Global Warming is Real
Robert A. Levine
If anyone doubted that global warming is a major threat to our planet and human life, weather-related problems this summer should have dispelled that notion. The sojourn of humans on the Earth is transient and it is our responsibility to protect the environment and ecosystems we inherited for the generations to follow and the other species with which we share the planet. Many people and nations refuse to accept the reality of global warming and refuse to take actions that might inconvenience them, or cause them minor financial harm; to do their part in reducing the menace of climate change. The knowledge that our climate is changing and global warming was taking place dates back to 1896, when a Swedish woman scientist, Svante Arrhenius, projected that increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere would warm the Earth. Since then, multiple scientists have confirmed her observations, suggesting that global warming is even more of a threat than previously thought.
The main culprit, carbon dioxide, is an odorless, tasteless gas, which is produced by burning fossil fuels for energy in automobiles, trucks, ships, planes, power plants and so forth. Fossil fuels include coal, wood, oil and gas, with coal appearing to be the greatest contributor to this problem. Other greenhouse gases also play a role, like methane and atmospheric water vapor. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and radiate it back to the surface of the planet instead of allowing it to dissipate into space. Though humans have been burning wood and coal for millennia, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere started rising rapidly in the mid-to late 19th century after the industrial revolution. In the 20th and 21st centuries, CO2 escalated even more rapidly, as the human population exploded and demand for various goods and products increased.
What once seemed like a planetary crisis off in the future is now more of an immediate threat. Action cannot be delayed when the atmospheric heat is soaring globally, floods are overwhelming some regions while drought is a problem in other areas. Rainfall and storms are more destructive now and the ocean level is rising. Storms or floods that were considered once in a century events or even once in a thousand years, are currently occurring repeatedly. There seems to be a confluence of extreme weather that is devastating to humankind and the environment. Perceiving weather events individually, underestimates the danger of global warming, because all of these occurrences are interrelated, augmenting their effect on people and ecosystems. It is as if there were a feedback loop among these events, heightening their severity and impact. Funding and effort must be directed to reducing global warming as rapidly as possible and people and governments must accept that the Earth is imperiled.
For some time, it was believed that natural gas was a cleaner alternative to coal as a fuel to produce energy and generate less carbon dioxide. While less CO2 may be created by burning natural gas, recent research has shown that it is as bad as coal for global warming because leaks common in its utilization spew out methane. As minimal a leak of natural gas as 0.2 percent emits enough methane to equal the global warming produced by coal. And natural gas is known for leaking from drill sites, processing plants and the pipes that carry it into power facilities, homes and businesses. Natural gas consists mainly of methane and is far more robust than CO2 as a global warming gas when it leaks unburned into the atmosphere. However, CO2 does remain in the atmosphere far longer than methane, which is gone after a few decades. Since global warming is a major problem for the planet currently, humanity has to think in terms of immediate ways to lower the temperature in the atmosphere, which means a stark reduction of methane.
The Paris Agreement was supposed to be a legally binding international treaty to limit global warming that was signed by 196 nations in Paris under the auspices of the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in December 2015 to be effective the following year. The goal of the treaty was to hold the rise in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. If possible, the signees would try to limit the increase to below 1.5 degrees Centigrade by the end of the 21st century. The lower number was chosen because the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that a rise of even 1.5 degrees C would risk far more severe climate change effects. These would include damaging heat waves, severe droughts, storms and rainfall. Developed nations were to provide financial assistance for countries that would not be able to afford mitigation efforts.
The climate extremes being seen more frequently are generating concern among climate scientists that the dangers associated with global warming will develop faster than was originally anticipated. Ocean and atmospheric temperatures at the surface have risen rapidly in recent months, along with melting Antarctic ice, extraordinary heat events worldwide, and the effects of Canada’s heat and wildfires punishing North America. These factors along with other issues resulting from warmer temperatures have increased apprehension over whether global warming is accelerating. The increase in ocean temperatures is particularly disquieting, along with the occurrence of the El Nino phenomenon.
To many observers, it almost appears as if the pace of global warming is growing daily. The month of June 2023 was the world’s warmest ever recorded according to preliminary data. This was followed by the hottest day ever on July 3, surpassed by even hotter days on July 4 and 5th. These findings may be indications that global warming is indeed accelerating. And levels of humidity are also rising with the heat, making outdoor work more uncomfortable and dangerous. Ocean temperatures globally also set a record in June, with sea ice around Antarctica at its lowest level ever.
Global warming can transform life on Earth as we know it. Politicians in both parties at federal and state levels must acknowledge that it is an urgent problem and get to work to reduce the burning of fossil fuels instead of playing political games and accepting money from fossil fuel lobbyists.
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