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What is the Best Solution For Governments to Solve Global Warming?

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Definition

Ever since the Industrial Revolution started, the Earth had faced dramatic climate changes and the most significant threat of it is global warming. According to Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2008), global warming can be defined as a gradual increase in world temperatures caused by polluting gases such as Carbon Dioxide which are collecting in the air around the Earth and preventing heat escaping into space.

1.2 History

The debate about global warming was not strong until the 1980s, as political traction like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations to investigate the progression and impacts of global warming. 96% of people agree that global warming is a pressing issue and 90% of them have heard about this issue from mainly the media reports at a personal survey (2009) done recently (Refer Appendix 1).

1.3 Current Issues

Until now, there are still debates about the existence of global warming but majority of the scientists believed that global warming is already affecting our mother Earth, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that global temperature have risen 2 to 4 degree Celsius over the last century and sea level has risen an average six inches (Climate Cross Road, 2009). We have already witness many effects of global warming, from glaciers melting to sea levels rising, and wildlife struggling to survive. In 2002, the Larson B, one of the important glaciers in Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated in only 35 days (Refer Figure 1). The fourth assessment report, IPCC warns that if global temperature rises by 10 degrees by 2010, enormous worldwide extinction will likely to occur.

1.4 Aim of Research

In order to reduce the possible impacts of global warming, we must have knowledge of the causes and effect of global warming, as well as efficient planning to reduce global temperature. Thus, this paper will be focusing on the causes and effects of global warming and aims to find out the best solution for the government sector to reduce global warming efficiently.

Figure 1: The melting of Larsen B Ice Shelf

(Source: National Snow and Ice Data Centre, University of Colorado.)

2.0 Causes of Global Warming

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (2009), a majority of the scientific researches shows that human activities are the main factor for the rise of global temperature to rise. This statement is further established as 96% of participants in a survey agree that human activities are the main contribution towards global warming (Refer Appendix 1). Thus, this section discusses the various causes for global warming.

2.1 Excessive Emission of Greenhouse Gases

The Earth receives energy from the Sun, which provides warmth and making life sustainable in Earth. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane and much more acts like a blanket, trapping the warmth in within the ozone layer and preventing too much energy from escaping into space (Gaughen, 2005). In IPCC’s 2001 report, human activities are causing an increase of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, results in more heat trapped with the ozone layer, thus contributing to global warming.

2.2 Excessive Land Use and Deforestation

The total land use had increased rapidly as the population grows and the technology is been advanced over the last few decades. In fact, the usage of land had been altered. Much deforestation had changed from traditionally for the use of agricultural plantation to mining, timber and land for urbanization. The US Global Change Research Information Office (2006) describes that the increase in land use in recent years has also increased some small particles in the atmosphere which may be absorbed by the atmosphere, resulting in the alteration of cloud properties.

3.0 Impacts of Global Warming

“Even if we could magically halt all fossil-fuel use tomorrow, human-generated carbon dioxide emission from the past 150 years would continue to warm the planet for generations” (NY Times cited in Climate Cross Roads 2009).This section discusses the interrelated impacts of global warming to the environment and also lifestyle upon us.

3.1 Environmental Changes

3.1.1 Melting of Arctic Glaciers

In the nineteenth-century, Fridtjof Nanson describes the Arctic as “nature’s great ice temple” as the Arctic plays a vital role in cooling the Earth. Yet, due to many human activities, the Arctic has been heated up twice as much as it does over the recent 50 years. Glaciers, ice sheets and permafrost and floating ice are melting fast. In 2003, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, the greatest ice shelf in Arctic, broke in two, causing a massive freshwater lake (Fight Global Warming, 2009).

This vast melting of glaciers in Arctic has prolonged a serious disruption among the Arctic communities. They are now currently facing limited supplies of food as they have limited days to hunt during the winter, as explained by Audlakiak, a resident of Arctic community. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the president of Canada’s Inuit Circumpolar Conference highlights that “this is a matter of health and culture heritage” as the community is gradually losing its connection to their land (Laird, 2002).

3.1.2 Rising of Sea Level

Global sea level has raised an average of six inches (IPCC, 2007). As glaciers in the Arctic melts, a large number of freshwater rushes down to the sea. As a result, volume and water levels are increased significantly.

The rising of global temperature triggers even faster on warming the water in the ocean. The higher the temperature rises, the more the ocean water expands and thus causing the same amount of water to take up more spaces. Subsequently, sea level rises too.

Resulting from the risen sea level, many coastal communities experienced extreme and massive flood as well as more erosion of coastline. Properties are damaged and life is unsustainable for some places (Fight Global Warming, 2009). For instance, Tuvalu, one of the smallest island in the world, is badly affected by the rise of sea level and people of Tuvalu had began to reallocate to New Zealand since 2002 (Ede, 2002).

The IPCC forth assessment report warns that “Marine and coastal ecosystems in Asia are likely to be affected by sea-level rise and temperature increases” if no actions are taken to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (IPCC, 2007).

3.1.3 Changing Weather Patterns

Extreme weather may be suffered by all parts of the world, from a warmer climate in Arctic to droughts in India and floods in South East Asia. All these alteration of weather patterns are often called climate change, which are due to global warming.

In China (2002), lakes have dried up and this has caused a shortage in water supply. Droughts in China also occur in areas which are near to mountains. As the citizens rely much on the melting glaciers above the mountain, rising of global temperature has caused less glaciers formed and thus less water supply (Lynas, 2003). Al Gore (2006) warns that within the next century, 40 percent of the world’s population will face serious shortage of water supply as the Himalayan Glaciers will be totally gone, if no actions are taken against global warming crisis.

While some parts of the Earth experiences droughts, some other parts experience more frequent and extreme floods. For instance, the mouths of the Nile in Egypt, the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia, and Ganges and Brahmaputra in Bangladesh had intense flooding over the past 10 years (Fight Global Warming, 2009).

3.2 Social-Life Changes

3.2.1 Spreading of Diseases

Agnew (2001) writes, global warming may result in catastrophic loss of human life, interrupt food production and contaminate water supplies. A warmer Earth had promoted the expanding of insects which carries diseases to a larger range. Mice and mosquitoes that are previously unable to live in some colder continents now may spread to areas like Europe countries, as global temperature rises (Fight Global Warming, 2009). As a result, life would be more difficult to sustain as higher health care is necessary to prevent from more diseases.

3.2.2 Heat- related Death

In the summer of 2003, heat waves killed 35,000 people in Europe (Gore, 2006). People died due to the relentless heat waves, some suffered from dehydration, heat stroke and fevers which lead to permanently brain damages. The impact of the heat-waves includes crop withers, raging of wildfires and even electricity supply seems to be difficult.

3.2.3 Alteration of Plants and Animals

Over 80 percent of species are migrating to higher latitudes or higher elevations and altering their annual routines in response in global warming. The decline or extinctions of species are rising due to climate changes (Wang and Chameides, 2005). An increase of 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit could lead to 30 percent of extinction among plants and animal species (IPCC, 2007).

4.0 Solutions for Global Warming

4.1 Energy Efficiency

More efficient mother vehicles, electrical appliances and manufacturing processes can sufficiently reduces global temperature in a long run. As we consume less energy to produce the same amount of goods or services wanted than before, we can now emit less carbon dioxide. This solution saves energy and money yet much more research must be done and can be done to increase the efficiency of products (Union of Concerned Science, cited in portaec.net, n.d.).

For the general public and industrial producers to switch may be costly at first but the energy saved in a long run is beneficial to reduce global temperature. The US Natural Resources Defense Council claims that increasing energy efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way to reduce global temperature (NRDC, 2009).

4.2 Carbon Trading

Carbon trading, also known as ‘cap-and-trade’ system, is the lowest-cost method used to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide (Shaw, 2002). Organizations that are responsible for the emissions are required to maintain the amount of carbon dioxide emitted, based on the allowance that are either granted or gained through an auction. If the organization emits the amount of carbon dioxide more than allowed, they will need to purchase from other organization in order to claim back their allowance. Likewise, organizations that emits the amount of carbon dioxide less than granted, may trade their allowance within the emission trading system (ETS) (Environmental and Energy Study Institute, 2009).

Yet, there are a large number of question marks in this system. As carbon emission levels are different in every country, it creates an inequality if all countries are granted the same amount of emission. Also, the value for each ton of carbon dioxide to be trade cannot be dictate and thus causes fluctuation and inefficiency on implementation of this system (Gelbspan, 2001).

4.3 Land Use Management

Development shall be done with detailed planning. Preservation of forest and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as forest acts as a ‘carbon sink’ to absorb carbon dioxide. Other than that, reforestation should be taken account to as Shaw J S (2002) proposed that carbon sinks may obtain 25 percent of reduction of carbon dioxide. Yet, the Britain Royal Society highlights that reforestation may be a short-term solution as reforestation projects can be filled fast and will be saturated one day sooner (cited in Shaw, 2002).

Thus, human activities such as mining, logging and off-road vehicles shall be phased out. Protection of wildlife will dictate the survival of other life forms, including humans. Soil regeneration and soil erosion prevention could be taken care off when fertilizers and irrigation methods been improvised (Climate Cross Road, 2009).

4.4 Use Alternative Energy

To overcome the largest obstacle in global warming, which is reducing the usage of fossil fuels, clean, healthy and renewable energy sources must be developed to be as the primary energy source. The government should invest in Research and Development (R&D) programmes to develop alternative energy sources (Climate Cross Road, 2009).

For instance, a one Mega Watts wind turbine can dispose 1,800 tons of carbon dioxide each year. With better technology development, currently, wind turbines may reach up to 40 meters long and may output 1.8 Mega Watts of electricity, which may supply electricity to 1,600 homes (Environment and Energy Study Institute, 2009).

The process of establishing alternative energy may be costly, but the efficiency of alternative energy may results in energy independence, where energy can be produced without emitting carbon dioxide.

5.0 Conclusion

Figure 2: The Comparison of Solutions to Reduce Global Warming

Comparisons

Energy Efficiency

Carbon Trading

Alternative Energy

Land Use Management

Duration

Moderate

Fast

Slow

Slow

Production Cost

Moderate

Low

High

High

Efficiency

High

Low

Deters

Moderate

Difficulty Level

Moderate

Low

High

Moderate

Based on the evidence proposed and the summarization in the Figure 2 above, my recommendation of the best solution for government to reduce global warming is to gain energy efficiency. At current level, energy efficiency is an adaptable plan that can be afford in most countries to make the first move to help reduce global warming. In addition, the improvement of energy efficiency may benefit many areas of production, from transportation to production and to household appliances. Higher energy efficiency may reduce the emission on carbon dioxide as well as increase in quality of life. In the personal survey, 18% of the participants agreed to this solution (Refer Appendix 1).

Yet, other solutions like land use management, which had 42% of the support in that survey, may be beneficial in a long run but takes a long time to implement, as contrast in the Figure 2 above. Perhaps the development of alternative energy may be the next step for the government to help in reducing global warming as it may reduce the emission of greenhouse gases efficiently.

In conclusion, with all combined solutions proposed being implemented by the governments, global warming may reduce to a sustainable level, which is 60 to 80 percent below current levels. The general public should be involved in this issue to further reduce the rate of global warming. It is every human being’s duty to ensure the environment is protected because we rely on it to survive.

(Approximately 2000 words)

6.0 References

1. Agnew, B 2001, ‘ The Potential Effects of Global Warming on Human Health’, in Contemporary Issues Companion: Global Warming, ed. Gaughen S, Greenhaven Press, United States of America, pp. 69-74.

2. Alberni Environmental Coalition 2009, ‘Government Solutions to Global Warming’, http://www.portaec.net/library/energy/

government_solutions_to_global_w.html, accessed 26 March 2009.

3. Climate Cross Road 2009, ‘Government- Investing in Renewables’, http://climatecrossroads.org/about-climate-change/solutions/energy-independence/invest-in-renewables/government.html, accessed 26 March 2009.

4. Climate Cross Road 2009, ‘International Community’, http://climatecrossroads.org/about-climate-change/solutions/

international/intl-001.htm, accessed 26 March 2009.

5. Climate Cross Road 2009, ‘Land Use’, http://climatecrossroads.org/about-climate-change/solutions/land

use.html, accessed 26 March 2009.

6. Climate Cross Road 2009, ‘The Consequences’, http://climatecrossroads.org/about-climate-change/consequences. html, accessed 26 March 2009.

7. Climate Cross Road 2009, ‘The History’, http://climatecrossroads.org/about-climate-change/history.html, accessed 26 March 2009.

8. Climate Cross Road 2009, ‘The Science’, http://climatecrossroads.org/about-climate-change/the-science.html, accessed 26 March 2009.

9. Ede, P M 2002, ‘Sinking Islands in the Pacific’, in Contemporary Issues Companion: Global Warming, ed. Gaughen S, Greenhaven Press, United States of America, pp. 89-91.

10. Environmental and Energy Study Institute 2009, ‘Climate Policy’, http://www.eesi.org/climate_policy, accessed 26 March 2009.

11. Environmental and Energy Study Institute 2009, ‘Wind Energy’, http://www.eesi.org/wind, accessed 26 March 2009.

12. Fight Global Warming 2009, ‘Deadly Heat Waves More Likely’, http://fightglobalwarming.com/page.cfm?tagID=251, accessed 26 March 2009.

13. Fight Global Warming 2009, ‘Diseases Spread as Climate Change’, http://fightglobalwarming.com/page.cfm?tagID=243, accessed 26 March 2009.

14. Fight Global Warming 2009, ‘Global Warming- Facts, Consequences and Solutions’,http://fightglobalwarming.com/

content.cfm?contentID=5113, accessed 26 March 2009.

15. Fight Global Warming 2009, ‘Global Warming Myths and Facts’, http://fightglobalwarming.com/page.cfm?tagID=274, accessed 26 March 2009.

16. Fight Global Warming 2009, ‘Rising Waters Imperil Coastal Property’, http://fightglobalwarming.com/page.cfm?tagID=246. accessed 26 March 2009.

17. Fight Global Warming 2009, ‘The Arctic: Losing Its Cool’, http://fightglobalwarming.com/page.cfm?tagID=261, accessed 26 March 2009.

18. Fight Global Warming 2009, ‘The Basics of Global Warming’, http://fightglobalwarming.com/page.cfm?tagID=243, accessed 26 March 2009.

19. Gaughen, S 2005, Contemporary Issues Companion: Global Warming, Greenhaven Press, United States of America.

20. Laird, G 2002, ‘The Impact of Global Warming on Arctic Communities’, in Contemporary Issues Companion: Global Warming, ed. Gaughen S, Greenhaven Press, United States of America, pp.83-88.

21. Lynas, M 2003, ‘The Worldwide Effects of Global Warming’, in Contemporary Issues Companion: Global Warming, ed. Gaughen S, Greenhaven Press, United States of America, pp. 59-63.

22. Shaw, J S 2002, Critical Thinking About Environment Issues: Global Warming, Greenhaven Press, United States of America.

23. U.S. Global Change Research Information Office 2009, ‘Common Questions about Climate Change’, http://www.gcrio.org/ipcc/qa/04.html, accessed 26 March 2009.

Appendix 1

A survey was conducted in Taylors University College Main Campus, Subang Jaya by 50 participating students chosen in random. The purpose of conducting this survey is to exanimate the knowledge of a general public about global warming.

Figure 3: Awareness of Global Warming

Based on the Figure 3 above, the results of the survey shows a strong majority of 96% out of 50 participants agrees that global warming is a pressing issue. This indicates that it has been a problem that is focused by nations and media. Many conference and policies are made through unions of nations such as United Nations that caused government to be aware of the issue of global warming.

Figure 4: Sources about the Topic of Global Warming

Based on the Figure 4 above, majority of the participants have a basic knowledge of understanding mainly due to the reporting from media such as newspaper reports, online articles and radio announcements.

Figure 5: Main Contributing Factor towards Global Warming

Based on the Figure 5 above, majority of the participants thinks that human activities are the main contributing factor towards global warming. The abnormal rate of increasing in global temperature make it quite clear that the human activities such as timber logging, excessive emission of greenhouse gases and much more had a negative impact on the Earth, that caused global warming.

Figure 6: Best Option to Reduce Global Warming

Based on the Figure 6 above, 42% of the participant suggested that planned development would be the best option to reduce global warming. 26% of them supported the development of alternative energy and 18% thinks that we should increase in energy efficiency. Only 14% of them think that carbon trading would be the best option to opt to reduce global warming.