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Global Warming

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Global Warming

The earth has endured centuries of human population growth, agricultural development, resource extraction, landscape-ravaging wars, and industrial pollution. Now recently, we find ourselves asking whether we can continue on this path of destruction without irreversible harmful ecological consequences. We have plunged into a time where we must begin to wonder if we can manage, despite all the separate conflicts plaguing our world, to cooperate and prevent the collapse of our global environments feared by many environmentalists. Or is it possible that we have dug ourselves so deep into the ground that there is no way back towards sunlight? Viewed from a distance, one might conclude that society has been committing suicide over the past century with an unrelenting assault on its own biosphere. Though many people believe in the worlds unlimited resources and the ability of humankind to adapt, many see the situation as something more dire, and as a result of human negligence and greed. The biggest long-term threat we face today is the prospect of major disturbance to the earth's climate. Our society relies heavily on the burning of fossil fuels for energy, gasoline, and other things, releases billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. The hypothesis of man-made global warming has been around since the 1880's and has continued to grow and gain support and legitimacy. Each decade we see more and more causes of global warming rising and becoming a greater threat, such as consumerism of vehicles and energy, deforestation, and military conflicts. Over the past few years, we have seen the level of attention politicians have paid to the issue of climate change as many treaties and plans are made to curb the effects of this critical situation. And although we might think our environment is slowly losing an uphill battle, there is hope. There are many things we can do to stop the effects of global warming, and create a safer and less polluted world for generations to come. Although many scientists believe that global warming is the earths natural temperature warming after the previous ice age, it is up to us to use facts from the past and the present to save the world for the future.

The global warming hypothesis originated in 1896 when Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, developed the theory that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels would cause global temperatures to rise by trapping excess heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Since then, the global warming crisis has snowballed, becoming larger and larger as time continues. In the past century, we have seen many events that have helped and hindered the global warming effects. Between 1920 and 1925 we see the opening of Texas and Persian Gulf oil fields, which introduces an era of cheap and efficient energy. In 1970, we see the first Earth Day take place on April 22nd. Founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day brought the state of our earth to a more national viewpoint. In 1997, a large scale treaty, The Kyoto Protocol, was negotiated. The requirements were for participating countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5% below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012. Instead, Canada’s emissions have risen by 26% higher than 1990 levels. A global problem that is consistently contributing to global warming is wars and conflicts. While it may seem obvious, the fact that war is bad for the environment is commonly overlooked. We have seen destruction of our earth in the past 100 years due to wars happening all over the world. Hydroelectric dams were targets during World War II and the Korean War. Irrigation systems were bombed by the United States during the Vietnam War, and coalition bombing destroyed much of Iraq's water supply system both in 1991 and 2003. In North America, concerns with the environmental impacts of war became most apparent in the 1960's. With the introduction of nuclear weapons, it was now possible for military conflict to destroy most of the biosphere. On November 5th, 2003, the UN declared that each November 6th would be recognized as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Conflict. Slowly we see our world society accepting and grasping the facts about global warming, and putting into action plans to stop it from escalating in the future. But we still commonly see everyday causes of global warming because of the average person.

The burning of fossil fuels is a leading cause of greenhouse gases- Around 92% of CO2 emitted by western industrialized countries comes from burning fossil fuel - coal, oil and gas - for energy. These emissions can be seen when you start your car on a cold early morning and the muffler smokes the pavement behind it. It can be seen in the form of smog in the heavily populated cities throughout the world. In addition the landfills releases other greenhouse gases and increase the total emissions that are produced. Each of these leading causes is, in return, caused by consumerism. The two leading sources of CO2 in our earths atmosphere are electricity generation and transport. Electricity generation is the single largest source of CO2 emissions, and the primary contributor to global warming. Ironically enough, 40% of electricity used in homes everyday is actually powering electronics that are turned off. This equals the total power generated by 17 power plants each year. The 2nd leading source, transportation, accounts for 28% of the United States energy usage (in 2004). The average vehicle emits three times its own weight in CO2 a year. The oil supply crises of the 1970s spurred the creation, in 1975, of the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program, which required auto manufacturers to meet progressively higher fuel economy targets. The next decade saw dramatic improvements in fuel economy, mostly the result of reductions in vehicle size and weight. These gains crumbled somewhat after 1990 due to the growing popularity of sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans, all higher gas-guzzling vehicles. In addition to the CAFE program, the U.S. government has tried to encourage better vehicle efficiency through tax policy. Since 2002, taxpayers have been eligible for income tax credits for gas/electric hybrid vehicles. Hybrid gas-electric engines are relatively new vehicles that are capable of cutting global warming pollution by a drastic amount. Hybrid sedans, SUVs and trucks from several automakers are already on the market. There are smaller and easier ways to be a smart consumer, that are also a lot easier on your wallet. Everything from choosing less packaging, to choosing certain brands that have environmental benefits attached to them helps. Choosing foods and local produces that haven’t



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