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Climate Change, Essay Example

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Words: 1490

Essay

Introduction

Climate change or, more exactly, humanity’s role in shaping it, is an ongoing controversy in modern life.  There are those who insist that the changes in the atmosphere and climate are unrelated to human actions, and that the global warming perceived as occurring is an inevitable and natural process.  Others hold that climate change is a completely natural occurrence, but that mankind is radically influencing it, and altering natural balances in a way promoting likely damage.  Between both viewpoints is the reality that there remains a great deal about the Earth’s processes still unknown, and great care must be exercised before any policy shifts are considered.  In all of this, and no matter the emphasis on artificial or natural forces, a single fact seems obvious as dictating a course of action.  If the climate is indeed warming in a way potentially harmful to humanity, as evidence suggests,  the only reasonable solution demands a global effort to influence the climate as little as possible.

Realities and Issues of the Problem

Only a few decades ago, the general concern within the scientific community was that the planet was heading toward another ice age, and measures were proposed to counter this.  More recently, however, advances in technology have presented a very different scenario.  While it is true that geological records irrefutably indicate periodic ice ages as sporadic, and often enormous, climate changes, it is now generally accepted that the Earth is warming.  It is scientifically established that the global mean surface air temperature has been rising since 1910, with an interval of little change noted between the 1940s and the 1970s.  That interval may seem to indicate merely a pause between naturally occurring changes, but it is more likely the result of an increase in pollutants temporarily stabilizing the atmosphere  (Mathez  7-8).  It is also increasingly believed that only a vast and artificial increase in greenhouse gases can account for this consistent rise.  Other elements are certainly influential, as carbon emissions occur naturally from plants and animals.  Then, it is accepted that regional forces, such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, redistribute heat in ways both erratic and highly influential.  At the same time, two elements strongly indicate that the rising warmth of the atmosphere is not a wholly natural process.  On one level, there is no evidence that external forces, such as solar irradiation, are having anything but a fractional effect on the climate.  This leads to the conclusion that the changes are based on internal causes, and the fact that global warming is, in fact, global indicates that it is not a natural occurrence; simply, observable, regional phenomena would be in place to account for this (Mathez).  Add to this the inescapable factor of how radically and recently mankind has been releasing mass quantities of greenhouse gases, specifically since the industrial revolutions of the late 19th and early 20trh centuries, and the logic clearly points to humanity as impacting on the climate, and encouraging, if not outright causing, warming.

This, then, is the problem, because global warming is not, in plain terms, good news for humanity.  Any significant and lasting shift in the global temperature creates a vast array of issues, and some of these have been already documented as occurring.  As is widely reported, sea levels are rising due to the melting of glaciers, permafrost, snow cover, and sea ice, which creates increased flood conditions in coastal regions globally.  Then, as temperatures rise as more water vapor infuses the atmosphere, weather conditions become highly unstable, resulting in greater numbers of hurricanes and tropical storms.  There is also the significant factor of regional changes varying from traditional patterns, as areas of the United States and the Caribbean become drier (Karl, Melillo, Peterson, & Hassol  8).  What this translates to is how climate change creates immeasurable problems for all societies; when the weather is altered at this kind of level, agricultural areas are likely to confront conditions rendering them non-agricultural, just as all infrastructures of societies are compelled to adapt to the new conditions.  Not unexpectedly, humans are not alone in being affected.  It has already been observed that, as warming increases and temperate seasons begin earlier, plants and animals move to higher elevations and alter their breeding times (Pittock  13), and such a shift in the patterns of all life must have great implications for humanity. In no uncertain terms, whatever occurs atmospherically dictates how all life survives, so the foreseeable and unforeseeable effects of global warming combine to create extreme, and justified, concern.

Solutions

One solution to the issue of climate change is not a solution at all, but rather a conviction that concerns are completely unjustified.  This conviction, moreover,  is not isolated to a minority; polls indicate that many feel fears over global warming are greatly exaggerated.  Supporting such views, there was the outcry of the 1970s previously referred to regarding a perceived ice age as imminent.  Then, science is pointed to as confirming that carbon gases are being misinterpreted; examinations of ice cores from the Antarctic, dating back hundreds of millions of years, indicate that carbon amounts were actually greater during the most extreme ice ages (Jeffrey  70).  These feelings tend to reflect a genuine, and by no means irrational, view that, simply, too little is known about how the Earth translates its natural processes for mankind to become alarmed by fluctuations seemingly consistent.  More to the point, the “solution” in this case is to disregard prevalent concerns.  It is felt that, as humanity’s influences on the atmosphere are necessarily limited and that aspects of greenhouse gas effects remain debatable, there is no need for societies to alter their present courses.

It is difficult to counter arguments that climate study itself is a vastly complex arena, and that ascertaining certain knowledge regarding processes of epic proportions, and many of which are yet beyond human understanding, is at best subject to scrutiny.  Nonetheless, there are realities in place that, no matter the measured impacts, cannot be refuted.  On one level, there can be no doubt that humanity has in the past two centuries enormously altered the atmosphere.  Heat-trapping gases have been released in mass quantities from developed nations since the early 1900s, and now arise globally from more international industrialization.  The most intent studies consistently reveal one fact:  the average global temperature has risen by 1.5 percent since 1900, and this is a span of time clearly indicating a pervasive trend (Karl et al  9).  It all seems unlikely that all major nations would simultaneously be in accord as to a single issue, as climate change is a concern drawing international interest.  At the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the Kyoto Protocol was created.  This is an international treaty wherein participating nations agree to exert greater controls on pollutants and emissions, and such international support would not be in evidence were there not concerns perceived by each, independent nation (Philander  151).  This, then, suggests the only viable solution to global warming, in that it addresses the wider arena of climate change.  More exactly, and no matter the actual impact, it is undeniable that human industry is adding to the atmosphere, and obviously in ways beyond natural processes.  The point is not whether this influence is promoting warming or cooling; the point is that, as any interference with natural processes of the climate are likely to be undesirable, it should be curtailed as much as possible.

Conclusion

Given the relatively recent scares over an impending ice age, it is inevitable that today’s concerns over climate change in the form of global warming would generate debate.  Added to this, there is certainly reason to question whatever science affirms that climate change is at least partially occurring due to human actions.  At the same time, the data remains consistent, as effects of global warming are already documented.  This requires a solution, and it is one precisely suited to acknowledging booth what is established and what is in doubt.  No matter the actual consequences, humanity must be affecting the atmosphere because humanity is releasing large quantities of artificial emissions into it, and this must have some effect on the climate, which must also interfere with natural processes.  Consequently, the only reasonable solution to the problem of climate change, or even of it as “no problem”, lies in a global effort to influence the climate as little as possible.

Works Cited

Jeffrey, G. R.  The Global-Warming Deception: How a Secret Elite Plans to Bankrupt America and Steal Your Freedom.  New York: Random House, 2012.  Print.

Karl, T. R., Melillo, J. M., Peterson, T. C., & Hassol, S. J.  Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.  New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.  Print.

Mathez, E. A.  Climate Change: The Science of Global Warming and Our Energy Future. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.  Print.

Philander, G. S.  Encyclopedia of Global Warming and Climate Change, 2nd Ed.  Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2012.  Print.

Pittock, A.  Climate Change: The Science, Impacts and Solutions.  London: CSIRO Publishing, 2009.  Print.

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