Professor Bott / Chemistry 1301
Many industries like the oil, gas, coal and chemical industries rely on fossil fuels for electricity, heat and raw materials. When these industries burn these fuels, they release carbon dioxide and other gasses into the air. The buildup of these gasses causes the Earth’s atmosphere to trap more of the sun’s heat, causing the earth to get warmer. This increase in global temperatures is called “global climate change” or “global warming.” “Earth’s outgoing infrared radiation is retained by several trace gases in the atmosphere whose concentrations have been increasing because of human industrial, commercial, and agricultural activities” (ChemistryExplained). These gases have the ability to absorb radiation, leading to the tendency of the atmosphere to create warmer climates than would otherwise be the case. “The most important naturally occurring trace gases that have the ability to absorb infrared radiation are water vapor (H 2 O), carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), methane (CH 4 ), nitrous oxide (N 2 O), and ozone (O 3 )” ( ChemistryExplained.)
Global warming produces not only warmer air, but also warmer oceans. One of the side-effects of warmer ocean temperatures is more frequent and more intense hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, and consequently more hurricane damage in America. “Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is a good example of how warmer sea surface temperatures can produce much more intense and destructive hurricanes in the United States”(GeophysicalFluidDynamicsLaboratory.) Scientists have been studying global warming for many years (Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius first described the global warming effect in 1897), and the vast majority of scientists agree that “global warming poses a real threat to mankind”( EncyclopediaBrittania.) Yet much of the public believes that global warming sciences is unproven or even a myth. One reason is that the oil, gas, coal and chemical industries (the largest emitters of greenhouse gases that cause global warming) started a public relations campaign more than twenty years ago to confuse the public about global warming. They have spent millions of dollars on “confusing television and print ads promoting the work of fringe scientists, all in an effort to convince the public that global warming does not exist.( OssFoundation.) This campaign was very successful and even today, when virtually all scientists agree that global warming poses a threat to our safety, our economy and our environment, many of these industries still campaign against taking any action to stop global warming.
Reality is that Global Warming is actually affecting us in many ways. Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, cloud forests are drying, and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. It’s becoming clear that humans have caused most of the past century’s warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Called greenhouse gases, “ their levels are higher now than in the last 650,000 years” ( NationalGeographic).We call the result global warming, but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth’s climate, or long-term weather patterns, that varies from place to place. As the Earth spins each day, the new heat swirls with it, picking up moisture over the oceans, “rising here, settling there. It’s changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely upon” (NationalGeographic).
The “greenhouse effect” is the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth’s atmosphere trap heat. These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping, like the glass walls of a greenhouse.
First, sunlight shines onto the Earth’s surface, where it is absorbed and then radiates back into the atmosphere as heat. In the atmosphere, “greenhouse” gases trap some of this heat, and the rest escapes into space. The more greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped. Scientists have known about the greenhouse effect since 1824, “when Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere”(NationalGeographic.) This greenhouse effect is what keeps the Earth’s climate livable. Without it, “ the Earth’s surface would be an average of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit cooler”(NationalGeographic.) In 1895, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius discovered that humans could enhance the greenhouse effect by making carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. He kicked off 100 years of climate research that has given us a sophisticated understanding of global warming.
The average global temperature and concentrations of carbon dioxide (one of the major greenhouse gases) have fluctuated on a cycle of hundreds of thousands of years as the Earth’s position relative to the sun has varied. As a result, ice ages have come and gone. However, for thousands of years now, “emissions of GHGs to the atmosphere have been balanced out by GHGs that are naturally absorbed”(chemistryland.) As a result, GHG concentrations and temperature have been fairly stable. This stability has allowed human civilization to develop within a consistent climate. Now, humans have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than a third since the industrial revolution. Changes this large have historically taken thousands of years, but are now happening over the course of decades.
People are doing many things to try to stop global warming. One thing people are doing is carpooling. Carpooling is driving with someone to a place that you are both going to. This minimizes the amount of greenhouse gases put into the air by a car.
Another thing that people are doing is being more careful about leaving things turned on like the television, computer, and the lights. A lot of people are taking time away from the television, and instead, they are spending more time outdoors. This helps our planet out a lot. Now, more people are even riding busses, walking to school, and riding their bikes to lower the amount of greenhouse gases in the air. Planting trees and recycling also helps. “If you recycle, less trash goes to the dump, and less trash gets burned”(librarythinkquest.) As a result, there are fewer greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. Watch what you buy. Many things, such as hairspray and deodorant, now are made to have less of an impact on the atmosphere. Less greenhouse gasses will rise into the air, and global warming will slow down.
The government is doing many things to help stop global warming. The government made a law called The Clean Air Act so there is less air pollution. Global warming is “making people get very bad illnesses that could make them disabled, very sick, and sometimes even die” (librarythinkquestion.) The Clean Air Act is making many companies change their products to decrease these problems. Part of the law says that you may not put a certain amount of pollutants in the air. Hairspray and some other products, like foam cups, had this problem. Making and using these products let out too many volatile “organic compounds (VOC’s), ozone-destroying chemicals (chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s), and related chemicals (such as CO2) into the air”(librarythinkquestion.) Now, almost all of these products have a label on them telling people what this product can do to the environment and many people.
“Global Warming” Chemistry Explained.N.p…nd. Web November 28, 2012
“Global Warming Environment” Global Warming and Hurricanes N.p…nd Web November 29, 2012.
“ Chemist” Svante August Arrheniu N.p…nd Web November 29, 2012
“Facts of Global Warming” Myths vs. Facts: Global Warming N.p..nd. Web November 29, 2012
“Global Warming Facts” Global Warming:Tutorial N.p…nd Web November 29, 2012
“Background of Global Warming” What Is Global Warming? N.p…nd. Web November 29, 2012
“ How is society helping stop Global Warming” Global Warming N.p…nd.. Web November 29, 2012