August 7, 2012
Cause and Effect of Global Warming
One of the hottest topics in the United States is the issue of global warming. This issue, once discounted and ridiculed as the wild imaginings of over enthusiastic environmentalists and “tree lovers,” is now being taken seriously by scientists, politicians, business leaders, and the American environmentalist community. Environmental scientists have been trying to warn these groups that our continued use of coal and petroleum products, as well as established business practices such as dumping industrial wastes into the air and waterways, would be the cause of a natural phenomena called the greenhouse effect, or global warming. Now, when the earth’s biosphere is obviously suffering adverse ecological effects from a century of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane emissions, it is apparent to even the most skeptical anti-environmentalists that global warming is real. Effects such as El Nino and uncharacteristic seasonal changes are real occurrences in our lives. Global warming is an ecological issue that has been caused by humans who overload the earth’s natural ability to metabolize carbon, and the effect is that world temperatures and climate conditions are beginning to drastically change. An examination of the cause and effect of global warming show that this is an issue that cannot be ignored if the earth and its people are to survive.
How important is the issue of global warming in today’s society? It is considered by most environmentalists to be the top priority item because if the problem persists, the earth will eventually be uninhabitable and all of the other problems of the human race will be moot. Phenomena such as El Nino are a direct consequence of global warming. Global warming is defined by The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia as a gradual increase of the temperature of earth’s lower atmosphere as a result of human activity. A layer of atmospheric gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone; called greenhouse gases) allows radiation from the sun to reach the earth unimpeded and traps infrared radiation from the earth’s surface. This process, called the greenhouse effect, keeps the earth’s temperature at a level suitable for life. Growth in industry, agriculture, and transportation since the Industrial Revolution, however, has produced gases that have augmented the earth’s thermal blanket. Some researchers believe that continued production of greenhouse gases will lead to global temperature increases, which could melt the polar ice sheets, resulting in a rise in sea level and damage to coastal development and estuaries; dry soils, producing profound changes in agriculture; endanger many species; and spawn more frequent tropical storms such as El Nino.
The current global warming is historically related to American industrialization and the greedy consumption of manufactured goods by consumers. In the 1800s, America experienced a huge industrial revolution that changed the country from an agrarian society into an industrial society. The invention of mass production, interchangeable parts, and especially the steam engine fueled American industry to generate huge amounts of money as it provided goods for a growing consumer market. America Past and Present states,
American industry owed it remarkable growth to several considerations. It fed on an abundance of natural resources: coal, iron, timber, petroleum, and water power … Eager to promote economic growth, government at all levels – federal, state, and local – gave manufacturers money, land, and other resources. Other benefits, too, flowed from the American system of government: stability, commitment to the concept of private property, and initially at least, a reluctance to regulate industrial activity. Unlike their European counterparts, manufacturers faced few legal or social barriers. (America Past and Present 536-537).
Like modern industrialists who are hostile about the industry restrictions on CO2 emissions, the old industrialists wanted the freedom to use natural resources and generate their profits without regulations or having to pay the price for the consequences of their actions. It is interesting to note that The Los Angeles Times reports that modern industrial chiefs are beginning to “squeal like pigs” (Times A27) because their industries are being forced to commit to the reduction of toxic emissions that result from their manufacturing processes and that are adding to the global warming problem.
The government eventually created laws that began to curtail the destruction of the environment. One U.S. Government agency that is attempting to deal with the global warming problem is the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA). The EPA is an independent U.S. agency in the executive branch of the government. It was established in 1970 to reduce and control air and water pollution, noise pollution , and radiation and to ensure safe handling and disposal of toxic substances (Concise Encyclopedia 324). The EPA was formed to deal with the massive problems of pollution and hazardous waste that had been dumped into and onto the environment by companies that had no conscience about how they disposed of their wastes. The EPA has spent billions of dollars cleaning up the mess that one hundred years of industrialization has inflicted on the environment.
An article in the Los Angeles Times dated 10/22/97 and titled “Clinton Backs Broad Plan to Fight Global Warming” states that American President Bill Clinton was in the process of attending global warming talks in Bonn, Germany, to discuss the pressing issues surrounding the concerns of global warming. The European Union is pressing for what Clinton considers to be extremely harsh measures in reducing the emissions of toxic gases. The European Union plan calls for a 15% reduction in emissions by 2010, and Japan has advocated a 5% cut. The Times states, “The Arab oil-producing states, on the other hand, have objected to any such mandatory targets, going so far as to suggest payments to them if the agreements result in lower oil purchases” (Times A27). This says a lot about the Arab states’ commitment to the environment and their global conscience. At any rate, Bill Clinton is rejecting the proposals by the European Union by buckling to pressures from American industry to be more lenient about the emission reductions. The Clinton Administration’s plan would “call for industrial nations to commit to reduce by 2008 their emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide to 1990 levels. Because such emissions are expected to rise significantly – by some 13% in the United States – administration officials have argued that this amounts to a significant reduction, even though it simply stabilizes gases at a recent level” (Times A27). Bill Clinton, who ran for election in 1992 as an environmental advocate, seems to be back peddling on his proclaimed commitment to the environment and world ecology. Environmentalists see his watered-down proposals, as well as his traffic with American industrialists, as an environmental sellout. They feel that global warming is directly related to industrialization and consumption of manufactured goods by consumers (Times A27). We, the people of the earth, will have to wait and see whether the voices of the environmentalists, scientists, ecologists, and concerned human beings will win out over the greedy screams of businessmen and the politicians who they support.
After examining the cause and effect of global warming, we can see that the result of a hundred years of dumping carbon and toxic emissions into the air and waterways has caused an ecological problem that may prove to be irreversible. The only way to change the effects of global warming is to change the cause. We need to find alternatives to coal and petroleum products, be willing to sacrifice the conveniences that we take for granted, and be aware that there is little time for discussion about percentages/reductions of toxic emissions. When El Nino comes this winter, it will be a wakeup call to all of us that the time to take action is NOW.