Global Warming: Definition, Causes, Effects

Executive Summary

The temperatures have steadily been increasing while rainfall is continuously becoming unpredictable. There are frequent concerns associated with droughts and water-related disasters that were not there a century ago. In his book Miller (2008) states that many health concerns are becoming evident such as the heat waves that were reported in France, vector-borne diseases are mushrooming in Africa and numerous deaths are caused by climatic changes. Many people, organizations, and governments are shocked by changes in the ecosystem, socioeconomic environments, and political environments because of changes that are occurring inevitably, and all are attributed to climate change. This climate change is attributed to global warming. Thus, this paper explores what is global warming brings into consideration its impact and possible solutions to reduce its adversity


Global warming phenomena became popular after 1988 when NASA scientist James E. Hansen used the term in a testimony to Congress. He stated, “global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship between the greenhouse effect and the observed warming.” His testimony was widely reported and thereafter global warming was commonly used.


Global warming is the gradual increase of average temperatures of the air near the surface of the earth and ocean. In his book, Miller, (2008) states that it has been in progress since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation. It is predetermined that most of the noted temperature augmentation is rooted in the enhancement of greenhouse gases. Maslin (2007) concludes that all these are results of our actions, such as cutting down forests. There is also another phenomenon such as Global dimming has also led to the augmentation of aerosols. This phenomenon has the effect of jamming the sunlight.

Causes of global warming

Scientists from the US National Academy of Science have associated this global warming phenomenon with several causes that have propelled this rise in temperature.

Greenhouse gases

In his studies, Schneider (2009) states that greenhouse gases are one major contributor to global warming. The main greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. Fossil fuel burning and change in land use particularly deforestation have also contributed to the increase in radiative forcing.

Solar variation

In his studies, Abbot (2008) concludes that there have been cases of variation in solar output which have caused past climate changes.

Effects of global warming

Generally, global warming has caused many impacts, especially on the environment and economy. Global warming is the increase of world temperatures resulting in melting of glaciers, increase in flooding because of increase in precipitation, and numerous health diseases. However, the benefit of global warming is the improvement of climate within some parts of the world e.g. Russia and Serbia in that deaths associated with cold climate have decreased and production of crops has increased.

Ecological systems

The effects of global warming are also to be felt in the ecological system. Global habitat loss has been identified as a major cause of species extinction and endangerment. In his book, Ichikawa (2004) comments that climate change will result in shifts in habitat conditions. This will be accompanied by the eventual loss of existing habitats in many regions. New habitats may reappear in other places, but in many cases only if the requisite biotic or living elements are able to track the abiotic or physical change. If climatic conditions shift, but suitable biotic elements fail to migrate, then new habitat areas may be of lower quality for many species. An example would be the failure of trees to migrate pole-ward despite the fact that suitable conditions for forest cover have shifted towards higher latitudes. Species dependent on forest conditions for food, nesting, or cover would be unable to utilize the new area.

Social systems

In his studies, Fikret, (2003) states that the reduction of water may affect agriculture in low latitudes.The American sociologist Lee Clarke states that ͦModern social organization and technologies bring other new opportunities to harm faraway people, nuclear explosions, nuclear accidents, and global warming are examples. We are increasingly ‘at at risk’ of global disasters, most if not all of which qualify to be worst cases.ͦ

It is clear that global warming is no longer a vague problem of the future since its effect can be attributed to the damage visible in our planet at an alarming rate. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the evidence is “unequivocal” and concludes that human activities like the burning of fossil fuels have almost certainly caused most of the warming of the past 50 years, bringing extreme weather, stronger storms, and more frequent droughts.

Frank Feredi΄s view

According to Frank Feredi a professor of sociology at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK, recognized for his efforts on paranoid parenting where he states that ̏a speculative orientation towards the future is intrinsic to precautionary thinking. Precautionary culture, which has a powerful influence on risk management, is ambiguous about the status of knowledge in assessing risk. Through encouraging policy-making and action on the basis of what we do not yet know, it encourages the kind of worst-case thinking that underpins the war against terror or the panic about the millennium bug and environmental problems ͦ. He states his theory of the unknown and the unknowable and explains that there is a growing body of opinion among academic risk experts and risk managers that suggest that what we have to worry about is not simply a future that is unknown but one that is unknowable.

In studies Dillon (2009) mentions that global warming being one of the environmental problems expected he explains that uncertainty expresses the realization that it is not possible to know what will happen in the future. Although experience and knowledge provide insights

Into likely developments and outcomes, the future always contains an element of the unknown. This poses a major challenge to the expected outcomes of global warming. Critics are also worried that the advance of knowledge itself creates problems because it threatens to encourage activity and behavior whose consequences cannot be known in advance. This attitude is

most forcefully expressed in the view that one of the products of science and knowledge is a risk, and as earlier stated human activities like the exploration of minerals and use of coal have contributed to the risk of global warming. We now realize that knowledge through its application creates both new hazards and an awareness of their risk. Feredi claims that human

Knowledge cannot grasp the chaotic patterns of events set in motion by global capitalism, and the impossibility of knowing or calculating the consequences of technology and human action is widely insisted upon.

Lately, technology has been the driving force towards the depletion of the environment which has contributed to global warming. Feredi explains that the long-term irreversible damage coursed to the environment cannot be calculated and therefore a bribability-based risk analysis is irrelevant. Instead of risk assessment, the use of intuition is called for. In his finding, we learn that risks such as global warming are phenomena that we cannot be certain on which twist it’s going to take but control can be taken to prevent the worst, and thus he calls for awareness.

Ulrich Beck’s view

Another German leading sociologist Ulrich Beck who argues that technological development has created a world where society simply cannot understand the destructive consequences of human intervention. In his book Beck (2009) mentions that in his risk theory he states the difference between hazards and naturally occurring events that can produce harm; and risk, that is harms that evolve from deliberative calculations made in the utilization of science and technology. Ulrich Beck was one of the first sociologists to recognize this strange paradox in late modern society; that risk might in fact be increasing due to technology, science, and industrialism rather than being abated by scientific and technological progress. Beck described the current state of the globe as a “world risk society.” This idea was propagated by the way society has contributed to the poor habitual state of the earth due to cases like global warming caused by continuous environmental degradation.

Beck states that the security pact of industrial society is being broken down by nuclear power, many types of chemical and bio-technological production as well as continuing and threatening ecological destruction. Therefore we realize that Industrial society in large measure is thus responsible for the manufacture or construction of risks (the problems of urbanization, of illness through industrial pollutants, of accident or injury through automobile travel, of accidental toxic chemical emissions, of electromagnetic radiation through electricity transmission.)

Ulrich Beck has noted that the ‘sources of danger are no longer ignorance but knowledge’. He claims that, knowledge through its application creates both new hazards and an awareness of their risk. From this standpoint the problem is not ignorance but knowledge that questions the authority of science. The association of knowledge with potential danger is based on a self-consciously anti-Enlightenment intellectual danger. As per becks theory the more we exploit the scientific world then the greater the danger we pose the environment.

As a result of global warming the environment and the human race is exposed to a lot of risks. Ulrich beck explains that risk is an altogether different jeopardy for mankind from naturally occurring hazards, since risk arises from actions and activities of the society through the conscious decision of mankind. In his book Wagner, (2007) argues that hazards differ from risks since they are not based on decisions. He claims that hazards are naturally occurring events that can produce harm and risks are harms that occur from deliberative calculation made in the utilization of science and technology to produce wealth.


When we merge Ulrich’s and feredi΄s ideas on the global warming phenomena as a risk, we realize that both the two individuals believe that risks can be measured, assessed, monitored, controlled and managed. Therefore warning us of how vulnerable we are, American socialist Lee Clarke concludes by stating that ˝we ought to prepare for possible outwards events that are out of control and overwhelming.΄

In his studies Peach (2005) concludes that mitigation of climate which is the reduction of climate change can only be achieved by laying down policies to govern the environmental conservation. By enforcing these policies the degradation of the environment will be reduced hence reducing global warming.

Reference List

Abbot, G. (2008) Solar variations and weather. California, CRC Publishers.

Beck, U. (2009) World at risk. New York, Polity.

Dillon, F. (2009) Solar Variation: Solar Cycle, Sunspot, Insolation. New York, Alphascript Publishing.

Fikret, B. (2003) Navigating social-ecological systems: building resilience for complexity and change. London, Cambridge University Press.

Ichikawa, A. (2004) Global warming – the research challenges: a report of Japan’s global warming initiative. New York, Springer.

Maslin, M. (2007) Global Warming: Causes, Effects, and the Future. London, Voyageur Press.

Miller, T. (2008) Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions. New York, Cengage Learning.

Peach, J. (2005) Global Warming: Emission Reductions Possible As Scientific Uncertainties Are Resolved. Sydney, DIANE Publishing.

Schneider, H. (2009) Global warming: are we entering the greenhouse century? New York, James Clarke & Co.

Wagner, E. (2007) Nucleation and Atmospheric Aerosols. Perth, Ocean View Publishers.

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