Problem Solving

Global Warming

John Nilson asked:

“With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes than he who enacts or pronounces decisions.” Abraham Lincoln.

People exist always only in combination with nature, they can not be separated from it by any means and thus any kind of changes either positive or negative are always reflected in our lives. Long time ago one of the main problems on the planet became the global climate change. The Artic ice starts to melt and disappear, Latin America and South America suffer from lethal storms and floods. Europeans have to face melting glaciers, forest fires and heat waves. The tree rings and ancient coral in ice cores show that the world has not been as warm before as it is now. The warmest years were all starting since 1998. Most of these changes are influenced by human activities, as people burn the nature’s stores of coal, oil and natural gas. As a result billions of tones of carbon dioxide come into the air annually. Some scientists even suppose that these changes were caused by the dawn of agriculture. The well known phenomenon connected with global warming is greenhouse effect. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that makes the obstacle for the Sun radiation in the troposphere, the lower atmosphere. Some researches also show that cosmic rays are also connected with this effect. As soon as the atmospheric CO2 rises the global temperatures are luckily to rise by around 2C to 5 C. As a result the ice starts to melt, changes in clouds and vegetation occur and so on. When the glaciers melt, they will certainly cause some rivers to overflow, while others will be emptied. The situations with water resources might cause conflicts in different regions. All this will of course influence the natural ecosystems, as not all species can move quickly enough to put up with the global warming, for example coral reefs. The melting ices will influence not only the level of rivers’ water, but also the level of the oceans is disturbed. And if the level of the ocean rises 6 meters higher, that would be enough to flood the lands of billions of people.

Forests and oceans on our planet were able to absorb about half of the CO2 people produced, but since 2001 the amount of CO2 is twice bigger, which really limits the resources of the nature.

Methane is the second most important gas for greenhouse effect. The effect of methane is even 20 times greater than carbon dioxide, but there is less methane in the atmosphere. Methane influences 25% of global warming. Methane is produced by cows and termites. Thus agriculture and rice growing can produce methane. Besides coal mining and oil wells also produce methane. The level of methane in the atmosphere is constantly increasing – this is also an alarming fact for the Earth climate.

Public Health organizations are also worried about global warming, as researches state that the global warming is luckily to increase human mortality, when the cases of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other  parasites increase. But the American Council on Science and Health announced the conclusions of its study which show that such diseases could become serious problems for people disregarding global warming and that these diseases can be prevented not only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The aim of these conclusions was certainly to make the diseases for the government not associated with global warming. The findings of the American Council on Science and Health were as follows:

– As the World Health Organization states that there are more than 500 million cases of malaria each year, malaria can not be caused only by warming of the climate, the increasing of the temperature can increase the incidents of malaria only by 10-16%.

– The ACSH studies were also stating that wealth can bring health and stimulate long living, whereas poverty is one of the reasons for hard diseases and short life spans. And public health would be put at risk when great economic costs could go on control of greenhouse gas emissions, as it could lead to poverty.

– Yellow fever, malaria and other tropical diseases could be prevented with fewer costs than those needed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, for example: use of vaccinations, judicious use of pesticides and biological control methods, usage of mosquito and fly screens and public education.

– Spending money for reducing greenhouse gas emissions means that this money can not be used for better methods of preventing the above mentioned diseases, as better nutrition and sanitation.

This was one of the bright examples how the problem of global warming is not treated in a proper way in order to solve the financial and other problems of the high politic leaders, who care really not much for the future of the whole planet.

But no matter what is said, global warming still stays a great problem of the whole mankind. Certainly it is not possible to stop all human activities that disturb the atmosphere as they are connected with producing food and making people warm. But we should not forget that some predictions about global warming are close to tragic. People are controlling the whole Earth as there are almost no places, which never felt the hand of a human. And thus the whole responsibility is on people. There are certain measures to at least avoid the worst case, the disaster on the planet. People can reduce of greenhouse gas emissions with the help of energy conservation, like turning the computers and other technical devices off, when they do not use them, use compact fluorescent lights, unplug the chargers of cell phones and digital cameras and so on.

The issues of global warming and fossil fuel usage are certainly closely connected. The use of oil and natural resources will decline in a decade. But this would not reduce the carbon dioxide emissions automatically, the replacements with coal, heavy oil and tar sand contain even more carbon, if to make them produce the same amount of energy they will produce twice more carbon. But the fact is that all transport, roads and airports for this transport are useless without oil. To create a new transport system is a task for the whole society, not for an individual, besides it would need money, time, natural resources and a lot of brain power. So the previous arguments concerning a lot of money spent on the stopping or at least slowing the global warming can be put aside against these ones.

The projections made for the future state that Earth will be an ice planet without greenhouse effect, the Earth will get warmer, by the 2100 the temperature will be 1.5 C – 4.5 C warmer, the increase will be less in the southern hemisphere and greater in the northern hemisphere. The global temperature is connected with carbon dioxide level and methane level, which at the moment exceed greatly the past levels.

It is necessary to mention some facts concerning the future in order to understand why the global warming can be considered a disaster for the whole planet. Certainly it is not possible to know the future climate on Earth precisely, but some data are certain: every century brings the increase of the temperature of 1-2C. It is enough for Greenland and Antarctica to start melting, thus some part of northern areas could become a farmland and Sahara might become bigger. Storms can be stronger. Some countries like Bangladesh and Netherlands are luckily to vanish because of the ocean level rise up to 5 meters.

The term “climate forcings” is often used though it is hard to give its precise definition. To define it simply – this is an event that influences global climate. At this point it is necessary to mention that the weather and climate are different things, the weather is described with the help of variations of dryness or wetness, cold and heat. They do not play a great role for the whole picture on the Earth, but climate can be influenced by forcings,
like for example a volcanic erupt
ion can cool the climate on the whole Earth. Such forcing is called a short term forcing. An example of long term forcing may be continental drift which within millions of years changes the path of ocean currents. To anthropogenic forcings belong fossil fuel burning and agriculture. Not all forcings of humans result in global warming, sulfur dioxide from coal burning produces aerosols and they result in cooling.

These were the main negative influences on the climate that cause the global warming. They are rather serious and need urgent steps taken by people in order to avoid the catastrophes in the world of nature, to which we by the way also belong.

So the climate of the Earth should be an international concern and not only of scientists and ordinary people, but also of those who hold power in their hand and are able to make the politics work not only for money, but also for the future of the whole mankind. Unfortunately, these are mostly beautiful words and promises when elections are in the future as soon as they are over the real situation changes. Not a single national leader has come out publicly and said that the recent spate of hurricanes was the result of global warming, this is a part of conventional wisdom of environmentalists that they should not frighten the public, but should focus their interest on technical solutions, like for example hybrid cars and so on.

Global warming is such a problem that it is necessary to deal with all its aspects, which includes the politics. When politicians formulate their policy they need inputs from many disciplines and from science as well. But unfortunately global warming has become an absolutely political issue and politicians do their best to influence even science.

In 1992 at the Earth Summit the decision to prevent such dangerous climate change was taken. The first step was the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which is supposed to come into force in 2005.

One of the reports of the U.N. Panel on Climate Changes warns that the U.S. and other wealthy countries should immediately cut their oil and gas consumption and agree to get at least a quarter of their electrical energy from renewable resources – solar and wind power; and that they should double their research spending on low-carbon energy by 2010.In 1997 the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 to make Clinton Administration not to send the Kyoto treaty to Capitol Hill for ratification. In his first term president Bush rejected Kyoto. Russia ratified it, but most believe that Putin was made to do that as British Prime Minister and other European Union officials threatened not to let him become a member of World Trade Organization, which could cost Russia billions of dollars each year. But the chief economic adviser of Putin – Andrei Illarionov shows his doubts as for the upholding commit to Kyoto, he says: “There is no evidence confirming a positive linking between the level of carbon dioxide and temperature change. The U.N. Panel’s so called scientific data are considerably distorted and in many cases falsified” (Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb?, by James Hansen, 2003, pp.2-15). One of the main ideas of Ilarionov and others is to break the advanced economies of the U.S., Europe and Japan, by persuading the multi-national companies to move plants and jobs to developing countries in order not to comply with emissions restrictions. But the president of the American Policy Center in Washington – Tom DeWeese doesn’t agree that it makes sense, he states as the main concern and the prime target is the wealth of the United States it would not be wise to place factories in Third World countries, as the same amount of emissions would come out from jungles of South America instead of Chicago and in this case we are not talking about the protection of the environment any more. He is right in a way.

The main goal of the meeting in Kyoto was signing the amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (the Rio Treaty) in order to require the signatory nations to take the necessary steps to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, as these gases cause an alarm situation with global temperatures. The costs of signing it for the U.S. could be really high, as the county could be made to reduce between 10 and 20 % of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2020, that would cause reduction of gross domestic products by $260 billion annually, it is equal to $2.700 per household. Certainly it was hard to prove that such costs are justified. Besides as millions of American people could be put at risk, several important questions appeared. The first one was about the possible merits or drawbacks of global warming. The World Bank researches prove that about one-third of the whole population suffers from water shortages. By 2025 they say – around 40 % of the whole population could be living in countries without sufficient water supplies. The crops will also suffer from lack of water. Global warming leads to more condensation and more evaporation, thus producing more rains. So it could be in a way an answer to the problem about lack of water. The second positive point about global warming is possibility of agriculture in North America and Europe, the southern regions of Greenland were not covered with ice when between 10th and 12th centuries the temperature was 0.5 degrees warmer than today, and could be also cultivated. The evidence of this was found when: “scientists from the National Science Foundation sponsored Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2 extracted in an ice core from Greenland’s ice sheet that spanned more than 100.000 years of climate history. Samplings from the core suggest that a Little Ice Age began between 1400 and 1420, blanketing the Vikings’ farms in ice and forcing them to abandon their farms in search of more hospitable climates”.( Michael Crichton’s State of Fear: Climate Change in the Cineplex, by Amy Ridenour pp.1-5). Thus global warming could mean more agricultural productivity and more water resources.

The idea that great storms are connected with global warming is sometimes called a myth. Those who say so find little evidence to support this fact and also to support a conclusion that there is a connection between global warming and increasing number of such pests and mosquitoes that bring malaria, yellow fever and other diseases.  The researches of George C. Marshal institute show that most severe storms are more associated with warm and cold weather, for example in the North Sea the storms occurred between 15th and 16th centuries after the onset of Little Ice Age. The United Health Organization writes that with the grow of international traveling and great number of migrations and refugees people have the chance to communicate more, and thus the diseases are spread more quickly, not just from one person to another, but also from one continent to another.

Another important question concerns the global warming itself. Depending on the time period we are discussing the planet is either warming or not. Our planet has experienced several periods of warming and cooling. In his article in 1994 Richard Kerr offered his point of view about this issue: “In order for a climate model to have credibility, it must first be able to reliably “predict” current climate. … Some “tune” their models by adjusting the strength of solar radiation; others by adjusting the transfer of energy between the ocean and the atmosphere to get just the desired results. The result is climate models that are largely worthless”. (When Science Meets Politics on Global Warming, by Roy W. Spencer, 1998 pp.1-4).

Another question concerns economical results of reducing of greenhouse gas emissions. The plan as to reduce them to their 1990 level by 2000 and with further reductions for 2010 and 2020. This would make the taxes for carbon dioxide raise up to $100 $200 pro metric ton. Then by 2010 this could cause about 500.000 – one million job loses in U.S. The situation in Australia would be even worse, as they have a strong mining sector. The
economies of devel
oping countries would also be sensitive to these reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. The emissions in Brazil grew by 20%, in India – by 28%, in Indonesia – by 40% between 1990 and 1995.Thus developing nations and oil exporters have fears concerning their economic futures. That is why developing nations were exempted from reduction mandate under the Berlin mandate.

So the main point of political leaders is that the high costs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are not worth the climate benefits they could bring. There is a point of view that even if such steps are necessary for improving our climate, we should not hurry and should at first improve our knowledge about causes and consequences of global warming, we should develop technology that could reduce the greenhouse emissions per unit of output, increase the reflectivity of atmosphere. The supporters of this position state that there are a lot of other important economical, scientific and political issues that need to be solved and there is no reason to rush to conclusions about global warming, as scientists themselves are a kind of swept up in the moment. Even after the Kyoto was coming into force constant debates between climate skeptics and global warming “supporters” continued. For example when Kevin Trenberth, being a head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested that there was a connection between climate changes and wave of hurricanes,  Christopher Landsea, hurricane expert at America’s national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote in his public letter that: “because of Dr. Trenberth’s pronouncements. The IPCC process has been subverted and compromised, its neutrality lost” (When Science Meets Politics on Global Warming, by Roy W. Spencer, 1998 pp.1-4).

The concepts of “nature” and “environment” were reconstructed. Actually the human-made phenomenon – global warming- is somehow considered environmental. Some people believe that this framing is political, not just conceptual problem. When the term environment is used it means something that is “out there” and needs fixing, but in reality the problem can not be considered external, as it is within people and not out. And it was and will be the humans’ problem.

Overall, the warming of the Earth has become a serious problem concerning, scientists, citizens and of course policy-makers. It is certainly hard to give one-sided characteristics to all effects, results and reasons of the global warming described above, there are certainly possibilities that not all recent researches and conclusions of scientists are true to life 100%, and the statement that in several decades we will know much more about climate changing and global warming has also some rational points. But on the other hand it is hard to deny the fact that the human beings do influence the climate and the nature greatly. These issues touch every single person on the planet and the whole mankind. They should bother the policy making people as well. They have to care for the wealth of the country but to simply deny all the negative facts about global warming is hardly the best way out. But unfortunately it usually happens so that the politics are more interested in real facts concerning finance and industrial developments than in vague future of the whole planet. As the whole industrial process and thus the economy of almost any country depends on its usage of natural resources, the climate seems a low “price” for spoiling them. When they start to think about problems caused by climate change, they think first of all about refugees, loss of job places, food shortages because of bad development of agriculture and so on.

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