To any and all that want to save animals, humans & love life...
My personal definition of global warming would be the unnaturally high overall average temperature of the Earth and the continuing trend of those temperatures to increase.
I'm concerned that the change in global temperatures will have a very negative impact on humanity. The Earth's population relies on a predictable environment with few fluctuations in its nature. Most people probably don't realize how closely tied our food sources are to a stable environment. A sudden, relatively drastic change in an area's temperature, rainfall, or various other environmental factors can mean that most crops will fail. If such crop failures suddenly become widespread across the globe, it could mean disaster. The people of the third world would suffer the most, but even Americans and Europeans could eventually be affected.
The rising sea levels will, of course, eventually wreak havoc with all coastal areas. In general, global warming could be an extremely serious threat to our way of life. There may also be dangers involved in global warming that are not yet apparent.
Unfortunately, many of the wealthy and influential people involved in politics in our country appear to be more concerned about maintaining the profit margins of their businesses than in doing what needs to be done to avoid a dangerous environmental change on the Earth. Exxon and other businesses appear to have exerted a great deal of influence on the current administration of the US. The Bush administration has done its utmost to avoid any sort of legislation or rulings that might be unfavorable to the oil and coal industries.
Moreover, the religious right in the US and other countries have done everything within their power to prevent family planning efforts across the globe. Global warming is largely a product of there being too many people on Earth. This is especially true with the massive populations of India and China now becoming more affluent and industrial.
The combination of the widening use of fossil fuels and the burdgeoning population of the planet ensure that a global warming disaster will be inevitable. Unfortunately, the policies of the Bush administration on both of these issues is exactly the worse possible stance.
Very few people manage to get any sort of news or information that does not come through the media. What the people in control of the media choose to broadcast is generally what people will know.
Of course, there are many different types of broadcasters. For instance, in talk radio, which tends to be dominated by conservatives, you will find very little accurate information on any subject, including global warming. (Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania did a study that showed that Rush Limbaugh listeners believed they were the best informed people, but upon testing it was found they were actually the least informed).
Meanwhile, other sources of information that may contain a great deal of accurate information may have a relatively small audience. This is generally the case with most scientific journals.
Politics often seems to be a factor in which people form an audience for the various media outlets. The media outlets are well aware of this and tend to pander to their listeners. Thus, people who support politicians that do not take global warming seriously tend to hear media reports that reinforce the claims made by the politicians they support. It can be a vicious circle.
A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that "there is a 90 percent chance that global warming is caused by humans." The report is considered an authoritative document that could influence government and industrial policy worldwide.
The panel defined "very likely" as at least 90% certain that climate change is caused by humans, primarily via the burning fossil fuels. The report predicted that there be a temperature increase of 2.5-10.4 degrees Farenheit by the year 2100.
Some participants on the panel had wanted to change the wording regarding human causality to "virtually certain," which they defined as a 99 percent likelihood.
The most obvious effects so far of global warming has been the receding and disappearance of various glaciers across the globe. There has been a rather drastic reduction in the ice sheet covering Greenland. Arctic ice has become so thin in areas that polar bears have been having trouble hunting in those areas. These are generally the effects that have been unequivocally linked to global warming.
There may be other effects that are linked to global warming that are more difficult to prove have a connection. For instance, two geophysicists, Jeanne Sauber, (with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.), and Bruce Molnia, (with the US Geological Survey in Reston, Va), have put forward a theory that shrinking glaciers may be tied to an increase in earthquakes.
They found, using NASA satellite and global positioning system receivers, as well as computer models, that when tons of ice are removed from areas that had been previously covered with glaciers for thousands of years, the ground in the area begins to rise. The removal of all the weight, and the subsequent movement of large areas of land, can trigger earthquakes in seismically prone areas.
Some hurricanes may also have been more powerful lately due to global warming. There is some debate on that subject. Most scientists seem to agree that global warming is likely increasing the severity of such storms
What will become of humanity if something is not done about global warming? The Earth has been here long before humans evolved and would probably keep going just fine if we all died off. A lot of people talk about "saving the Earth" from global warming, but what they are really talking about is saving humanity from global warming.
In the long term, if humans do nothing about global warming, then the increasing intensity of storms, the increasing incidence of alternating droughts and floods, and other factors will probably kill off most humans. With the drastic reduction in human population will come a drastic reduction in the production of CO2. There will also probably be a drastic reduction in the deforestation of the tropical areas. In the end, the Earth would probably go back to normal, but there would be a lot fewer humans here. From this perspective global warming is something of a self-correcting problem.
Of course, as humans, we would generally prefer there to be a solution that did not involve our deaths...
Economic and population growth are two of the biggest problems in global warming. We either have to drastically change the way humans are living, (use new technologies that do not involve producing CO2), or drastically reduce the population of the planet. It would actually probably be wise to do both.
Some people have a lot invested in companies that produce or use oil and coal. Those people are too often unwilling to allow themselves to see any problem that would involve a reduction in their profit margins.
Other people have a tendancy to doubt anything that does not conform to the way things have been during the majority of their lives. These people tend to be resistant to any sort of new ideas. These are the type of people who, in the past, probably scoffed at such things as airplanes and the world being spherical.
Yet another type of people are simply too wrapped up in their own petty concerns to be interested in anything that does not seem to be directly affecting them at the present moment. You would probably be surprised how many people in the US don't ever read a newspaper or watch a TV show more informative than "American Idol".
That depends on which "alternative fuel" you are talking about. Ethanol, natural gas, and "clean coal" probably won't do a whole lot to stop global warming. All of those alternative fuels still produce CO2 when they are burned. Really, people will need to find ways of doing what they need to do without burning stuff. About the only thing you can burn without producing CO2 is hydrogen, but pure hydrogen doesn't really exist much on this planet, it needs to be produced using forms of technology that generally produce CO2. In the future, however, it may be possible to use hydrogen that has been produced via processes that do not produce CO2. People in Iceland have been doing some work on using their natural geothermal energy to produce hydrogen for fuel.
Another possible approach is the use of fuel cells to chemically produce electricity from fuels without burning them, (and hopefully without producing CO2). This type of technology has shown some promise, but more research still needs to be done on it before it will be viable for widespread use.
Using wind, waves, hydroelectric dams, solar panels, and geothermal energy to produce electricity is probably what is going to be needed on a huge scale. Basically anything in nature that moves, (such as water and wind), can be used to produce usable power. We just need to figure out how to harness all of it. Another problem is that the further you transmit electricity through wires, the more energy you lose. Thus, while the coasts may have huge amounts of energy available from waves, it can be hard to get the energy where you need it in-land. Switching some of the eletrical transmission from the current AC scheme to one using DC current might overcome some of this problem.
Since George W Bush pulled the US out of the agreement, and the US is one of the major producers of greenhouse gases, the Kyoto Protocol was something of a failure. Also, as the Bush administration has said, there was a problem in the Kyoto Protocol in that it did not limit the CO2 emissions of developing countries. Thus, China and India were not limited. Those countries are going to be huge problems as their enormous populations become more industrial. (Of course, simply pulling out of the Kyoto agreement was probably not the best way of responding to the problem).
A new agreement needs to be hammered out that includes the US, China, India, and probably every other country on the planet.
Generally, plants absorb more CO2 than they produce. So the more plants we have on the planet, the better off we'll be. Thus, cutting down rainforests and trees is going to make global warming worse.
Also, the people that are cutting down the rainforest tend to clear the areas by burning them. This massive burning produces quite a lot of CO2. There is an especially bad problem of this sort occuring an the large Indonesian island of Borneo. On Borneo, there are large peat bogs, in which organic materially has been accumulating for millenia. This material is around 60 feet deep in many places. Normally, the bogs would be too wet to burn. Unfortunately, back in the 90s Indonesia began trying to drain these bogs to convert them into agricultural land. When peasants on Borneo began to clear away rainforest in the area around the bogs, they began burning the foliage. These fires eventually spread into the huge, dried out peat bogs. These peat bogs have been continually burning and smoldering ever since. It is estimated that these huge smoldering peat bogs have added an additional 200 million to 1 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere.
The most effected so far have been animals that live in polar habitats. There have been reports of polar bears dying because ice was too thin for them to hunt on. There have also been various other less sensation reports on the affects of wildlife in the arctic.
There have been some reports of animals and plants being seen in areas where they are not normally native. It seems that some wildlife has began to move more northward or to higher elevations as temperatures increase.
One problem that will affect humans due to this migration is that diseases that used to be confined to tropical areas will begin to move into new areas. This could be especially bad with malaria.
The effects of global warming on wildlife will probably become more drastic in more areas in the near future.
Glaciers generally exist simply because they receive more snowfall in the winter than gets melted off them in the summer. Usually, this is a pretty near balance between snow accumulation and melting and it has taken thousands of years for glaciers to reach their peak mass. In places where the accumulation/melt balance has been disturbed by a rise in temperatures, the glaciers have ceased to grow and have started to melt away. It appears that the temperature has risen sufficiently in many areas to allow the melt rate to vastly out pace the accumulation rate.
For many human populations, this will be a BIG problem. This is due to the fact that a lot of cities have been built on rivers that get their water from melting glaciers. In the past, the melt rate has been steady enough that these rivers have had a fairly steady flow. In the future, instead of being fed by melting glaciers, those rivers will probably get large amounts of water from heavy rains during one part of the year, and then dry out during another part of the year. Thus cities, instead of having a constant supply of water, will get hit by floods and then droughts. (Phoenix is probably one of those cities, I wouldn't invest a lot of money in land there).
Infrastructure will have to be put in place to capture and store water during heavy rainfalls so that cities will have water during droughts. This type of infrastructure does not exist in most places and it will be extremely expensive to create. Some poorer areas may not be able to produce the needed infrastructure, those areas will no longer be able to support the populations they now contain.
Another problem caused by rivers drying up will be a reduction in the availability of electricity produced by hydroelectric dams. This is a form of energy that does not produce CO2. As this energy source becomes unavailable, some places may try to replace the lost power with coal plants or other types of power plants that produce more CO2.
The industrialized countries produce the most CO2. Developing countries in tropical areas tend to cause the most deforestation. Almost all countries have probably done something to contribute to the problem. As I've said before, India and China are poised to completely push the global environment over the edge, (due to their huge populations and increasing industrialization).
The most important solutions would be to start building A LOT of power plants that use wind, solar, wave, and geothermal power. Geothermal power could actually produce most of the needed power for the Earth's population if research was done into better ways to drill deep enough shafts for it to be harnessed everywhere. Unfortunately, the Bush administration cut ALL funding this year for this type of geothermal energy research.
We also need to start using electric cars and building the infrastructure necessary for these vehicles.
Better types of heating systems using electricity also need to be developed. One type of electric powered heating that shows promise is Geothermal Electric Heat Pumps. This technology uses a pumping system to draw heat out of the surrounding ground and concentrate it using pressure. This tends to be a lot more efficient than standard electric heating. Unfortunately, it is more expensive to install because it involves burying high pressure tubing deep enough to collect all the needed heat from the ground.
Other than just eliminating all the processes that produce CO2. There are various other schemes for correcting the problem. These include things ranging from burying the carbon underground, to putting systems in orbit to block a portion of the sunlight from reaching earth. A lot of these schemes tend to have possible side-effects that could quite possibly be worse than the global warming problems.
One positive side effect of this global warming problem occurs to me that I have yet to hear anyone mention. The fact of the matter is, the temperature of the Earth tends to fluctuate. We know that in the past, there have been multiple ice ages and periods with high temperatures. If this global warming problem results in humans developing technologies that allow us to have a measure of control over the temperature of the Earth, then humanity will have found solutions to a problem that would certainly eventually arise naturally at some point in our future, whether we caused the present problem or not.
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By Irene and Klotz SAN
FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The
Arctic air blasting the
eastern United States is
positively balmy compared
to the record minus 136
degrees Fahrenheit (minus
93 degrees Celsius)
temperature measured in
Antarctica in August
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on Earth? "It's in
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scientist at the National
Snow and Ice Data Center
in Boulder, Colo., said
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