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Its Getting Hot in Here:

The Reality of Global Warming

As the 21st century gets underway, one of the hotly contested issues of the day is global warming. Two facts, however, are not disputed: 1. 2. Our world is getting hotter. The energy-consuming activities of humans are a large reason for the Great Heat-Up. If you recall anything at all about the history of the planet, then you will recall that there have been several ice ages, with the most recent one ending 10,000 years ago. So obviously, our planet has experienced some major fluctuations in temperature. The thing that has scientists concerned is the rapid rate of the warming trend over recent years. Over the past fifty years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history, and some feel the trend is accelerating: the 3 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998. Experts feel that the world is now warmer than it has been at any point in the last two millennia, and if the current trend continues, it will likely be hotter than at any point in the last two million years. An additional risk of these rising temperatures is that under the right conditions, even organic material that has been frozen for millennia can break down, giving off additional carbon dioxide or methane and increasing the greenhouse gasses even more.


What Causes Global Warming?

Although there are some who question this phenomenon, consultants hired by the Pentagon released a national security report that envisioned a scenario in which global warming causes massive areas of the world to become uninhabitable and causes major good and water shortages. The report predicts widespread migration and war if this scenario were to actually occur

Nearly every major glacier in the world is shrinking. The oceans are becoming warming, and as a result, more acidic. The loss of sea ice since the late 1970s is equal to the size of Texas and Arizona combined. The Arctics perennial polar ice cap is shrinking at the rate of 9 percent per decade. There is a diminishing difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures. Plants are blooming earlier in some areas, and animals ranges are shifting.

Scientific Measures of Greatest Concern:

Check Yourself!
1. What scenarios for the future have been linked to climate change? 2. What trend have climate scientists been studying for the last 50 years? Why is this trend alarming? 3. Carefully read over Scientific Measures of Greatest Concern. In your opinion, which concern is the most troubling? Why?

So What?

In 2002, Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon endured their worst wildfire season ever. That same year, drought created severe dust storms in Montana, Colorado, and Kansas, and floods caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in Texas, Montana, and North Dakota. According to statistics from the National Resources Defense Council, since the early 1950s, snow accumulation has declined 60% in some areas of the Cascade Range in Oregon and Washington.

Scientific Predictions:
~Melting glaciers, early snowmelt, and sever droughts will cause more dramatic water
shortages in the American West. ~Rising sea levels will lead to coastal flooding. ~Warmer surface temperatures will fuel more intense hurricanes. ~Forests, farms, and cities will face new pests and more mosquito-borne diseases. ~Disruption of habitats could drive many plants and animal species to extinction


Can Be Done?

Though Americans make up only 4% of the worlds population, the United States produces 25% of the carbon dioxide from fuel burning by far the largest share of any country, and currently more than China, India, and Japan combined. And while the United States is by far a major contributor to the problem of global warming, the issue requires worldwide support. The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement intended to require countries to reduce the emissions of heat trapping gases that lead to global warming and climate change. Scientists say that unless we curb global warming emissions, average U.S. temperatures could be 3-9 degrees higher by the end of the century.

Reduce pollution from vehicles and power plants. Phase out the old coal-burning power plants and replace them with cleaner plants. Turn more toward renewable energy. Create stricter efficiency for electrical appliances. Conserve energy in small ways as well (use fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent). Make greater investment in environmental capital such as forests, mangroves, coral reefs, and other natural resources that are valuable not only as resources but also as protection of the overall eco-health of our world. Plant more forests of all types.

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Check Yourself!

Where are scientists seeing the effects of climate change in the United States? Gives examples of these effects. Do you think the U.S. should take the lead on initiating changes to prevent global warming? Why or why not? What can you do to help curb global warming? What do you think the U.S. should do to curb global warming?