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Global Warming- Our Sad Reality

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Global Warming-Our Sad Reality
In the 21st century, the human population is thriving with the conveniences set forth by technological and medicinal advances in modern society. We are living longer, easier lives, but at what cost? With the demand for energy soaring, our once insignificant use of fossil fuels has become a worldwide crisis that is finally being realized by the public after being kept in the dark for the past 50 years. Global Warming is no longer a myth, it is a reality, and if we don’t change our ways soon, we may well be facing a sad fate- the most intelligent species on Earth won’t be able to save the world that they themselves destroyed.
In my opinion, the skepticism that meets most Americans at the notion of human-induced climate change comes from ignorance, or just an innocent lack of knowledge. That being said, I feel obligated to explain what this whole situation is in the first place. In short, the atmosphere is getting denser because it has a growing concentration of carbon dioxide due to greenhouse gas emissions. (Greenhouse gas emissions are mixtures of gases high in carbon dioxide that come from basically anything and everything manmade.) This causes more radiation from the sun that enters the atmosphere and reflects off earth’s surface to get caught in the atmosphere, thus creating a rise in temperature. Among many other principles that scientists believe drive global warming, this has been determined to be the main culprit.
Let’s talk statistics. First of all, for 650,000 years, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has never gone above 300 parts per million… until 1950, when the levels rose above 300 and have skyrocketed to over 400 parts per million in the last half century. 1950, as you may or may not know, just happens to be around the age when industrialization was getting well into it’s big boom worldwide. If that’s not troubling to you, add in the fact that Earth’s average temperature has never been hotter for over 200,000 years, and at the rate that Earth is warming, we will likely exceed temperatures that have been unprecedented on Earth for over 2 billion years in the next century. Climatologists describe global warming as a bull that will charge farther and farther out of our control the more we allow it to escalate, and warn that a mere six-degree average rise in temperature would be enough to make rare natural disasters a common occurrence and induce severe droughts, famine, and ultimately global turmoil. As for sea level rise, in the last century the sea level increased 17 centimeters on average. In the last decade, the sea levels have increased more than double that. This may not seem impressive now, but it means that in years to come we may be facing a sea level rise of 17 meters per decade. Can you believe this evidence is only the tip of the iceberg?
Many people associate that infamous hole in the ozone layer with climate change, but the relationship between the actual subject of climate change and the ozone hole is virtually nothing- except that both were caused by humans. The biggest area where ozone concentrations have been depleted is right over Antarctica. The “holes” are really just places where ozone molecule levels have gone down, which allows harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun come down to us. The ozone molecules are being destroyed by CFCs (chloroflourocarbons), which are a byproduct of many chemical processes such as power plants, car emissions, etc. The holes in the ozone layer do not effect temperature dramatically, and so global warming and the ozone holes are two different issues entirely. The only apparent effect of the ozone holes so far is that we are beginning to see lots of birth defects in less evolved animals in the amphibian and reptile classifications. (Yes, the critics call it a minor issue when frogs begin to grow extra eyes and appendages.) Of course, this problem only seems “minor” until the ozone holes get bigger and could quite possibly cause the same thing to happen to our children. We’ll see if we start caring when our offspring begin being born with three eyes and an extra finger or two.
Ever heard of the saying “A canary in a coal mine”? I find that to be a very applicable metaphor in this situation. On a global scale, the world is our mine (sadly this is very literally speaking), and the polar icecaps are our canaries. In other words, the poles are our indicators as to how severe global warming has become. Just like how miners used canaries to tell when toxic gases were leaking into the caves, the poles’ melting rate indicates future effects in the temperate zones. For this reason, keeping the poles frozen is one of the most frightening dilemmas created by climate change. Though even the most dire predictions do not show all of the polar ice melting, even only a third of Antarctica lost would be enough to raise sea levels so much that most of Florida would be underwater, along with much of the Eastern United States, and basically all of Australia, and those are only a few on the hit list. The melting of the poles isn’t even the only danger facing them. Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic in 2015 would mean that the poles, the only place that we greedy humans have not claimed, developed, or altered in any way would be tarnished forever by the greasy stain of humanity. Even if Shell does not gain permission to drill in the Arctic in 2015, the bottom of the world would soon face jeopardy in 2041. Then, the Antarctic treaty act expires, and unless it is put into action again, Antarctica can be claimed by anyone and developed by anyone. Still not looking good for those poor polar bears, is it?
Now that it is common knowledge that global warming is in fact a reality, a completely irrefutable, well proven reality at that, the answer to fixing it should be obvious- CLEAN ENERGY! Of course, all that brings to mind is visions of solar panels, wind farms, and hydroelectric dams, otherwise known to those financially weary as tools for the destruction of our carefully cultivated economy. This is basically why nothing has gotten done yet. Though it seems highly unrealistic to us and our world fueled by coal, oil, and natural gas, consumer-friendly clean energy is much closer within our reach that we may think. What we need is a reasonable amount of funding towards the research of renewable energy and, you know us industrious humans, we could come up with something reasonable within 10 years if we put our minds to it. Critics argue that our fragile economy can’t afford to fund a project that isn’t even guaranteed to work, and that switching to renewable resources would mean millions of people would be jobless. Both are valid points. But, what about the workers in solar panel factories and the management of wind farms and hydroelectric dams? Wouldn’t that create just about as many jobs as before? By gradually weaning the world off fossil fuels, the prospect is completely reasonable financially, as well.
If the potential solution to global warming is so agonizingly reachable, why haven’t we made the switch yet? The answer- nobody is aware, and honestly, not enough people genuinely care. We have a bad habit of not addressing a problem until the last hour, until that problem is staring us right in the face. Choosing renewable energy is only half the battle- the first part starts right here at home, in your community. We need to raise awareness of the issue, gather our fellow citizens and tell this unproductive government of ours that we need to change. Until now, there has never been enough people who cared to do so. Since the age of polar exploration, only small victories have been made as the impending effects of climate change become more and more apparent. Not even 100 years worth of passionate activists have managed to really hit home the big message. Only by working together can we save the polar bears, glaciers, atmosphere, and eventually everything in temperate zones as well. The time to make a difference is now, so, will you be an ambassador for the planet we say we hold so dear, or let the human race turn it into a barren, smoggy wasteland?

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