The Media Guru

Oct 15, 2007


Over the past few decades, global warming has been thrown into the spotlight as the world’s most pressing problem. We can no longer ignore it, & instead of contradicting ourselves over petty issues, it’s high time we take conclusive steps towards tackling global warming… as we may already be in the last quarter of the eleventh hour.

Key conclusions of UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007:
- Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
- Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (human) greenhouse gas concentrations.
- Hotter temperatures and rises in sea level "would continue for centuries" even if greenhouse gas levels are stabilized, although the likely amount of temperature and sea level rise varies greatly depending on the fossil intensity of human activity during the next century.
- The probability that this is caused by natural climatic processes alone is less than 5%.
- World temperatures could rise by between 1.1 and 6.4 °C during the 21st century and that:
- Sea levels will probably rise by 18 to 59 cm.
- There is a confidence level >90% that there will be more frequent warm spells, heat waves and heavy rainfall.
- There is a confidence level >66% that there will be an increase in droughts, tropical cyclones and extreme high tides
- Both past and future anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions will continue to contribute to warming and sea level rise for more than a millennium.
- Global atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values over the past 650,000 years

From the IPCC’s report, it’s obvious that global warming is mainly due to human-related emissions of greenhouse gases. Although we have denying it for many years, and many still scoff off anthropogenic global warming as a mere theory, there is global awareness that climate change is taking place.

The causes
There is only one cause behind global warming - emission of greenhouse gases by humans. All human activities directly & indirectly release greenhouse gases, the main source being combustion of fossil fuels and industrial processes.

The effects
No one can pretend to be ignorant of all extreme climatic changes that are occurring everywhere & of their devastating consequences.
- Frequent droughts in Africa & Asia are leading to widespread famine since people can no longer farm on arid land.
- Massive floods all around the world have caused property destruction, made millions homeless & hunger-stricken & triggered landslides.
- Tropical cyclones & hurricanes have doubled in intensity each year, while other regions are no longer being affected.
- Heat waves have become more frequent. Eleven of the twelve years in the period (1995-2006) rank among the top 12 warmest years in the instrumental record.
- Average Arctic temperatures have increased at almost twice the global average rate in the past 100 years, contributing to a rise of the sea-level. Mountain glaciers and snow cover have declined on average in both hemispheres.
- The worst affected have been the animal species. Unlike humans, they & their habitats cannot survive minor temperature changes. It is expected that 30% of all species will be extinct in 2050.

More profound consequences
Global warming has more complex repercussions that we can imagine, positive feedback being the most threatening of all. Positive feedback occurs when effects of global warming contribute directly to further global warming, leading to a vicious circle.
- Polar ice reflects sun rays back in space better than the sea. But with the retreating ice, more sea water is exposed, contributing to further global warming and thus more ice melting.
- Greater temperatures mean the oceans are becoming warmer, not only giving rise to further cyclones, but also killing coral polyps that cannot live in too warm waters. Polyps are essential in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, by converting it into carbonates (corals). No more polyps & the carbon level will rise. In the same way, the oceans absorb a major amount of carbon emissions - however this has lead to the oceans becoming more acidic - leading to the death of polyps and planktons that use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. Planktons are also at the very bottom of the sea food chain.
- Siberian permafrost is melting, releasing the trapped greenhouse gas methane in the process.
- Sea level will rise exponentially, since not only the polar ice is melting, but also warmer temperatures mean that the oceans have a greater expansion.
- Although this is not certain to happen, global warming may disrupt the oceans thermohaline circulations, stopping the Gulf Stream & the North Atlantic drift. Any change in the circulation will stop the climate mechanism & we may end up with global cooling.

What can be done?
To cut back on global warming, there is only one solution - reduce carbon emissions. Easier said than done. With the world developing faster than ever, the ever-increasing energy needs can only be satisfied through fossil fuels. & the world’s largest polluters, the US, India & China, are not ready to comply with the Kyoto protocol and reduce their carbon emissions. Growth comes first, they say. & they have their own multinationals to back them - by heavily sponsoring climate change denial.

To coerce the world into reducing carbon emissions, it would need a massive change of attitude. Awareness of climate change & its effects should be extensively promoted everywhere - the recent endorsement of Al Gore & the IPCC by the Nobel Prize was a huge lift-up in the fight against global warming. Since industrialised nations are nowhere near reducing their carbon emissions than give up their riches to the poor, it’s up to the developing countries, mainly African & Asian countries to set up the example on how to tackle global warming - the key being sustainable development. If developing countries can continue their growth by reducing their carbon emission, other industrialised nations would have no other option than to follow suit.
This can be achieved in the following ways:
- Renewable energy should be heavily promoted as it has zero carbon emissions & is quite cost-effective. Since photovoltaic cells are becoming cheaper & more efficient every year, if everyone could fit them on houses & buildings it might be more than enough to provide for the entire electricity consumption. Similarly wind turbines could serve for the same purpose. The surplus electricity would be fed into the electricity grid & the fossil fuels may disappear from power production, the remaining power coming from hydroelectric & biomass power plants.
- Newer extraction of fossil fuels should be banned & existing facilities should consider closing their activities, thus promoting renewable energy.
- Hybrid vehicles should be encouraged - with the long-term objective of fully-electric powered & hydrogen-powered vehicles.
- All companies should aim at reducing the carbon footprints of all their products - by using local raw materials, using less transport, being more energy efficient.
- Individuals can also help by building energy-efficient houses, using energy-efficient products, buying local produce, producing less waste, recycling the waste & by switching to a vegetarian diet.
- Airplanes in a single flight emit as much carbon as a car does in a whole year. People should avoid using airplanes, & airplane manufacturers should research newer engines with minimal fuel consumption.
- Crops should have optimum yield & organic waste is to be converted into biomass fuel.

All the above solutions will only lead to a gradual decrease in carbon emissions. Among the more radical ones include carbon sequestration by removing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere through natural & artificial processes. Natural sequestration occurs when plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen & store the carbon in the form as biomass. By using GM high-carbon-capture plants, we can substantially reduce the carbon dioxide level & then release it gradually when the plants decay naturally. Artificial sequestration includes direct injection of carbon dioxide into oceans where they will be stored in liquid form under high pressure. Geological sequestration involves injecting carbon into underground geological formations like unused oil fields, saline aquifers and unminable coal seams. All these solutions may appear far-fetched, but in a dire situation, any solution is a good solution.

Is it enough?
Unfortunately, humans have tampered too much with the environment. Even if in the future, we do manage to reduce carbon emissions to year 2000 levels, global warming will still occur since the mechanism has already been started - & can’t be stopped. Better late than never. Reducing carbon-emissions and adopting an environment-friendly lifestyle will definitely help - the ultimate goal being a zero-emissions economy. However, the biggest hurdle is the lack of global consensus on this problem. Until everyone agrees to take drastic steps, we will have to prepare ourselves to face the consequences of global warming… the survival of the fittest.

LOL, this “little” article is my little contribution towards Blog Action Day 2007! On the 15th October 2007, all bloggers around the world will share a common goal - blogging on the environment. I sincerely hope that the Blog Action Day will definitely raise awareness of key issues affecting our world.
If you’ve got any comments, suggestions, ideas or views, feel free to express it. :P

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InF said...

Wow! Awesome article for Blog Action Day!

That picture with the polar bear and the polar bear kid is the cutest thing I've seen in a looonggg time! :P

MBB said...

This one is a great post. Full of facts. Nice job!

carrotmadman6 said...

Thanks a lot. :P

I had 2 bear pics, but i chose this one since it was cuter!

Anonymous said...

Kumadir mne truv mo projet global warming devant moi ^.^ Good job!

carrotmadman6 said...

In fact, it's indeed a project & essay that i was required to do at UOM. :P

Anonymous said...

Oky that is a very good post/article/essay or whatever you want to call it! It helped me alot with my school project!!!

Anonymous said...

great post

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