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Environmental Quality - Essay Example

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The United States Government, for the first time in 2002, acknowledged that man-made pollution was largely to blame for climate change and global warming. With less than 4 per cent of the worlds population, the United States of America is the worlds biggest emitter of the…
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Climate Change The United s Government, for the first time in 2002, acknowledged that man-made pollution was largely to blame for climate changeand global warming. With less than 4 per cent of the worlds population, the United States of America is the worlds biggest emitter of the greenhouse gas CO2. As a geographically large country as well, changes to the climate of the world will have important ramifications on the United States as well. Global warming is an international phenomenon with planet-wide repercussions. Looking at cause and effect, as our climate continues to warm, there will be important ramifications for our planet’s ecosystems, human health, agricultural production, precipitation and glacial retreat. While unanimity on the causes of global warming does not exist, there are arguably many causes of this phenomenon, both natural and human made. For some, global warming has been going on for centuries and is a natural property of the earth. Natural causes of global warming include methane gas which is released from the earth’s arctic tundra and wetlands. As a greenhouse gas, methane traps heat in the atmosphere of the earth. As the effects of global warming are being witnessed across the planet, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is acting to address this important issue. The following will explore climate change and global warming and demonstrate how the EPA is working to combat this important challenge (BBC, 2002).
From a human-made perspective, there are many things that we humans do that contribute to global warming. The EPA states that the greenhouse effect is caused by the presence in the earth’s atmosphere of certain gases which transmit energy to the surface of the Earth and temporarily absorb heat, which retards the loss of energy to space. The greenhouse effect is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are an important cause of global warming and in the United States about 40% of all carbon dioxide emissions are the result of burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. Accordingly coal is accounts for approximately 93% of all emissions for the purpose of electricity generations. Power plants emit carbon dioxide as does the burning of coal. Carbon dioxide is also emitted from cars and the burning of gasoline to fuel our cars. Accordingly, the United States of America is the largest global consumer of oil, consuming 20.4 million barrels per day. It is estimated that 33% of all US carbon dioxide emissions come from our cars. Airplanes also emit carbon dioxide and although the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that airplanes cause about 3.5% of global warming today, that figure is expected to rise to 15% by 2050. Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide, and it is followed by water vapor. Methane traps heat within the atmosphere and is derived from natural causes as well a by fossil fuel production. Nitrous oxide (N20), commonly known as “laughing gas” is natural to the Earth’s environment and is produced by oceans and rainforests. It is however produced by humans in the use of fertilizers and the burning of organic matter. Finally, deforestation is caused by the cutting and burning of millions of trees ever year and is an important contributor to carbon emissions in the atmosphere (Vitousek, 1994; EPA, 2009).
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are a many effects of global warming. First and foremost, global warming will have significant effects on ecosystems around the world and as the our respective climates continue to warm, we can expect major changes in ecosystem structure, species’ ecological interactions and geographic ranges and overall negative consequences for biodiversity. We can expect to witness the extinction of certain species and plants in conjunction with major climate changes. Thus, increased flooding and droughts are anticipated as a result of global warming. Human health may witness an increased prevalence of disease, although this will largely be based upon local climatic factors. Ecological change can lead to an increase in the incidence of infectious diseases. Other serious human health-related concerns include an increase in both air and water pollution. While unanimity on the causes of global warming does not exist, what can be certain is that our planet is changing with many important ramifications to the world we inhabit. The US EPA is addressing these concerns through greenhouse gas reduction initiatives, federal, state and local voluntary programs to limit emissions, attempts to educate the public about the importance of addressing climate change and participation in dialogue with international partners to address this important challenge. Through these initiatives the EPA aims to address environmental quality issues and the global challenge of climate change (United States Environmental Protection Agency 2009).
REFERENCES
“Climate Change”. (2009). EPA.gov. The United States Environmental Protection Agency. Web. July 18 2009.
“Humans cause global warming, US admits.” (2002). BBC.com. British Broadcasting Corporation, 3 June 2002. Web. July 18 2009
The Kyoto Protocol. (1997). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,
Vitousek, Peter M. (1994). Beyond global warming: ecology and global change. Ecology, 75(7): 1861-1876, London. Read More
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