Global Warming

By Audrey Marlene

Global warming affects can affect our lives in numerous ways. We may not feel the effects right now as much but our children and grandchildren will in the decades to come. By offering you this knowledge, it brings more awareness to your conscious thought. To this end, you can begin to make small changes in your life today that can benefit generations to come.

1. The food we consume can be affected. The effects of global warming have a tremendous effect on crops all around the world. There will be a greater reduction in food productivity in the years to come. Certain regions are expected to have drier soils in the summer. This is due to hotter summers, less rainfall, more evaporation of the moisture in the soil, and the snow melting earlier in the spring.

2. Weather conditions. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the year 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850. This increase in the temperature of the earth’s surface and the oceans will result stronger in more intense hurricanes, floods, droughts, and fires. There will be long extended periods of heat waves, unusual and extreme weather patterns. These extreme changes will affect human life as we now know it.

3. The melting ice cover. Because glaciers are a large source of drinking water, the melting of the glaciers puts the drinking supply of billions of people around the world in jeopardy.

4. Damage to ecosystems. Rising in ocean temperatures can severely threaten ecosystems such as coral reefs, which can endanger the fish population. There is the possibility of threats to polar bears due to the melting ice, or the potential for extinction of certain species.

5. Our health. Most recently, the United Nations reported that changes in global climate have contributed to a decline in the air and water quality as well as the disposal of waste in certain tropical regions such as Africa. As a result, diseases such as malaria, cholera or lower respiratory infections are on the rise. The UN believes this is a strong indication of how global warming can affect our health because these diseases are likely to spread.

More recently, we are hearing repeated talks of the warming of the earth. So what does that really mean?

In simple terms, global warming is just that, an increase in temperature of the earth’s surface. This increased warming is blamed on activities that we as humans are involved in such as industrial manufacturing, transportation, or increased construction projects.

In order for these activities to occur, electricity must be generated. Coal is burned to provide the electricity, which releases enormous quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The cars we drive and the burning of gasoline also contribute to the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. When we cut down trees and clear forests to build more homes or buildings, more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

The theory is that gases released into the environment from these forms of activities, create what is called the "greenhouse effect". This greenhouse effect warms the surface of the earth causing disturbances in the normal, natural flow of life as we know it. For example, it is predicted that there will be a warming of the oceans, a rise in sea level or coastal flooding. Abnormal weather patterns and conditions are expected. Droughts and fires are more probable. Other changes such as extinction of certain species, the melting of glaciers and the spread of diseases are also in the forecast.

We must stop for a moment to process and assimilate this information. We must envision how our future and the future of generations to come will be affected if we don't begin today to make small changes in our lives. The Greenhouse Effect

In a greenhouse, the heat from the sun is trapped for plants to grow especially in the winter. Greenhouses have glass panels that allow the sunlight in but it also prevents the heat from escaping. The greenhouse then heats up and the trapped heat keeps the plants warm in the winter months. The same concept applies to the theory of global warming.

In global warming, heat from the sun enters the earth's atmosphere heating up the surface of the earth and bodies of water. Once the energy is absorbed, it is released back into the atmosphere. When excessive amounts of gases such as carbon dioxide are present in the atmosphere, the energy that is released becomes trapped by these gases, referred to as greenhouse gases. Over time the earth becomes hotter creating the warming effects we hear about.

It is important to know that the greenhouse effect maintains livable temperatures for life on earth. However, with increased population growth, more industries and more burning of fossil fuels to provide us with the electricity we need to maintain our demanding lifestyles, the greenhouse effects are becoming stronger. This results in a warmer earth.

It has been reported that 90% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere comes from the burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels such as gasoline or methane is mostly carbon. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gases, are mostly carbon and buried beneath the earth's surface, formed from the remains of dead plants and animals. When we burn these fuels, they react with oxygen and produce carbon dioxide.

Stay informed about the effects of global warming and choose to become more environmentally aware. We all will feel better when we are actively participating in making our world a better place to live. Good strategy is caring for this planet that we all call home.

How can we help?

We are all affected by global warming whether we want to admit it or not. True, the warming of the earth is a natural phenomenon but the rate of warming is accelerating more rapidly by our actions. How can we help our environment?

According to a report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2001, earth temperatures are rising faster than at any other time in the past thousand years. If each of us begins to make small changes in our lifestyles, we can feel reassured that we are helping to sustain life here on this planet.

Here are some things you can do to help your environment.

  • Plant a tree. Every tree planted utilizes the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Become an advocate for the preservation of our forests.

  • Keep recycling. This will help to reduce methane, one of the greenhouse gases. Buy recycled products. Avoid buying disposable products. Buy products with the least amount of packaging.

  • Find ways to cut down the demand for electricity. Try replacing regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb. By using less hot water, you can reduce the energy it takes to heat the water. Turn off electronic devices, televisions, lights when not in use. Be conscious of the thermostat settings at home. An ideal temperature is 68 degrees in winter and 78 degrees in summer. By consuming less electricity, it reduces the carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. This also helps to save you money.

  • Find ways to burn less gasoline. Buy a smaller, more fuel efficient car, car pool, walk, or bike. Check the tires of your car to make sure they are properly inflated. These things reduce gas consumption and less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    These are just some of the ways we can begin to preserve our planet. Each of us must take responsibility for how we are contributing to the greenhouse gases. Remember we are all in this greenhouse together. Decide what is really important to you. It will make you feel better to know that you are proactively involved in caring for your environment.