This article contains information on everything you need to know about global warming in terms of its causes and effects.
The word Global warming is a common word virtually on the lips of many people including children who do not understand what it means. There is no doubt that as the days go by, the planet is becoming warmer every day thereby increasing the average air temperature near the earth surface.
Over the years, scientists have discovered the causes of these phenomenon
Mechanism of Global Warming:
- The incoming radiation from the Sun is mostly in the form of visible light and nearby wavelengths in the range of 0.2 – 4 1m, corresponding to the Sun’s radiative temperature of 6,000 K. Almost half the radiation is in the form of “visible” light, which our eyes are adapted to use.
- About 50% of the Sun’s energy is absorbed at the earth’s surface and the rest is reflected or absorbed by the atmosphere. The reflection of light back into space does not much affect the basic mechanism and this light is lost to the system.
- The absorbed energy warms the surface.
Basically, global warming is a resultant effect of human activities which brought about the depletion of the ozone layer. Ozone layer is high above the Earth’s surface that helps to protect the Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Ozone layer depletion is reduction of the thickness of the ozone layer thereby rendering it thin enough to the extent that it’s efficiency to withstand greenhouse effects is reduced.
Greenhouse effect is the gradual warming of the atmosphere brought about by increased carbon dioxide in the air. In other words, the greenhouse effect is the result of the inability of plants to absorb the vast quantities of carbon dioxide produced by nature through volcanic eruptions, forest fires, decaying vegetation and man-made activities through industrial processes. The unabsorbed carbon dioxide creates a kind of cotton like glass roof and wall around the earth which disallows the excess sun in the form of infrared rays to return back to space through radiation. This curtain hanging over the earth in the form of carbon dioxide acts as an insulator preventing the surplus heats from dissipating into the upper atmosphere.
Identifying the causes of global warming in detail will help to ascertain control measures. Therefore below are some of the causes of global warming.
Causes of Global Warming
1. BURNING FOSSIL FUELS
Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum for energy. A part of this is for heat and electricity, while another quarter is for other industrial processes and transportation, which includes gasoline- or diesel-powered cars, trucks, trains and airplanes. The other half of the energy is used for various other purposes, including agriculture, cement production and oil and gas production. In other words, every industrial activity like natural gas drilling, use of power plants for industrial activities all bring about an increase in the release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and CFCs into the atmosphere.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2): This greenhouse gas contributes about 55% to global warming from greenhouse gases produced by human activity. The main sources are fossil fuel burning (67%) and deforestation, other forms of land clearing and burning (33%). CO2 stays in the atmosphere for many years. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was high.
- CFC: These are believed to be responsible for 24% of the human contribution to greenhouse gases. They also deplete ozone in the stratosphere. The main sources of CFCs include leaking air conditioners and refrigerators, production of plastic foams, evaporation of industrial solvents, aerosols, propellants etc. Research shows that CFCs take 10-15 years to reach the stratosphere and generally trap about 1500 to 7000 times more heat per molecule than C02 while they are in the troposphere. This heating effect in the troposphere may be partially offset by the cooling caused when CFCs deplete ozone over a long period of time.
- Methane: This gas is produced when bacteria break down dead organic matter in moist places that lack oxygen such as swamps, paddy fields, landfills and digestive tracts of cattle, sheep, termites, etc. Production and use of oil and natural gas and incomplete burning of organic material are also significant sources of methane. Methane stays in the atmosphere for 7-10 years. Each molecule of methane traps about 25 times as much heat as a C02 molecule. It accounts for 18% of the increased greenhouse gases
- N2O: Human activities are responsible for 6% of this greenhouse gas. Besides, trapping heat in the troposphere also depletes ozone in the stratosphere. It is released from nylon products, from burning of biomass and nitrogen rich fuels like coals and from the breakdown of nitrogen fertilizers in soil, livestock wastes, etc.
2. AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITIES
It is a known fact that no economy can be sustained with Agriculture, but then agricultural practices that produce food for the people on earth is one of the human causes of climate change.
Some fertilizers that farmers use also release nitrous oxide, which is another powerful greenhouse gas. Methane which is another important greenhouse gas, comes from many natural sources, but also from the digestive systems of livestock raised for meat production as well as the decomposition of waste in wetlands and the burning of biomass.
Felling of trees has become the order of the day and this has contributed massively to climate change. The increased demand for meat and dairy cattle has led to the creation of feedlots in forest areas. Also, logging for wood for paper and bush clearing for crop production also requires trees to be cut and stumped and sometimes this is done illegally.
Trees play an important role in regulating the climate because they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. Trees and plants act as carbon sinks and are a valuable means of checking global warming because they take in carbon in the atmosphere for food production through the process known as photosynthesis.
But when humans clear vast areas of vegetation around the world for farming, urban infrastructural development or sell tree products such as timber and palm oil, the vegetation is removed or burnt, and the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2, contributing to global warming.
According to Scientific American, deforestation is responsible for 15 percent of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Common Effects of Global Warming
All these identified causes of global warming all have various effects on plants and animals and here are the major effects:
1. Global Temperature Increase
It is estimated that the earth’s mean temperature will rise between 1.5 to 5.5°C by 2050 if input of greenhouse gases continues to rise at the present rate. The implication of this is unexpected wildfires which is a lot of risk.
2. Rise in Sea Level
With the increase in global temperature sea water will expand and heat certainly will melt the polar ice sheets and glaciers resulting in further rise in sea level. Current models indicate that an increase in the average atmospheric temperature of 3°C would raise the average global sea level by 0.2-1.5 meters
The implication of this rise in Sea level is flooding and heavy rainfall. This will also disturb many commercially important spawning grounds, and would probably increase the frequency of storm damage to lagoons, estuaries and Coral reefs. The Lives of millions of people are always affected because on a regular basis people are displaced from their home due to flood.
3. Health Effect
The global warming brings about changes in the rainfall pattern in many areas, thereby bringing about an increase in the distribution of vector-borne diseases like malaria, elephantiasis etc.
Moreso, higher temperature and humidity causes an increase/aggravate respiratory and skin diseases.
Carbon monoxide is emitted from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels in the Urban areas road traffic is said to make up 99% of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. These pollutants have the ability to be taken up by hemoglobin in the blood. Other than oxygen, this can lead to headaches, dizziness , unconsciousness or even death depending on the exposure level. On the other hand, nitrogen pollution is composed of oxides of nitrogen. Nitrogen is a commonly occurring natural element . The main man-made source of oxides of nitrogen are combustion process burning fossil fuels, oxides of nitrogen have numerous significant air pollution issues associated with them including acid rain, respiratory and skin irritation. All these can lead to cancer of various types in the future.
4. Effects On Agriculture
There are different views regarding the effect of global warming on agriculture. It may show positive or negative effects on various types of crops in different regions of the world. Tropical and subtropical regions will be more affected since the average temperature in these regions is already on the higher side.
A temperature rise of 2°C may be quite harmful to crops. This is because soil moisture will decrease and evapotranspiration will increase, which may drastically affect some important crop production. Increase in temperature and humidity will increase pest growth as well. To cope with the changing situation, drought resistant, heat resistant and pest resistant varieties of crops are the best options.
Control Measure of Global Warming
There are numerous ways to curb or better still stop global warming:
1. Resort to Alternative Sources of Energy
One of the best controls of global warming is to switch to alternative energy sources such as solar power and wind power. You can easily harness these natural sources to generate power instead of fossil fuels. Doing away with fossil fuels alone will help in reducing the huge amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere every day.
In other words, reducing the amount of electricity generated from coal and gas and increasing the amount of electricity from clean, renewable energy sources like solar and wind is one solution to global warming.
2. Plant More Trees and Say No to Deforestation
This is by far the easiest measure to save our planet from the hazards of global warming. Global warming can be attributed to the large scale concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. On that note, planting trees can help in absorbing this harmful gas and help in regulating its amount in the atmosphere and thus preventing global warming by lessening greenhouse effect.
Since most of the products gotten from trees are used to paper production, reusing and recycling various products which we use in our day to day life can also help you to contribute in stopping global warming. For instance, recycling paper will make sure that the large scale felling of trees to produce paper is stopped, and these trees will in turn absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and reduce global warming.
For those who fell trees for infrastructural constructions, there should be laws guiding the felling of trees to prevent unlawful and incessant felling of trees.
3. Unplug Appliances:
Unplugging appliances to save energy is yet another effective way to address the problems of global warming. Simply unplugging all the electronic devices which are not in use can help in saving 20 per cent energy.
Also, keeping electronic appliances on standby also contributes to loss of energy and global warming. Therefore, this habit should be avoided.
4. Use a Programmable Thermostat
A thermostat helps in regulating the temperature by altering heat supply. Make sure that you keep your thermostat as low as possible during the winter, and as high as possible during the summer. Lowering the thermostat by 2 degrees in winter and increasing it by 2 degrees in summer can help in keeping large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
5. Use Vehicles Efficiently
Vehicles emit a great amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If we stop using vehicles we can cut down on the great amount of pollution but then it’s not possible to stop the use of cars. Since this is impossible, another option is to apply efficient driving tips, such as turning the engine off at red lights and driving at moderate speeds. Cars in bad conditions leading to danger carbon emissions should be banned and put off the road.
Cycling is another safe means of transportation that should be adopted by many countries to reduce carbon emission into the atmosphere.
6. General Awareness
Both government and Non-governmental Organizations should team up to enlighten the public about the causes and effects of global warming which is as a result of man’s activities on the ecosystem and leaders should introduce stricter laws that will check each of these activities of man.
Global warming is an aspect of climate change, which is the long-term rise of the planet’s temperature. It is caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as mentioned above, which is mainly from human activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation and various Agricultural practices.
The greenhouse effect contributing to this global crisis is not the same with that involving the regulation of temperature in an enclosed space to support plant growth but rather, this is a process by which radioactive energy leaving a planetary surface is absorbed by some atmospheric gases, called greenhouse gases. They transfer this energy to other components of the atmosphere, and it is re-radiated in all directions. This transfers energy to the surface and lower atmosphere, so the temperature there is higher than it would be if direct heating by solar radiation were the only warming mechanism.
In this article, the effects of this warming process have outlined and probable control measures discussed. The aim of this is to also educate readers so as to minimize the activities that contribute to global warming in order to make our ecosystem and environment habitable.
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