For the past one decade or so, the debate on global warming and climate change has been top on environmental agenda. Although most debates on environmental conservation often focus on specific or isolated regions, the concept of global warming as well as climate change is a worldwide concern. As a result, global consensus is necessary in order to formulate binding policies and resolutions that will positively impact on the challenge. It is also imperative to note that both sides of the divide on the debate have their own propositions that are equally supported.
This paper briefly explores the concept of global warming and climate change by critically revisiting the scientific evidence in place as well as the growing debate on this environmental issue. Perhaps, the most important inquiry we should make is whether the world is getting warmer than it used to be. To begin with, there seems to be consensus and unanimous agreement by both political class and physical scientists that global warming is real. A report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that we may experience a mean global temperature rise of about 2.6 degrees before the close of the century (Newell & Pitman, 2010).
This is expected to cost the world a surging sum of 15 trillion US dollars during the very period. The report further specifies that the emission of greenhouse gases such anthropogenic carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is the major cause and impetus to this environmental challenge. Unfortunately, such rise in the average global temperature will lead to devastating results. For instance, it is believed that higher temperatures will cause the melting down of ice caps thereby leading to the rise in sea levels (Kates, 2010). In addition, this atmospheric imbalance will occasion erratic weather mainly due to extreme evaporation from land surfaces and water bodies which will then lead to widespread flooding, submerging of islands and uncontrolled soil erosion.
The rise in sea level as projected by IPCC will be in the range of 18-59cm within the next one century (Seager, Naik & Vecchi, 2010). Although the sea-level rise value has been downgraded by IPCC severally, proponents of the global warming debate argue that unless the right policies are formulated and implemented in due time, a serious and irreversible threat will be posed to the environment. Moreover, myriad of costs will be associated with global warming, such as spontaneous outburst of malaria, extinction of important plant and animal species and erratic weather such as hurricanes (Kates, 2010). Worse still, the world poorest will bear the brunt of these effects in spite of their insignificant contribution of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
On the other hand, evidence of global warming and associated climate change has not been received positively by the opponents of this global debate. The prevailing argument is that the partial warming of the earth is indeed real and is part of the natural science concept. However, the theory that greenhouse gases potentially improve radiative forcing is unacceptable (Kates, 2010). They continue emphasize that the global rise in temperature is a common phenomenon although such changes may not necessarily culminate into what has been referred to as climate change.
Those refuting the existence of global warming have also insisted that it is only the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that has published numerous reports on the issue, but no single accredited scientific institution has ever presented its findings. Besides, they have reiterated that climate has not changed and what is being witnessed is merely climatic variation that is not permanent in nature. It is only that the perception of the media and the public has been shadowed with the global warming theories put forward by the proponents of the debate (Newell & Pitman, 2010).
In recap, it is vital to note that both sides of the debate, for and against global warming and climate change have maintained a hard-line stance on their positions. Nonetheless, it is imperative to underscore the fact that a slight increase in the global atmospheric temperature may significantly impact the long term condition of the atmosphere. Therefore, whether the changes are partial, temporary or permanent, there is no higher calling than protecting the very environment that supports life. It is high time the governments and politicians slowed down the debate and formulated environmental protection policies based on the available scientific data. It is unfortunate that the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol is still a mirage while the impacts of global warming on climate are conspicuous.
Kates, R. (2010). Going to extremes: propositions on the social response to severe climate change. Environment, 52(4): 3-4.
Newell, B. & Pitman, A. (2010). The psychology of global warming: Improving the Fit between the Science and the Message. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 91(8): 1003-1014.
Seager, R. Naik, N., & Vecchi, G. (2010). Thermodynamic and Dynamic Mechanisms for Large-Scale Changes in the Hydrological Cycle in Response to Global Warming. Journal of Climate, 23(17): 4651-4668.