These Days global warming is a very hot topic and little wonder, seeing as the earth grows hotter with each passing year.
For a long time now the effect of man’s industrialization and technological progress has quietly yet continuously eked away at the delicate balance of the planet’s atmosphere and ecosystem, but within the last 30 or so years the pace of this damage has markedly accelerated!
Downplaying Global Warming
In much the same way that Big Tobacco once vehemently denied the association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, for the longest time a number of multi-billion-dollar-a-year industries have also been questioning the existence of global warming and misleading the public about its reality.
In fact the Bush II years have been particular devastating to Environmental Protection Rights, yet staggeringly lucrative for those who would profit from the loss of such protection.
In what can best be described as an orgy-fest of self-congratulatory backslapping, many a heavyweight lobbyist for industries such as oil, coal, mining, logging, aviation, auto manufacturers have left the Bush Whitehouse grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat because they’d gotten firm assurance that pesky environmental laws would never get in the way of business as usual!
An example of how the Bush II Administration misled the public into believing they were truly concerned about protecting the environment was the sneaky way in which they enacted laws such as The Clean Skies Act.
The Clean Skies Act introduced in February 2003 apparently appears to strengthen already existent environmental laws such as The Clean Air Act but which in reality actually weakened and undermined them.
The Clean Skies Act gave pollutant industries a lot of leeway allowing them to spew an additional 42 million more tons of pollution into the atmosphere and raised caps on greenhouse gas emissions.
Soon after Bush II came to power the situation got so bad, that after decades of effective service, two of the most senior enforcement officials in the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) resigned citing an agency that was pursuing contrary goals to that of actually protecting the environment.
Former US vice president Al Gore is no stranger to these tactics. As perhaps the most widely recognizable face in the fight against global warming he has been scoffed at and ridiculed by the same individuals who would have us believe global warming is nothing more than a myth!
Recently in 2007 several scientists have gone on public record citing claims of a Gestapo-like environment of intimidation to produce figures and reports that belied the true extent of global warming!
Cause Of Global Warming
The unprecedented super-accelerated rate of global warming happening today is due to the amount of greenhouse gases being spewed into the atmosphere.
The most notorious greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2) because it so happens to be the biggest single contributing factor to global warming (CO2 comprises more than 75% of all greenhouse gases). So what’s spewing all that CO2 in the air? Simply put–mankind and his toys!
Some of the biggest greenhouse gas pollutants include automobiles; electricity production; planes; shipping and the various manufacturing industries dotted all over the globe.
Science Of Global Warming
This article is intentionally not an in-depth treatise of the process of global warming, but having said that, here’s a brief explanation:
The rays from the sun are comprised of shortwave solar radiation which pass through the atmosphere and are then absorbed by the earth thereby warming it. Part of that absorbed energy is reflected back to the atmosphere as long wave infrared radiation which is mostly trapped by the greenhouse gases. This trapped heat ensures that the earth is approximately warmer by 33 degrees Celsius than it would otherwise be.
This trapped heat is actually good for us, for were it not for those greenhouse gases and other constituents in the atmosphere that trap heat, the earth would be as cold as Mars which has for all intents and purpose no atmosphere to speak of.
Over the past century the earth has gotten warmer by approximately 0.7 degrees Celsius. This may not seem like much until you consider that the difference between the average earth temperature of today and another ice age is a mere 5 degrees Celsius!
Effects Of Global Warming
Drought! Flooding! Disease! Hurricanes! Starvation! Unbearable Heat!
Any of these words seem to you to be appearing much more often in the news than before?
Do you remember the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed more than 200,000 people? Remember hurricane Katrina that claimed more than 2,000 lives? These are the better documented horror stories. The less well documented global-warming related stories are often dismissively written off as ethnic conflicts in a region (Africa) where supposedly little else can be expected.
Catastrophic Environmental Effects Caused By Global Warming
1. Larsen B Ice Shelf:
In 2002, a 500 billion ton chunk of ice that was 220m thick and covering a surface area of 3,250 sq km disintegrated in 35 days! What was especially alarming was that the experts expected this ice shelf to still be around for the next 100 years even after factoring in current global warming trends.
Yet more alarming still is that there’re two other MUCH, MUCH BIGGER ice masses that are exhibiting the same global warming related disintegration characteristics!
These endangered ice masses are Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Shelf which was previously thought to be stable. Since these ice masses are land based (unlike the Larsen B Ice Shelf) if either one of them goes they could raise sea levels by 20ft apiece!
If both of them disintegrate around the same time, sea levels could rise by 40ft! Catastrophic does not adequately describe the ensuing destruction.
More than 66% of the world’s largest cities would be devastated if even just one of these ice masses disintegrated. Though many of the affected low-elevation costal areas are located in Asia, New York, Florida, San Francisco and The Netherlands are also on the list!
Perhaps this disturbing data may explain the belated, albeit grudging acknowledgement by the Bush II administration that global warming is not a myth after all and that it won’t just affect the poorer regions of the world. As things stand, experts are predicting that with current unmodified global warming trends Greenland may collapse as soon as 2050.
2. Lake Chad:
Lake Chad used to be the 6th largest lake in the world but due to global warming has shrunk to 1/20th of its former size. In fact Chad the country for which it is named after, is now more than 60 miles from the water’s edge!
3. New Ice Age:
The northern hemisphere of the world is located above the equator and constitutes most of the world’s land mass as well as almost 90% of the world population.
Though current expert reports on global warming imply that the northern hemisphere will initially actually benefit from the temperature increase (unlike the southern hemisphere where unprecedented drought and starvation is predicted by 2020) what is little mentioned is how global warming could usher in a new Ice Age!
Some paradox, huh? Warming leading to freezing! Here’s a brief simplified explanation of how that comes about:
The Gulf Stream current is one of several currents that occur in the Atlantic Ocean. The particular importance of the Gulf Stream Current and its northern extension (the North Atlantic Drift which flows towards Europe) is that their warm-water flow heats up the surrounding air which in turn ensures that the temperature of the northern hemispheres does not dip precipitously.
These two currents are saline (salt) based. If a huge mass of fresh water (such as a melting body of ice the size of Greenland) was to dilute these currents, in effect that would shut down the Gulf Stream Current!
Once the Gulf Stream Current shuts down temperatures are going to drop precariously in the United States, Europe and other nations located in the northern hemisphere. When that happens those regions will deep-freeze into another Ice Age!
Global Warming And The CO2 Wars
The following figures illustrate the CO2 emissions from the various regions around the globe:
South East Asia: 12.2%
South America/Central America: 3.8%
Middle East: 2.6%
These figures amply illustrate how Western Europe and the United States are by far largely responsible for the effects of global warming we are seeing today.
Contrastingly the regions least responsible are the ones that will bear the brunt of those effects (initially at any rate, until such time that the process progresses to an ice age then the situation will reverse).
However, with the two mega economies of China and India expanding rapidly (each boasting a population in excess of 1 billion) soon their greenhouse gas emissions may surpass those of the U.S.
A series of meetings held in Washington in early 2007 had American legislators demanding that developing nations be held to the same greenhouse-gas-emission accountability as the developed nations! Not unexpectedly there were worldwide outcries and accusations of shameless hypocrisy leveled at the United States.
With the not unreasonable contention that they have the right to develop and advance in the same manner that both Europe and America have enjoyed over the past forty years these two looming economical giants are not about to be cowed by Washington.
Furthermore considering the suspicious manner with which the U.S. justified its invasion of Iraq, few these days are inclined to believe a word that Washington says.
Compounding this climate of distrust and suspicion are the many questionable prerogatives the U.S. claims. These include:
1. Not subscribing to the Kyoto Protocol (Treaty on Global Warming)
2. Seeking the right to pre-emptive strikes (Bush II)
3. Demanding to be exempted from The Geneva Convention (Bush II)
4. Not a participant of the World Court
5. Biggest contributor to global warming but doing the least to rectify the situation.
In a world where America demands exclusive rights to pre-emptive strikes, perhaps then it is not too far fetched to understand if India and China harbor a degree of paranoia that the U.S. may one day set its targets on them.
After all for a country that so conveniently and magically connected two totally unrelated events to one another as an excuse to pursue its ultimate goal (U.S. invasion of Iraq after 911), it is not unconceivable that the U.S. could one day claim that the greenhouse gas emissions from the Asian giants are threatening the very existence of its coastal cities and hence amount to an act of war!
For their part the Asian giants already suspiciously view Washington’s demands concerning greenhouse gases as a thinly veiled attempt to restrict their economical development.
That said, China and India are hardly Iraq! These are two countries which both boast formidable nuclear arsenals that are quite capable of reaching the U.S. Besides if the U.S. were to take any drastic action it is unlikely that the slumbering Russian bear would continue dozing for much longer.
World wars have erupted over much less and in the heated climate of today it only takes one more little spark to set everything off!