Global warming is the phenomenon through which the temperature of the earth’s water, land, and atmosphere has increased at a faster rate than at any other point in recent human history. Indeed, many of the temperature changes observed and recorded over the past 50 years are unprecedented (Haldar 34). In the past 10 years, there has been general agreement in scientific literature that human influence has played a significant role in causing global warming witnessed since 1950; although the extent to which humans are responsible is still a matter of scholarly debate. However, there is growing evidence that humans are the biggest contributors to increased greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere; and that this increase is significantly related to the abnormal temperature rise (Romanov 20). This paper aims to examine the causes of global warming and the consequences of this event.
One of the most cited causes of global warming in scientific studies is the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal. Fossil fuels are used in significant amounts around the world to power cars or create electricity, which releases pollution into the earth’s atmosphere in the form of CO2, nitrous oxide, methane, and chlorofluorocarbons. In fact, the burning of fossil fuels for energy accounts for approximately 75% of the spike in CO2 levels in the atmosphere over the last twenty years (Haldar 38). Changes in land use around the world have also contributed to the increase in CO2, with deforestation being the most significant cause. Plants, and especially large trees, have a critical role in the regulation of global temperature because they fix CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, acting as carbon sinks.
However, the clearing of vast lands for infrastructure development, farming, and for products like palm oil and timber releases this carbon into the atmosphere while reducing the fixing ability of forests. Another cause of increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere and global warming is the calcination of lime stone for cement production (Haldar 39). Finally, farming also causes global warming with livestock and other farm animals reared at a large scale, releasing methane gases into the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas similar to CO2.
Global warming is altering global climate and the environment in several ways. To begin with, the increase in temperatures has led to more severe and frequent weather-related events such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and storms. As the atmosphere warms further, its ability to collect, hold, and dump more water also increases, which alters weather patterns so that dry areas become drier while wet regions become wetter (Christopher & Barros 21). The increase in floods, intense storms, and droughts also pose public safety and health risks by fueling wildfires, jeopardizing clean drinking water access, and creating flash flooding and extreme heat events.
Moreover, global warming also causes dirtier air by increasing the levels of ground-level ozone, which results from the reaction of pollutants from factories and cars with heat and sunlight. The levels of ground-level ozone tend to increase with higher temperatures, with heavy smog containing very high amounts of this ozone. Generally, dirtier air leads to higher asthmatic fatalities and hospital admission rates, and may also exacerbate the poor health of persons with pulmonary or cardiac disease (Christopher & Barros 21). Finally, global warming also causes increased acidity of oceans. In this case, the excess CO2 in the atmosphere is dissolved into the ocean forming carbonic acid that increase ocean acidity and poses a threat to underwater creatures, which use calcium carbonate skeletons and shells.
In conclusion, global warming is one of the most important and threatening phenomena of the 21st century. From the discussion above, some of the most significant causes of global warming are burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and calcination. In turn, global warming causes extreme weather events, dirtier air, and ocean acidification.
Christopher B. Field, & Vicente R. Barros. Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Print.
Haldar, Ishita. Global Warming: The Causes and Consequences. New Delhi: Mind Melodies, 2015. Print.
Romanov, Vyacheslav. Greenhouse Gases and Clay Minerals: Enlightening Down-to-Earth Road Map to Basic Science of Clay-Greenhouse Gas Interfaces. New York: Springer, 2017. Print.