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Climate Change: Global Emissions Of Green House Gases

837 words - 3 pages

There are growing concerns about climate change and the effect of ‘greenhouse gases’ (GHG) on the gradual increase in world temperatures over time, now commonly known as global warming. The ‘greenhouse effect’ means that ‘greenhouse gases’ such as water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorocarbons insulate the Earth by absorbing heat from the Earth’s surface and reflecting it back into the atmosphere, acting in a similar way to a thermal blanket (Houghton, 2005). Although associated in recent times with pollution and climate change, the ‘greenhouse effect’ is essential for the continuity of the Earth’s climate (Karl and Trenberth, 2003).

However, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (from the 18th to the 19th Century), the burning of fossil fuel meant that the greenhouse effect went from simply protecting the Earth’s climate to causing an actual increase in world temperatures (Martinez, 2005; Houghton, 2005). The gaseous culprit is the seemingly innocuous CO2, although harmless in the right atmospheric proportions, it is nevertheless a very powerful insulator and heat reflector (Houghton, 2005). Since 1750, the concentration of CO2 has increased by over 30% and is now at a higher level than it has been for thousands of years (Martinez, 2005; EPA, 2007). In fact, it is argued that if no action is taken to curb these emissions, then the concentration of CO2 will rise throughout the remainder of this century to two or three times its preindustrial level (Houghton, 2005).

The Scientific evidence on global warming dates as far back as the second half of the 19th Century and the work of physicist John Tyndall and chemist Svente Arrhenius. It was particularly accelerated in the past 20 years through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), created in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization to review scientific and technical research on climate change, and to consider possible options for adaptation and mitigation (Martinez, 2005). In 2001, the IPCC established that the average global temperature had increased one Fahrenheit degree over the last century and would rise by another 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100 (IPCC, 2001). It also determined that this temperature increase has been primarily the result of human activities releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In fact, the scientific consensus is that global warming is anthropogenic (Oreskes, 2004) and is set on a worrying path (Stern, 2006). The evidence points to a strong correlation between global warming and the rise in greenhouse gases, with the main sources globally being electricity generation, land-use changes...

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