Essay Example on During the horrendously hot dry summer of 1988

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During the horrendously hot dry summer of 1988 everybody became familiar with the terms global warming and greenhouse effect Crops failed so disastrously in the Midwestern United States that cattle had to be slaughtered for lack of grass to feed them Winds swept topsoil into dark clouds on the horizon clouds reminiscent of the dust bowl days of the 1930s Newspaper articles and television reports showed pictures of barges stranded in the Mississippi River which was running dry and of forest fires that ravaged millions of acres in the west In the eastern states temperatures were so unbearably high that assembly lines were shut down in some factories The Soviet Union and China were similarly drought stricken torrential rains plagued parts of Africa India and Bangladesh At one stage three quarters of Bangladesh was under water In the Yucatan Peninsula exceptionally intense Hurricane Gilbert practically swept tows into the sea At the end of that year the cover of Time magazine had a picture not of the Man of the Year but of planet Earth a planet in peril In televised congressional hearings scientists sounded the alert that summers such as that of 1988 are likely to increase in frequency as a consequence of our industrial and agricultural activities which are causing an increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases The picture shows that the rate at which we are burning fossil fuels was off to a slow start around 1850 the beginning of the Industrial Revolution then faltered during the Great Depression of the 1930s speeded up after World War II and started to sprint during the 1960s 



The Oil Embargo of 1973 stopped us in our tracks but for a moment only Since overcoming the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC in part by becoming more energy efficient we quickly recovered momentum and are now galloping at a dizzying pace The summer of 1988 was followed by a few more exceptionally hot summers Calls for governments to take action grew in urgency In June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro 154 nations agreed on a convention that comes into force after 50 of those nations have ratified it One of the greenhouses is to achieve concentration of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system Nobody is in favour of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system The release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and pollution in general happen to be by products of the industrial and agricultural activities that maintain our standard t of living There's the rub How do we weight the possible harm of our actions against the advantages of economic growth especially in the case of poor countries How do enforce regulations without limiting the freedom of individuals In trying to cope with these difficult questions it would be helpful if scientists could provide accurate predictions of global climate changes A considerable effort is now underway to determine how Earth's climate will respond to increase in the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases To keep governments and the public informed of the latest scientific results the United Nations created in 1988 an Intergovernmental 



Panel on Climate Change to access the available information This panel whose members include hundreds of scientists from around the world issued its first comprehensive report in 1990 another in 1996 These reports represent the views of a large number of experts but not of everyone The following is a brief summary of the main points of agreement and disagreement Global climate changes including global warming are inevitable should the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases rise continually The evidence in favour of this statement is both empirical and theoretical Theories that describe the interactions between light and air indicate which gases can provide a greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation from Earth's surface Satellite measurements show absorption of that radiation at exactly the wavelengths that the theory predicts Evidence that an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in a planetary atmosphere is associated with an increase in surface temperatures is plentiful The fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels over the past hundred thousand years are highly correlated with variations in temperatures Because of that scientists agree that given a continual rise in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases global warming is inevitable They disagree about the timing and magnitude of that warming Toward the end of the nineteenth century the Sweedish chemist Arrhenius first predicted that because our industrial activities will increase atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide global warming is likely Nobody paid much attention because scientists could not establish convincingly that anthropogenically produced carbon dioxide was accumulated in the atmosphere 



They furthermore assumed that the oceans which have vastly more carbon dioxide the atmosphere would prevent such an accumulation by absorbing the gas Carbon dioxide is but one of the greenhouse gases whose atmospheric concentration is rising rapidly Another nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere when farmers use nitrogen based fertilizers Yet another greenhouse gas methane the marsh gas that sometimes bubbles out of wetlands and burns spontaneously as flickering blue flames correlates with the rice in the world s population To feed more people requires more rice paddies and more cattle both of which are sources of methane The exchanges that matter over the course of decades or centuries which are depicted are primarily among the atmosphere the oceans and the terrestrial reservoir the plants and surface soils Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by means of photosynthesis especially in the growing season the spring and early summer and return that gas to the atmosphere by means of respiration and plant decay Atmospheric carbon dioxide is also counted by our destruction of forests especially in the tropics Not only are there fewer and fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide but by burning them we increase atmospheric carbon dioxide levels

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