While global warming is a natural process, it is rapidly becoming one the most pressing environmental issues in the world. The heating of the planet is causing more wildfires, as well as driving much Arctic tundra wildlife into endangerment, and also causing the polar ice caps to melt. The consequences of global warming could be disastrous if we as humans continue at the current rate of ozone damage that we are now. Even though some argue that global warming happens naturally, there is evidence that the footprints being left behind by humans have a significant effect on the rising global temperatures. There are several theories about what is causing the change, and also the magnitude of the effects of a warmer planet, along with the health concerns that come with air pollution caused by humans. Without advances in renewable energy, we could very quickly do damage to our environment, and eventually our planet.
Firstly, what as humans are we doing to make Earth warmer, so much that we should be concerned? One of the factors to consider would be releasing greenhouse gases, also known as the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect happens by the combustion of natural gases, oil and coal in mass quantities and then gets added to the atmosphere. In turn, is adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The increased amount of gas makes it more difficult for heat to leave the planet and causes the global temperature to go up. The chain of reactions that could be set off by a warmer world could substantially alter many ecosystems on a world scale.
With rising global temperatures, the concern of wildfires is also increasing. The National Wildlife Federation believes that ‘global warming is causing longer fire seasons drier condition along with more fuel for the fires and an increased frequency of lightning’. There is a major concern for areas that are vulnerable to having forest fires. With summers starting earlier and ending later, it allows for more time for trees and grass to dry out, allowing forest fires to start easier and more rapidly. Since global warming cause’s higher temperatures and causes water to evaporate faster in warmer temperatures, it can be deduced that water is evaporating quicker due to global warming. Water is essential for any forest ecosystem, and less water could make it so some trees that either dies or weaken because of a lack of water. If trees begin dying at a rapid pace, it could spark massive wildfires because of the newly formed fuel of trees and grasses. Also, with dry condition an increased occurrence of lightning storms could spark more fires than we have ever experienced before. The chain of reactions that this could set off would be catastrophic, with ‘the bottom line is that the overall area burned is projected to double by late this century across Western States’.
An increased rate of wildfires could also disrupt forest ecosystems. Doug Inkley makes points that more rapid and intense fires could catch wildlife off guard, making it difficult for animals to escape, and also with their habitats burning down more frequently, it could cause more stress for them. If the rate of wildfires goes up, it is possible that there could be irreversible damage done to the species that occupy those areas, and it is especially depressing to think that human’s irresponsibility could cause it.
While some wildlife species are having their habitats burned down, global warming is also causing other ecosystems to thaw, particularly the Arctic tundra. The Arctic tundra is a very particular environment, with its defining feature being the permafrost. The permafrost makes it tough for many plant and animal species to survive, due to the extremely low temperatures and poor growing conditions. Dutch states that:
Global warming is consequently likely to have some of its greatest effects in the tundra. Some major impacts associated with rising temperatures in the tundra are thawing of permafrost and advancing tree lines, both of which decrease tundra area and contribute further to global warming
By raising the global temperature, even in the slightest bit, the tundra could disappear in the very near future. Without the permafrost in place, forests would begin creeping up into the areas that would otherwise be frozen and using deduction, the species that inhabit that area will also move into the woods. Arctic tundra wildlife would have to begin to compete for resources with the other new species. Dutch also brings up the point that ‘permafrost is also believed to contain large amounts of carbon as thaws, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are released’. If we as humans continue the path of releasing greenhouse gases that we are on now, we will begin down a path of no return.
Of all the reasons for why we should feel concerned about speeding up global warming, the melting of the ice caps should be the most concerning. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, that if the ice in Greenland and Antarctica were to melt, it could potentially raise the sea level by seventy-five meters. Even though it could potentially be decades before this happens, there still needs to be awareness about humans accelerating global warming. The largest problem is, however, that all too often, humans wait too long to take any action. Lisa Mastny says that ‘the Arctic is now warming at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the globe’. Just because while people do not immediately see the weather getting warmer every year, global warming does not receive the needed attention to help prevent it from getting any worse. But, however, one thing we can see is air pollution.
With China being a world leader in production, it is obvious that some regulation needs to be put into place, as the correlation between sulfur dioxide concentration and the mortality rate is not one that is sustainable to not only China but the whole planet. With many countries that are unregulated like China still developing, it is troubling to think of what the future could be like unless some regulation is needed to stop the air pollution.
While it should be a goal to cut back on carbon dioxide emissions, it is still necessary for us to keep moving forward into expanding and making technological advances, something that cannot happen without energy. Renewable energy offers a fascinating approach to solving the carbon dioxide emissions crisis. According to Tom Vinson of the American Wind Energy Association, ‘recent studies show low-cost wind energy allows states and electric generators to affordably and reliably cut the most carbon’. By pushing for new legislation to make mandates for an increased percentage of power to be wind power, we could eventually make the switch to all clean, green energy.
Global warming is a critical environmental issue, and if action is not taken to help prevent it, it could very quickly go from concern to a serious problem. While some argue that global warming is a natural process of nature, if you consider all the facts of the possible effects of a warming planet, such as the increased risk of wildfires, endangerment of Arctic and forest wildlife. Also the potential of causing ice caps to melt more rapidly, the needed action to help slow it is not enough. Also, with the release of greenhouse gases into the ozone, we are not only causing permanent damage to the only planet we have, we are also causing people in areas of heavy impact to die faster than those who are not.
While there is debate over global warming being a myth or it occurring naturally, it is not worth the risk or the use of valuable resources like coal, oil, and natural gas to continue our current path. With technological advances in clean, efficient renewable energy like wind turbines is a very real possibility. Why should we continue to focus our attention on making more carbon burning energy plants, an unsustainable practice, when we could be focusing on improving an unlimited, clean energy source? Without the needed support and attention of the masses, it is a very real possibility humans will cause too much damage to the ozone layer, igniting a spark of events that could potentially cause future generations to deal with a significant burden. With action taken right now to make strides towards a greener planet, we could help the world out before it is too late.
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