Emission of greenhouse gases brought about by man has been on the increase lately and this can be attributed to burning of fossil fuels for transportation, for energy purposes and deforestation for development of settlement areas and for agricultural purposes. It is now safe to say that global warming is due to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Global climate change can also be caused by other natural causes such as volcanic eruptions, but human influence is the major one. The rate of extinction of species will markedly increase as well as impacts on agriculture, forestry, water resources and health will be felt. It is believed that the impacts are responsible for changes in rainfall, sea level and frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Consequently, the developing nations, low lying islands and the coastal regions will be most affected by this phenomenon since they will not suitably adapt. Climate changes as much as they pose various advantages to human beings, they expose them to various diseases, In an effort to eradicate global warming the Governments, United Nations and other Organizations have put in place several measures and if followed, the World will be able to manage Global warming.
Environmental pollution can take place in very many forms including the air, water, soil as well as the increasing noise levels. All this makes major contribution to some serious health problems hence reducing the quality of life.
Global Warming which is the average rise in the measured and calculated temperature of the earth’s near surface air and oceans since the mid- 20th century is a subject that has generated a lot of concern worldwide and shows no signs of being corrected soon. This warming is an example of the many climatic changes experienced on earth and is projected to continue in the coming future. The increase has been largely attributed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentration; natural phenomena had a lesser contribution to the warming effect from the pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onwards. A global surface temperature increase of about 0.6 degrees Celsius occurred during the 20th century. (Root, p.47).
There is a consistent temperature shift in species and significant impacts of global warming can already be seen in animal and plants with the Arctic experiencing the most heavily affected by the warming effect. Average temperature has doubled that of the globe; glaciers and mountain snows are melting at a fast pace and this has threatened the survival of polar bears and some of the indigenous cultures. A higher amount of precipitation is expected in normal circumstances due to high levels of moisture in the atmosphere yet the direct opposite is occurring for instance notable harsh weather changes have been observed in some regions.
It has taken scientists many years to shed light on the causes of global warming. The Greenhouse effect keeps the earth warm and habitable. The discovery of the greenhouse effect was done by Joseph Fourier and investigated by Arrhenius. About 30 percent of sunlight that is received on earth gets deflected by the outer atmosphere and scattered back to space ( Smith, p.117). The rest of it gets to the surface of earth and is reflected back as slow moving energy known as infra-red radiation later absorbed by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, ozone and methane that slows its escape from the atmosphere. Enhanced Greenhouse activities trap more of the sun’s heat leading to rises in temperatures. Combustion of fossil fuel in cars, factories and in electricity generation has led to the production of Greenhouse gases which have different heat trapping capabilities. Atmospheric aerosols similarly influence the transfer of energy in the atmosphere. This occurs directly through scattering of sunlight and indirectly through modification of optical properties of clouds.
Forests are very beneficial in that they act as water catchment areas and are also a source of fresh air. On the other hand deforestation is one of the major causes of atmospheric carbon dioxide; The cutting down of forests without planting of new trees increases the threat of desertification and consequently, the impact on climate is felt. Trees utilize carbon dioxide in the air and give off oxygen in turn. This serves to create an optimal balance of gases in the air. More forests are being cut down to give way for farming and settlement therefore leaving very few trees.
Population increase is also another major contributor to global warming; as the number of people rises, the demand for more food and transportation also raises hence putting pressure on the available resources. This situation worsens the situation since we will require more cars and more settlement places and in the process more destruction will occur. Also, since we exhale carbon dioxide, we will have so much of it in the air and, with the absence of trees to absorb it; the high levels will have devastating effects.
A number of people die annually due to global warming effects ranging from malaria to even malnutrition. Sometimes climate changes would have some benefits but they are normally overshadowed by increased rates of diseases; higher temperatures accompanied by favorable rainfall will lead to a prolonged disease transmission season in places where certain diseases already exist. Yet, in other areas, reduction in amount of rainfall and temperature will prove to be too high for transmission. An example is where certain disease carrying vectors rely on temperature and humidity levels for survival. Climate changes alter temperatures and humidity from the optimum hence determining the survival rate of pests like ticks that cause Lyme disease.
The disruption of the ecosystem has consequently led to outbreaks of infections like tick borne encephalitis and dengue fever. The change in climate allows disease transmitting vectors to thrive in areas that they could not. In the event of a heavy downpour, microbes from contaminated soil are washed down into drinking water leading to serious illness that may prove fatal. Scientists usually claim that climate change threatens a million species in the world.
Adverse and often fatal effects on human health are likely to be observed. For instance heat- related stress, deaths from flooding and landslides will be evident. In some areas, increased smog pollution would intensify pollen allergies and asthma. High level of carbon dioxide also promotes the growth of weeds such as the ragweed, the pollen from these weeds cause allergies and worsens asthma. A high negative impact will be experienced higher in developing nations, low income earners, and those in the semi- arid and arid areas.
Human activities like mining, excessive use of fertilizers and construction also contribute to the pollution of the environment which alters the incidences and severity of extreme weather such as heat waves, cold waves storms, floods and droughts. There is likelihood of occurrence of abrupt climate changes even though it is not easily predicted; when triggered, human and natural systems are unlikely to easily adapt to the changes and this may be brought about by external or internal forces such as change in the earth orbit, brightening or dimming of the sun, melting and surging ice sheets, strengthening and weakening of ocean currents, as well as emissions of gases and particles that alter the composition of the atmosphere.
Agricultural activities largely depend on the climate changes; planting, harvesting, quality and even the quantity of production rely entirely on the climatic conditions. Agricultural productivity is generally affected by climate changes through the shifts in average temperatures, change in rainfall amounts and patterns, rise in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air and also variable climate change and extreme events. Consideration of effects of some aspects of climate change on particular farming activities have been made and it has been observed that an increase in average temperature can either lengthen the growing season in regions with relatively cool springs and fall or adversely affect crops in places where summer heat has been limiting crop production. The chances of soil evaporation rate and severe drought occurring is also high.
Change in pattern and amounts of rainfall will affect the rate of soil erosion and also the moisture in the soil, factors which are highly important for crop yields. High levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide promote the growth of some plants like wheat, rice and Soya beans. Other aspects of climate change such as temperature change will act as limiting factors to the positive carbon dioxide fertilization.
The Arctic which is the composition of a large ocean that is basically frozen and surrounded by land is normally expected to experience higher rates of warming compared to any other regions in the world. This is due to the fact that the amount of reflection by ice is greater than that of the ocean or land. Evidence suggesting that the arctic temperatures have increased includes mass melting of glaciers and sea ice and rising permafrost temperatures. The Antarctica on the other hand is a continent covered and surrounded by ice.
When Sea levels are expected to rise consequently, they threaten low-lying islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Island nations like the Maldives may eventually become completely submerged. (Bedient, p.67). Sea level rise has been observed in most parts of the coasts worldwide. Further higher temperatures are expected to expand the ocean water, in the process melting the mountain glaciers and small ice caps eventually causing portions of Greenland and Antarctic sheet of ice to melt. The rising sea levels will cause erosion of beaches, increased intensity of floods as well as the salinity of rivers, bays, and ground water tables.
Measures are already being taken by worldwide in preparation for the consequences that may be brought about by the rising sea levels. Policies have been adopted to ensure that beaches, dunes and wetlands are capable of pushing inlands as the sea level rises. Other states and countries have implemented laws that prohibit construction of buildings on areas that are vulnerable to erosions and only allow them to build on condition that they will destroy the structures if the shore lines advance.
Climatic changes threaten the existence of the national parks and other protected areas that preserve wildlife and plants. Varied climatic conditions are already causing effects on some parks and reserves.
Continuance climatic changes will reduce the forest cover giving way to grasslands and if severe, there will be constant lack of water hence making them vulnerable to pest and diseases increasing likelihood of catching fire. Forest fires increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. The climatic change effects on the forests will most likely result to low forest health, low productivity and geographic range of change in some trees. This will in turn affect timber production, outdoor recreational activities, water quality wildfires and rate of storage of carbon. Apart from climatic changes, other stresses from pollution will also determine the effects of forests worldwide.
In an effort to limit the harmful effects of greenhouse gases, the United Nations have emphasized that there should be introduction of clean and new technologies to deal with the rising temperatures and protect the ozone layer which are one of the major threats to the human survival; human beings are being urged to modify on their daily use of energy and efforts are being made to manufacture vehicles and produce household items that will show efficiency in use of fuel. (Sean, p.2).
The use of alternative energy has not largely been adopted even though it can be quite effective. Bio-fuels are made from plants and recently, its use has significantly increased due to the rise in fuel prices. Fuel-cells derived from hydrogen are also in use and serve to convert chemical energy to electrical energy. Solar energy and hydro power are also other alternative energy sources.
In their homes, people should try and replace their bulbs with fluorescent ones as they are long lasting and use far much less energy.
To maximize the efficiency of dish washing, the dishwasher washer should be operated only when full. It is also encouraged to always turn off water taps when not in use and also to replace old inefficient appliances with newer energy efficient ones.
During winter, to save up to 2000 pounds of carbon dioxide, the thermostat should be moved two degrees down and two degrees up during summer.
Ecological Agriculture should be practiced as a way to fight and minimize poverty and its effects; this will eventually play a vital role in eradication of global warming.
Government leaders, state leaders and other influential leaders in the society should oversee the efforts to have situation of air pollution analyzed properly after which they should channel the results to the ordinary individuals. This will be done in an effort to awareness to the people who are normally the recipient when it comes to the negative effects of environmental pollution.
These leaders should also educate and improve the knowledge of the public on pollution matters, for instance, the people should be notified on the causes of pollution and how to avoid and minimize these causes, they should encourage the public to embrace and incorporate the policies that limit environmental pollution.
- Bedient P.B., Rifai H.S., Newell C.J., Groundwater Contamination Transport and Remediation. (1994) Englewood Diffs, NJ: PTR Prentice Hall
- Root T.L., Price J.T, Hall K.R., Schneider S.H., Rosenzweig C., Pounds J.A.,Fingerprints of Global Warming on Plants and Animals. (2003)
- Sean, B., We can control Global Warming Hearts. (2007) Communications Inc.
- Smith, K, R. Biofuels, air pollution, and health: A global review. (1987). New York: Plenum press
- Webster P.J., Holland G.J., Curry J.A., and Chong H.R. Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number: Duration and Intensity in a Warming Environment. (2005) Journal Science.