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Andrin Simeon Geography 1000 Professor Brinton EPortfolio Assignment April 22, 2015

Global Warming

The topic of global warming is a well known issue that constantly concerns most of us.

While many people are convinced that this serious environmental threat is caused by mankind, others believe it is due to earth’s natural cooling and warming cycles that have been occurring for many thousands of years. Global warming is important because it threatens our existence and every individual in the world will have to deal with the effect, whether it is eventually proven to be manmade or a natural occurrence.

The use of fossil fuels is currently considered by many to be the main cause of global warming; however, other factors such as the agricultural sector are also contributors, with the eradication of the rain forest and the Amazon as compounding factors as well.

According to the Climate Change 2013 summary report, human activities are affecting the earth’s energy balance by changing emissions and resulting in “atmospheric concentrations of radiatively important gases and aerosols and by changing land surface properties” (147).

Observation of the atmosphere, land, oceans and cryosphere have provided scientists with evidence of the changing global climate; this combined with evidence of increased concentrations

of greenhouse gases has led to the theory that human activity is causing global warming. Specifically, the greenhouse gases in question are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Land use and agriculture, especially the increase in intensive farming methods in the developing countries, are additional ways humans contribute to global warming by increasing the concentration of green house gases and will be discussed in this paper.

The graphic above illustrates the processes involved in global warming. Global Warming occurs globally. The oceans,

The graphic above illustrates the processes involved in global warming.

Global Warming occurs globally. The oceans, melting arctic ice and rainforests are some regions that demonstrate the changes more vividly that others; ice and snow covers are being reduced in polar regions, while temperatures globally are rising with less rainfall and an increase in wind and dust storms. Generally warming temperatures and natural disasters are another indicator of the changing climate. The graph below illustrates the relationship between human- caused emissions and the rising temperatures globally.

Observed and projected changes in global average temperature under three no-policy emissions scenarios. The shaded areas

Observed and projected changes in global average temperature under three no-policy emissions scenarios. The shaded areas show the likely ranges while the lines show the central projections from a set of climate models. A wider range of model types shows outcomes from 2 to 11.5°F. Changes are relative to the 1960-1979 average. Source: USGCRP 2009.

There are different opinions on the cause of global warming. Currently, the various research, opinions and arguments regarding global warming can be broken down into two main camps: one arguing that human impact is the cause, the other reasoning that the earth has been warming and cooling for thousands of years and is simply going through another warming cycle.

One theory both sides tend to agree on is that humans started changing the climate 10,000 to 9,000 years ago and not just as recently as the industrial age. In the article “Global Warming before Smokestacks,” the journalist Josh Fischman discusses a hypothesis developed by Dr. William Ruddiman, an environmental scientist. Ruddiman believes humans started changing the climate long ago. Fischman summarizes Dr. Rudimann’s theory and explains that he proposed this new cause of global warming because he actually wanted to prove that mankind has been responsible for climate change for thousands of years. However, the opponents of anthropogenic (caused by

man) global warming use the theory to prove their claim that humans have been influencing the climate for just as long and that today’s CO 2 output is not any worse than 10,000 years ago. They rely on Rudimann’s claim that the effect of earth’s much larger population today on the climate is much more severe than the effects of a few thousand people many years ago:

Within the past 10,000 years, humans began changing the planet, clearing land to grow food by cutting and burning forests. A map of archaeological sites shows signs of domesticated grains, and of cut-and-burned fields, that began 10,000 to 9,000 years ago in the Middle East. That practice spread north, east, and west until, by 5,700 years ago, it covered all of Europe and parts of Asia. And in Asia, by about 5,000 years ago, a good deal of land was cleared, flooded, and turned into rice paddies. When you burn forests, carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere. In rice paddies, plants rot in water and give off methane.


According to the Climate Change Report, “global mean surface air temperatures over land and oceans have increased over the last 100 years” (148). This is important because it contributes to the reduction (melting) of land ice masses and Arctic sea ice, which also leads to rising sea levels. Scientist believe the underlying cause for this is because the world’s oceans are absorbing

CO 2 , which is having a serious negative effect on the chemistry of sea water. Also, the natural greenhouse effect keeps the earth warmer than it would otherwise be. Emissions caused by human activity increase the atmospheric concentration of the following greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons and nitrous oxide. An increase of these gases support the greenhouse effect. The three main ways humans contribute to a higher concentration of these gases in the atmosphere is via fossil fuel use, land use change and agriculture. The atmospheric concentration of CO 2 has increased by 31% since 1750, and that of methane by 151%. Additionally, global mean surface air temperature has increased by 0.3% to 0.6% over the last 100 years, and the five warmest global average years were in the 1980s. According to the scientists who wrote the Climate

Change report,

in addition to the main offenders, other human-released pollutants such as

carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide have a indirect effect on the greenhouse effect by changing the amount of important gases and by “acting as the precursor of secondary aerosols”(149).

Finally, agriculture is believed to have a serious impact on global warming. In the article “Global Farm Animal Production and Global Warming: Impacting and Mitigating Climate Change,” the authors G. Koneswaran and D. Nierenberg wanted to combine scientific information from studies on the impact of farm animal production on global warming and offer additional data and evidence on the issue. Their argument is that methane and nitrous oxide have a more serious effect on global warming than CO 2 . They demonstrate that farm animal production causes 18% of man-made greenhouse gases. According to the authors, approximately 56 million farm animals are raised and slaughtered per year, and this number is expected to double by 2050. The authors also claim that CO 2 emissions from animal agriculture are responsible for about 9% of the total emissions. This percentage includes fossil fuels for fertilizer production, transportation of animal products and animal feed, emissions caused by changes in land use (including de-forestation, desertification and land damage). Millions of tons of nitrogen accumulates in animal manure as a result of the nitrogen based artificial fertilizers used to produce corn and soybean based farm animal feed. The effect of methane is 23 times stronger than CO2, and nitrous oxide is 296 times more damaging. 65% of worldwide nitrous oxide is produced by farm animal productions, and up to 40% of annual methane emissions.

There are several important steps that need to be taken to deal with the negative effects of global warming. First and foremost, in order to bring on any lasting impact, the public needs to be on board. Laws and regulations in favor of protecting the environment can only be successfully implemented with the support of the public; just as important is the fact that execution methods benefitting the environment will be up to individual citizens and communities, which will require their support in addition to government backing.

It is very urgent to of involve and educate the public; this is demonstrated by the fact that more than four in ten Americans say the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, while one in three say it is generally underestimated and only about one in four say it is generally correct (Dugan). These numbers demonstrate that passing any laws to reduce carbon dioxide emissions would receive a backlash in the US presently; while implementation would be equally difficult without public support. According to Dugan, global warming and support for measures in environmental protection is a social problem, and largely divided among political party lines.

For example, forty-two percent of Republicans say most scientists believe global warming is occurring, compared with 82% of Democrats. Another 43% of Republicans believe most scientists aren't sure about global warming, a position only 14% of Democrats accept (Dugan). In an article written by Neil Munro, the current discussion in the U.S. Senate regarding new laws on the topic of global warming and energy production/use is discussed. He addresses how the debate is influenced by complicated scientific evidence, which is often based on climate models and weather simulations that include data on subjects like the effect of clouds which transfer heat from the atmosphere to space. This research is difficult to present to the public in a manner that the average person without a science background can understand. Munro discusses the tactics skeptics use to attempt to demonstrate to the public that much of the scientific research supporting global warming is not well-founded, but he also believes skeptics’ criticism might result in better scientific research. He claims that the scientific community needs to make a better effort to discuss the issue with the public, since many people don’t understand the scientific studies and evidence and are skeptical because the issue is so complex.

“Climate Change Skepticism and Denial” is an article that discusses the characteristics of opponents of global warming. The author, Riley E. Dunlap is a professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University and was president of the International Sociological Association’s Research Committee on Environment and Society. He discusses the skepticism or even denial of the occurrence of global warming and climate change by a large percentage of the public in the United

States. He claims global warming is a “social problem” which was recognized in 1990 and emphasizes that since then, there has been very little success in reducing effects on the environment and society and that the negative effects are constantly increasing. He too emphasizes that manmade or ”anthropogenic global warming” is a very complex occurrence and as a result, the effects cannot be exactly predicted. These factors make it difficult for the public to understand causes and effects, and to feel responsible for contributing to a solution. Dunlap emphasizes that “uncertainty and skepticism” are two of the main characteristics of science. Most scientists are aware of this, but the public does not understand why the information presented is not clear. Dunlop also refers a paper presented at the symposium that documents the development of a “denial machine” based on false information. This is spread by conservative politicians, industrial sponsors such as the fossil fuel and manufacturing industries, or conservative media, television and radio talk programs and internet denial blogs. Dunlop describes a “skepticism-denial continuum” and shows how the public often lets itself be influenced by a small minority of “alarmist environmentalists,” to the extent that they often refuse to even discuss the topic.

The public must realize that decisions must be made regarding methods to control the effects of global warming. In order to reach a consensus on what methods to use, broad-based discussion could be implemented which would include input from all segments of society, young and old, political conservatives and liberals, and lay people and scientists. Since it hasn’t been possible to develop this discussion before, the public needs to make a larger effort now. Three main groups need to be influenced to support this discussion: politicians, media and scientists. The public can activate political support by contacting their representatives through letter writing campaigns, participating in political party meetings and events and electing representatives who will support conducting a fair and respectful discussion. I am convinced that the media, our politicians and the scientific community need to launch a large scale campaign to inform the public better on the topic of global warming. This will make the public debate less emotional and lead to real communication between supporters and skeptics of this

serious issue. The debate began thirty years ago and we still haven’t agreed on taking action, while the effects of global warming are becoming more apparent every day. We need to find solutions to the environmental effects of global warming, whether manmade or caused by external factors, such as natural cycles of climate warming and cooling. I hope that mankind becomes aware of the

serious issue. The debate began thirty years ago and we still haven’t agreed on taking action,

seriousness of the problem and that each of us realize that we need to contribute to the solution by informing ourselves on the topic and participating in the discussion.

Self Reflection

Reflection: This assignment has given me the opportunity to review the underlying causes of global warming. I realized that while natural gases may also have an impact on contributing to the greenhouse effect, human activity still has a much greater impact. To find that agriculture has such a large impact was surprising; since mostly cars and industry come to mind when thinking of global warming. Realizing that we, as humans, need to come together to find a solution was another key part of this assignment. Some humans, in developing nations, do not have the luxury to worry about global climate change - yet they are still impacted. We, in the developed world, are divided not only on how to deal with combating climate change but about the very fact that it is occurring. I learned that scientists might need to come up with a more understandable way to educate the public, as people tend to either believe their research - or simply not even give it their time of day. Many members of the public are unable to understand the data and information presented to them or otherwise, are influenced by politicians and media to believe global warming is a hysteria-creating overreaction to a natural atmospheric phenomena that’s out of our hands. We need to find solutions to the environmental effects of global warming, whether manmade or caused by external factors, such as natural cycles of climate warming and cooling. I hope that mankind becomes aware of the seriousness of the problem and each of us realizes that we need to contribute to the solution by informing ourselves on the topic and participating in the discussion.

Works Cited

Cubasch, U., D. Wuebbles, D. Chen, M.C. Facchini, D. Frame, N. Mahowald, and J.-G. Winther, 2013: Introduction. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

Dugan, Andrew. "Americans Most Likely To Say Global Warming Is Exaggerated." Gallup Poll

Briefing (2014): 2. Business Source Premier. Web. 21 Oct. 2014.



Dunlap Riley E. “Climate Change Skepticism and Denial: An Introduction.” American Behavioral Scientist 57 (6) (2013): 691-698. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Sept.


Fischman, Josh. "Global Warming Before Smokestacks." Chronicle Of Higher

Education 56.11 (2009): B11-B12.Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.

Future Climate Change, USGCRP 2009." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 2009. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. (Figure 1) Future Climate Change, NRC 2010." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. (Figure 2)

Munro, Neil. "Outsiders Inside The Climate Debate." National Journal (2009):

9. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.