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Member Home > Green Living Certification > Environmental Primer
      
Green Living Certification
Chapter 2 - Environmental Primer
Page 2 of 3

2.1 Global Warming


Global warming is essentially the release of gasses into the atmosphere that are slowly raising the Earth's temperature. That temperature shift, then, results in the hastened melting of the Earth's glaciers and ice peaks, leading to a rise in the sea level and the erosion of our shores.

Global warming is a very complicated topic, but one that has gotten a lot of press lately. No matter your knowledge or ignorance of the various environmental issues, you likely have heard this term, seen the news and begun to understand somewhat about the significance of it.

According to scientists, this shift in the Earth's core temperature has been coming for some time, but in recent years has significantly sped up.

Experts say that global warming has come about due to the significant increases in greenhouse gasses in recent years. But the "Greenhouse Effect" is not a new term.

In 1824 Joseph Fourier first discovered this concept of greenhouse gasses and it was further, scientifically, examined by Svante Arrhenius in 1896.

The "Greenhouse Effect" is believed to be the cause of global warming, so let's look further at it.

Greenhouse Effect

To truly understand the Greenhouse Effect, you must first be willing to wade through some scientific concepts.

The sun provides energy to the earth, though 30 percent of the sun's energy is reflected back out from Earth. The remaining 70% is absorbed by the Earth, warming the lands, oceans and atmosphere.





That 30% reflected back out is trapped in what's called "greenhouse gasses". These are necessary and when we talk about the "Greenhouse Effect" we are really talking about an enhanced greenhouse gas problem. That is, we are emitting more gasses into the atmosphere via fossil fuels, clear cutting of lands, and the like.

The greenhouse gasses that occur naturally are actually beneficial but are created perfectly in balance in nature. As we, humans, add more gasses into the atmosphere, those gases are also trapped, and add more heat to the natural heat put off by the greenhouse gases.

In fact, experts say, that without the natural greenhouse gasses, the basic temperature of the Earth would plunge to about minus 18 degrees Celsius, or 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The Earth's temperature instead is naturally set at about 16 degrees Celsius, or 60 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to the beneficial warming from the sun.

There are several causes of the enhanced Greenhouse Effect we are now experiencing, with the major causes likely water vapor (accounting for 36-70% of the Greenhouse Effect). Carbon Dioxide emissions are the cause of another 9-26% (mostly coming from fossil fuel burning for coal and oil for cars, and deforestation).

Methane is also a contributor, at a rate of about 4-9% as is ozone, which is responsible for 3-7%.

The concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere have increased significantly since 1750, before the age of industry. It is reported that carbon dioxide levels have increased 31%, while methane levels have increased 149%.

As we drive bigger cars and keep our large homes warmer, we send more and more of these gasses into the atmosphere to join the naturally occurring Greenhouse gasses, which in turn heat up the planet further. Hence, we begin to understand the efforts to encourage people to change their habits.

Currently, however, it's been slow going for environmentalists, who warn that Global Warming is an ever present and ever dangerous condition. But yet much of the world remains unconvinced.

What's the Effect?

Scientists have reported that during the last 100 years, the average temperature of the Earth's surface has risen in small measure, but since the 1970s the Earth's surface temperature has risen by 1 degree Fahrenheit.

This change is reflected in our weather, with minimum and maximum temperatures both adjusting upward. Experts say that our minimum temperatures have risen the fastest and average temperatures in the Arctic over the past 100 years have risen at a rate twice as fast as other global locations.

These warmer temperatures have led to rising sea levels, because the warmer weather leads ice caps and glaciers to melt at a swifter pace than they would if the natural Greenhouse gasses were left as they naturally occur.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the world's sea levels have increased an average of 4.8 to 8.8 inches (12-22 centimeters). This, then, is causing us to lose precious land to the rising ocean tides.

Also, according to the EPA:

  • Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Thailand are experiencing above-average increases in sea levels.
  • Northwest Australia is reporting below-average rises in sea levels, something also reported in other areas in the ocean between Western Australia and East Africa.
  • Many of the areas outside of Europe, Japan and the United States have too few tide gauges for scientists to determine the overall and lasting effect of sea levels in other locations.


  • As our seas rise, our lands are depleted, and that, experts say, is the problem. What state are we leaving the planet in for our children, their children, their children's children? This no longer a problem for some far off generation, but today's generation and the generation we are raising.

    Kyoto Protocol

    The Kyoto Protocol is an international effort to reduce greenhouse gasses by encouraging countries around the world to sign the protocol and pledge to control its emissions.

    Created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the protocol requires participating nations to reduce their emission of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gasses. If their levels maintain or are increased, they must engage in emissions trading.

    The UNFCCC held a conference in Bali the first two weeks of December, 2007 at which 187 countries agreed to progressive and aggressive measures to reach an international climate change deal.

    Issues to be negotiated until 2009 include ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and methods for adapting international efforts and response to the effects of negative climate change, such as floods and droughts.

    The discussions will be continued to 2009 so that new measures can be in effect by 2013, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires.





    By November 2007, 137 developing countries (including China, Brazil and India) had signed the protocol indicating they will monitor and report emissions.

    The Bali agreement is a major step forward in the international effort to encourage countries to address the mounting climate change issues and experts hope it's just one step toward many more, since as the world's population increases, the various climate issues will also exponentially increase.

    A recent study of China and India, in particular, indicate that if both countries as they develop further don't effectively control their global footprint, it could have devastating consequences.

    The Kyoto Protocol is designed to create global education among countries about the depletion of the Earth's resources and the role each world resident and each country can have on mitigating the devastation. That significant Bali decision is just one step forward and we can hope there will be many more.




          


     
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      Green Living Discussion Board
    Write your commentsLanguage and Content Guidelines

     By: RAYMUNDA on Apr 8, 2008
      CORRECT THERE ARE ALOT OF THINGS A PERSON COULD DO BUT FIRST OF OF ALL I THINK FLUSHING SHOULD BE DONE WITH EVERY PERSON NO ONE WANTS TO SEE ANYONE ELSES STUFF IN THE BOWL WHEN THEY USE IT ANOTHER THING IS YES IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEAL TO USE A THERMAL CUP EACH TIME TO ELIMINATE ALL THE PAPER CUPS THAT I COULD DO OR MAYBE KEEP ONE SHOE BOX TO A HOUSE FOR TINY OBJECTS TO SIT IN I NOW SOMEONE WITH 10 T.V IN THEIR HOUSE TO CONSERVE ENERGY IT WOULD BE FIND TO TURN OFF 9 OF THEM OR TURN IT OFF WHEN YOUFINISH WATCHING IT IN MY HOUSE IT STAYS ON EVERY MINUTE WHICH DOES TAKE UP A LOT OF ENERGY RECYLING IIS GOOD BUT IN ALL SINCE YOU STILL NEED A GARBAGE BAG TO ELIMINATE THE GARBAGE BAGS IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEAL TO JUST USE CAN AND BOTTLE FOOD AND RECYLCLE.
       
     By: Randumb on Aug 12, 2008
      Whew!!!
       
     By: Melonie on Sep 4, 2008
      "Sam" could use tea bags - as long as he buys a brand that uses a compostable tea bag, he can have his convenience and have more for the compost bin to boot. Several companies, including Celestial Seasonings (a "mainstream" brand available in most groceries and drug stores) offer tea bags that do not include staples, string, or tags...so there's not even anything to pull off that isn't compostable - AND they use fewer resources. As for flushing - Raymunda: plenty of people used to use the "if it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down" concept. If an individual is properly hydrated, their urine will probably be close to clear anyway. While "Sam" was looking at replacing his toilets with low flow, he could have also considered dual-flush toilets, that use less water when they are flushed for urine-only uses - these are prevalent throughout CA and other places, at least on the West Coast of the USA. Passive solar would give "Sam" some more heat in the morning ... research opening blinds on the south or east side of the house to let sunlight in on cold days, then close them and open the blind on the west side to let afternoon sun in... in the summer, do the opposite to block out hot sun. While this lesson offers a lot of great ideas, it sure reads as though "Sam" is an adamant greenie who's pushing his ways on others - his wife, his co-workers - rather than trying to lead by example. It's important to note that some of the language used here inspires one to think of the character as a hard-nose who isn't really enjoying his "green" life very much - the ideas are fantastic but the character could be described as more encouraging and inspiring in order to lead family and friends into *wanting* to perform similar tasks, as opposed to coming across like a nagging husband and father.
       
     By: Marilyn on Oct 18, 2008
      Sam could perhaps use some of that water he saved in the tub to flush the toilet instead? You simply use a large bowl or pitcher to scoop the water from the tub and poor it into the toilet, thus flushing it.
       
     By: Yadira on Jan 21, 2009
      It is that Sam is trying to do his part in effort to help the environment. I think he has good strategis so far, concerning the toilet flushing I don't think that is a good idea I dont think that is hygenic and can create bacteria that his family can contract. I think that he can still save water in another area to balance out the water in his bathroom.
       
     By: Anthony on Mar 14, 2010
      I agree with Sam on the flusing part. I do the same.. however, here's the difference.. once i'm done, I close the lid to the bowl. So the next person knows (its usually my wife) that she should avoid looking into the bowl and definitely flush after she's done. I also the natural heating method to keep my house warm.. I let in the early morn. sunlight upto about 8.30-9am and then close the blinds.. it really helps in keeping the house warm.. and definitely helps lower my electricity bill.
       
     By: Sandy on May 4, 2010
      The idea and this courseware rocks we should save every bit of paper and avoid to destroy paper
       
        By: alpha on Oct 30, 2012
      thanks
       
     By: Nicole on May 22, 2010
      I'm finally educating myself about the Earth, so that I can understand what's going on. I want to help! :)
       

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