The world is deteriorating rapidly as climate change is becoming more evident and less of an abstract aspect. This is known under the umbrella term of ‘global warming,’ a phenomenon where the overall temperature of the planet is rising due to various human activities such as pollution and the destruction of natural biodiversity. The scientific community warns that the world needs to reverse its course by 2030 and become at the very least net carbon neutral (Watts). Otherwise, humanity may face irreversible destruction of the planet that may ultimately threaten the existence of civilization. However, ever since its recognition in the 1990s, global warming has always been a highly controversial aspect. This paper will discuss various sides of the debate and argue that global warming is a serious concept that needs to be considered in order to move human civilization towards a sustainable future.
Climate change is one of the biggest points of evidence and argument for the seriousness of global warming. While Earth has experienced seven cycles of massive climate change over its long history, these are attributed to shifts in a variation of the planet’s orbit. The modern climate era and human is different, and the current warming trend is extremely rapid and 95% probability that it is associated with the growth of human industrial activity on a massive scale since the mid-20th century. With the availability of modern technology and space-based satellites, the scientific community is able to observe changes to the planet, including heat being trapped by the increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (Norris et al. 72).
It creates unprecedented shifts in Earth’s atmospheric, geologic, and biological patterns that are associated with global temperature rise by 1.25 degrees Fahrenheit in the last decade, which is significant on a planetary scale, ocean warming and acidification, shrinking ice sheets and polar caps, and glacial retreats and decreased snow cover. All these aspects create risks of extreme events such as heat and drought, storms and floods, and most importantly rising sea levels threatening the world’s biggest population centers (Borunda).
Impact on Human Activity
To counter one of the biggest arguments against global warming that it is a natural process that barely touches human civilization, in recent years there has been significant research underlining impacts on human activity. Perhaps one of the lesser recognized evidence and impacts of global warming are threats to human health. Without dramatic changes, temperatures are expected to increase by 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Scientific research has tied climate change and a rise in the spread of infectious diseases with food-borne and vector-borne infections being most affected. Diseases such as malaria and dengue that are carried by vectors like mosquitos are likely to be widespread with expansions of infested areas. Potentially, some viruses may spread rapidly as well (Kurane 4).
The various natural changes discussed earlier leading to severe natural disasters will have a tremendous human impact ranging from loss of life and injury to economic devastation. Warmer temperatures, sea levels rising, and extreme weather will damage critical infrastructure and property. As many as 22 different sectors of the economy ranging from tourism to forestry and industry will be affected resulting in losses up to $520 billion (Cho). One industry that will be severely affected is agriculture, providing crops and livestock for food. Along with biological and ecological changes, agriculture will suffer. Higher CO2 levels will affect crop yields, preventing growth, affecting soil, or resulting in the extinction of certain species while contributing to the thriving of weeds, pests, and fungi. Livestock will be affected by rising temperatures due to drought and disease.
The overall consequences will range into billions of dollars but go beyond economic impact. Food supply and security are already being impacted, with shortages of food and fresh water in various parts of the world due to climate change (EPA). In combination, these economic and food production factors will eventually severely cause negative social impacts and instability, which makes global warming a key issue to consider from a socioeconomic perspective.
A significant portion of the population denies the existence of global warming or does not view it as a serious threat. In the U.S., that group is one of the largest in the world, consisting of 40% of the total population, the majority of them identifying as conservative or Republican (Fagan & Huang). Over the years, deniers have created numerous arguments against global warming ranging from claims of historical climate change and questioning its seriousness to questioning the scientific community citing its lack of consensus and unreliability of models. One of the most popular but least implausible arguments suggests that if the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) is low then the planet-warming is responding slowly to human carbon pollution.
ECS indicates how much the surface temperature of the Earth will rise for the doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Furthermore, there is a hypothesis that clouds serve as a climate thermostat, when the atmosphere warms, the clouds will contract similar to an iris of an eye, allowing heat to escape into space. Virtually all these arguments have been disproven by direct evidence and repeated scientific research (Nuccitelli). Some of it has been discussed in this essay highlighting both changes to ecosystems and rapid melting of ice to a buildup of carbon dioxide and unprecedented changes in temperature with subsequent effects on nature and humans.
Discussion and Need for Policy
In recent years, denial of global warming has become largely a political controversy rather than a scientific one. If at the beginning of the century, science was not fully confident of changing patterns, now the scientific community is virtually unanimous. It is estimated that the largest petroleum and gas companies spend over $200 million annually on lobbying to block or delay climate policy since it often targets their activities and emissions both directly and indirectly by pressuring industries such as the automotive sector (Maslin).
Therefore, it becomes even strongly evident that global warming denials are driven by economic gain rather than scientific data. In recent years, there has been a greater acceptance and worry by society on global warming, with the rise of climate activism pressuring governments to do more before the point of no return is reached for the recovery of the planet. Climate change policies are necessary to address a variety of aspects in human activity, tackling emissions, deforestation, fossil fuel use, agricultural practices, and production/manufacturing. Although progress has been made, the output is still greater than the Earth’s environment can manage. It is necessary to establish sustainable economic goals with environmentally cautious practices that are able to address human needs but not rapidly destroy the environment or continue to increase carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere (Center for Sustainable Systems).
Global warming is a phenomenon of the rising temperature on Earth caused by human activity. It has significant ecological, geological, meteorological, and biological effects leading to climate change. Global warming remains controversial, with a significant portion of the population denying its seriousness based on largely ideological interests tied closely to political and economic reasons and challenging the scientific consensus. It is necessary to create consensus and implement measures and policies that will allow to reverse global warming effects and create an environmentally sustainable functional society.
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