Paper on Greenhouse Effect

This essay has a total of 1291 words and 5 pages.

Greenhouse Effect

The importance of the greenhouse effect was just conceived in the mid-twentieth century.
"For billions of years, cosmic forces shaped Earth, and land and air coevolved at an
almost inconceivably slow pace to create a climate in which human beings and other
creatures could flourish." (Franscesca Lyman). Now, for the first time, humanity has the
power to change the global climate. By releasing the huge amounts of carbon stored in
fossil fuels over millions of years, we are distorting the natural carbon cycle. We are
intensifying the natural greenhouse effect and turning it into a "planetary menace" when
it actually makes human life possible. Thus, the German climatologist Wilfred Bach writes,
"The carbon-dioxide problem becomes a central question for the co-existence of humans and
the survival of mankind." If we do not deal with our problems now, such as global warming,
the consequences will amplify and the consequences could mean our health, our life, our
future. Could we, as humans, mend what we have destroyed? From the words of J.Stephen
Bottum, "Constructive action begins with an understanding of what's causing the problem
and what each of us can do about it." The greenhouse effect has been described by Vice
President Al Gore as the potentially most dangerous environmental problem facing mankind,
with consequences second only to nuclear war (The Greenhouse Trap). The greenhouse effect
can be visualized as follows: Imagine the Earth has been encircled by a giant glass
sphere. The heat penetrates through the glass. Some of the heat is absorbed by the Earth
and some is radiated back towards space. The radiated heat reaches the glass sphere and is
prevented from dispersing any further. Similarly, the Earth is surrounded by a blanket of
gas which traps energy in the atmosphere. This results in the overall warming of the
atmosphere. "For two hundred years we've been conquering nature. Now we're beating it up,"
says Tom McMillan. The greenhouse occurs naturally, but when humans put more greenhouse
gases (carbon, methane, water vapor, and, nitrous oxide) and pollutants in the air the
natural balance is off set. Since the beginning of industrialization, two hundred years
ago, the gases have risen substantially, mainly from fossil fuels. This has produced a
reduction in environmental quality and an increase in global warming. It is estimated that
the Earth's average temperature has risen by five tenths to six tenths degrees Celsius
since the 1880's because of emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity (America
Online). Although, this temperature increase may not seem like much, over the years it
will make a considerable difference in the way we live. With further increases, the
consequences of global warming could very well include the eradication of the entire
ecosystems, increased frequency and intensity of storms, hurricanes, floods, and droughts.
It could also cause melting of glaciers and polar ice which would cause rising sea levels
resulting in the permanent flooding of vast areas of heavily populated lands and the
creation of hundreds of millions of environmental refugees. Finally, global warming could
result in an increased frequency of forest fires, spread of tropical diseases due to
insect proliferation and diseases such as skin cancer caused by the sun's rays. All of
this together will cost billions of dollars. If we act now, we can dampen the damages
caused by our warming world. Over time, public awareness of the threat to their lives and
the environment. This heightened public awareness set in motion legislative actions such
as the Clean Air Act passed in 1963. This act has been considerably successful and the air
is thought to be cleaner than it was thirty years ago. Also, in September of 1987, four
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