Greenhouse gases, which trap heat affecting the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere, form the basis of global warming (NASA, n.d.). They create a blanket minimizing reflection of solar radiation back to space. As a result, downward radiation from the atmosphere is intensified. This causes the greenhouse effect that is responsible for the additional heating of the Earth’s surface. Carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere when humans burn fossil fuels is the primary contributor to the steady warming of the Earth. Human activities (such as tropical deforestation that change evapotranspiration rate and desertification that increases the amount of sunlight reflected from the ground) have had the great effect on the changes in the composition of the atmosphere. Global warming is taking place at an alarming rate. Its impacts are being experienced worldwide. This paper seeks to evaluate the scientific basis of this phenomenon and the role of the human in global warming. Natural and anthropogenic climate changes, as well as current mitigation strategies, will be discussed too.
Over the years, natural climate change has resulted from occurrences such as volcanoes and atmosphere-ocean interactions that have contributed to the global warming. Volcanoes, for instance, inject the vast amount of dust and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. The aerosol particles of sulfur remain suspended for several years and are spread across the globe forming veil as it was with Mount Pinatubo whose eruption caused a change of about 0.2 °C to the global surface temperature (World Meteorological Organization, n.d.). The atmosphere-ocean interaction is also critical to climate change. Oceans are fundamental carbon sinks that can hold 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere. Interference by industrial effluents has lowered the amount of carbon entering the oceans. This has led to increased global warming as more CO2 finds its way to the atmosphere.
On the other hand, anthropogenic climate changes have been labeled as the intensifiers of global warming. Since 1750, an estimation indicates that about two-thirds of anthropogenic climate change CO2 emissions have come from burning fossil fuel — coal and petroleum, and about one-third from land use change mainly deforestation and agricultural (Friedrich et al., 2015). This has had great implications for the atmosphere that has resulted in intense global warming.
I acknowledge that global warming is taking place across the globe. The rapid decline in both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice over the last several decades, as well as the warming oceans due to increased absorption of heat (a change of 0.302 ° Fahrenheit since 1969), is unequivocal evidence of global warming (NASA, n.d.). To curb this trend of global warming, the world leadership has collectively put mitigation strategies to alleviate the situation. Countries have formulated new policies to institutionalize the endeavor of curbing the emission of greenhouse gases. Such measures as carbon taxing and sequestration have been adopted.
On carbon taxing, emitters are directly taxed commensurately to the levels of carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon pricing is expressed in value per tonne. It puts a price on each tonne of greenhouse emitted. Carbon taxing varies in different countries as legislation is formulated to suit particular nations. With this carbon taxing, emitters tend to decrease greenhouse gas emissions leading to intensification of production ways and ultimately resulting in reduced emission. This strategy, however, does not guarantee a maximum level of emission. This makes companies who are making profits regardless of the tax to be reluctant in shifting to less emitting ways of production (Putting a Price on Carbon with a Tax, p.1-4).
Another strategy for mitigating global warming is sequestration. Countries are adopting this to contain the spiraling emission of carbon dioxide. It involves disposal of liquid carbon dioxide, once captured, into deep geological strata. For example, CO2 is injected into deep, unmineable coal seams where it is adsorbed to displace methane that is used as a source of energy. Sequestration has turned to be a cost-effective way of commercial production of coal seam methane. However, sequestered CO2 pose a great hazard to the human beings. In the case of an eruption as it happened in Lake Nyos in Cameroon where the release of heavier-than-air gas asphyxiated 1700 people makes sequestration an extremely dangerous endeavor (World Nuclear Association, n.d.). To tighten the knot on curbing global warming, I would propose enactment of a law that sets a ceiling on the level of CO2 emissions to augment carbon taxing. I would also propose laws limiting the establishment of paper mills that are significant contributors of deforestation. Paperless economies should be the order of the 21st century. Also, I would propose a law making it mandatory for companies to adopt renewable energy for a half of their overall energy use. Also, I would propose a law to have nations set aside a national day in every month purposely for tree planting. Strict standards would be in industrialized countries like China, USA, Brazil, Japan, and Russia, which are the leading emitters of greenhouse gases contributing about 72 % of global greenhouse gas emissions (Friedrich et al., 2015).
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It is evident that the world climate is changing. The rampant disasters and unprecedented occurrences are unequivocal evidence of climate change. The rapid decline in both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice over the last several decades as well as the warming oceans affirm these. Natural and anthropogenic climate changes, which increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, have extensively contributed to global warming. Much needs to be done in addition to the adoption of mitigation strategies such as carbon taxing and sequestration. The world should put strict standards to top emitters who accounts for about 70 % of global warming.