Are We Experiencing a Climate Crisis?

Professor Berntsen English 360 10 October 2007 Are We Experiencing A Climate Crisis? The issue of global warming has been widely debated in our country the past few years. It is an important topic because it threatens the existence of the human race. Global warming, also known as the greenhouse effect, refers to the increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation. This climate crisis is a huge environmental and ecological challenge that our planet in facing today.

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The consequences of ignoring this problem may result in a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, flooding, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced or could imagine (Climate Crisis). However, through my research I have realized that there are some skeptics who do not think global warming is a threat people should be concerned about, and that this whole issue is over exaggerated, almost mythical.

Although the following essay will consider the arguments of these skeptics, I will defend the claim that global warming is a real issue with serious consequences and that we as a society must intervene and take action. The fact that the earth’s atmosphere is gradually getting hotter every year is agreed upon by the majority of scientists in the field. The question is how and why are the temperatures rising?

For starters, global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other air pollution that is collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up. In the United States, coal-burning power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide pollution. These plants produce 2. 5 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution every year. Second to coal-burning power plants are our automobiles. Our vehicles create more than 1. 5 billions tons of carbon dioxide annually (Gore).

As carbon dioxide pollution increases rapidly, the earth’s average temperature is gradually rising. Although local temperatures fluctuate naturally, over the past fifty years the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history (Gore). To give an example of how hot it has been in recent years, ten of the hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990. In 2006, city after city witnessed all time heat temperatures. In that year alone the daily high temperature records were broken across American cities 2,300 times.

During the time period from July 2005 to the end of June 2006, it was reported to be the hottest twelve month period in the history of temperature measurements in the United States (NRDC). Europe is also feeling the heat. In 2003, an unusual heat wave killed 35, 000 people. In India that same year, a heat wave claimed the lives of over 100,000 people (Gore). Is this sudden increase in heat just a natural climate change or is caused by us humans and the way we live?

Some believe that the climate change is a completely natural occurrence and that human industrial activity has nothing to do with it. Dr. Rancourt, a senior environmentalist, claims that humans have thrived in every possible ecological niche on the planet, from deserts to tropical forests to the North Polar Regions, since well before present technological advances. These environments show mean temperature differences of as much as 50 C or more. Many of these environments also show day to night and seasonal differences of as much as 20-50 C. A sudden 0. -1 C increase in mean annual temperature (not spread over 100 years) would be imperceptible to any human and indeed could barely be detected using all of the methods of the modern scientific enterprise (Rancourt). In addition, whereas there is evidence of negative consequences to populations from sustained regional cooling (e. g. , Europe’s Little Ice Age, 1300-1850 AD) and whereas global ice ages (occurring every 40-100 thousand years or so) clearly have significantly affected human populations, there is no known case of a sustained warming alone having negatively impacted an entire population.

If it where not for the global greenhouse effect, the planet would on average be 33 C colder and inhabitable (Rancourt). People against the fight of global warming believe that humans have already adapted to dramatically different regional climates occurring in every corner of the planet and the alleged future global changes are very small compared to these existing variations. Dr. Rancourt says that “There are more displaced refugees from wars and from economic aggression than there will ever be displaced inhabitants from rapid climate-induced habitat transformations.

In both cases, the solution is to accommodate those loosing their homes and communities, not to attempt to control planetary processes and unpredictable events. ” Dr. Rancourt’s opinion will not sit well with the residence of Alaska, Siberia, Greenland or other countries who are currently experiencing the negative effects of global warming. Theses countries are currently witnessing the melting of permafrost. This frozen soil or permafrost has always been frozen since the beginning of time. Unfortunately the soil is gradually melting and thawing due to the increased temperatures.

This is causing buildings to collapse, trees to grow improperly, and is affecting anything underground such as cemeteries and tunnels. Most importantly, the end result of this melting and thawing is that if the permafrost is thawed out completely, it will release and incredible amount of methane into the atmosphere that would result in a dramatic increase in global warming pollution. This is a scientific fact that has not been disputed. Also, Greenland is in danger from not only the melting of the permafrost but from glacial earthquakes as well.

In 2006, Fifty cubic miles of ice melted off the mainland of this country due to these glacial earthquakes that are caused by the warming of the earth. Scientists had never discovered glacial earthquakes in Greenland until 1993, which shows you that the earth has never been this warm until recent years. These earthquakes are breaking the glaciers and melting the ice at a fast pace. From 1993 to 1999, the amount of glacial earthquakes doubled. In between the years of 1999 and 2005 the number doubled again.

Experts say that if this rapid melting of Greenland continues, it will have a domino effect on the rest of the world. It will result in the sea level soaring to 20 feet or more world wide (Gore). If this is true, how can people like Dr. Rancourt say that global warming is not a serious threat? After researching this subject matter, I came to the conclusion that Dr. Rancourt’s statements showed be read with much doubt. Even though his position as environmentalist and status as a doctor is impressive, his findings and theory lacks quality evidence.

He also fails to look at the situation as being a threat in the far future. In his calculations of rising temperatures, Dr. Rancourt does not take into consideration that this is a long term problem. He fails to look at the big picture of this climate crisis. For example, he states that “a sudden 0. 5-1 C increase in mean annual temperature would be imperceptible to any human and indeed could barely be detected using all of the methods of the modern scientific enterprise”.

The problem with this evidence is that these calculations are not spread over a lengthy time period. His findings suggest that the average temperature will increase . 5 C annually. This means in the year 3000, temperatures would reach anywhere from 50 to 100 C over the current average global temperature. In my opinion the doctor’s findings are not clear and are highly debatable. On the other hand, Al Gore’s views on this subject matter are backed up with evidence that was uncovered by a majority of the experts who study this issue.

Unlike Dr. Rancourt who’s theory is supported by a minority of the scientist in the field. Also, Gore’s vision takes into account that this climate crisis is a problem now and will be even a greater problem in 50 fifty years. He presents an extensive amount of factual evidence to support his view. Countries like Greenland are not the only places experiencing the effects of this climate crisis. In some parts of the world, bad weather in the form of strong hurricanes, extreme flooding, and longer droughts have reached record numbers.

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