Global Warming

Global Warming (After a lot of reading and hunting around on the net, I found a great deal of information on this topic. I had never really researched on it before so wanted to make sure that calculations agreed from report to report. Most of them did so I will base my answer on these different reports. This subject is extremely interesting, scary and a bit of a shock as to how much we have abused and taken advantage of this Earth. Though progress as far as technology has been something we make use of and enjoy, we are paying for it in ways I never thought of before this subject came up in this class! Please forgive my ignorance. I am troubled that my children and their children will suffer because of our lack of concern, knowledge and greed.

I read a short story the other day, about the people in a village having never heard the word cancer until they were run out of their homes and into the city area’s. Years later, some of the people from this village are dying from disease. my point is that before they came to the cities, they had always died of old age ..) FIRST of all, it is important to know that the “greenhouse effect” is not a bad thing in itself. In fact, this planet would be a life-less waste land without its natural greenhouseing. There are a collection of gases called “greenhouse gases,” which are water vapor, carbine dioxide, ozone, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). Without the natural greenhouse effect, the surface temperature of our planet would be an average of -18C (zero degrees F). The mixture of these gases have remained pretty much stable over the centuries and have kept us all living.

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But here we are in the late nineties, and we are not so stable anymore. Our activities and what we use to perform our activities is increasing year to year, many of them doubling and tripling. It’s a case of the amount of gases that Earth produces naturally vs. the amount of gases produced manually by us. Do you drive? How about using those disposable diapers that NEVER disintegrate? Do you smoke? How about garbage or junk burning? Do you BBQ? Where do you work? Do you have an air-conditioner? Do you separate your garbage, use hair spray, spray deodorant, spray paint, flea spray, perfume, kitchen spray cleaner, bleach in your laundry, bleach in your hair, use a freezer, use an air conditioner in your car, use your fireplace, have a growing collection of newspaper and magazines, throw away food, use paper and plastic food containers, use bug spray, use lawn pesticides, .. Okay, this could go on forever.

The effects of the huge overuse of these items of luxury plus all the other unmentioned items and activities plays havoc on our atmosphere. We didn’t worry about this 100 years ago, and the industrial revolution is the culprit for a large part of this. The reason for this is a little thing called Carbon dioxide. Where is the C02 coming from? Fossil fuel burning (75%), land clearing & burning (25%) , as well as car exhaust and coal burning. This stuff stays in the atmosphere for 50-200 years.

Here is how it works. The chemical makeup of our atmosphere and ozone is very complex. It is a combination, and interaction of the ocean, sun, land, and the biosphere. The greenhouse gases work to trap the heat producing energy on our Earth, and pretty much does a good job of it if left undisturbed. We have disturbed it.

The human production of greenhouse gas producing chemicals is what is disturbing it. This production by humans of these particular gases linger in our atmosphere for many many years and they burn up our protective ozone blanket faster than it can rebuild itself. Our ozone blocks out most of the killer radiation rays from our sun. Ozone is a molecule with just three Oxygen atoms. It is created when UV light reacts with oxygen gas, which has two Oxygen atoms.

UV light also destroys ozone, so you need just the right mix of UV light and oxygen to get an ozone layer. For the last 450 million years, our ozone has been our sun screen. Chemicals that we use in daily life produce ozone eating atoms when they reach the stratosphere and are exposed to intense UV rays. Chemicals such as CFC’s are too unreactive to be removed and they rise slowly, taking 10-20 years to make the journey up to the stratosphere. Once there, the high UV rays breaks down the atoms into chlorine atoms which speeds up the breakdown of ozone (O3) into O2 and O . Each of these molecules last from 65-110 years and each one can convert up to 100,000 molecules of O3 to O2.

These guys in turn, are the ozone terminators., and they are not even the only ones. Over Antarctica there is a gaping ozone hole measuring about three of our continental U.S. in size. What has happened is during their sunless winter, winds blow steadily in a circular pattern over the earth’s poles, which creates huge swirling masses of ice-cold air that gets trapped above the poles. When the sun returns a few months later the water droplets in the clouds enter these large circling streams of icy air and form tiny crystals.

The surfaces of the crystals collect ozone depleting chemicals in the stratosphere which allows them to deplete the ozone layer at a much faster rate. The return of the sunlight triggers weeks of ozone depletion before vortex breaks apart. THEN, masses of ozone-depleted air flow northward and linger for weeks above Australia and New Zealand, raising the UV levels in these areas by as much as 20%.. and guess what? They have had a HUGE rise in skin cancer. This very thing is also happening over parts of North America, Asia and Europe.

So, what would global warming do to us? (as in, do I really need to worry about this???) Well, to put it bluntly, it eventually would kill you and everything else that is alive. The rise of a few degrees doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in global terms.. it is deadly. It isn’t just the rise of surface temperature, it is the pollution from the over production of the greenhouse gases as well. By the year 2020, over 700,000 deaths worldwide will occur annually from exposure to particles as a result of fossil-fuel burning that could be avoided by a climate control policy.

New animal and human studies confirm that airborne fine particles can sicken or kill people. For example, laboratory rats with respiratory disorders died after being exposed to air pollution at concentrations found today in Massachusetts. Today our atmosphere contains 28% more carbon dioxide than it did 100 years ago, and that percentage is rising drastically. Some of the warning signs that have already taken place are: Surface temps at nine stations north of the Arctic circle have risen by about 9 degrees F., since 1968. That is almost half a degree a year.

The thick massive ice shelves surrounding the continent in Antarctica are beginning to break up. We had a huge one the size of a state break up just recently. Winter snow in the northern hemisphere has been decreasing every year, in fact, I have heard it said that Washington state will someday have southern California weather. Since 1980 the average water temp. in Alaska’s Toolik lake has increased by about 3 degrees. The surrounding tundra is beginning to thaw which could accelerate global warming by releasing massive carbon dioxide and methane from these soils. Future implications could cause a change in where food can and can’t grow.

Drops of only 10% in global crop yields would lead to large increases in hunger and starvation. Wild fires would increase, in up to 90% of North American forests. This certainly would not help in reducing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Climate change would lead to reductions in bio diversity. This leads to ecosystems that can not adapt. The rise in sea level would cause massive flooding. Even a rise of one foot would be disastrous. Global warming poses an unprecedented threat to our environment and our economy.

Climate change can cause a spread in the ranges of tropical diseases (Dengue fever, a painful life-threatening disease endemic to tropical regions, broke out on the Texas border in the fall of 1995), intensified storms, mass extinction of plant and animal species, and crop failures in many vulnerable regions. Deserts may expand into existing rangelands, and the character of some of our National Parks may be permanently altered. Unfortunately, many of the potentially most important impacts depend upon whether rainfall increases or decrease, which can not be reliably projected for specific areas. We certainly still do not know enough. There are disagreements all around, and the cost plus the emission of the ozone killers that are produced, trying to cut down on the ozone killers, is a problem in itself. This is a bit disappointing, the fact that we all will most likely be dead by the time there is really any significant change.. but our kids and their kids will still be here…

Thats another thing.. the population problem…


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