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Historically, earth’s temperature has gone up and down in a natural cycle. The current warming is occurring at a point in the natural cycle in which the planet would normally be cooling off. Researchers say that earth’s warming has continued to increase. Farrar and Mastrandrea studied that there has been a continuing increase in the earth’s overall temperature (7). Farrar and Mastrandrea indicated that the earth’s atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen (8). The rest 1% includes greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone.
Houghton noted that since carbon dioxide is a good absorber of heat radiation coming from the earth’s surface, increased carbon dioxide acts like a blanket over the surface, keeping it warmer than it would otherwise be (9). With the increased temperature, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere also increases, providing more blanketing and causing it to be even warmer (Houghton 9).
The basic principle of global warming can be understood by considering the radiation energy from the sun that warms the earth’s surface and the thermal radiation from the earth and the atmosphere that is radiated out to space. Several stakeholders are involved in the entire issue of global warming. The global climate change became a topic of international discussion at the first world climate conference in February 1979 (Kowalski, 17). Those who were involved include political leaders, United Nations through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists from around the world, organizations such as Greenpeace, governments, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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Global warming is of great environmental significance. Maslin says that global warming has devastating effects to human society, the natural environment and the world economy (12). Global warming has resulted to drastic changes in health, agriculture, water resources, coastal regions, forests and wildlife (Maslin 12). Moreover, global warming is of great environmental significance because of the great threat facing humanity and it is the poorest people in the world suffer most.
Global warming is happening and is caused by activities on the earth (Oxlade 5). Storms, prolonged dry periods, coastal flooding, food shortages and habitat destruction are signs of global warming. Houghton says that the increased amount of carbon dioxide is leading to global warming of the earth’s surface because of its enhanced greenhouse effect (23). According to Farrar and Mastrandrea, most people agree that global warming exists (10). The existence of global warming has been linked to an increase in heat related deaths.
Global warming is real because it is associated to the melting of earth’s polar ice caps, rising sea levels and expanding deserts (Farrar and Mastrandrea 11). Increased temperatures as a result of global warming are associated with changing habitats and disrupting ecosystems, which in turn contributes to the extinction or endangering of animals. The changes in earth’s climate are due to a number of human activities. Farrar and Mastrandrea state that scientists trace the beginnings of current global warming to the industrial revolution, which took place in Europe and North America in the past four centuries. The industrial revolution as a result of human activities has signaled a new way of living that increased reliance on machine and factories and the use of fossil fuels.
Greenhouse gases work like a glass roof that traps heat inside the atmosphere. These gases have been important to the survival of the planet. Farrar and Mastrandrea however say that since 1850s human activity has significantly increased the amount of greenhouse gases particularly carbon dioxide (8). This increase has been the driving cause of global warming. Houghton indicated that global warming has become familiar to many people as one of the important environmental issues of our day (9).
Fuchs agrees that global warming is mainly a result of changes in human activities and related increases in greenhouse gas emission (6). These changes are largely driven by worldwide population and economic growth, and the production and consumption of fossil fuels. Other human activities include intensification of agricultural activity and land use changes. Also human industrial activity has constantly increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to more heat being conserved and therefore warming up the planet (Fuchs 6). Srivastava further indicated that carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases also are the main sources of human induced global warming. Basically, those greenhouse gases are released by the burning of fossil fuels, agriculture, land clearing, etc.
In addition, Petersen, Sack & Gabler mentioned that most earth scientists today are convinced that the current unusual increase in the rate of rising global temperatures can be directly linked to human activity (219). The authors identify expanding industrialization and growing emission of greenhouse gases in developed and developing countries as the major cause. Scholars are concerned that human activities that influence global warming are increasing at unprecedented rates driven by increasing industrialization, global population growth and the use of natural resources (Petersen, Sack & Gabler 219).
There are many controversies about global warming and they focus on whether human activities have an impact on the atmosphere and all other aspects of the physical environment (Petersen, Sack & Gabler 220). It about agreeing to what extent human activities are responsible for global warming and to what extent people can slow the trend of rising temperatures. It should be noted that it is incorrect to assume that human activities are responsible for global warming (Wood 25). Scientists have studied multiple lines of evidence worldwide, from tree-ring and ice-core data, to glacial retreat and sea-level rise to changes in the atmosphere. Scholars have also investigated changes in different patterns and they strongly considered many potential influences of natural processes (Petersen, Sack & Gabler 220).
All the major climate changes usually vary among different geographic locations and climate regions. Petersen, Sack & Gabler says that with the wide variety of environments on earth, some geographic regions would benefit from a warmer climate and other areas will bear significant negative impacts such as the world’s heavily populated coastal regions as sea level rises (220). Global warming is therefore not caused by human activities because we are not able to adjust our atmosphere as easily as we can set a thermostat in our homes.
Proponents of global warming attribute every bad bit of weather to man. Muller says that even cold weather, based on the argument that even if the warming is small, the added heat will increase the variability of climate (380). Climate varies enormously. These variations are probably responsible for the cooling in the 1950s that led to the fear of a returning ice age hence nobody thinks that it was caused by global warming. Muller says that weather is famous for being variable on any given day hence the temperature is unlikely to be at average for that date (380). Variations of temperatures in different places in the world make it hard to detect global warming and they can easily be played by politicians to make the public worry about global warming.
If global warming is caused by humans, and if it continues to get worse, the crisis side of the argument tells us that our lives could be greatly affected in the not-too-distant future (Robinson 31). The majority of the people on the myth side of the debate argue that we are better off working on problems that affect our world today. Robinson points that by using computers to predict the effects of continued global warming, it can be noted that increased global temperatures will eventually cause extreme weather all over the world (32). Imbalances in earth’s atmosphere can affect the whole system of climate and weather and consequently that can affect a lot of different facets of life on our planet.
Fretwell says that the earth has cooled and warmed in the past, and ice age ended not too long ago (8). The amount of warming that has therefore taken place over the last 150 years matches the amount of warming that has been seen throughout the history whenever the earth is between ice ages like it is now. Fretwell continues to explain that the amount of warming happening today is close to the natural warming that happened between 1905 and 1940. This supports the fact that global warming is not caused by human activities because natural warming happened during other periods in the last one thousand years such as the medieval warming period.
Global warming is real. The reason of this is that global warming argument fits within a known argumentation scheme like the case from expert opinion. Ribeiro noted that the objection of global warming corresponds to some critical question of the role played by human activities in causing global warming (97). There are other complex instances where the conditions of the cause of global warming are not met. The potential refutation which is forming the objection to the causes of global warming needs to confront not a critical question, but a counter argument. According to Ribeiro, the conflict opinions in the global warming debate are a little difficult to pin down because of several propositions which appear to be at issue (98).
According to the currently dominant view, there is a warming of the climate system caused by the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels that is resulting into bad consequences such as droughts and heat waves. On the other hand, the contrary view is that measurements indicating that there is global warming are flawed, and if there is any warming, it is not caused by human activities (Ribeiro 98). The majority of climate scientists now side with the advocates of global warming, and they use argument from expert opinion. The leading argument of the skeptics is that there is uncertainty about global warming.
Along with the natural causes of global warming, scientists have attributed rapid industrialization to the increase of global warming (Haldar 11). In this case the argument is proleptic because it puts forward the view that global warming is supported by majority scientists, especially climate researchers who are specialists on matters of global warming. The refutation about global warming is the argument that scientific truth is not decided by majority vote, and therefore this argument putting forth numbers indicating that the majority of scientists support the view of global warming is fallacious.