The Worrisome Phenomenon of Global Warming Tracked Down to Its Roots: Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Published: 2021-09-29 10:00:09
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Think about your childhood and how you had the freedom to run around outside on a beautiful sunny day and play with your friends or go to the park. Now imagine your children and grandchildren not having this opportunity. They will be living in a very different world than you or your parents. Many species of animals will have gone extinct, coastal communities will be nothing but a memory, and environments will be destroyed. These are all results of global warming, which is growing at an unprecedented rate. Without international action to change the current path the earth is on, global issues of sustainability, regional conflict, biodiversity, extreme weather events, water availability, and disease will intensify. The root cause of global warming is the increase of carbon dioxide emissions, which can be attributed to a variety of sources, and which now exceed the bounds of natural variability (Karl, 1719). These sources include but are certainly not limited to energy supplies, transportation, buildings, industries, agriculture, forestry, and waste. The carbon dioxide from these sources along with other greenhouse gases trap outgoing radiation from the earth and prevent them from going out into space. The gases accumulate, and the warming effects from these sources can take decades until the damage is significantly noticed. Meaning that we would continue to see the global warming for many years even if emissions decreased to zero today (Karl, 1720-1721). There are two possible alternatives to mitigate global warming, reduce the fossil-fuel carbon dioxide emissions, or remove these emissions from the atmosphere (Mann, 166). Global cooperation to mitigate global warming is becoming ever more important as emissions continue to increase. This will require pursuing proposed solutions and geo-engineering options.
Michael E. Mann and Lee R. Kump explain, “Mitigation is a stabilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide at 550 ppm. This can realistically be achieved only by significant reductions in fossil-fuel burning rates” (155). This refers to social changes that will impact the emissions of carbon dioxide by reducing the levels that a variety of sources release. To achieve this, it will require international involvement with an organized plan of approach to reach a stable level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In 1992 the United Nations Framework Convention on climate Change (UNFCCC) was formed, aimed to achieve exactly this (Heller, 115). The Kyoto protocol was established under the UNFCCC in 1997, and was an agreement among the industrialized nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to levels below those in the 1990s. The price-type approach of the Kyoto Protocol was a good first step towards reducing emissions on an international scale, although the results of the initiative show to be less than expected as the approach is highly criticized (Nordhaus, 95). Mann and Kump describe other mitigation strategies that can be advantageous to counter-measuring global warming, in their book, Dire Predictions Understanding Climate Change. Looking into energy alternatives such as solar wind, geothermal, and hydropower provide carbon-free options for providing energy. Improving fuel-efficiency by switching to electric cars along with using other public transports and non-motorized alternative outlets will reduce emission levels. This is important since vehicle emissions contribute to 10.5% of global greenhouse gases. The use of public transportation to the buildings themselves, are also a part of the mitigation strategy of building green. The buildings sector contributes 19% of total greenhouse gas emissions per year. By designing efficiency and sustainability, this output will be reduced, along with the benefits of creating jobs and make the building environment more enjoyable to work in (Mann, 170-178). These are just some of the many multiple mitigation strategies that have potential advantages, which will lead to lower emission levels of greenhouse gases.The Kyoto protocol, attempted to fight global warming in order to reduce greenhouse gases concentrations, but was unable to reach its expectations. This can be attributed to, as Stavins states, “its targets apply only to industrialized nations; it contains ambitious, short-term emissions reduction targets but no long-term targets; and it provides flexibility through market-based mechanisms such as tradable permits” (146). In other words, Stavin explains, the protocol has inaccurate and outdated emission targets, along with a poor approach. This mitigation strategy had its disadvantages, as do others. Energy alternatives for example, currently provide a small portion of the earths total energy consumption, and could be limited in large urban areas, where space may be hard to find. Similarly, switching to other transportation alternatives and improving fuel-efficiency poses problems. People can be resistant to switch from poor fuel-efficient cars to other options, and even if people to begin to use electric cars which are powered by fuel-cell technology, the energy needed to charge the cells must come from a different source, this then poses another issue. Even with building green, which can reduce the carbon footprint, the building sector gives off, to do so requires large amounts of capital upfront, although this will pay off in the long run (Mann, 170-178). Some of these mitigation options would require a significant amounts of investment to enforce them and huge changes in people’s behavior, which has ultimately caused a delay on action.
An alternative path to solving climate change through mitigation efforts is by using technology. Technology can be used to reduce greenhouse gas levels or to offset climate change itself (Mann, 192). One possible geoengineering method talked about in an article on sciencenews.com, Engineering a Cooler Earth, by Erika Engelhaupt discusses a man named David Keith who theorized the idea of spraying sulfuric acid into the atmosphere using spy planes (16). The target would be to reflect 2% of light, to prevent the effects of global warming from warming the earth two degrees Celsius. To do so will require the strategy David Keith proposes of reflecting sunlight from hitting the earth, or carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. Other possibilities to reflect sunlight are to brighten the color of structures on the earth, improve marine cloud brightness, and place shields into space. These options have the advantage of being quick acting, and results could be seen within a few years, useful if a rapid change was needed (Shepard, 4168). In addition, there are two methods for removing carbon from the atmosphere; carbon sinks and carbon captures. The first would involve adding iron to the ocean surface to promote the surface plants increasing their ability to take carbon dioxide from the air, or to plant more trees to promote the same cause. A technology described by Schneider discusses a tower the size of a small water tower could have the potential to remove the carbon dioxide from the air, similar to a tree, equivalent to 15,000 cars emissions (3849). Carbon capture on the other hand works by removing carbon from the fossil fuels when they are burned, and then bury it inside the earth or relocate it to the bottom of the ocean (Mann, 192). Although scientists are coming up with all these different ideas, some are unnatural and do bring up some questions as to where the line needs to be drawn? The benefit of carbon dioxide removal is that it is recommended, due to the fact it is returning the earth to a more natural level (Shepard 4169). This is because of the higher level of uncertainty that exists with introducing man-made chemicals and technologies into the atmosphere.
The geoengineering paths of either reflecting sunlight from hitting the earth’s atmosphere, or carbon dioxide removal, both have their inherent disadvantages. As Schneider explains in his book, “Carbon capture and sequestration for coal-fueled power plants would not do much for transportation systems dependent on liquid fuels” (3848). He then explains that fuel alternatives would have to replace the conventional fuels used today. He is describing that with carbon captures being focused on power plants, a component of the largest sector of carbon dioxide emissions, will not impact the emissions from cars. This alone accounts for 10.5% of the total Carbon dioxide emissions. On the flip side, when looking at iron fertilization of the ocean, a carbon sink solution, there is the possibility of this resulting in only an increased carbon cycle, and little to zero carbon buildup on the ocean floor or the risk of further hurting marine life (Mann, 192). Another type of proposal would be to use machines to filter the air, separating the carbon dioxide from it. This has potential, but it would cost an estimated $580 billion to capture the U.S. emissions alone, which isn’t feasible at this time (Engelhaupt, 19). The path of solar radiation treatment also has its disadvantages. The proposed solution of spraying sulfur into the atmosphere will both cost $10 billion per year, and would result in an increase in acid rain and decrease in air quality. In addition to this, the method could potentially damage the stratospheric ozone layer and would also reduce the amount of rain in Asian and African summer monsoons, affecting over 2 billion people (Engelhaupt, 18). These strategies can end up harming certain populations and costing a fortune.
This brings about people’s fear of mitigation strategies and questioning if these ideas are not enough to counteract global warming and their cost-effectiveness. Proponents of geoengineering argue that any proposal will work, and that the international cooperation needed to achieve it will happen (Schneider, 3843). Yet, in addition to this are ethical concerns associated with using technology to manipulate the atmosphere. The concept of the human controlling of the environment to achieve what should be a moral requirement of the human doesn’t seem right. Along with this, the global scale of geoengineering poses environmental risks itself, for example, alteration of weather and increased acid rain (Minteer, 1). The idea of intervening with nature is met with much criticism. Since human have caused global warming, does it really make sense to continue to alter the atmosphere by further adding chemicals or using technology to try to counteract the problem? This question certainly lingers amongst several people as the issue worsens.
As the world continues to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an increasing rate, the earth will continue to experience global warming. Without international cooperation to mitigate causes of carbon dioxide and or to push for research into geoengineering alternatives, the earth will experience the effects of climate change. Animal species will die, coastal cities will vanquish, weather will become more severe, the polar ice caps will disappear, and people will die. To prevent this, geoengineering solutions seem to be the answer. It seems unlikely to achieve global cooperation in time to mitigate the solutions before it is too late and the effects can be reversed. Although geoengineering has its ethical concerns, it will need to be used as to achieve the goal needed, mitigation strategies will need to happen fast and widespread, a rate that I believe cannot be achieved. Among the geoengineering solutions proposed, I believe the route of carbon capture is the safest. Solar radiation treatment has the uncertainty of further impacting the earth, in a way that may be unchangeable. Through scholarly research I conclude the solution lies in carbon sinks and carbon captures. Of the proposed solutions, the reforestation of the planet seems the safest and surest way to return the earth closer to its nature state. Of course, mitigation strategies will also need to occur, because if the rates continue to increase, it will be harder and harder to prevent the effects of global warming from occurring and more drastic measures such as the solar radiation treatments will need to be implemented. As Thomas R. Karl and Kevin E. Trenberth explain, “Climate change is truly a global issue, one that may prove to be humanity’s greatest challenge. It is very unlikely to be adequately addressed without greatly improved international cooperation and action” (1722). If global action is not quickly furthered, the world is on a path to destruction, one that was certainly man-made.
Across the globe, engineers are coming up with diverse ways to reduce the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, as well as reduce solar radiation. In addition to introducing different methods to solving this crisis, this scholarly journal states the cost and whether or not these methods would work on a long term basis. It also states how some of the ideas may work but if it is done incorrectly, it may just further the issue. One example was spraying sulfur particles in the stratosphere and putting it above the clouds so it will not come out as acid rain, but this comes with the issue that the aerosols may damage the stratosphere. This journal hits upon many of the techniques that engineers are coming up with and will be very useful to broaden knowledge of all the possibilities to reverse the CO2 in the atmosphere and block off solar radiation.
I used this source as a way to get the reader really familiar with global warming. This information had wonderful information and details on how planet Earth has reached this breaking point in history. This also goes into detail about climate change and how worse It can become if further steps are not taken about this issue. This is used in my paper as a way to show how much damage humans have done to this earth and to really prove that humans are the cause of this global problem.
Dire Predictions does a wonderful job of explaining a lot of concepts and showing global warming impacts and what are some ways everyone can make a difference. It also says the multiple sources of geoengineering and different approaches to mitigation, and using technology to counteract climate change. This book goes beyond what geoengineering can do but also touches base on everything humans can do. It also makes note that with every passing year, it is getting harder to stabilize climate and the longer this issue is procrastinated the harder it will be.
The scholarly journal focuses on the moral side of geoengineering and argues the case that geoengineering can be unethical and going against everything philosophers in the past have said about the earth. It is noted that geoengineering should be seen as “our evolving responsibilities to species and ecosystems on a rapidly changing planet” (857). Since many people do see geoengineering as messing with the ecosystem and crossing the line with man-made objects into the atmosphere. Cause even though geoengineering requires manipulation of what sorts of elements are released into the air, this can help resolve or reverse the amount of CO2 gases that have been plunged into the earth over several years.
This source goes into how the government tried getting involved in improving and taking steps to reduce or mitigate the CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. It also goes along and states how this plan did not impact the world much. This source can really show how there have been steps taken by the government, as well as how “carbon taxes” may be initiated. But for my paper it was most suitable to use it to show how Kyoto was a political and economic effort to reduce CO2 emissions in the early 1990’s.
This scholarly journal touches amongst different theories or ideas that different people have engineers have come about with in engineering. It also explains how much geoengineering has been touched base on and revisited throughout the years. With all the natural disasters happening worldwide, this issue was brought to congress in the year of 1989, and they began to administer and examine measures that will need to change in Americans lifestyles, also how involved government needs to be in this problem.
This scholarly journal touches upon the two main focuses that geoengineering has, in order to try and help the environment. Their task at hand basically boils down to directly removing carbon emissions or managing and keeping a closer eye on solar radiation. Although these options are very much possible there are questions on whether or not these attempts will be costly or ecologically moral. There are two approaches to take towards this and they both come with their own advantages and disadvantages. The CDR method is one route to take but this may be useful on a small scale and scientists are unsure if there would be environmental side effects. As for the SRM Techniques, this would need to be maintained for many years and this large scale method may introduce additional risks later on. As of now the SRM technique seems to be more effective as it may facilitate temperature reductions. This can overall create a cooling effect and be more cost effective. Incorporating this scholarly journal, will provide more detail about geoengineering and how it may impact the earth.
This source is related to the earlier source on Kyoto, but this goes in depth as to why Kyoto was not effective. In the journal, it explains that this would only be effective for more “industrialized nations” (146). As well as most of these strategies require the nation to have money to invest. But most places worldwide could not contribute to this and the nations have to work as a whole to figure out how to make this work for everyone worldwide.

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