as well. A glaring example would be to cite how scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came up with analyses and reports accentuating the correlation between the earth’s temperatures on the one hand and the levels of carbon dioxide on the other hand. This, we might as well be reminded, is in itself an indication of correlation but not of necessary connection, as argued hereinabove. Unfortunately, these scientists argued that, using the temperature-carbon dioxide correlation, the warming globe would be a precursor to a significant rise in sea levels within the next one hundred years. And by further claiming that sea levels are expected to rise at least twenty feet above the present level, these scientist warn of extensive flooding, reduction of earth’s land surface, and all sorts of natural disasters.

We need to point out, however, that this claim is at the very least preposterous. This is for the plain reason that, according to the recent studies shown in a BBC documentary called ‘The Global Warming Swindle’, it would take another 1000 years to have our sea level to rise dramatically by twenty feet, or less (Scott). Hardly over, another example pertinent to some scientists’ tendency to proffer unfounded studies comes through research by Thomas Knutson of the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. According to him, “a greenhouse gas-induced warming may lead to a gradually increasing risk in the occurrence of highly destructive category-5 storms” (Knutson 16). Another scientist from the IPCC agrees with Knutson, and even further researched on this case and concluded that we are on the way to another ice age. Once again, the extremities palpable in their conclusions make their claims highly dubitable. At the very least, we need to inquire why scientists arrive at differing conclusions – i.e., one speaks of catastrophic hurricanes, yet another prophesies a looming ice-age – using the same climate model as evidence. We have reasons to believe that these scientists have deliberately pushed their interpretation beyond what their evidences imply. And reason behind this, we might as well surmise, lies in the need to attract the public attention at the expense of portraying the truth of the matter regarding the state of our nature.

Providing evidence for this case, the authors J. Timmons Roberts and Bradley C. Parks in their book, ‘A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy’ would most likely support my case. Roberts and Parks cite that, “Though it would be impossible to say that any single hurricane was caused by global warming, the increase in air and water temperatures has undoubtedly increased the evaporation and energy in the climate system.” This phrase is so significant because it disproves that global warming is the trigger towards storms. It also shows that the increasing carbon dioxide has no correlation towards rising temperature, inasmuch as it is mainly evaporation and energy that affect climate.

Finally, it is imperative to note that many scientists’ tendency to lopsidedly zero in on construing doomsday leaves no room for appreciating the positive ramifications of global warming. During the course of my research, I realized that there are those who say that a warmer globe does not necessarily spell doom for humanity. On the contrary, it may even be beneficial for us. Bruce E. Johansen in his book The Global Warming: Desk Reference for instance contends, “a slight rise in temperatures and carbon dioxide levels would stimulate the growth of many plants” (Johansen 105). This is because the plants will more largely absorb carbon dioxide when there is more of it. Moreover, this proves that the earth’s natural cycle is on course, and that there is no need to unnecessarily incite panic from among the greater public. The earth will learn and adapt to climate changes as much as humans, and every other animal, would.

With the evidence from many studies from authors such as John Christian, Roy Spencer and many listed above, I confidently believe that carbon dioxide is not the reason behind global warming. Maybe our media is so influenced by our political leaders today that many of us follow behind them into believing that carbon dioxide is causing the warming of the earth. Why do they want us to believe this? My theory is when politics wants to be involved in any issue; their main concern is to search for benefits. So what is the solution behind global warming? There may seem like there is no solution but ultimately the solution is for the selfish to become unselfish for the selfish reason. If carbon dioxide is the real cause of global warming, our governments should use more of their money to create better ways of transportation rather than gain income from the warming. Transportation infrastructure includes more biking routes, bus stops, underground trains etc. This is proven to work as European countries implement it into their infrastructure. Thus, if global warming is a natural cycle, then we cannot do anything but to use more of the governments’ income to invest in other ways of living as global warming comes closer each day.

By way of conclusion, I wish to end with a thought which affirms the central roadmap and chief contention of this paper – i.e., the debate about global warming cannot be laid to rest, so long as the entire truth about the matter is not fully unraveled. Right now, the world is fed with much-publicized but too-often-pessimistic views about the ill-effects of global warming. And much too often, these supposed scientific studies pin the blame on human beings and their otherwise magnificent activities and achievements. This, I believe, is rather unfair. In the discussions that were developed, it was seen that there is more into global warming than merely attributing it to carbon dioxide emissions of the last few decades, and the increased concentration of greenhouse gasses observed in the present times. In the final analysis, we have to admit that the earth’s climate has always been changing. And as we have been through cold and warm periods, we must appreciate the fact that nearly all living species have found, in ways more than one, their respective ways of surviving. Certainly, the debate is far from being over.

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