Over the years, the earth’s average temperatures have been on a gradual rise, with each new century recording higher temperatures than the previous one. Global warming is a term that describes the overall rise in earth’s atmospheric temperatures, often associated with changes in atmospheric greenhouse gases (elsewhere abbreviated as GHG). As a result of the rising temperatures, various adverse climatic conditions such as storms, prolonged drought or flood seasons, and hurricanes among others, are increasingly becoming common. Global warming is not an individual problem, but rather a disaster that faces the entire planet. Thus, global warming is among the leading global social problems (Simon 2). Unlike other social problems that affects a given region, the rise in temperature cuts across the entire world. This is because the emitted GHG that result in temperature changes disperse evenly across the globe. The effects of global warming are evident in every part of the world; however, some geographical locations are more affected than others. The following is an overview of global warming menace and some of the ways in which the world is responding to it.
Understanding global warming
The world’s temperature change was relatively stable up until the 1800s (Prasad 4). Prior to the Stone Age period, the earth would warm and cool naturally owing to the changes in the magnitude of the amount of sunlight received at different orbits. As man’s activities and discoveries increased, so did his impact on the environment. Human beings began to engage in activities that emit GHG that causes of global warming. Consequently, as Prasad explains, that the earth’s temperatures rose rapidly in the 20th century (4). The average rise in temperature from in the 20th century was 1.4 degrees centigrade. Today, the world is over one degree Celsius warmer than it was in 1950s. Further, scientist projects that the global temperature may continue rising over the next one centuries.
Global warming occurs when excess GHGs are absorbed into the atmosphere into the atmosphere. GHG, as Jacob expounds, is a term that describes the entire atmospheric gases including methane, carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone, nitrous oxide (N2O) and water vapor (56). When these gases are absorbed into the atmosphere, they trap heat emitted in the earth, reflecting it back to the earth surface. Naturally, GHG composition in the atmosphere should be moderate to allow solar heat to escape into the space. Although there are certain natural factors that contribute to the release of GHG, scientists estimates those human activities contribute to over 90% GHG emission. Therefore, human beings are the major cause of global warming, despite the scientific warnings of the risk of global warming.
There are several man-made factors that lead to emission of GHG. Firstly, human beings are constantly burning fossil fuels to produce energy. For example, different forms of fossil fuels are burnt to generate electricity and in driving automobiles. The process through which any fossil fuel burns emits carbon dioxide, a gas that contributes immensely to global warming. In addition to carbon emissions, human beings also undertake activities that lead to emission of Nitrogen oxide. For example, addition of fertilizer to the soil to boost farm production triggers the emission of NO2 from the soil. As Jacob explains, NO2 traps 300 times more heat than an equal volume of carbon dioxide (57). Other human activities that disrupt the natural existence of the ecosystem such as mining and deforestation have also played a part in raising global temperatures.
Effects of Global Warming
The effects of global warming are catastrophic and threaten the existence of human kind. It affects every aspect of human life, both individually and collectively. Firstly, the social aspect of human life is and will continue to be affected, unless a mitigation measures to curb global warming are successful. For example, frequent and intense heat waves may create health risks by aggravating certain medical conditions. Also, the society is often burdened by the loss associated to extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts, high rainfalls and storms. According to, extreme weather conditions such as floods exposes human beings to water and mosquito-borne diseases. Additionally, shifts in climate patterns influence the agricultural sector which is the backbone of the world’s economy. A society that cannot feed its people is highly prone to economic and political instabilities (Davies, cnn.com).
With the present rate of rising temperatures, millions of human being habitat may become uninhabitable. This results from the rising sea levels caused by melting of icebergs. According to a report Cook (6), the worldwide icebergs and mountain glaciers are already depleting. For example, the ice covers in West Antarctica and Arctic Sea are melting steadily. The melting of ice deposits raises the sea levels forcing the water bodies to expand to dry lands. Apart from human habitats, numerous plant and animal species are in the verge of extinction following the changes. For example, the polar bears and the coral leafs are among the species that hardly survives in warm temperatures. Scientists warn global warming will lead to the extinction of millions of species that are adapted to cold climates.
The World’s Response to Global Warming
Clearly, global warming is a worldwide threat; but what is the world’s response in mitigating its effects? Mainly, the world is responding to the menace of global warming in two ways. The first one, the world is working on reducing the rates of temperature change through cutting on GHG emission. The principal focus is in lessening the GHG emissions as Cook (4) enlightens, has been a reduction of carbon dioxide releases. However, the campaign against GHG emission has not been a smooth ride. This is because such gases are emitted as human beings participate in economically and socially productive products. Nonetheless, various bodies have instigated measures and have already made notable strides towards the moderation of GHG emissions.
Secondly, people are getting ready to deal with the effects of global warming since the problem is already real. For example, states and governments are getting ready to deal with adverse climatic events through setting up a natural disaster kitties. The world is also preparing for new forms of diseases that are anticipated to arise from high global temperatures.
States and governments
Global warming, being a worldwide social problem, has captured the attention of both the national and international regulatory bodies. At the international level, for instance, various bodies have formed with the sole goal of addressing global warming. A good example is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an organization that purely deals with climatic change issues. IPCC was established the United Nations (UN) in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) so as to reach out and educated the world on global warming. Although IPCC does not conduct own research on climatic changes, it compiles and makes available the recent scientific findings on the subject of climate change. Other bodies such as the World Bank also coordinate the climatic policies by different national governments.
At the national government levels, different countries have already included the climatic change programs in their fiscal budgets. Initially, the fight against global warming was mainly left to the developed countries. Most recently, however, third world countries are joining in the campaign. States and governments respond to global warming through funding researchers who seek to further the understanding of global warming. They also prepare their nations to deal with adverse weather conditions. A good example, as Boyer reports, is president Obama’s government that significantly raised its budget on natural calamities in 2013 in a bid to respond to global warming (washingtontimes.com). Some national governments also formulate rules that seek to encourage the reduction of GHG emissions. For example, several countries have imposed a carbon tax to discourage fossil fuel burning and instead lure their citizens to find alternative and less pollutant energy sources. For instance, the Swedish government has levied carbon tax since 1990s, a move that has seen the country cut its estimated carbon dioxide release by 20% (Boyer 1).
The Business Community
Although the government has a responsibility to address the global warming threat, the business community is better placed to find solutions than the government. This is partly because business industries are the largest emitters of GHG and secondly, it takes a shorter time for businesses to act on a given goal than it takes the government (Davies, cnn.com). For example, studies show that just 90 companies alone have contributed to over 60% of GHG emissions in the past few centuries (Heede 1). However, the private business community is doing commendable job in reducing the GHG effect. In 1997, for example, business representatives from over 150 nations passed a resolution to limit the amount of CO2 (forbes.com). The resolution, which was passed in Kyoto, Japan’s business congregation, acknowledges that climate change is a threat to all and that the business community has a role to play in addressing climatic change.
Aside from the collective protocols that were adopted in Kyoto business congregation, individual companies are no longer ignoring the threat of climatic change. As Davenport, explains in his article in the New York Times, most corporates have awakened to global warming after incurring financial losses attributable to climate change (nytimes.com). For example, the Coca-Cola Company has launched a water conservation campaign after closing down its branch in India for water insufficiency. Other market players, including the motor industry that was listed amongst the largest contributors of man-made global warming have also joined in climate change management. A good example is the Ford Motor Company that has largely transformed the models of its cars over the past few decades. As Forbes reports, Ford is publicly denouncing fuel guzzlers in favor of gas-efficient cars, citing the impact on environment (forbes.com).
As the threat of global warming becomes real, countless nonprofit organizations that work on climate change have been formed. Their goals include participating in sustainable programs such as tree planting and forest preservation as well as educating the general public on the personal responsibility towards climate change. They also lobby the political leaders to formulate and implement environmental friendly laws. A good example is the Climate Network Action, an international movement that promotes government and individual’s awareness of man-made global warming (climatenetwork.org).
Global warming is a worldwide social problem that affects every aspect of human lives. However, human beings are the major cause of global warming through their industrial activities. Therefore, the solution to this menace can only be developed by the human beings themselves. While the government, the business community, and the nonprofit organizations are taking commendable actions to address climate change, individuals should also take personal responsibility. People should be conscious of how they contribute to global warming as individuals and work towards reducing their contribution.
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Climate Action Network. “People Power and the Sustainable Development Agenda” Web. 27 Nov. 2014 http://www.climatenetwork.org
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Simon, Seymour. Global Warming. New York: Collins, 2010. Print.