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The Global Warming Controversy

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Global warming has remained a very complex and controversial topic over the recent years. There is an increasing number of scientific evidence showing an increase in global temperature since the 1800s, and there has been a unanimous consensus among a majority of people around the world about the existence of global warming. However, controversies have arisen concerning the cause of global warming (whether it is caused by human or industrial activity), the extent of future warming, as well as whether further warming will benefit or harm us (Maslin 14-20). I agree that global warming is real because its adverse effects, such as climate change that has led to drought, crop failure etc, are already being felt worldwide, and is affecting me as well.  If we are to eradicate global warming, we must first admit that we are responsible for its cause by our acts such as deforestation and burning of fossil fuel, then join hands to find feasible, long-lasting solutions to this problem.

On one hand, critics argue that it has not been determined whether humans are the principal cause of global warming. Even those who believe that global warming is man-made and real think that no action needs to be taken now since future scientific advances will help to remedy the problem at a lesser cost before it gets serious. On the other hand, there has been a widespread consensus among scientists, that human activities such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuel are the primary causes of global warming. Such actions add undetectable blanket of CO2, as well as other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Recent studies have indicated that methane gas flowing from oil, landfills, livestock and gas facilities is the second carbon dioxide in terms of its impact on the atmosphere. Critics have, however, pointed out that the scientific consensus is the only on human-made global warming and not the quantitative extent of anthropogenic global warming (Maslin 14-20). I do not agree with such critics’ reasoning; we do not have to wait until it is determined whether the causes are human or industrial for as to act; global warming is a reality, and if something is not done first, we risk loosing our planet.

A heated debate on the media has also raised questions whether there exists scientific agreement on the rate and extent of the warming, particularly, whether there is an adequate proof to justify urgent and comprehensive measures to reduce its effects (Simon 15). Those who believe in the existence of global warming have expressed diverse opinions regarding its prevention.Some have supported the Kyoto Protocol measures aimed at decreasing the magnitude of global warming in the coming years, while others hold that immediate action must be taken to reduce CO2 emissions in order to curb a severe environmental damage. While it is good to have a long-term plan to control the problem, I hold that immediate measures should be taken to prevent further damage to our planet, since the global warming effects are already affecting numerous people globally.

The Kyoto protocol, the most famous global agreement on climate change, has also been highly controversial. As mentioned above, its aim is to come up with measures that will help to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. However, some people argue that the Kyoto measures have gone too far in checking greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, developing countries such China and India have declined from signing the Kyoto protocol, hence, they are not obliged to curb their carbon emissions. At the same time, these two countries have been rated the 2nd and 4th world’s largest greenhouse gas emission producers respectively. What has stirred an angry debate among various countries is the fact that these two countries are not committed to reducing their emissions. To be precise, they are cited to have said thatthey will do what they can to restrict the growth of emissions on condition that their economies do not suffer.While continuing to be adamant that economic growth is their right and priority, China and India have argued that countries with established economic powers should take the responsibility of leading research aimed at cutting carbon emissions. Such a position provides them with an unjust economic advantage over their competitors, for instance, the United States. Perhaps this explains why the U.S. signed the Kyoto protocol but never ratified it (Grubb Michael, Christiaan Vrolijk, Duncan Brack, Energy and Environmental Programme 56). It is high time that China and India wake up to the reality of the effects of global warming. They may not be feeling the effects right now, but in the near future, they will. They need not to be selfish by putting the growth of their economy first; instead, they should realize that this is a global problem that is bound to affect everyone, and the sooner we work together to find a lasting solution the better.

The global warming debate has also been of interest to politicians as well as economists. For instance in the U.S., Democrats have supported actions that they believe will result in the control of global warming and its effects via checking greenhouse gas emissions. However, Republicans have opposed the control of global warming arguing that the issue of global warming is a threat that is not yet proven. With regard to the economic impacts, there has been an argument as to whether actions such as limiting the use of fossil fuels to decrease CO2 emissions, should be taken immediately or in the near future. In addition, there have also been arguments whether the restrictions on carbon emissions will have any significant impact on the global temperature.According to Simon (15), critics such as the Cato Institute have strongly opposed the efforts to curb carbon emissions, arguing that the economic ramifications of such restrictions supersede the environmental benefits. They have stated that even though the burning of fossil fuel contribute greatly to global warming, limiting their use will have more damaging implications on the global economy, when compared to the increase in global temperature. Other people however advocate for early action to be taken to decrease carbon emissions in order to avoid greater economic costs afterwards and reduce the risk of an irreversible catastrophe.

In response to global warming, measures such as imposing caps on emission of greenhouse gases or shifting to non-polluting technologies have been the center of focus over the last few years. However, with the increasing global emissions and declining energy efficiency reported recently, there has been an increasing public outcry from scientists, economists, students etc. that the benefits of the cap approach maybe too little, too late. For instance, according to Jeffrey D. Sachs, an economist and the Head of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, a cutback in carbon emissions solely is not enough since the current technologies available are unable to support the swelling global economy and a decline in CO2 emissions. He continues to say that limiting emissions without new technologies in place may result in a stifling economic growth. According to Sachs, what needs to be done is to develop radical and superior low-carbon technologies, which unfortunately will come with the increased spending on research and development.Examples of such technologies include the use of solar-thermal electric plants,plug-in hybrid cars, as well as capturing and burying CO2(Simon 15). Even though proponents of the caps approach do not disagree with his new proposition, they say that the caps approach need not be overlooked, for example, Adil Najam from Boston University, is reported to have said that he wished that the emerging debate will not sidetrack the ongoing efforts to curb the emissions.

Finally, the issue whether global warming is beneficial or detrimental has also attracted different reactions. While numerous researchers have predicted devastating consequences at global temperatures between 2 and 4.5 °C (3.6 and 8.1 °F), others argue that temperature of 1.5 °C (2.7 °F), is likely to stabilize the weather and enhance crop yields (Weart 100). It may be true that crop yields are increased at the above temperatures, but my question is; should we prioritize higher crop yields at the expense of our planet. Obviously the answer is no; after all, who will consume the crops when we are all dead because of severe effects of global warming such as floods, droughts etc? In conclusion, I would say that global warming is real and its effects are already being felt. It is up to every one of us to rally behind measures aimed at cutting carbon emissions into the atmosphere in order to save our planet.

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