Global Warming: Human vs. Natural Causes

Introduction

The term “global warming” refers to the increase in the world temperatures. The effects of the increasing temperatures are felt at the surface of the Earth and in the atmosphere. Global warming is attributed to greenhouse gases, which are present in the atmosphere. These gases form a blocking layer that prevents heat from leaving the Earth. The topic of global warming is controversial, and thus it has attracted various researchers to find out the causes of the phenomenon. The issue of global warming has elicited heated debates among scientists and scholars with some arguing that the phenomenon is manmade while others allege that it is natural (Houghton, 2009). The two main schools of thought have substantiated their arguments with each seeking to show the superiority of its theories.

Greenhouse gases produced naturally or through human activities escape to the atmosphere to form a blanket that blocks sunrays from reaching the Earth’s surface. Additionally, this covering prevents heat from leaving the Earth’s surface to the outer space of the Earth. The heat, which is in the form of weak thermal infrared radiations, concentrates in the atmosphere, thus causing increased temperatures on the Earth (Weart, 2008). This paper explores the issue of global warming, its causes, and its effects to gain insight into the causes of the condition. The paper will explore both natural and manmade causes and provide research-based answers to the question of whether the condition is caused by humankind, or it occurs naturally. The influence of media on the issue of global warming will also be explored to establish its role in shaping the people’s views on the causes of this controversial phenomenon.

Human vs. Natural Causes

The issues surrounding the causes of global warming have ignited heated debate among scholars and scientists in the recent past. Most scholars are of the view that human actions are the primary causes of global warming. However, some scholars dispute the impact of the humans on the issue of global warming by asserting that the condition would emerge with or without manmade activities. Skeptics of this school of thought argue that there is an insignificant relationship between human actions and global warming and that nature is to blame for the phenomenon. However, all scholars and scientists concur that the issue is serious, and thus countermeasures are necessary to mitigate the condition.

The seriousness of global warming cannot be dismissed since the negatives outweigh the positives. Statistics indicates that the global temperature has risen by 1 degree since 1880, and the temperature will continue to escalate if appropriate measures to control greenhouse gases are not implemented (Nisbet & Myers, 2007). The warming nature of the Earth is evidenced by the melting of glaciers in the past few decades. Currently, only a few of these glaciers have survived the rising temperatures since most of them have melted. Allegedly, global temperatures will rise tremendously if appropriate measures are not devised to control the situation. The rising temperatures are harmful to organisms living on Earth since if they cannot adapt, they will be endangered or even go to extinction. This assertion raises the question of whether the condition can be controlled if it is natural.

Human Causes

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is made up of scientists drawn from countries all over the world, attributes the rising temperatures to human activities. The body has ruled out the possibility of nature playing a vital role on the issue of global warming (Jorgenson, 2006). The body’s argument is substantiated by evidence garnered from a 6-year study on the causes of global warming. The assertions seem to be valid since there is a 90% scientific consensus among the panel members. The group cites specific human activities that contribute to the rising temperature, viz. industrialization, deforestation, and pollution.

Burning of Fossil Fuels

This aspect is the primary cause of greenhouse effect, and it is premised on the view that the process of burning such substances results in the emission of gases such as carbon dioxide. Research works list the burning of fossil fuels on the top of the list of the major human activities contributing to global warming (Houghton, 2009). Coal, which is the widely used form of fuel in energy production, results in the production of carbon that combines with oxygen in the air to form carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has been identified as one of the leading causes of global warming, and thus burning such fuels translates into the phenomenon. Statistics indicates that 75% of all electricity produced across the world comes from the burning coal (Kuhn, 2012). Therefore, it is evident that human activities are the leading causes of global warming.

Due to the rising need for energy, the overall burning of such fuels has increased tremendously, thus causing the greenhouse effect, which results in global warming. The process of burning such fuels results in the emission of carbon, which in turn combines with atmospheric oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is one of the main contributory factors of global warming and thus increased burning of such fuels has contributed significantly to global warming in the recent past.

Deforestation

Deforestation is another human activity, which has been linked with the recent increase in the rate of global warming. Deforestation refers to cutting down of trees without making replacements through planting new ones. Plants contribute significantly to the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since they consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen in the process of photosynthesis (Jorgenson, 2006). The absence of trees on Earth results in unregulated levels of carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. The rising need for free land for human beings to settle and cultivate has led to mass cutting of trees, thus harming the green part of the planet. Woodcutting results in the emission of carbon to the atmosphere when burnt to produce energy. Numerous activities results in the production and release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and thus cutting down of trees may lead to inadequate oxygen and the imbalance in the two gases.

Increase in the Global Population

The world has experienced an increase in population over the past few decades with the developing countries recording the highest number of births. The growing number of people means high demand for industrial goods, and thus industrialization has increased tremendously. The gases emitted, which include carbon dioxide and methane, by such industries during the manufacturing processes contribute to global warming (Weart, 2008). Moreover, the increased population means high demand for food, which translates into clearing of forests in an attempt to acquire agricultural land. Cutting down of trees deprives the planet of its green area, thus leading to the lack of carbon dioxide regulation since plants regulate that harmful gas. Additionally, clearing of land involves burning the growing plants, which results in the emission of carbon to the atmosphere.

Natural Causes of Global Warming

Natural Forest Fires

In most cases, forest fires are caused by human activities. However, in some instances, such fires occur naturally. Carbon dioxide forms the major component of smoke, which is produced during the burning process. Given that the gas is the leading cause of global warming, its presence in the atmosphere is a great contributor to the rising temperatures. The gas emitted escapes to the atmosphere, and it forms a layer that prevents heat from leaving the surface of the Earth into the outer space (Nisbet & Myers, 2007). Trees regulate the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and since such fires lead to deforestation, carbon dioxide is unregulated. New trees take long to grow and produce the desired effect, which may take up to 100 years.

Carbon Dioxide and Methane Gases

Supporters of the theory of nature causing global warming rely on the view that animals contribute a considerable amount of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere during respiration. Ruminants produce the methane gas during digestion. Carbon dioxide and methane are the two major gases that cause global warming, and thus the contributions made by animals cannot be overlooked. Though the amounts of gases produced by animals are small, they contribute to the gases already existing in the atmosphere.

Water Vapor

Water vapor has been identified as one of the main causes of global warming and supporters of the theory about natural causes claim that water vapor causes the phenomenon. Research indicates that water vapor is the major component of atmospheric gases, and it forms about two-thirds of the total atmospheric gases (Kuhn, 2012). Just as carbon dioxide and other gases form a layer in the atmosphere, thus blocking heat from escaping to the outer surface of the Earth, supporters of this theory allege water vapor is a gas a hence it can act as a form of blockage. Water vapor comes from evaporation caused by the exposure of plants and water masses to direct sunrays, and thus it is a natural cause of global warming.

Volcanic Eruptions

The advocates of natural causes of global warming have identified volcanic eruptions as one of the leading causes of global temperature changes. Albeit rare, volcanic eruptions emit dangerous levels of dust into the atmosphere. The dust concentrates in the atmosphere and forms a shield that prevents heat from escaping to the outer surface of the Earth. Since volcanic eruptions occur naturally, and they are uncontrollable, claims about the natural causes are justified. Additionally, volcanic eruptions result in the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide, which is connected to global warming. Even if the amount of carbon dioxide produced in volcanic eruptions is fewer than the quantity produced by human activities, its effect cannot be ignored.

The Role of the Media

The media contributes significantly to the fight against global warming through educating the public on the importance of conserving the environment. Media coverage of major forest fires is a significant step towards mitigating the vice since it creates public awareness of the causes of such fires and their impact on the environment (Jorgenson, 2006). Moreover, the media educates business managers and other interested groups on the appropriate measures to protect the environment. The media creates awareness of the ethical code of practice observed by various companies and identifies if such codes provide for environmental conservation in the course of doing business. Various pollution prevention measures adopted by different companies to protect the environment are well covered by the media.

The coverage motivates other global companies to take similar measures to avoid pollution and prevent global warming in the long term. The media also covers major disputes revolving around ethical misconduct by businesses in the course of their operations (Houghton, 2009). Since most companies today have shifted their attention from the local to the global market to increase the shareholders’ value through increased customers, there have been ethical crises. Most crises revolve around environmental pollution by multinational companies, and the coverage of such disputes by the media encourages other countries to enact legislations to protect the environment. Therefore, the media plays a critical role in promoting environmental pollution awareness, and it influences the public to join hands to conserve the environment as a way of reducing global warming.

Conclusion

Global warming refers to the rise in global temperatures, which has been on the increase over the past few decades. Scientists and other environmental experts have embarked on research to unravel the causes of the increasing temperatures. Most researchers have linked global warming to human activities, which result in the emission of greenhouse gases that are harmful to the environment. However, some scholars have argued that global warming is a natural phenomenon caused by nature, and they have disputed the allegations that human activities are the main contributors to the greenhouse effect.

Some of the main man-made causes of global warming, as cited by scholars include burning of fossil fuels to produce energy, deforestation, increased population, and industrialization. All the listed aspects contribute to environmental pollution since they result in the production of carbon dioxide, which in turn forms a layer between the sun and the surface of the Earth, thus preventing heat from escaping to the outer surface of the Earth. Supporters of the natural causes’ theory cite various natural aspects of global warming, viz. the rotation of the Earth, natural forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and respiration by animals.

However, the amount of gases produced by these natural factors is lower than what is produced by the listed human activities. The individuals backing the artificial cause are right in their explanation of the causes of global warming. However, the two schools of thought agree that global warming is harmful to organisms living on the surface of the Earth, and thus urgent measures need to be implemented to control the global temperatures. Global warming presents many issues that are harmful to the wellbeing of the people, and thus it is important to identify the causes and avert the phenomena.

Annotated Bibliography

Houghton, J. (2009). Global warming: the complete briefing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

This book explores the scientific causes of global warming and points out the possible actions that can be taken to reverse the adverse impacts of the condition. Some of the outlined causes include greenhouse gases and other human activities. The book is relevant to this paper because it addresses the causes of global warming, which is the central topic of the study.

Jorgenson, A. (2006). Global warming and the neglected greenhouse gas: A cross-national study of the social causes of methane emissions intensity, 1995. Social Forces, 84(3), 1779-1798.

This article connects global warming to human activities that result in the emission of greenhouse gases that in turn forms a layer preventing heat from escaping to the outer space of the Earth. The article explores industrialization and energy production endeavors as the major causes of global warming since the activities results in the emission of harmful gases. This article is relevant to this study as it underscores the role of greenhouse gases in global warming.

Kuhn, T. (2012). The structure of scientific revolutions. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

This book refutes the claims that human beings are the main contributors to global warming. The author holds that global warming occurs naturally. The author discredits the various theories connecting humans with global warming by noting that such allegations are only premised on the assumptions that humans are the major producers of carbon dioxide. The relevance of this book to the study is that it gives a different approach to the issue of global warming.

Nisbet, C., & Myers, T. (2007). The polls—trends twenty years of public opinion about global warming. Public Opinion Quarterly, 71(3), 444-470.

This article provides a systematic overview of the public opinion regarding the causes of global warming. The article is based on research aimed at getting an insight into views of the public regarding the causes of the rising global temperatures. This article is relevant to this study as it addresses the role of media, which informs public opinion.

Weart, S. (2008). The discovery of global warming: revised and expanded edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

This book revolves around the climatic changes that have emerged from global warming and cites the various possible causes of the rising temperatures. The book uncovers the reasons behind the changes in temperature, which has characterized the world in the past few decades. Weart’s book is relevant to this study as it explores the causes of the ever-rising global temperatures.