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Global warming is the heating of the earth. This heating occurs because of the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is when carbon dioxide and other gases (methane and nitrous oxide) trap energy from the sun in our atmosphere. Most of the energy we receive from the sun is absorbed by the surface of the earth. Some of the energy is reflected and would normally exit our atmosphere; however, carbon dioxide absorbs this energy and it remains in our atmosphere. The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the more heat we keep in. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that, Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased nearly 30%, methane concentrations have more than doubled, and nitrous oxide concentrations have risen by about 15% In 1997, the United States emitted about one-fifth of total global greenhouse gases. (EPA) Last century, the earth s temperature raised by 1oF. The nine hottest years of the last century were all in the last two decades. This value could have been even larger if it had not been for Mt. Pinatubo. This volcano erupted in 1991. The eruption put a large number of particles into the upper atmosphere, which reflected a great deal of energy from the sun. This eruption held down the earth s temperatures for about three years. There has been a measurable decrease in the snow cover of the northern hemisphere and Arctic sea ice. Precipitation in the lower 48 states has increased by 5%. These are all effects of global warming; however, scientists have not said whether or not these can be called good or bad. The greenhouse effect is always depicted as something bad. This is not the case. We depend on the greenhouse effect to withstand life on earth. The moon, which has no atmosphere (hence, no greenhouse effect) heats up to about 100oC during the day, when lit by the sun, and about 150oC at night. (Gribbin 25) Since global warming has become an issue, there have been many stances politicians have taken. Former Vice President Al Gore took a strong stance on global warming. He called it the most serious problem our civilization faces. (Roleff 94) Many scientists believe that global warming will cause the glaciers to melt and the oceans to rise, ultimately causing the world to become a water-world. Other such predictions include the spread of infectious diseases, such as malaria, massive extinctions of species, dieback of forests, and freak weather patterns that include hurricanes, fires, floods, and droughts. (Roleff 79) Strangely, most of these predictions will not occur. They are under the assumption that the earth has never experienced this kind of heat; however, 6,000 years ago, the earth was about 4 degrees Fahrenheit more than it is now, which is significantly larger, and people lived without any freakish weather patterns destroying civilization. (Roleff 94) The solution many people give to curb global warming is to stop the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but as John Gribbin describes in 1990, it is not easy to predict: We do not know whether new technological developments will change the demand for energy, whether wars in the Middle East will affect the price of oil, if discoveries of huge new coal reserves in Africa will make energy cheaper than ever, or even whether the growing awareness of the importance of the greenhouse effect will itself encourage governments to restrict the use of fossil fuel. (Gribbin 119) Mr. Gribbin was ahead of his time. Today the oil crisis is simply horrible. Perhaps not as bad as during the 70s, but still bad. The prices of fuel are skyrocketing and people are still using them, and still emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is obviously not going to stop; there has even been a decrease in funding for research of alternative energy sources. These are bad signs for people who do not want global warming; however, there are some people who eagerly anticipate the warming of the earth. Some scientists believe there will be many benefits to global warming. The warmer weather, according to some, will cause more evaporation from the sea, producing more precipitation worldwide. They believe this increase in precipitation may cause deserts to turn into gardens. This increase in precipitation has also been predicted to cause the total area of arable land in the world to triple. The warming would also make the growing season longer. This would occur because all the new precipitation would cause more cloud cover. An increase in cloud cover will keep the heat from the day in our atmosphere at night; therefore, making days longer and warmer. This situation would be very beneficial to plants. The most ignorant prediction made by most scientists is that the warming will cause storms. In actuality, storms are caused by the differences in temperatures between the poles and the equator. Global warming will cause this difference to become smaller; therefore, there will be less storms. (Roleff 95-96) The best prediction I read for the effects of global warming dealt with the rotation of the earth. One, obviously brilliant, scientist came up with the idea that global warming would reverse the winds near the equator. He further explained that this reversal would cause the earth s spin on its axis to slow down. This would cause longer days and nights, and our measure of time itself would be so thrown off it would be utter chaos. I forget this scientist s name ..and I m sure many other people did too. The First Strides Toward Curbing Global Warming Former President Clinton was well known for riding the economy. He also tried to always keep everyone happy (except his wife, of course.) In an attempt to make the EPA and other environment people happy, his administration released the Climate Change Action Plan in October of 1993. At that time, this plan was the most specific and detailed plan of any nation. The plan was designed to be beneficial to the global environment and the U.S. economy. The plan wanted people and businesses to invest in new technologies, which would focus on gas emission reduction. Clinton wanted to promote more recycling, more efficient transportation systems, and more reductions in harmful methane emissions from mining and agriculture. (Roleff 136) As a side goal, the plan wanted the world to recognize the United States as a helper of the environment. (Roleff 133-136) After the government realized that there wasn t concrete scientific evidence to show that they would be doing anything at all, it was realized that the plan probably wouldn t work. (Climate) The figures were underestimated and didn t quite make the scheduled totals, but like many plans, it s greatest accomplishment was to cause more legislation to pass. This particular plan was the beginning of much more global warming-based legislation. Today, an important organization to the research and data collection of global warming is the United States Global Change Research Program. This was created in 1989. It gives annual reports that usually supplement the president s annual budget. The annual report for 1998 showed that it was the hottest year since instruments have been recording global temperatures (about 1860.) They went even further to say that the late 20th century was the hottest in over 1,000 years. (Summary) Overall, legislation and politics concerning global warming are moving very slowly. Besides committees and meetings here and there, there have not been any significant actions to curb or deal with global warming. Some small actions regarding carbon dioxide emissions include: The Dutch, for one, are creating a plan to reduce emissions by 80 percent over the next 40 years. Germany is contemplating 50 percent cuts in the future. Britain announced it will cut emissions by 21 percent below 1990 levels in the next 12 years. (Gelbspan) The United Nations has discussed global warming also, they have concluded that it is caused by emissions. They also have concluded that the earth is warming much faster than they had expected and that the effects of the warming are happening quicker also. (Gelbspan) It seems as though only the United States is taking an active interest in global warming. Many other countries are taking a more lax approach, with a general feeling of let-the-next-generation-deal-with-it. Great Britain is coming around, also. The head of their National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the climate change situation is critical. (Gelbspan) I believe we will see more legislation regarding global warming on the national and international levels. Personally, I don t believe the changes will be as horrible as most believe, and that no one knows for sure what will happen, because all warming before was gradual, and this is quite quick. It will remain a hot topic throughout the next century and we will understand it better through research and new developments on the atmosphere. It will be interesting to see what happens to our earth in the decades to come. I d like to leave you with a graph that will put things into perspective. (http://www.modelmodel.com/globalwarming.htm)

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