Monday, October 29, 2007
The beginning of the Industrial Revolution brought many new, exciting inventions into our lives to simplify our lives and made them more efficient. Such inventions included cars, household appliances and plants that burn solid waste, fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, and coal, and wood and wood products for fuel. Before the Industrial Revolution, human activities caused very few gases to be released into the atmosphere, but now scientists say, through the burning of fossil fuels, a large population growth and deforestation, humans are affecting the mixture of gases in the atmosphere. This mixture of gases in the atmosphere is causing the worldwide problem known as Global Warming. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the earth has a natural “greenhouse effect” which is caused by energy from the sun controlling the earth’s weather and climate, and heats the earth’s surface. In response to the sun, the earth radiates energy back into space. Atmospheric greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases, trap the energy leaving the earth and retaining it as heat, much like a greenhouse ceiling. This is a natural and necessary effect, without it temperatures on earth would be much lower than they are now and life as it is today would not be possible, but with the greenhouse effect the earth’s average temperature is a more comfortable and life-supporting 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The problems that have arisen with the greenhouse effect have occurred due to the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. The EPA reports that data collected over the last 100 years shows that the average land surface temperature has risen between .8 and one degree Fahrenheit, precipitation has increased around one percent over the globe and the sea level has risen approximately 6-8 inches, approximately 1-2 inches of the rise caused by melting mountain glaciers and another 1-4 inches has resulted from the expansion of the ocean water as a result of the warmer ocean temperatures. Scientists believe that the increase in greenhouse gas concentration, especially of carbon dioxide, is being caused by the combustion of fossil fuels and other human activities. Fossil fuels burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and power factories are responsible for about 98% of the total U.S. emission of carbon dioxide, 24% of the methane emissions and 18% of nitrous oxide emissions. Also contributing a significant share of emissions is the increase in agriculture, deforestation, landfills, industrial production, and mining. Scientists predicted that in 1997 the United States was responsible for the emission of about one-fifth of the total global greenhouse gases. The total amount of future emissions depends on a range of factors, such as demographic, economic, and technological policy and institutional developments, making it difficult to estimate future emissions. Despite the difficulty scientists have made some predictions; they predict that by the year 2100, without emissions control policies, carbon dioxide concentrations will be 30-150% higher than they are today. Scientists also expect that the earth’s average surface temperature could ride 1.6 – 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. It is also expected that the sea level is likely to rise two feet along most the U.S. coast. Today, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), for every one person out of the six billion people on Earth, almost six tons of carbon dioxide re released into the atmosphere each year. Because of human activities, the atmospheric concentration of this greenhouse gas has risen by over 30% over the last 250 years. According to the EDS, people can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being mixed into the atmosphere. Using public transportation, walking or biking to school or work, or if you must drive, join a carpool and use a car that gets high mileage are suggested to lower carbon dioxide levels. The EDS also recommends using energy-efficient appliances in your house, weatherizing your home and using renewable energy sources, like solar heat or wind power. Natural gas releases the least amount of carbon dioxide and therefore is recommended to replace coal and oil in power plants and factories. Climate change, such as global warming, is a global problem that requires actions of improvement from the entire international community. According to the EPA countries from around the world, including the United States, are working together to share technologies, experience, resources and talent to lower total greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the threat of global warming. These efforts, commonly referred to as Technology Cooperation, can occur between nations, private entities, and organizations around the world. International efforts are in progress to try to establish practices for land use, land use change and forestry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sinks. Locally, according to the EPA, cities and states around the U.S. are preparing or have already prepared greenhouse gas inventories, and are currently pursuing programs and policies that are hoped to result in the decrease of greenhouse gas emissions. The Union of Concerned Scientists, UCS, explains that one of the most important actions that need to be taken at any level is the amount of fossil fuels burned for energy at any level. It is suggested by many organizations that natural gases should replace other fuels such as coal, oil and gasoline, and that we should still limit the burning of even natural gases. It is also suggested that the government should create car-less cities, where citizens can only walk, ride bikes or use public transportation to get around inside the city. Yet another suggestion is to require citizens to drive electric cars, or electric hybrid cars, to reduce the amount of pollution put into the atmosphere by driving. A less popular action would be to limit the amount of gasoline available to each citizen over a certain amount of time, making them unable to contribute any more pollutants than anyone else is allowed. Transportation is not the only area where action can be taken, household appliances, heating or cooling equipment, consumer electronics, or office equipment also have an affect on the environment. According to the Consumer Federation of America Foundation, CFAF, the average home causes more air pollution than the average car. The CFAF also states that a household that buys “energy efficient equipment” instead of standard new equipment can considerably lower the emissions of carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the appliances, that is a pollution savings comparable to taking a car off the road for seven years. As well as lowering the amount of pollutants being put into the air, citizens can reduce their energy bills by around 30% by replacing their home appliances by energy efficient products in their home. Individuals can make a big difference in global warming also. Citizens can get involved with organizations to attract the attention of the government as well as following a couple of the suggestions made above. People can drive less, or use more efficient cars, smoke less, even cigarette and pipe smoke are pollutants, and replace their appliances and household products with more energy efficient ones. Global warming is a problem, and it won’t go away without the cooperation of the world and it’s inhabitants.
Posted by Taveler at 8:38 PM