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Friday, December 11, 2009

Global Warming: Fact or Fiction?

Is global warming real? Or is it just another plot for Hollywood disaster movies? Before we go any further, let us have a reality check. For starters, we live in the 21st century. We have made major technological advancements in the past 100 years and applied those to our daily life and made our lives easier. We have made cars that are faster, safer and can provide point-to-point voice guidance. We made airplanes that can fly us across the oceans in a just few hours. We invented computers that can outsmart us, digital camera that can take thousands of pictures and yet need no film, digital television that can display life-like pictures, e-mail that travels faster than sound, cell phones that allow us to roam around the world and still be in touch with our friends and family. Then we combined them all into a small device called smart phone. We invented pacemakers to keep our hearts ticking. We found ways to clone ourselves and other animals. We have launched satellites to track and predict weather patterns. Forty years ago, we sent a man to the moon. Today, we send a dozen men and women to space stations every year. We even send probes to mars to and moon to learn about their planetary conditions. Yet… we doubt that global warming is real.

Isn’t it shocking that, in spite of, all the technological advancement we have made, we still have a large population, who is unwilling to acknowledge and address global warming and subsequent climate changes. Even worse, a lot of our congressmen and senators, the wise guys that we elected to run the country, the very people we look for leadership and guidance, don’t want to believe it either. I wonder why? Aren’t they supposed to be wiser than us? Don’t they know better? May be they do, but choose to ignore it for their selfish motives and financial gains. Let’s consider another factor here: According to the US census Bureau, 26% of the total population in the US, is under the age 18; 62% is in the range of 18-64. That means a total of 88% under the age of 64. The median age of American population is 35.3. However, the average age of a US senator is 61.7 years. In fact, of a total of 100 US senators, 60 are over 60 years old; 26 are 70 or older. Could this be the reason why they don't care about the long-term future of our planet? Is it that they don't care because they think they are not going to be here 50 years from now? Or, is it because, they are more loyal to the big corporate companies, who send fat checks to their campaign fund. Whatever may be the reason, they don’t seem to care about tax payers, who pay their salary.

The big question everyone is asking is "how much of the global warming is caused by humans?" To answer that question, we need to understand a few things first. Right now, global warming is posing such a threat to our planet because of the rate at which it is happening. Global warming has been an ongoing process since the early days of our planet. However, the process was slow enough that earth was able to recover from it overtime. Natural forests and wetlands and oceans were able to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, store carbon and release oxygen back to the atmosphere. However, since the advent of industrial revolution, human consumption of natural resources like water, fossil fuels, metals, and wood has multiplied by several folds. Gas emissions caused by industrial plants, power stations and motor vehicles have seen a huge increase in the past 50 years leading to a rapid increase in gases like Carbon dioxide, Methane, Nitrogen Oxide and Fluorinated gases. These gases are responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere. Industrial growth and increasing human population also caused increased deforestation and reclamation of wetlands to fulfill our ever-growing needs. This meant not enough CO2 is being absorbed from the atmosphere leading to an unprecedented increase in the CO2 in the atmosphere.

However, this is not the only way humans contributing to global warming. When we started inhabiting bigger cities, tall buildings were built to accommodate more people in a smaller geographical area. When we build bigger taller buildings, we are essentially increasing surface area because the total surface area of the building replaces the original surface area. Increased surface area means increased heat absorption from sunlight. Now, imagine a city with many such buildings. The effective atmospheric temperature increases substantially. This is one of the reasons why big cities tend to be hotter compared small towns. This created a vicious cycle. Increase in atmospheric temperature means increased use of air conditioning units and refrigerators. This, in turn leads to increased emission CFC and HCFC gases. These gases are well-known to cause the depletion of ozone layer, which means more harmful radiation was able to enter the earth’s atmosphere and subsequent increase in temperature. All these factors lead to a more rapid increase in atmospheric temperature and subsequent melting of Ice caps.

The weather system on earth is controlled by “The Great Ocean Conveyer belt”; water currents in the ocean where the warm water on the surface of the oceans flowing from the equatorial region all the way up to the Arctic region, where it gets cooled down, and the cold water flows through the bottom of the ocean to the Antarctic region and back to the equator. It is this constant flow of hot and cold water that controls the wind patterns on earth’s atmosphere and also a deciding factor in the weather. The melting ice caps lead to change in the ocean currents and subsequent changes in wind patterns. This resulted in an array of problems. Recent years have seen increasingly unpredictable weather. Many parts of the world are experiencing severe drought and dry conditions, while some other is faced with severe storms and flooding. We are experiencing hotter summers and colder winters. It is obvious that no single species on earth has caused more damage to this planet than us humans.

That brings us to the next question. Should we sit back and watch the show when our planet is being destroyed right in front of us? Have we lost our senses? Are we too blind to see what is happening around us every day? Have we lost our ability to react? Or, are we just too lazy to even care?

We need this planet, not just for us, but also for our children, grandchildren and many generations to come. Do you really want them to suffer for the past generations faults? Think about all the effort you take to be a good parent? All the suffering we go through so that our children can have a better life? If we don't leave a healthy planet for them to inhabit, all the hard work will be in vain. These issues are real, and looms over the future of our planet. Do not think they will go away if we ignore them. We can still save our planet. Remember! We are all in this together. It is time to face the truth. So, let us open our eyes, look around, acknowledge what we see and act before it is too late. Let us work together for a better tomorrow.