Global warming is the increase in average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is when the earth heats (temperature rises) up and this happens when greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, ozone and methane) trap heat and light from the sun in the earth’s atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases are responsible for the global warming, and humans emit them in a variety of ways. Most come from the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, factories and electricity production. The gas responsible for most warming is carbon dioxide, also called CO2. Other contributors include methane released from landfills and agriculture (especially from the digestive systems of grazing animals), nitrous oxide from fertilizers, gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes, and the loss of forests or felling of trees and plants that would otherwise store CO2.
There are different greenhouse gases - gas that traps heat in the earth's atmosphere - have very different heat-trapping abilities. Some of them can even trap more heat than CO2. A molecule (internal structure) of methane produces more than 20 times the warming of a molecule of CO2. Nitrous oxide is 300 times more powerful than CO2. Other gases, such as chlorofluorocarbons (which have been banned in much of the world because they also degrade the ozone layer – protective layer on the earth’s atmosphere), have heat-trapping potential thousands of times greater than CO2, but because their concentrations are much lower than CO2, none of these gases adds as much warmth to the atmosphere as CO2 does. Other greenhouse gases include, but are not limited to, sulfur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, and perfluorocarbons.
What is the greenhouse effect?
The greenhouse effect is like when heat is trapped in a car. On a very hot day, the car gets hotter when it is out in the parking lot. This is because the heat and light from the sun can get into the car, by entering through the windows, but it can not go out. This is what the greenhouse effect does to the earth. The heat and light can get through the atmosphere, but it can not get out. As a result, the atmospheric temperature rises. The sun’s heat can get into the car then gets trapped. This makes what ever the place might be; a greenhouse, a car, a building, or the earth’s atmosphere becomes hotter. Another way to explain the greenhouse effect is when sunlight reaches Earth's surface, some of the heat is absorbed and warms the earth and most of the rest is radiated back to the atmosphere. Some of this heat is absorbed by greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrous oxide, and methane, ozone) in the atmosphere before they are lost to space. The absorption of radiant energy warms the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases act like a mirror and reflect back to the Earth some of the heat energy which would otherwise be lost to space. The reflecting back of heat energy by the atmosphere is called the "greenhouse effect".
Causes of Global warming
The earth heats up either naturally or as a result of anthropogenic causes - man’s activity.
Natural causes are created by nature and one is the release of methane gas from Arctic tundra (ground that is permanently frozen found in the northern hemisphere e.g. Alaska, Siberia) and wetlands (waterlogged areas). Methane is a greenhouse gas - traps heat in the earth's atmosphere. Another natural cause is that the earth goes through a cycle of climate change. This climate change usually lasts about 40,000 years.
Man-made causes probably do the most damage. Pollution is one of the biggest man-made problems. Pollution comes in many shapes and sizes. Burning fossil fuels (coal, or gas glaring) is one thing that causes pollution. When fossil fuels are burned they give off a greenhouse gas (CO2), also mining coal and oil allows methane to escape. Methane is naturally in the ground. When coal or oil is mined you have to dig up or drill the earth a little. When you dig up the fossil fuels you dig up the methane as well.
Another major man-made cause of Global Warming is population. More people mean more food, and more methods of transportation. That means more methane because there will be more burning of fossil fuels, and more agriculture. Now you probably thinking, "Wait a minute, you said agriculture is going to be damaged by Global Warming, but now you are saying agriculture is going to help cause Global Warming?" Well, have you ever been in a barn filled with animals and you smell something terrible? You're smelling methane. Another source of methane is manure. Because more food is needed we have to raise food. Animals like cow are a source of food which means more manure and methane. Another problem with the increasing population is transportation. More people mean more cars and more cars means more pollution. Also, many people have more than one car.
Since CO2 contributes to global warming, the increase in population makes the problem worse because we breathe out CO2. Also, the trees that convert our CO2 to oxygen are being demolished because we are using the land that we cut the trees down from as property for our homes and buildings. We are not replacing the trees (an important part of our ecosystem), so we are constantly taking advantage of our natural resources and giving nothing back in return.
Desertification (loss of arable land due to loss of water or overgrazing) also causes Global warming and could be as a result of nature or man’s activity. The certainty of global warming and its potential effects on human society are still very much under discussion. However, there are environmental problems that scientists of today claim derive from climatic tendencies that point to global warming. Desertification, flooding, deforestation, and pollution are some of the impacts that could directly or indirectly be attributed to global warming.
Unless effective long-term measures to control desertification are taken, global warming and increased evaporation are likely to affect the water balance in dryland regions. If local and regional soil moisture levels decline as a result of higher temperatures and higher rates of evapotranspiration, the inevitable result will be a progressive decline in plant biomass. This would further reduce the capacity of the world's land area to store carbon and nitrogen. To avoid these global effects, long-term mitigation and rehabilitation strategies are needed throughout the world's drylands to prevent or minimize desertification.
Effects of Global Warming to the environment
Global warming causes rise in sea level as a result of glaciers melting or ice melting in cold regions, and when the sea rises, water covers many low lands like the riverine areas of the Niger delta. This is a big problem for many of the plants, animals, and people. The water covers plants and causes some of them to die. When they die, the animals lose a source of food, along with their habitat thereby changing the ecosystem. Global warming cause the oceans to become warm and this is equally harmful to algae for example, algae that is use to cold water and algae is a producer (a producer is something that makes food for other animals) that you can see floating on top of water. The floating green algae is food to many consumers in the ocean e.g. fish, crab, whale etc. A consumer is something that eats the producers.
Global warming is also destroying many huge forests. The pollution that causes global warming is linked to acid rain. Acid rain gradually destroys almost everything it touches. Global warming is also causing many forest fires. In forests, some plants and trees leaves become so hot and dry that they catch on fire.
Preventing Global Warming
The causes and effects of global warming maintain both a direct and indirect relationship. They are directly related because the causes of global warming result in the effects. However the causes and effects of global warming are inversely related because one can prevent and fix the causes, but cannot reverse the damage/effects once they are already done.
The world’s electricity is based primarily on the burning of coal, so one should decrease the amount and their demand of electricity or try and use other methods such as solar power. By simply decreasing the electric power use, one is not only reducing the global warming problem but also breathing in cleaner air and saving money. The second decrease should be in the use of one’s car by perhaps joining a carpool or using public transportation. There are also fuel-efficient cars that are being mass produced. By either decreasing the overall use of one’s car or replacing it with a fuel-efficient or hybrid automobile, one is not only helping in the reduction of greenhouse gas emission but is also saving money on parts, repairs, gas, and oil. The third and easiest prevention method would be to simply recycle waste. These are simple things that an individual can do to decrease the causes and effect of global warming. Turn off lights and electrical appliances when not in use; reading instead of watching too much television or playing computer games; planting flowers and trees, shrubs around ones house; recycling household waste; stoppage of bush burning; family planning; trekking sometimes or use of bicycles instead of driving,
Improved automobile mileage, reforestation projects, energy efficiency in construction, and national support for mass transit are among relatively simpler adjustments that could significantly lower production of greenhouse gases. More aggressive adjustments include a gradual worldwide shift away from the use of fossil fuels, the elimination of chlorofluorocarbons, and the slowing of deforestation by restructuring the economies of developing nations.
Increasing global temperatures are causing a broad range of changes. Sea levels are rising due to thermal expansion of the ocean, in addition to melting of land ice. Amounts and patterns of precipitations (rainfall) are changing. The total annual power of hurricanes has already increased markedly because their average intensity and average duration have also increased.
Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of other extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, and tornadoes. Other effects of global warming include higher or lower agricultural yields, further glacial retreat, reduced summer stream flows, species extinctions. As a further effect of global warming, diseases like malaria are returning into areas where they have been extinguished earlier cause of inflow of water.
Although global warming is affecting the number and magnitude of these events, it is difficult to connect specific events to global warming. Most studies on global warming focus on the period up to 2100, warming is expected to continue past then because carbon dioxide (CO2) has an estimated atmospheric lifetime of 50 to 200 years.
In Nigeria, stable supply of electricity would help a lot in combating Global warming, fuel consumption by generators and plants will be reduced drastically and this would further lessen pollution. Gas flaring in the Niger Delta is also a problem. The oil companies should be encouraged to stop gas flaring or made to pay very huge fines to discourage them from flaring gas.
The environment simply put is everything around us (water; plants; animals; people, man-made structures; atmosphere) which one needs to survive. Man therefore must safeguard it for himself and future generation; it is an unconditional genetic mandate. Man, mankind, the universe, history are ‘detotalized totalities’ that is, separation does not exist between man and its environment. In the environment, man has the highest power to institute, sustain and guarantee the integrity of all components to prevent distortion or defacing it though man is free to do as he pleases yet in this freedom lays his universal responsibility.