The environment is an integral part to the ultimate survival of humankind which means that environmental degradation is a threat to humankind. Recent increases in negative natural events like tsunamis and melting icecaps among others have increased debates on the negative impacts of global warming on the environment (Allen, Seaman & DeLascio, 2009). This is based on the fact that greenhouse gases form a protective layer of atmosphere that prevents harmful ultraviolet light from the sun’s rays to reach the earth which scientists believe will cause irremediable damage to the environment and its extant ecosystems (Maslin, 2007). Relatedly, global warming primarily refers to the rise of average temperatures in the earth’s atmosphere said to be caused by copious emissions of greenhouse gases, upsetting the earth’s temperature balance. This means that the environment and its component ecosystems including humankind will face accelerated destruction if the earth’s temperature balance is not maintained. This paper discusses the causes and effects of global warming as a pressing global environmental concern for all humankind. Global warming is caused mostly by harmful greenhouse gas emissions which leads to negative effects like increased floods and droughts. The gas emissions especially carbon come from various human activities. This leads to negative effects like increased floods and droughts which means that nations must initiate effective solutions in anticipation of potential outcomes.
Fundamentally, global warming is caused by increase in global temperatures due to a rise of harmful greenhouse gas emissions especially carbon which destabilize the earth’s temperature balance, leading to warming. Based on the fact that the earth’s temperature is indeed controlled by a balance of energy input from the sun where some of it is reflected back into space, the deterioration of the blanket effect of the atmosphere protecting the earth from harmful sun rays spells doom for human and plant life. Increase of harmful gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide, destabilizes the air composition where short wave radiation fuels production and containment of long wave radiation from the sun leads to a thickening of the greenhouse gas blanket. Consequently, this occurrence allows for more intense and harmful ultraviolet rays to be trapped on the greenhouse blanket and hence the increase in temperatures; worsened because the greenhouse blanket also traps heat radiating from the earth towards space.
The increase of harmful gases in the atmosphere including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), nitrous oxide, methane and particularly carbon dioxide emitted through a variety of human activities especially industrial processes, are seen as the main cause of global warming. Tisdell (2008) asserts that increases in carbon dioxide levels have been noted to have increased especially after the industrial revolution which saw enhanced utilization of various types of fuel especially coal which produces a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Therefore, by increasing the greenhouse gas blanket in the atmosphere through excess production of those gases through human activity leads to an increase in temperature and hence warming. Houghton (2004) affirms that distribution of solar radiation over the earth is varied due to the earth’s orbit and being components of the radiation regime in the atmosphere, they naturally cause an increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to warming.
Generally, global warming leads to various adverse effects on the environment, represented by climate change, which further leads to a chain reaction of more and profound negative effects on the environment. This is supported by Oxlad (2006) who agrees that the ensuing climate change leads to other adverse effects involving changing weather patterns; seen as causing frequent floods, among other negative effects associated with climate change. Based on extensive research on climate change and global warming, the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) (2007) outlines the effects of global warming as including the increased occurrences of cyclone and hurricane activity especially in areas that do not experience those kind of weather phenomena. Indeed, when the temperature increases, ice caps and glaciers melt to release water which leads to rise in sea levels leading to floods; amidst high probability of Polar Region destabilization, which increases the level of danger due to global warming.
Furthermore, the rise in sea levels is bound to affect those geographical locations located in lowlands such as islands which will be submerged in addition to dangers posed on whole terrestrial ecosystems and habitats; leading to loss of plant and human life. The warm conditions experienced in the environment due to the significant rise in temperatures leads to increased precipitation and evaporation that culminates with some geographical spaces becoming more wet or dry than other areas due to more or less rainfall. Even Moore (1995), who avers that temperature increases are likely to be more beneficial than harmful, agrees that fluctuations of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere positively correlate with disruption of weather patterns that lead to droughts and famine. Additionally, the warm conditions lead to harmful heat waves which are carried by wind to various areas which, in addition to the prevailing conditions of more or less rainfall, negatively affect plants.
Summarily, it is evident that significant increases in greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide leads to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that protects the earth from harmful solar radiation leading to excess increase in temperatures and hence global warming. As such, the excess in temperatures create a chain reaction of negative events such as rise in sea levels that lead to flooding and changing weather patterns that culminate in heat waves as well as more or less rainfall that further leads to droughts and famine, as plants struggle to adapt. The collaboration of 37 countries in the Kyoto Protocol, in addition to legislations drafted by various countries towards combating climate change, demonstrates the seriousness of global warming and its adverse effects on the environment (Allen, Seaman & DeLascio, 2009).
- Allen, R.D., Seaman, S.M. & DeLascio, J.E. (2009). Emerging issues: Global warming claims and coverage issues. Defense Counsel Journal, 76(1), 12-39.
- Houghton, J.T. (2004). Global warming: The complete briefing. Cambridge, UK; Cambridge University Press.
- IPCC (2007). Observed changes in climate and their effects: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report on Climate Change 2007. Retrieved from http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/spms1.html
- Maslin, M. (2007). Global warming: Causes, effects, and the future. St. Paul, MN; MBI Publishing Company.
- Moore, T.G. (1995). Global warming: A boon to humans and other animals. Stanford
University, CA, USA; Hoover Press.
- Oxlad, C. (2006). Global warming. Mankato, MN; Capstone Press.
- Tisdell, C. (2008). Global warming and the future of pacific island countries. International Journal of Social Economics, 35(12), 889-903.