Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I wandered Lonely as a Cloud

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INTRODUCTION


Global warming is arguably the biggest environmental problem that we face in the 1st century. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the Earths surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the past century, with accelerated warming during the past two decades. There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.


Without this natural greenhouse effect, temperatures would be much lower than they are now, and life as known today would not be possible. Instead, thanks to greenhouse gases, the earths average temperature is a more hospitable 60°F. However, problems may arise when the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increases. (MAP OF THE WORLD)


Plant respiration and the decomposition of organic matter release more than 10 times the CO released by human activities; but these releases have generally been in balance during the centuries leading up to the industrial revolution with carbon dioxide absorbed by terrestrial vegetation and the oceans.


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Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased nearly 0%, methane concentrations have more than doubled, and nitrous oxide concentrations have risen by about 15%. Fossil fuels burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and power factories are responsible for about 8% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, 4% of methane emissions, and 18% of nitrous oxide emissions. Increased agriculture, deforestation, landfills, industrial production, and mining also contribute a significant share of emissions. In 17, the United States emitted about one-fifth of total global greenhouse gases.


SIGNS OF GLOBAL WALRMING


ɨ Changing Climate (MAP OF THE GRAPH � WORLD TEMPERATURE)


Global mean surface temperatures have increased 0.5-1.0°F since the late 1th century. The 0th centurys 10 warmest years all occurred in the last 15 years of the century. Of these, 18 was the warmest year on record.


ɨ The seas are rising nearly one-tenth of an inch each year, fed by rivers of melting glaciers and ice sheets around the globe. Icelands glaciers could disappear by 00. That event alone could raise sea levels by 0 feet. The snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and floating ice in the Arctic Ocean have decreased. Globally, sea level has risen 4-8 inches over the past century. At least one-third of the massive ice field atop Tanzanias Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa has melted over the past dozen years. Since the glacier was first mapped in 11, about 8 percent of it has been lost. Perus Quelccaya ice cap in the Southern Andes Mountains has shrunk by at least 0 percent since 16.


Scientists have said that global warming may devastate the economies of several small South Pacific nations over the next 0 years. The most vulnerable countries are Tuvalu and Kiribati. New Zealand is already home to 5,000 people from Tuvalu.


ɨ Intense rainstorms are likely to become more frequent. Although scientists predict we will feel the largest impact of global warming in about three decades, extreme weather patterns such as hurricanes, floods and cyclones have increased in recent years.


ɨ Sea surface temperatures throughout the tropics have shown dramatic increases over the past two decades, as much as half a degree per decade � danger to coral reefs and sea creatures.


ɨ Scientists in the Alaskan Arctic have discovered that shrubs are growing larger and spreading across previously barren territory in the tundra. The findings add to the scientific consensus that the region is gradually getting warmer.


ɨ Environmental Health Perspectives, identifies and examines five key health problems that could be influenced by global climate change. Those problems include heat-related illness and death, health effects related to extreme weather events, health effects related to air pollution, water-borne and food-borne diseases, and vector-borne and rodent-borne diseases.


ɨ Increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases are likely to accelerate the rate of climate change.


Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from the decomposition of organic wastes in municipal solid waste landfills, and the raising of livestock. methane remains in the atmosphere about 1 years, a short time compared to other greenhouse gases.


Carbon dioxide is released to the atmosphere when solid waste, fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal), and wood and wood products are burned. It takes carbon dioxide, the top human-caused greenhouse gas, anywhere from 50 to 00 years to disappear from the atmosphere.


Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of solid waste and fossil fuels.


Very powerful greenhouse gases that are not naturally occurring include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), which are generated in a variety of industrial processes.


METHODS OF PREVENTION


ɨ Today, action is occurring at every level to reduce, to avoid, and to better understand the risks associated with climate change. Many countries across the world have prepared greenhouse gas inventories; and many are actively pursuing programs and policies that will result in greenhouse gas emission reductions.


ɨ Bush is saying we need more energy, but he doesnt say that the United States uses 70 percent more energy per million dollars (generated by the economy) than the EU, Jimenez-Beltran said. EU pushes U.S. to label products that impact global warming.


ɨ Humans are still multiplying, and that fact will provide many challenges for the next generation or two, but projections of future growth are low.


WHAT CAN I DO?


ɨ Think back to the days before recycling became popular � when everyone threw everything out in the trash. In less than 0 years, most households have gone from recycling little to nothing to recycling newspapers, plastics, glass and metal. Many businesses recycle paper and buy recycled products and many industries practice source reduction in their packaging efforts.


Recycle aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic, cardboard, and newspapers. Recycling can reduce your homes carbon dioxide emissions by 850 pounds per year.


Buy food and other products with reusable or recyclable packaging, or reduced packaging, to save the energy required to manufacture new containers. This simple action could reduce your emissions by 0 pounds a year.


ɨ When your lights burn out, replace them with compact fluorescent lights. Converting to energy-efficient lighting fixtures can help you use at least 40 percent less energy for lighting.


ɨ Select a home located close to your job to reduce your travel distance and time.


ɨ Save on water use.





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