Pollution Essay: Global Warming
- Length: 719 words (2.1 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Global warming is an increase in the earth's temperature due to fossil fuels, industry, and agricultural processes caused by human, natural, and other gas emissions. This results in an increased evacuation of greenhouse gases. “Short-wave solar radiation sinks into the Earth's atmosphere and warms its surface while long-wave infrared radiation emitted by earth's surface is absorbed, and then re-emitted by trace gases.” (2)
Climate changes occur in our earth's atmosphere due to a buildup of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases can occur naturally as well as a result of human activities. The greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. “Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when solid waste, fossil fuels, and wood are burned.” (2) The gases help to warm the surface of the Earth. Each greenhouse gas absorbs heat differently. If natural gases did not occur, the temperature of the earth would be considerably cooler. “Problems can occur when higher concentrations of greenhouse gases are present in our atmosphere because they have enhanced our earth's heat trapping capability.” (3)
Human activities add to the levels of these gasses, causing more problems. “Automobiles, heat from homes and businesses, and factories are responsible for about 80% of today's carbon dioxide emissions, 25% of methane emissions, and 20% of the nitrous oxide emissions.” (3) The increase in agriculture, deforestation, landfills, industrial production, and mining contribute a significant share of emissions also. These gases that are released into the atmosphere are tracked by emission inventories. An emission inventory counts the amount of air pollutants discharged into the atmosphere. These inventories are important in studying the affects of global warming on the Earth.
The Centers for Disease Control have been involved in studying global warming's effect on human health. Its affect on the climate can adversely affect humans. Plagues have been attributed to global warming. An increase in temperature can result in a longer life cycle for diseases or the agents spreading them.” Global warming will lead to more precipitation, which enables infectious diseases to be more easily contracted and spread.” (2) Effects of global warming on human health might not be immediately detected.
Birds are a species that will be affected by a change in the climate. Global warming might result in birds finding a more permanent home in northern areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The ecosystems of fish will be affected by global warming in a variety of ways. The chemical composition of water could be changed.
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Global Warming Human Activities Our Earth Greenhouse Gases Gas Emissions Carbon Dioxide Human Health
Fish may migrate to different areas. Other animals could be affected due to the changes in climate and habitat.
Nature will be affected in many ways also. Many acres of forest have burned due to increasingly warm temperatures. Temperatures are being recorded in many places that are at an excessive high and length. When temperatures are on the increase, the tides and waves get higher. Additionally, the temperatures in the oceans create saltier waters, which erodes beach lines and vegetation along shores.
Global warming can affect our future ability to obtain food. As climates change, plants and animals will change, leading to a change in the eating patterns of humans. An increase in precipitation is one result of global warming that could have devastating effects. First, the quality of crops would be affected by an increase in precipitation. Second, increasing rain could lead to an increase in soil erosion.
There are many ways that people can help prevent global warming. Carpooling, auditing the energy in homes, buying fuel-efficient cars, and reducing the electricity used in home are ways to help prevent global warming. The government can play a very big role in preventing global warming. Government authorities can help by passing laws to reduce emissions from factories. They can also form a treaty with other countries to legally bind limits on emissions of heat trapping gases.
The future of emissions damage depends on several factors including but not limited to demographics, economics, technology, policies and institutional developments. Future predictions do not look good for this planet if nothing is done. “Without the help of emissions control policies, carbon dioxide levels are projected to be 30-150% higher than today's levels in 2100.” (3) Our renewable resources will be very limited. With cooperation from citizens, further science developments, and the government, mankind can slow the effect of global warming.
Why We Must Reduce Fossil Fuel Consumption
Last modified: January 18, 2008
Prepared as a Sample by Dr. Jan Garrett
Part I. Moral Thesis
Twenty-first century American citizens must take serious steps to reduce their per capita consumption of energy, especially fossil fuels. (This applies to all adults in proportion to their capacity to do so.)
Clarification. This moral conclusion, of course, applies chiefly to those Americans who consume larger quantities of energy, not (so much) those who have already brought their consumption of energy well below the average. I am limiting this essay to discussing the moral thesis. If the arguments for it are clearly superior to those against, the conclusion will stand. Further reasoning would be required to discover the precise steps to get to the goal of reduced fossil fuel consumption.
Part II. Arguments for (P=pro) the Thesis
P1. Let us begin by considering the relevant facts. Large and still growing use of nonrenewable sources of energy are contributing to pollution, but most importantly to global warming/climate change. Fossil fuel consumption is the major factor pushing GW/CC. The chief mechanism is the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which traps heat from the sun and blocks what would otherwise be its normal radiation back into space.
The United States has long led the world in fossil fuel consumption. It still does. It is increasingly recognized that our "way of life" is "addicted" to fossil fuel.
The harms of GW/CC for human beings and for nonhuman life forms (individual beings and species) are serious. GW/CC is already expressed in the significant early stages of the melting of polar ice. This event threatens the livelihood of people living in polar regions like the Inuit and essential habitat for species like the polar bear. Other results of melting of polar ice include inundation of low-lying lands close to the oceans including such lands close to the equator. They also include crop failures and loss of growing season as traditional agricultural lands endure higher average temperatures, more frequent damaging floods and violent weather (e.g., hurricanes) as a result of the processes triggered by climate change. The increased flooding and crop failures are likely to drive millions of people between countries--mass migration that makes today's population movements seem trivial by comparison.
A world in which GW/CC is operating is an increasingly unstable world. (Moral Premise 1, MP1) Persons ought to promote an environmentally and socially sustainable society and planet. Therefore, other things equal people ought to work against whatever contributes to GW/CC by reducing fossil fuel consumption.
P2. GW/CC is likely to involve great suffering for hundreds of millions if not billions of people.(MP2) People ought to act to prevent predictable, preventable suffering. Therefore, other things equal people ought to act to try to prevent GW/CC by reducing fossil fuel consumption.
P3. Other moral premises help establishing the responsibilities of U.S. citizens. (MP3) Other things equal, persons who have greater resources and knowledge concerning a problem of this sort have a greater obligation to contribute to solution. (MP4) People whose activities have disproportionately contributed to a predicted or actual harm--and people who have disproportionately benefited from such activities--have a greater obligation to work toward its resolution. (It's not necessary that they consciously tried to create such a threat.)
The U.S. may no longer be the wealthiest country when total U.S. wealth is divided by the population, but it is still a country with great economic resources and access to scientific knowledge. An honest history of the role of fossil fuel in the U.S. economy throughout the 20th century reveals that the U.S. has disproportionately--compared to other countries on a per capita basis--consumed fossil fuels. (This accounts for much of the famed American standard of living.) From such facts and the just mentioned moral reasons, we can conclude that U.S. citizens especially (though not only U.S. citizens) ought to take serious steps to prevent GW/CC.
P4. But there is an issue of international social justice here too. These undesirable results of GW/CC are likely to be distributed in an unjust way, with poor persons living in low-lying areas near the sea suffering more than others. As often happens, the asset-rich populations (many of whom have benefited from the economic processes that have generated global warming as a side-effect) are better situated to adjust to the changes brought about by GW, while the less affluent majority of humanity will bear the costs. This is not fair. (MP5) People ought to act to prevent the unfair distributions of burdens. These facts and the new moral premise confirm the conclusion stated in the thesis.
Moral premises (1-5) stated together with the factual premises given support the moral thesis given at the beginning of the essay.
Part III. Arguments against (A=anti) the moral thesis
A1. The claims in P1 assume that climate change is a reality and predict that it will continue into the future (at least for a generation). In claiming that fossil fuel use is the major factor driving climate change, the argument implies that human activity (a factor controlled by human beings collectively) is the primary cause of climate change. But even if climate change is occurring, human activity is not necessarily the cause. The causes of climate are enormously complex and not as well understood as scientists would like. Human activity is only part of the causal mix. It may be only a small factor compared to all the others. If human activity is not the cause of GW/CC, then reduction in human use of fossil fuels is not likely to slow it down or stop it.
A2. GW/CC is only a theory. It could be wrong. We shouldn't make any costly decisions on the basis of uncertain predictions.
A3. It's just human nature to exploit the environment for the benefit of ourselves and members of our own nation. You cannot change human nature. It's pointless to try.
A4. People who live in low-lying areas (near sea level) could have chosen to live elsewhere, but they didn't, and so should accept the consequences of their choices. My family didn't make such a choice. It's not our problem.
A5. Other nations are contributing to GW/CC and are not likely to stop even if the United States does.
A6. It's in the nature of our economic system (capitalism) to pursue innovative ways of producing more things with less and less labor input. This pursuit requires continued, indeed increased, use of fossil fuels. Short of a return to barbarism, capitalism is the only economic path open to us; therefore it would be disastrous to accept the conclusion advocated.
For these several reasons, the moral thesis stated should be rejected.
Part IV. Comment on the Arguments Against the Thesis
I am not insisting that you include a section like this in your short essay.
Apart from A1, the arguments against the thesis are rather weak.
Response to A1. This may be the strongest argument that the do-nothing camp has because it does not dispute that GW/CC is occurring, for which there is overwhelming empirical evidence. There is also overwhelming empirical evidence that increased fossil fuel use causes increased emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Nor can it be doubted that fossil fuel use has increased dramatically over the last century and continues to do so. GW/CC might be a result of factors other than fossil fuel consumption, but until the skeptics can make a stronger case for those other causes than they have so far, it is reasonable to accept the explanation in terms of fossil fuel and human activity. Even if FF consumption is not the entire cause of GW/CC, it is more probable that it is a significant contributory cause. This conclusion alone justifies our taking collective action now.
Response to A2. Scientific predictions are sometimes wrong, but the more research stands behind them and the more researchers are convinced of their accuracy, the more reliable the predictions usually are. The fact that some Ph.D.'s, employed by institutes funded by the energy industry, are global warming skeptics, should not encourage us to ignore what the vast majority of scientists in the relevant fields are saying.
Response to A3. Human beings have often placed restrictions on their exploitation of the environment when it became clear that the long-term survival of their societies depended on it. Now that we are linked to distant peoples through modern communication technology and global trade, it makes sense to speak of a global society. Its long-term survival depends on limiting environmental exploitation.
Response to A4. People who live in low-lying areas subject to flooding often have no other alternative, given their poverty and the lack of suitable housing or farmland elsewhere in their own countries. They are not necessarily responsible for their own vulnerability.
Response to A5. Some other nations that contribute to GW/CC (like those in Europe) are already ahead of the U.S. in taking steps to combat GW. It's true, however, that newly industrialized countries like China are following the U.S. example toward fossil fuel addiction. China will likely not be persuaded to limit its use of fossil fuels unless it recognizes that the U.S. has joined Europe in doing likewise and the technology-rich countries provide high energy-efficiency technologies to it.
Response to A6. The dilemma of capitalism-with-GW vs. barbarism-without-GW is a false dilemma. It represents a failure of the imagination. We may not know yet how to restrain our markets and technologies sufficiently that we can all live justly, sustainably, and with a modest degree of comfort, on the planet. But if we agree to live less wastefully and to use our creativity and capacity to cooperate, nationally and internationally to find a path between these dual nightmares, the human species may still be able to prevent the worst of GW/CC, or to survive a period of moderate GW that does not turn catastrophic.