Looking For Solutions For Global Warming

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Former Vice-President Al Gore has just released his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth", from Paramont Classics along with his book of the same title.

In his computer-aided lecture/slide show/sermon, Gore presents compelling scientific evidence to back his claim that, without a major shift in public policy and private behavior, the world is heading for a disaster of biblical proportions.

The culprit is Carbon Monoxide that is released into the atmosphere by gas-guzzling cars, coal-hungry power plants and burning forests. The gas forms a thick blanket that traps the sun's heat and warms the planet, causing glaciers to melt, oceans to rise and weather patterns to change.

Gore says the changes are already evident in more severe droughts and storms (the film crew was planning a trip to New Orleans just before Katrina hit), the spread of new diseases and drowning polar bears, whose glacial stomping grounds are disappearing at an alarming rate.

``What we take for granted may not be here for my children,'' warns Gore, who delivers the same message in a companion book, also called ``An Inconvenient Truth" (Rodale, 328 pages, $21.95).

Energy from the sun drives the earth's weather and climate, and heats the earth's surface; in turn, the earth radiates energy back into space. Atmospheric greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases) trap some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse.

Without this natural "greenhouse effect," temperatures would be much lower than they are now, and life as known today would not be possible. Instead, thanks to greenhouse gases, the earth's average temperature is a more hospitable 60?F. However, problems may arise when the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increases

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have increased nearly 30%, methane concentrations have more than doubled, and nitrous oxide concentrations have risen by about 15%. These increases have enhanced the heat-trapping capability of the earth's atmosphere. Sulfate aerosols, a common air pollutant, cool the atmosphere by reflecting light back into space; however, sulfates are short-lived in the atmosphere and vary regionally.

Why are greenhouse gas concentrations increasing? Scientists generally believe that the combustion of fossil fuels and other human activities are the primary reason for the increased concentration of carbon dioxide. Plant respiration and the decomposition of organic matter release more than 10 times the CO2 released by human activities; but these releases have generally been in balance during the centuries leading up to the industrial revolution with carbon dioxide absorbed by terrestrial vegetation and the oceans.

What has changed in the last few hundred years is the additional release of carbon dioxide by human activities. Fossil fuels burned to run cars and trucks, heat homes and businesses, and power factories are responsible for about 98% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, 24% of methane emissions, and 18% of nitrous oxide emissions. Increased agriculture, deforestation, landfills, industrial production, and mining also contribute a significant share of emissions. In 1997, the United States emitted about one-fifth of total global greenhouse gases.

Estimating future emissions is difficult, because it depends on demographic, economic, technological, policy, and institutional developments. Several emissions scenarios have been developed based on differing projections of these underlying factors. For example, by 2100, in the absence of emissions control policies, carbon dioxide concentrations are projected to be 30-150% higher than today's levels.

Warmer temperatures allow mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as malaria and dengue fever to extend their ranges and increase both their biting rate and their ability to infect humans.

Spring now arrives earlier in many parts of the world. Evidence of this comes from earlier thaw dates for rivers and lakes; earlier dates for plant blooming and leafing; and earlier animal egg-laying, spawning and migration. An earlier spring may disrupt animal migrations, alter competitive balances among species, and cause other unforeseen problems.

A warmer climate will bring an increase in precipitation worldwide, especially during winter and in mid- to high latitudes, according to climate model projections. In addition, more precipitation is expected to fall in downpours and heavy snowstorms leading to increased flooding and damages. The area of the U.S. affected by extreme rainfall has increased significantly since 1910. Heavy rainfalls have also increased in Japan, the former Soviet Union, China, and Australia. As climate change increases the risk of flooding, human changes in land use and land cover can also contribute to the growing risk of flooding.

As the climate heats up, droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe in some locations. Sustained drought makes wildfires more likely, and crops and trees more vulnerable to pest infestations and disease. Generally, local land use and land cover changes can exacerbate the climate change-driven increase in drought risk. For example, in the tropics, "slash-and-burn" land clearing practices can trigger large fires during extended droughts.

We are seeing increasing numbers and severity of storms and just a couple of days ago, tropical storm Angelo started the hurricane season even earlier than last year. The only way to make any significant impact is for all of us to take responsibility.

On Larry King Live on June 13th 2006, former Vice-President Gore stated that if we don't do something about the greenhouse effect caused by the polutients form fossel fuels and within the next ten years "we will pass the point where we won't be able to do any thing about it". We need the time to continue working on alternatives like hybrid vehicles and other energy sources.
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