Global Warming: A Review of the Evidence ‘Pro’ and ‘Con’

Global warming affects all areas of life: politics, economics and a social sphere. It involves many sciences which study the causes of global warming and try to find possible solutions to reduce the impact of our civilization on the planet. Some scientists (Lomborg 163; Bailey, 5) prove the idea that “global warming” is nothing more than an “ephemeral fed” created for economic benefits, and it does not threat the humanity. Governments of the world have been grappling with the problem of global warming for over two decades. Thus, there are a lot of facts that warming of the Earth’s atmosphere is being increased by human activities – particularly the burning of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels – resulting in the emissions of carbon dioxide and other harmful “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) (Mank 2). Global warming in turn is causing climate change, which is manifested in rising sea levels, droughts and floods, damage to agriculture, and harm to natural ecosystems and species. The efforts of governments and, increasingly, nongovernmental actors to mitigate and adapt to these consequences have increased. Global warming is a natural process which is only partially caused by human activities and emissions.

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The relationship between pollution and global warming is a complex one. Sometimes climatic conditions will influence the nature and extent of a pollution episode, while at other times the linkages are reversed, allowing the pollutants to instigate or magnify variations in climate. Scientists prove that global warming exists and has a great impact on climate and environment. Global warming is defined as “the measured increase in the mean Earth surface temperature over a specified time interval. The most reliable data are properly averaged over land and ocean surfaces, statistically weighted according to the density of measurements within each equal-area element” (Jordan 23).

In spite of strong evident, it is possible to identify three main positions concerning global warming and its impact on the environment. Some researchers state that global warming exists and is caused by increased emissions, drilling and extensive agriculture. On the other hand, there is a point of view that ‘global warming’ is a natural and cyclical process. The third position is that global climate change has begun thousands of years ago, and is caused by human activities (Lomborg 164; Bailey, 9).

Critics suppose (Jordan 23) that global warming exists because since the greenhouse effect depends upon carbon dioxide and the other gases in the atmosphere, it follows that any change in these gases, including their relative concentration, will have an effect on the intensity of the greenhouse effect. Changes in greenhouse gas levels in the past were brought about by natural processes, but, since the middle of the nineteenth century, human activities have had a major role in increasing the intensity of the greenhouse effect through the production of higher volumes of carbon dioxide, methane and a number of other greenhouse gases. Concern over the impact of such changes has promoted the intensification of the greenhouse effect to its present position as a significant environmental issue. Increasing industrial activity, and the continued reliance on fossil fuels as energy sources, has caused a gradual, but steady, growth in the proportion of sulphur and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere over the past 2-3 decades (Pielke 55). Following Mank (2005):

There is growing scientific evidence that human activities producing greenhouse gases (GHGs), (1) most notably carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, are causing global warming; (2) global warming has already caused the average global sea level to rise between four and eight inches during the last 100 years; (3) global warming will cause serious environmental and human health impacts if the world continues to burn large quantities of fossil fuels, increasing GHG levels (Mank 1).

It is scientifically proved that there is the enhancement of the greenhouse effect, brought on by rising levels of greenhouse gases. Levels of greenhouse gases, including CH4, N2 O and CFCs have also been rising. Since all of these gases have the ability to retain terrestrial radiation in the atmosphere, the net result should be a gradual increase in global temperatures. The link between recent warming and the enhancement of the greenhouse effect seems obvious. Most of the media, and many of those involved in the investigation and analysis of global climate change, seem to have accepted the relationship as not clear. A survey of environmental scientists involved in the study of the earth’s changing climate, conducted in 1989, revealed that many still had doubts about the extent of the warming. More than 60 per cent of those questioned indicated that they were not completely confident that the current warming was beyond the range of normal natural variations in global temperatures (Bailey 23).

In the past, the main pollutants were natural in origin, and sources such as the oceans, volcanoes, plants and decaying organic material continue to provide about 90 per cent of the total global aerosol content. During the last thirty years, human activities provide pollutants in such amounts, and with such continuity, that the atmospheric cleansing processes have been all but overwhelmed, and a full recovery may not be possible, even after large-scale attempts to reduce emission levels (Lomborg 189). Statistical results show that the world became warmer as a result of green house gases and environmental pollution. During the last thirty years, temperature has increased greatly.

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Some researchers claim that the drought in sub-Saharan Africa has been intensifying as a result of climatic change. Bailey (6), for example, has identified changes in atmospheric circulation patterns which could intensify and prolong droughts. There is, however, no conclusive evidence that the current droughts are anything other than a further indication of the inherent unreliability of precipitation in the area. The presence of these three types of drought is indicated by physical changes in the soil and vegetation in the areas affected, but there is also a fourth type which is less obvious. This is the so-called invisible drought, which often can be identified only by sophisticated instrumentation and statistical techniques (Jordan 23).

Water is also involved in the earth’s energy budget through its ability to absorb and reflect radiation. During past thirty years, water became warmer which led to such natural disasters as flood and tornadoes, hurricanes and El-Nino. For instance, winter rainfall floods affect Europe tracking over the continent from the Atlantic with well developed warm fronts bring winter precipitation which, when heavy, continuous and prolonged, can lead to soil becoming saturated, in turn leading to high volumes of runoff. When this occurs, rivers may flow out of bank, causing flooding (Goldenberg 474). The seriousness of this depends on the duration of the rainfall, on whether the catchments were previously saturated, and on the activities at risk.

Critics (Lomborg 150) suppose that rapid snowmelt in changeable weather conditions is sometimes an important contributory cause in this type of flooding. This phenomenon can be localized, and when this is the case, and urban areas occupy valley bottoms, the effects can be serious, especially since floodwater velocities can be high. The impacts of floods are not restricted to those individuals and groups that suffer damage.

The reality of the overall cooling of Greenland seems to have little influence on what environmental activists will write or what the press will repeat. Consider a Greenpeace press release at the 8th Conference of the Parties (COP-8) of the signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in New Dehli in November 2002, in which their policy director, Steve Sawyer, claimed that a massive sea-level rise brought on by anthropogenic global warming will inundate major world cities (including New York City) by the year 2080 if the world fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. The problem of acid rain illustrates quite well the impact of atmospheric processes on the operation and distribution of a particular group of pollutants, whereas the issues of increased atmospheric turbidity and the depletion of the ozone layer illustrate the other relationship, in which pollutants cause sufficient change in the atmosphere to initiate climatic change (Lomborg 194).

Greenpeace predicted a massive sea-level rise of 5 to 7 meters (16 to 23 feet) by assuming a complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet. If that were to happen, their numbers are essentially correct. But their presumption is wrong: As Krabill’s work demonstrates, it is preposterous to suggest that all of Greenland’s ice will disappear. Krabill shows a small net loss of ice in Greenland of about 51 cubic kilometers per year. That loss results in a contribution to sealevel rise of 0.13 millimeter per year. By the year 2080, the current rate of ice loss would result in a total sea-level rise of 10 millimeters— that’s one centimeter, or 0.4 inch, a bit less than Greenpeace’s forecast (Lomborg 197). Greenpeace is fond of talking about the unanimity of the world’s scientists and points to the work of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in support of its assertion. Here’s what the IPCC’s latest climate compendium (the Third Assessment Report) has to say about Greenland’s future contribution to global sea-level rise during the next 100 years. Anyone can say whatever they want to about anything. But before any credibility is further afforded Greenpeace on the melting of Greenland, we would hope for a little fact-checking. Exaggerations such as Greenpeace’s statements not only damage its credibility, but they also stand in disappointing testament to the lack of credibility of those who publicize them.

These facts are denied by Ladruie (cited Bailey 23) who proves that the earth was cooling rapidly and that the Alp glaciers might re-advance to again threaten the now-safe villages below. The region’s temperatures peaked in the early 1940s (before the buildup of greenhouse gases would have had much effect) when temperatures rose 3°F to 4°F higher than they had been just about a hundred years before. Regional temperatures resumed their early-century warming rate soon after the publication of Ladruie’s book. Fear of cooling became a thing of the past, and fear of warming replaced it. Obviously the Alps are warmer than they were, but their alpine glaciers already had been melting for about 150 years before ABC News stumbled onto the situation in Macugnaga. Up to now, local people were free to deal with their situation, take preventive measures, and get on with life. Now they find themselves depicted as victims of circumstances beyond their control. Can you imagine the coverage had it been possible to beam videotape of the looming.

Until the 1990s, scientists had believed that climatic changes from ice ages to more moderate climatic periods occurred slowly and relatively evenly over hundreds of thousands of years. Researchers from the Woods Hole Research Center who examined deep-ocean sediment and ice-core samples found that temperature changes of up to seven degrees C. have occurred within 30 to 40 years. A growing number of scientists are coming to believe that the Earth may have entered one of its many quick-changes in climate, with a difference: this one is being initiated, at least in part, by humankind’s accelerating consumption of fossil fuels, not solely because of variations in natural phenomena (Bailey 123). The research is important because it will help to predict possible disasters and save millions of dollars spent on insurance and disaster management.

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In the article “How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate”, W. Ruddiman explains that ancient farming activities have had a great influence on global climate change thousands of years ago. He takes into account that “concentration of CO2 starting risen 8 000 years ago” (Ruddiman 48). These trends coincided with new historical cultures which introduced new ways of farming. These ways were closely connected with deforestation and irrigation activities applied around the world. Changing life style of people and exploitation of natural resources “ruined” natural cycles and balance. The big problem though is that the greenhouse gas blanket that has been keeping the Earth warm for millennia is being added to on a massive scale by humans. Take a look at the historical records of the amounts of the various greenhouse gases in our atmosphere and ail the graphs have the same shape. They bumble along for thousands of years and then, around the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centu­ries, they start to rise, slowly at first and then faster.

The main problem is that the central tendency of climate models is to produce a constant rate of warming once humans start to heat things. And, like almost every other climate model, Crowley’s warming rate for this century is constant, with its slope (rate of change) dependent upon the emission rate. Using a very “conservative” adjustment of, say, 80 percent of the UN emission scenario draws the 21st-century warming down to 1.5°C. Further, Bailey note that during the warming in the second half of the 20th century, which Bailey attributes to human influence, the winter has warmed at over twice the rate of the summer, and that three-quarters of the winter warming is in the most frigid air masses. Greenhouse models all predict that once differentials like this are established, they persist for the duration of the “experiment.” (Michaels 24).

The 1950s were warm (every winter was above the long-term average), and the 1940s and 1960s were cold. If for some reason you think the swing from unseasonably warm to colder-than-normal has been dramatic over the last three winters, check out what was happening between 1932 and 1937. Two very warm winters were followed by three very cold ones, then another very warm one. Imagine the fun Begley, Epstein, and McCarthy could have had scaring the bejesus out of folks back then! The Northeast’s winter temperature history from the National Climatic Data Center shows nothing unusual. Note also that the winter of 2001–2002 was the warmest on record, which is counter to the argument Begley made a mere year later. Climate change advocates can’t seem to allow anything seemingly out of the ordinary to pass without crediting global warming. If it seems unusual (although it in reality is perfectly usual)—be it warm, cold, rain-filled, full of snow or sleet or hail, a terrible tornado or hurricane, drought or flood—someone somewhere predictably will attribute it to “global warming.”

A computer climate model attempts, where possible, to correct for that fact by dynamically changing climate and vegetation. In other words, increased rainfall in some areas, coupled with longer growing seasons, may lead to increased greening, while decreased rainfall in others may lead to browning. That all seems well and good on the surface, but in fact a computer model is only as good as its understanding of the dynamic process that it must simulate. As an example, we really don’t have a very good understanding of the basic flow of carbon dioxide through the atmosphere (Bailey 14-15). After a molecule of fossil carbon is burned, how long does it take before it is ultimately sequestered back in the earth? That depends on assumptions about the rate of uptake by plants, which means their response to weather and climate. It also depends on the rate of decay of dead plant matter littering the world’s forest floors. For all those processes, rate estimates vary widely.

Some facts suggest that there is the stabilization of carbon dioxide use per capita since much of the world (Africa and a few nations excepted) has transitioned from undeveloped to developing and developed economies. Statistical data suggest that since the early 1980s, carbon dioxide emissions per capita have become constant or have actually declined. The correspondence between the two, indicating that an actual statistically significant decline in per capita emissions is occurring, is a remarkable 94 percent. One way is to pass a linear trend through the data, and then see whether changing that to an exponential function results in a better “fit” of the data, which means a more accurate analysis of the observed increase. This rise occurred before most of the industrial emissions of so-called “greenhouse” gases, mainly carbon dioxide and methane. As a result, “most scientists think the warming of the early 20th century had mainly to do with changes in the sun, which is not the constant star we were taught it was back in middle school general science” (Michaels 35).

In sum, statistical data and historical analysis show that global warming is a natural process affected the climate and the Earth since ancient times. Thus, technological developments and increasing use of energy influence the problem of global warming and climate change. Global warming is caused by many factors resulted from technological innovations of our time. Today, global warming become a major problem of our civilization, caused severe weather disasters such hurricanes and tornados. For our civilization, it is important to find appropriate solutions to reduce global warming effect and safe live on our planet. The information mentioned above, shows that interdisciplinary approach should be the core strategy in the process of global warming studies.

Annotated Bibliography

Bailey, R. Global Warming and Other Eco Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death. Prima Lifestyles, 2002.

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This book discusses the idea that the problem of global warming does not exist. The author uses statistical facts and figures to prove this position. The main advantage of the book is that it is based on opinions and views of different scientists and political figures such as John Christy and Norman Borlaug. The author proposes readers objective analysis of all possible facts and problems based on a substantial literature review and historical records.

Goldenberg, S., The recent increase in Atlantic hurricane activity: Causes and implications. Science 293 (2001): 474–79.

The article discusses the problem of Atlantic hurricane activity and its impact on the region. It analyses causes of this activity and states that global warming and climate change have a profound impact on increase in hurricane activity. The author uses statistical data to support his position.

Jordan, S. The Global Warming Crisis. The Humanist 65, November-December 2005, 23.

The author analyzes the problem of global warming and underlines the impact of gas emissions on global climate change. This research is based on scientific studies and analyzes the impact of global warming on recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. Also, the author evaluates seriousness of the problem and its potential implications for the population.

Lomborg, B. The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

The author proposes a unique approach to global warming and its impact on future of the Earth. The author proves that global warming is a natural process and its negative results are exaggerated by economists and scientists. The author identifies errors of the environmental movement and claims that media and political leaders just exploit the idea of global warming for personal gains.

Mank, B. Standing and Global Warming: Is Injury to All Injury to None? Environmental Law 35 (2005), 1-19.

This article is a substantial analysis of causes and consequences of global warming. The article is based on statistical data and scientific facts which support the author’s position that global warming is caused by human activities and pollution.

Michaels, P.J. Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media. Cato Institute, 2005.

This book criticizes false messages sent by media and discusses pros and cons of recent scientific data. The author states that methods and tools used by scientists are inadequate and do not allow them to forecast climate changes and possible threats. This book is based on statistical data and literature reviews.

Pielke Jr., R. Breaking the Global-Warming Gridlock. Roger. The Atlantic Monthly, 286, July 2000, 55.

This article analyses current political actions aimed to reduce global warming and their impact on climate change. The author discusses advantages and disadvantages of the Kyoto protocol.

Ruddiman, William F. “How Did Humans First Alter Global Climate?” Scientific American, March 2005, 48-53.

The author proposes a historical analysis of the problem and proves that the mankind was faced with global warming thousand of years ago. He states that agriculture and changing patterns of land use have caused the current problems and climate change.

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