Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Global Warming R Us

To the Editor,

For millions of years, way before man walked this planet; the earth’s climate has gotten warmer and cooler. It is evident that the climate today is growing warmer. Mankind’s influence has played a significant role on the outcomes of the world’s climate.

We know that the earth has gotten warmer in the past 100 years or so. The warmest years of the past century have occurred within the past decade. During this same period the burning of fossil fuels has increased the greenhouse gas content of the earth’s atmosphere, all thanks to man’s activities. The most important greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide, which is known for trapping heat near the planet’s surface.

A substantial amount of the earth’s energy comes from the sun. This energy is absorbed by the land, sea, and air and then reflected back into space. This is all called the earth’s energy budget. The “greenhouse effect” is a part of the energy budget. Just like the glass walls of a greenhouse keep the inner temperature higher than the outside, the earth’s atmosphere catches the energy given off from the earth near the planet’s surface.

Greenhouse gases keep the earth’s average temperature at a hospitable 15 degrees celsius. There is no question that these gases increase the greenhouse effect and add as a contributing factor to global warming. Although, it is uncertain the exact effects the greenhouse gases have had on the global climate.

The data collected indicates that Earth's surface temperature is rising. One of the main causes of this is because of man’s own increase in greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. It is becoming clear that these climactic changes are negatively affecting physical and biological systems worldwide.

In the last century, carbon dioxide and other toxins have been released into the Earth’s atmosphere due to burning coal that is use to help produce electricity.  The use of automobiles has also increased climate change. Cars burn a lot of gas in a week and that gas releases carbon dioxide, which is another contributing factor to the planet’s temperature shift. It is evident that the places in the United States that create pollution the most are cities.

Recent studies have also shown how agriculture has played a part in climate change. Methane gas, which is used in agriculture, is produced when bacteria decomposes organic matter. It has been predictable that nearly a quarter of methane gas from human activities is due to livestock and the decomposing animal manure. Paddy rice farming, land use and wetland changes are also agricultural processes that could contribute to the release of methane to the atmosphere. The use of fertilizers also leads to higher nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

Vanessa Camargo

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