Global Warming | Greenhouse Gas | Earth

WORLD AND SCIENCE

Did you know:
Every 25 minutes, an area larger than 100 football fields is destroyed in the Brazilian rainforest.
On September 26 2009, floodwaters submerged 80% of the city of Manila in Philippines while 450,000 people were displaced and 240 killed – shocking!

In June 2008, more than a million people were forced to flee their homes in southern China by major flooding that has cost 57 lives. The Pearl river delta suffered what officials described as the worst flooding in 50 years!

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina killed 2541 people, causing over $90 billion in damages. It is the sixth strongest Atlantic cyclone ever recorded.

Europe's 2003 heat wave caused an estimated 35,000 deaths.

Three people were killed in a snow avalanche in 2008 – in Lebanon, Middle East.

The Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean are in danger of being completely submerged by the next century due to rising sea levels.

The Antarctic ice cap has 29 million cubic kilometres of ice. If these ice sheets melted, the world’s oceans would rise by 60 to 65 metres (200 - 210ft) – everywhere.

Scientists predict that the Himalayan glaciers will be gone in 40 years. 1.3 billion people's water supply depends on rivers originating from those glaciers!

Heavy snowfall blanketed the desert region of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while temperatures dipped to -5 degrees on 30 December 2004. Middle-Eastern men in long white robes were seen throwing snowballs at one another! Deforestation is responsible for the loss of 50,000 species of plant, animal and insect lives per year.

Global warming is no longer something we can take lightly. It is damaging our environment the way malignant cancer destroys bodily tissue; slowly and silently, unnoticed until it is too late. Every second, drastic and possibly irreversible changes are taking place that will one day devastate our planet and the comfortable lives we once knew. Read on to know more about the seriousness of this phenomenon.
Earth, Our Home

‘All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man,
increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it's here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaste’. - Barack Obama

The Earth is the only planet in
our solar system that supports life. The complex process of evolution occurred on Earth only because of some unique environmental conditions that were present: water, an oxygen-rich atmosphere, and a suitable surface temperature. Climate change is already happening and represents one of the greatest environmental, social and economic threats facing the planet. The Earth's climate system constantly adjusts so as to maintain a balance between the energy that reaches it from the sun and the energy that goes from Earth back to space. This means that even a small rise in temperature could mean accompanying changes in

cloud cover and wind patterns. It is not just man-made pollution of the atmosphere which can cause climate change. Changes in the way ocean water circulates around the world can also influence climate, because the oceans store even more heat than the atmosphere. Over the last 150-200 years climate change has been taking place too rapidly and certain plant and animal species have found it hard to adapt. Human activities are said to be responsible for the speed at which this change has occurred and

it is now a cause of worry to scientists. The Earth's average surface temperature has risen by 0.76° C since 1850. Most of the warming that has occurred over the last 50 years is very likely to have been caused by human activities. The atmosphere surrounding the earth is made up of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%) and the remainder, 1%, is made up of trace gases (called so because they are present in very small quantities) that include the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, water vapor, and nitrous oxide. These greenhouse gases act as a blanket and protect it from the harmful ultra violet rays of the sun. They can also be regarded as natural controllers of the earth's temperature system.

Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity,” says Award-winning American actor and celebrity environmentalist Leornado DiCaprio. “We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet.”

CAUSES OF CLIMATE CHANGE: Natural and Human
The earth's climate is dynamic and always changing through a natural cycle. What the world is more worried about Is that the changes that are occurring today have been speeded up because of man's activities. These changes are being studied by scientists all over the world who are finding evidence from tree rigs, pollen samples, ice c res, and sea sediments. The causes of climate change can be divided into two categories - those that are due to natural causes and those that are created by man.

coastline of South America and western coastline of Africa, which are now widely separated by the Atlantic Ocean. The discovery of fossils of tropical plants (in the form of coal deposits) in Antarctica has led to the conclusion that this frozen land at some time in the past, must have been situated closer to the equator, where the climate was tropical, with swamps and plenty of lush vegetation.The continents that we are familiar with today were formed when the landmass began gradually drifting apart, millions of years back. This drift also had an impact on the climate because it changed the physical features of the landmass, their position and the position of water bodies. The separation of the landmasses changed the flow of ocean currents and winds, which affected the climate. This drift of the continents continues even today; the Himalayan range is rising by about 1 mm (millimeter) every year because the Indian land mass is moving towards the Asian land mass, slowly but steadily.

Volcano Eruptions

Natural Causes There are a number of natural factors responsible for climate change. Some of the more prominent ones are continental drift, volcanoes, ocean currents, the earth's tilt, and comets and meteorites.
Continental drift Long ago, the continents were

all part of one large landmass. Proof of this comes from the similarity between plant and animal fossils and broad belts of rocks found on the eastern

When a volcano erupts it throws out large volumes of sulfur dioxide (SO2), water vapor, dust, and ash into the atmosphere. The large volumes of gases and ash can influence climatic patterns for years. Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in April 1991 emitting thousands of tons of gases into the atmosphere. Volcanic eruptions of this magnitude can reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface, lowering temperatures in the lower levels of the atmosphere (called the troposphere), and changing atmospheric circulation patterns. The extent to which this occurs is an ongoing debate. Another striking example was in the year 1816, often referred to as "the year without a summer." Significant weather-related disruptions occurred in New England and in Western Europe with killing summer frosts in the United States and Canada. These strange phenomena were attributed to a major eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia, in 1815.

The Earth's Tilt

The earth makes one full orbit around the sun each year. It is tilted at an angle of 23.5° to the perpendicular plane of its orbital path. For one half of the year when it is summer, the northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun. In the other half when it is winter, the earth is tilted away from the sun. If there was no tilt we would not have experienced seasons. Changes in the tilt of the earth can affect the severity of the seasons - more tilt means warmer summers and colder winters; less tilt means cooler summers and milder winters. The Earth's orbit is somewhat elliptical, which means that the distance between the earth and the Sun varies over the course Human Causes

of a year. We usually think of the earth's axis as being fixed, after all, it always seems to point toward Polaris (also known as the Pole Star and the North Star). Actually, it is not quite constant: the axis does move, at the rate of a little more than a half-degree each century. So Polaris has not always been, and will not always be, the star pointing to the North.

Ocean Currents

The oceans are a major component of the climate system. They cover about 71% of the Earth and absorb about twice as much of the sun's radiation as the atmosphere or the land surface. Ocean currents move vast amounts of heat across the planet - roughly the same amount as the atmosphere does. But the oceans are surrounded by land masses, so heat transport through the water is through channels. Winds push horizontally against the sea surface and drive ocean current patterns. Ocean currents have been known to change direction or slow down. Much of the heat that escapes from the oceans is in the form of water vapour, the most abundant greenhouse gas on Earth. Yet, water vapor also contributes to the formation of clouds, which shade the surface and have a net cooling effect. Any or all of these phenomena can have an impact on the climate, as is believed to have happened at the end of the last Ice Age, about 14,000 years ago.

“Global warming is one of those things, not like an earthquake where there's a big bang and you say, 'Oh, my God, this is really, has hit us.' It creeps up on you,” warns Arnold Schwarzenegger, renowned bodybuilder, actor and the current Governor of the state of California. “Half a degree temperature difference from one year to the next, a little bit of rise of the ocean, a little bit of melting of the glaciers, and then all of a sudden it is too late to do something about it.”

For more than 100 years, the US has been the world’s biggest carbon emitter: producing 40% of the global total in 1990. The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century saw the large-scale use of fossil fuels for industrial activities. These industries created jobs and over the years, people moved from rural areas to the cities. This trend is continuing even today. More and more land that was covered with vegetation has been cleared to make way for houses. Natural resources are being used extensively for construction, industries, transport, and consumption. Consumerism (our increasing want for material things) has increased by leaps and bounds, creating mountains of waste. Also, our population has increased to an incredible extent.

All this has contributed to a rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas supply most of the energy needed to run vehicles, generate electricity for industries, households, etc. The energy sector is responsible for about ¾ of the carbon dioxide emissions, 1/5 of the methane emissions and a large quantity of nitrous oxide. It also produces nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) which are not greenhouse gases but do have an influence on the chemical cycles in the atmosphere that produce or destroy greenhouse gases.
Greenhouse Gases Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas

in the atmosphere. Changes in land use pattern, deforestation, land clearing, agriculture, and other activities have all led to a rise in the emission of carbon dioxide. Methane is another significant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. About ¼ of all methane emissions are said to come from domesticated animals. It is also released from rice or paddy fields that are flooded during the sowing and maturing periods. As well as from landfills and other waste

dumps, and during the process of oil drilling, coal mining and also from leaking gas pipelines (due to accidents and poor maintenance of sites). A large amount of nitrous oxide emission has been attributed to fertilizer application. Contributions are also made by leguminous plants, such as beans that add nitrogen to the soil.

How We Contribute to Global Warming in Our Daily Lives
All of us in our daily lives contribute our bit to this change in the climate. Give these points a good, serious thought:  Electricity is the main source of power in urban areas. All our gadgets run on electricity generated mainly from thermal power plants. These thermal power plants are run on fossil fuels (mostly coal) and are responsible for the emission of huge amounts of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.  Cars, buses, and trucks are the principal ways by which goods and people are transported in most of our cities. These are run mainly on petrol or diesel, both fossil fuels.  We generate large quantities of waste in the form of plastics that remain in the environment for many years and cause damage.  We use a huge quantity of paper in our work at schools and in offices. Have we ever thought about the number of trees that we use in a day?  Timber is used in large quantities for construction of houses, which means that large areas of forest have to be cut down.

A Final Word
Every individual in this world has a responsibility towards our planet and to fight global warming. The Earth is our home, and will be for our children and generations to come. Let’s ensure that they will be assured of a better future than the possible disaster that awaits them.You can play your part to reduce global warming! Please practice the following in your daily life:
Change a light bulb

Replacing one regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save 150 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Drive less

You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down your garbage by 10%.
Plant a tree

atmosphere, including the ozone-damaging CFC.
Practise the 3R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle Separate

Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. You’ll save one pound of carbon dioxide for every mile you don’t drive!
Recycle more

your trash/refuse by material type (i.e. glass, plastics, paper) and recycle what you can.

You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per year by recycling just half of your household waste.
Check your tires

For more useful information about global warming, please log on to these websites: 1. http://www.worldviewof globalwarming.org/ 2. http://www.climatehotma p.org 3. http://www.unfoundation .org/ 4. http://www.350.org/

Keeping your tires inflated properly can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere!
Use less hot water

A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
Turn off electronic devices

It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Use less hot water by talling a low-flow showerhead (350 pounds of CO2 saved per year) and washing your clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year).
Avoid products with a lot of packaging

Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo and computer when you’re not using them will save you thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Limit your use of aerosol products, plastics and Styrofoam

Manufacturing these products causes the release of a lot of harmful gases into the

*Note: The UN ClimateChange Conference 2009 will take place in Copenhagen from December 7-18 2009.

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