How Is Global Warming Caused?
What Are The Causes of Global Warming?
It is a matter of vital importance to understand what Global Warming is. We need to understand how Global Warming is caused so that we are able to maintain a sustainable environment for ourselves and for the generations to come.
* Global Warming:
Global Warming is a term used to describe the rise in the average temperature of the earth’s atmosphere and the ocean, and its anticipated continuation over the coming years.
An increase in the temperature has a direct adverse impact on all of the nature’s cycles which take place on the earth and in its atmosphere; and thereby affects all humans equally. As such Global Warming is one of the most critical matters of concern about the environment.
* Why is Global Warming a concern?
- Due to Global Warming, the rise in temperature is occurring at a pace faster than what many living organisms can adapt.
- Raised temperatures of the environment may be responsible for the polar ice caps melting. If global warming causes the polar ice caps to melt this in turn could raise the water level of seas substantially. Raised sea levels may submerge some part of many cities and lands on the sea shore.
- Melting arctic glaciers have been a source of water to our rivers for thousands of years. If these glaciers melt down quickly, it may lead to scarcity in water supply eventually.
- Raised temperatures can adversely affect the weather cycles leading to more drastic storms and hurricanes, heavy rains followed by longer periods without rains; leading to droughts and famines in many areas of the world.
- Global Warming may also impact agricultural yields, in terms of either having a very good agricultural production or having a very low production.
- Global Warming has lead to the emergence of many new diseases as it is easier for bacteria to survive in elevated temperatures. Scientists also expect that warmer temperatures may promote diseases from hanta to machupo and even the ebola virus.
- Global Warming may also be responsible for the extinction of many species.
- Increased temperature of the sea water may disturb the entire undersea ecosystem. The coral reef is expected to be completely extinguished with raised atmospheric temperatures.
* How is Global Warming caused?
It is critically important that human race understand the causes responsible for Global Warming so that these causes can be well dealt with, while we still have time. The causes of Global Warming are due to both natural processes and man-made causes. However, before we proceed to get into the details of the natural and man-made causes responsible for Global Warming, it is first important to understand in brief something about the ‘greenhouse effect’.
-The Greenhouse effect:
Some part of the sunlight of the sun is absorbed by the earth to warm itself, and the rest is reflected back to space in longer wavelengths. The greenhouse gases of the atmosphere like water vapors, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N20), fluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) absorb these longer wavelengths which otherwise would have lost to space; thereby warming the atmosphere. This phenomenon wherein the greenhouses gases trap the sunlight from the sun to warm the atmosphere is called the greenhouse effect. An increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere means that more heat from the sunlight would be trapped, which would raise the temperature of the atmosphere; thereby contributing more to the problem of Global Warming. Therefore, in order to solve the problem of Global Warming, we would have to put in measures to decrease the concentration of greenhouse gases by cutting down their emissions.
- Natural processes that contribute to Global Warming
Though the natural processes have always been in existence, they never really posed any huge risk owing to the slow pace and magnitude at which they affect the earth’s temperature, and also owing to the simultaneous pace at which the nature corrects these effects. But together with the man-made causes of Global Warming the natural causes are worth considering. Also, to understand the comprehensive picture of Global Warming it is important to understand the natural processes contributing to the Global Warming.
1. Emission of methane, which is a greenhouse gas, from marshes, wetlands, arctic tundra, rice paddies, cattle etc. is a prominent natural cause contributing to Global Warming.
2. As more and more of the polar ice caps and glaciers melt, a compound called methane clathrate trapped in the crystalline structure of ice containing large amounts of methane is released, thereby adding to the already existing Global Warming problem.
3. Another natural cause for the increased temperatures around the world is the climate change cycle of earth which usually lasts for a period of about 40,000 years.
4. Change in the output of the sun by a mere 1% over the time of 100 years may raise the average temperature of earth by about 0.5 to 1.0 degree Celsius.
5. Any slight change in the shape of the orbit of the Earth around the Sun would affect the total amount of solar energy received by Earth, which could alter the temperature of planet Earth.
- Man-made causes of Global Warming
Although there are natural processes which contribute to Global Warming, a major contribution to Global Warming has been the activities of humans. Man has been responsible for the excessive generation and emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at such a fast rate that the natural corrective processes have been left far behind in the race. The most prominent contribution of humans to Global Warming has been the emission of carbon dioxide gas. The major man-made reasons for Global Warming are listed down below.
1. Burning fossil fuels in power plants:
This is one of the most important contributors to Global Warming. The burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) in the furnaces of the power plants and industries emits a large amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is approximated that 72% of the greenhouse effect is caused by carbon dioxide alone.
Deforestation has led to the decrease in the number of trees and plants which play an important role in capturing and storing the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere. Activities of the human race increase the sources of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere and at the same time decrease the sources of carbon dioxide absorption; resulting in a two-way damage to the environment.
3. Burning petroleum products for transportation:
With the growth of the human population, the need for an increased transportation arises. In most of the means of transportation, petroleum products are utilized for combustion, which leads to the increased emission of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere
4. Increased application of nitrogen rich fertilizers to crops:
To increase the harvest, farmers make use of nitrogen rich fertilizers in the agricultural lands. Therefore owing to the larger concentration of nitrogen oxides in and around the farmlands more heat is from the Sun is trapped, since per unit volume of nitrogen oxides can trap three times more heat than carbon dioxide.
5. Rearing more livestock for the ever increasing population:
A large population means a large requirement of food supply. To meet this increased supply more agriculture is done and more livestock are reared. The intestinal guts of the cattle release a large amount of methane during the digestion process. After carbon dioxide, methane is the second most potent greenhouse gas.
6. Gases used for industrial processes and refrigeration.
Many industrial processes, refrigeration and air conditioning release fluorocarbons which as greenhouse gases contribute to Global Warming.
7. Disposal of agricultural bi-products and other wastes:
Disposal of agricultural bi products or any other type of waste in general is another cause of Global Warming. If the waste is disposed by means of burning then carbon dioxide is produced and if the waste is decomposed, then the decomposition process emits methane. Both carbon dioxide and methane are potent greenhouse gases.
The term ‘Global Warming’ speaks to the fact that it is a global issue. It should therefore be the responsibility of the global citizens of the earth to ensure that we are doing our bit to fight against the causes of Global Warming. Once all of us as individuals are aware as to how Global Warming is caused it should be easier to resolve the issues involved in Global Warming.