Political Science - Global Warming - Essay Example

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Political Science – Global Warming What are some of the potential causes of global warming? How dangerous is global warming to the global environment? What is the best international way of preventing or at least slowing the possible catastrophic effects of climate change?…
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Political Science – Global Warming What are some of the potential causes of global warming? How dangerous is global warming to the global environment? What is the best international way of preventing or at least slowing the possible catastrophic effects of climate change? As Maslin notes, global warming and the consequent climate change ‘is one of the most controversial issues of the 21st century, challenging the very structure of our global society’ (1). It is caused by the huge increase in the volumes of so-called ‘greenhouse gases’ in the Earth’s atmosphere. The most prevalent of these gases is carbon dioxide. There has always been a natural layer of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, but the present augmentation is widely held to be the result of human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and environmental alterations, especially deforestation. The burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – is mainly done in industrial processes, in energy production, and also in transport. Because fossil fuel consumption is much greater in industrialized and more economically developed countries, North America, Europe and Asia are responsible for over 90% of global fossil fuel output. Deforestation, meanwhile, is most serious in South America, and especially in the Amazon basis. Furthermore, if current trends continue, fossil fuel consumption will continue to increase, especially as countries with large populations, such as India and China with a combined population of over 2 billion, rapidly industrialize. All of this is causing the temperature of the Earth to increase at a much faster rate than is usual, and perhaps at a rate faster than it has been for thousands of years. The increasing blanket of greenhouse gases traps heat from solar radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere, and as the temperature within becomes higher, water stored as ice in glaciers or the ice caps is melting, causing sea levels to rise. A report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – an intergovernmental science group which works on climate issues – there is clear evidence that, over the course of the 20th century, there was a 0.6°C rise in global temperatures, and a 20cm rise in sea levels, and by 2100, there could a further temperature rise of between 1.4 and 5.8°C, and a further sea level rise of 20-88cm (Maslin 1). At the same time, the gradual change in climatic conditions causes weather patterns to become more extreme and unpredictable, with many regions facing the prospect of more frequent or extreme droughts, storms, floods and fires. As Maslin states, ‘The problem with global warming is that it changes the rules. The past weather of an area cannot be relied on to tell you what the future will hold’ (67). For example, an Indian farmer who is completely reliant on the arrival of the monsoon rains to guide his activities throughout the year may find them increasingly unreliable. In coastal areas, storms and floods are expected to worsen as sea levels rise. In many developed countries, this does not pose a huge problem, as new and stronger sea walls can be built to defend valuable property, or where this is not economically viable, it can be abandoned to coastal marshland. However, for those countries dependent on a river delta, like Bangladesh, or island nations across the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the situation is far more serious. In the Maldives, a 1m rise in sea levels would flood 75% of the land, while over half of Bangladesh lies less than 5m above sea level, and the monsoon floods have been getting worse (Maslin 85). Given that around 40% of the world’s population lives in the monsoon belt, the arrival of ever more serious storms poses a major challenge. As an increasing global population is forced to rely on decreasing resources, there is a widespread assumption that climate change will worsen conflict worldwide, while fresh drinking water, already a scarcity in some regions, is expected to become even more so. We have discussed the ways that global climate change will affect human life, but we should also bear in mind that as the climatic conditions change, many animal and plant species find themselves ill-adapted to cope, and so climate change is having a huge impact on biodiversity. In terms of action to relieve all of these problems, there have already been some attempts to concert international action, with the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and climate summits in Copenhagen and Cancun, but the results have been limited in their efficacy. A key concern must be the switch from non-renewable, fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, such as wind, wave and solar power, and indeed the advance of green technologies and energy conservation techniques, so as to simultaneously reduce overall energy consumption. Furthermore, steps need to be taken to conserve what remains of the world’s forests, as trees play a key role in using carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and storing carbon, and to replant forests wherever possible. References Maslin, Mark. Global Warming: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print. Read More
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