Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, Drexel University, USA
Received date: April 24, 2012; Accepted date: April 25, 2012; Published date: April 27, 2012
Citation: Soslau G (2012) Global Warming. J Marine Sci Res Dev 2:e107. doi: 10.4172/2155-9910.1000e107
Copyright: © 2012 Soslau G. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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Early Homo sapiens, like their ancestors were not at the top of the food chain. In fact, they were food for many of their contemporary predator species. Our primitive brethren had no impact on their environment but rather learned to marvel at, and gain subsistence from all that nature had to offer them. This life-giving relationship persisted for more than 25,000 years until the Industrial Revolution. With the onset of mass production and “better things” humans were taught to want more with little, to no concern of their environment. We are now at the top of the food chain and destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species, just for the sport of it, is/was considered fine. We were too powerful and “right” to learn from more “primitive” cultures. In fact, most primitive cultures that stood in the way of our capitalistic march were destroyed.
So today, we have mastered previously unimagined technological advances; we have gone to the far reaches of our solar system and can look far beyond our own galaxy. Many of our species think we are wonderful and invincible. If dinosaurs had the capacity to think along these lines they too would have come to the same conclusions for their species. History has a bad habit of repeating itself and we are sadly forgetting, or ignoring our understanding of and coexistence with nature. The consequences may be quite dire for our species.
The planet earth is an ever changing dynamic mass within our solar system. Its forces have transformed the surface of the earth innumerable times over the past 10-12 billion years. We know the poles shift as do the tectonic plates and the weather cycles from hot to frigid with the coming and going of numerous ice ages. So what is the big deal of this global warming? The vast majority of climatologists and the scientific community as a whole embrace the concept that human activities significantly contributes to global warming. Our burning of fossil fuels and deforestation has steadily caused an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels with a record increase in 2010 of 5.9% according to the Global Carbon Project. Even in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence many in the US Congress “doubt the existence of human influence on climate and ridicule international efforts to deal with it” (New York Times, Ap. 20, 2012). These individuals with little or no scientific background base their “beliefs” more on political and economic impact on their constituents and ignore the long-term impact on all of mankind.
Many contend that the warming trend is a natural phenomenon and the Earth has repeatedly cycled through these climate changes. Therefore, what we see now is nothing new and is occurring independent of human activity. Let us assume that the Earth is in fact going through a warming cycle. The evidence is that these cooling/ warming cycles occur slowly over hundreds to thousands of years. The slow progression of temperature changes allow for species to adapt to their changing environment where individuals with selective mutations will be better able to survive the changes. These adaptive changes will more than likely prevent the extinction of the species but rather result in altered species. That is not to say that some species will not go extinct. The fossil records are replete with countless species that have become extinct due to natural forces. Catastrophic events also have played a role in the extinction of numerous species.
The issue facing humanity today is not just that we are experiencing a global warming trend that may, or may not be part of a natural phenomenon, but that this warming trend is occurring faster than any other climate change experienced by our planet. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the rate of global warming is accelerating as evidenced by the fact that 11 of the past 12 years are among the warmest since 1850. Arctic ice is disappearing and glaciers throughout the world are receding or have disappeared altogether. The rapid changes in the arctic region do not allow species or cultures to adapt and are having major negative effects on polar bears and indigenous cultures. Likewise, rapid temperature changes in our oceans have catastrophic effects on coral reefs. Small changes in water temperature resulted in the worst bleaching-or-die-off response to coral reefs ever recorded in 1998. Experts predict, based upon past and current trends that these sorts of events will increase over the next 50 years. Coral reefs are breeding grounds and feeding grounds for much of the bio-diverse life in our oceans. Furthermore, it is predicted that more than a million species may become extinct due to the loss of their habitat, changing ecosystems and the acidification of our oceans in a time frame that cannot accommodate adaptive changes.
Rapid temperature increases are, and will continue to cause ice melts worldwide resulting in rising sea levels. The current trend could result in a 7-23 inch (18-59 cm) rise in sea levels by the end of the century. A mere 4 inch (10 cm) rise would flood many South Sea islands and swamp large parts of Southeast Asia. These rapid changes would affect some 100 million people living along coastlines worldwide before these coastal area populations can adapt to economic changes associated with flooding of these regions. And while there will be too much water along our coast lines a consulting firm for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Tetra Tech, predict that by the year 2050 approximately 1,100 counties in the USA will experience water shortages due to global warming. This would severely impact on our food production even as our population continues to grow.
So whether you believe/accept the fact that global warming is solely due to human activity or not, it is imperative that our leaders recognize that our activities are contributing to its accelerated rate of change. If we can slow the process down we will afford many species and ecosystems time to undergo adaptive changes to survive. It would also afford societies worldwide the time to economically face the changing landscape along our coastlines and major waterways.
Nearly 200 countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol of 1997– except the USA. One flaw in the protocol was an unequal demand of some of the largest “developing” countries, such as China, India, and Brazil to meet the same standards as the “developed” countries. There were also no mandates, controls or mechanisms to fund methods to reduce carbon dioxide production in poorer nations. Nations continue to meet on an annual basis under the auspices of the UN Convention on Climate Change to look for ways to resolve conflicts between industrialized and developing nations.
President Obama pledged that America would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17%, relative to the 2005 levels, through a nationwide cap-and-trade system. The House passed the bill in 2009, unfortunately the bill died in the Senate. In that same year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that carbon dioxide was a pollutant and therefore, could be regulated under the Clean Air Act. It remains to be seen how strongly this agency acts on its power to regulate especially in light of the fact that so many politicians want to limit, or abolish the EPA.
Each country that is serious about regulating the human impact on global warming needs to act alone until the international community comes on board. This could be politically treacherous and economically expensive but if every nation waits for unanimity, change will never come. The EPA now has the power to enforce some real regulations – will it happen?
While we have been focusing only on man’s growing insensitivity to the environment with regard to carbon dioxide, this is a paradigm for too many of our activities. We also employ many practices that are “toxic” to our environment, such as clear cutting forests, fracking and surface coal mining with the removal of mountain tops. We dam our rivers blocking salmon runs, we remove natural canopies for our rivers resulting in water temperatures that cannot sustain life, we populate beaches that reduce the habitat for egg-laying sea turtles and build houses along these same beaches with bright night lights that attract the emerging sea turtle hatchlings away from the ocean resulting in their deaths. Our activities have resulted in all extant sea turtle species being on the endangered species list. We have not clamped down sufficiently on the illegal practice of marketing and consumption of sea turtle eggs, rhinoceros horns, elephant ivory and animal hides. The beliefs of too many of our citizens and politicians that the loss of a species does no harm to the ecosystem and that our waterways are so vast that they will dilute all of the toxins we pump into them has to change, and has to change soon.
It is astounding how many books have been written on this topic, how many movies have been produced, how the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the UN’s IPCC and former Vice President , Al Gore, for their efforts in this field and how many eloquent commentators and demonstrators have talked and acted to bring change to our destructive practices. AND yet, here we are still hurtling towards self-destruction, of course we should also add in here our inability to find ways to coexist peacefully, with money and power dictating policy without regard to the well being of the vast majority of the world’s population. The simple fact is a switch to renewable energy sources and the replacement of toxic pollutants and practices with more eco-friendly substances and activities would generate numerous jobs, sustain a healthy growing economy and still allow for the accumulation of wealth.