During the 20th century global mean surface temperature rose about one degree Fahrenheit (IPCC, Synthesis Report 5). These are just a few climate changes associated with the current global trend towards warming. There have been natural cycles of climate change since earth’s formation, however in recent centuries humans have influenced global climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases. While many scientists believe that the current trend of global climate change is going in the direction of warming and their studies show that global warming is a threat to humans, wildlife, and ecosystems. Most scientists and their studies also agree that human actions, especially the burning of oil and fossil fuels, are contributing to global warming, however there is much debate over to what extent human actions are causing global warming. Some scientists and politicians believe that a warming trend is occurring, however, they are convinced that it is still mostly a natural trend. In contrast many scientific studies on climate change show that human actions are definitely a factor in global warming and may be significant whether minor or not, as the human factor even if small could be enough to cause irreversible changes in Earth’s climate and natural climate change cycle. For this reason greenhouse gas emissions by humans need to be reduced in order to limit human’s affect on the climate cycle. It is also important that efforts are undertaken towards being prepared for a forced adaptation to a warmer climate that is likely to occur due to human’s actions in the past several decades.
Global climate change and the current global warming trend affect all living things on our planet, including animals, plants, and humans. Some of the possible consequences of global warming are “heat waves, water shortages, rising sea levels, loss of beaches and marshes,
Many scientific studies have shown that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. Greenhouse gases are necessary for keeping the planet habitable, however too much can cause the planet to become too warm for human inhabitation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “most of observed warming over last 50 years [is] likely due to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activities” (Synthesis Report 31). Evidence from air bubbles in ice core samples has allowed scientists to determine the composition of the atmosphere and infer climatic changes over the past several millennia (IPCC, The Scientific Basis 202). By comparing the past atmosphere composition with the present composition there has been substantial increase in greenhouse gases, “primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide” (Baird 14), over the last century. The evidence from ice core samples also shows a correlation between past global warming and an increase in greenhouse gases, thus “like today’s global warming, the ancient warming was caused by massive releases of carbon-bearing greenhouse gases” (Curtin 13). In the past the increase in greenhouse gases was due to natural processes such as volcanic eruptions. In contrast, the increase in greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution is mostly caused by human actions, such as the burning of fossil fuels and oil, as well as land use changes. While these greenhouse gases are important for trapping some of the sun’s heat and making our planet inhabitable, too much greenhouse gases “could eventually cause the planet to be much less habitable for humans, plants, and animals” (Baird 14). Because some greenhouses gases, such as carbon dioxide, have long lives in the atmosphere, it is important to limit greenhouse gas emissions soon before it is too late, as even with a stabilization of low emissions the effects of greenhouse gases already in our atmosphere will continue to cause global warming for at least another century.
Many scientists believe that the increased emissions of greenhouse gases by humans are a factor in global warming, however they are uncertain to what extent the current trend is a natural climate change process. This uncertainty has been blown out of portion by several politicians, mostly Republicans, as is indicated in the statements collected from them in a 2006 Congressional Insiders Poll about if man is a factor in global warming. One congressman is reported saying that “there is absolutely no conclusive evidence that it has anything to do with man” (Bell 5). Based on results from scientific studies most scientists believe that man does have an a significant role in the current global warming trend and even those that doubt human’s role in the current climate change, such as Richard S. Lindzen, admit that humans do have an affect on climate, although he believes human’s role to be an extremely small and insignificant factor (Grossman 39). It is this minority of doubters, which appear to have no scientific studies to back up their doubt, that the current United States Presidential Administration uses to back up their belief that global warming is not cause by humans, thus the economic costs of limiting our fossil fuel consumption is unreasonable and refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which sets guidelines for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Even if actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions suddenly began to occur the human impact of the environment due to the emission of greenhouse gases would remain considerable. According to projections by IPCC in order for carbon dioxide numbers in the atmosphere to become stabilized there needs to be a global drop in the emission of carbon dioxide by human activities under 1990 levels by the middle of the 21st century for carbon dioxide levels to be stabilized at 450 ppm (parts per million), by the end of the 21st century for stabilization at 650 ppm, and by the end of the 22nd century to be stabilized at 1,000 ppm (IPCC, Synthesis Report 31). Even if the stabilization occurs at 450 ppm “global average surface temperature during [the] 21st century [will continue] rising
Global climate change is an issue that affects our planet’s environment as a whole, including the sea, the atmosphere, animals, and humans. Scientific evidence exists that not only supports that global climate change is occurring and is currently characterized by warming. Studies show that one of the causes of the global warming trend is an increase of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, which is related to past climate change events by using Antarctic ice core samples. This increase in greenhouse gases in the past century mostly from human actions, especially the burning of oil and fossil fuels, and only slightly to natural occurrences, such as volcanic eruptions as in the past. While scientists are not certain how much the increase in greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, there is little doubt that it is a contributing factor and a result of human actions. Although further studies are needed to determine how much of the global warming trend is natural, it appears clear that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced in order to curb the impact humans have on climate change cycles and humans also need to learn to adapt to the irreversible changes that we may have already caused.
Baird, Stephen L. “Global Warming: If You Can’t Stand the Heat.” Technology Teacher 65.3 (2005): 13-16.
Bell, Peter. “Congressional Insiders Poll.” National Journal 38.13 (2006): 5-6.
Curtin, Ciara. “Go West, Young Primate.” Natural History 115.8 (2006): 13.
Grossman, Daniel. “Dissent in the Maelstrom.” Scientific American 285.5 (2001): 38-39.
Harrison, Scott, David W. MacDonald, Solanda Rea, and F. Hernan Vargas. “Biological effects of El Nino on the Galápagos Penguins.” Biological Conservation 127.1 (2006): 107-114.
Hertsgaard, Mark. “The Truth on Warming.” Nation 8 Jul. 2002: 6-7.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Taylor, Graeme A. New Zealand Department of Conservation. Biodiversity Recovery Unit. Action Plan for Seabird Conservation in New Zealand: Part A: Threatened Seabirds. Wellington, New Zealand, 2000.