CONTROVERSIES OF GLOBAL WARMING
TABLE OF CONTENTS
As a global environmental issue of concern, controversies have been presented for and against global warming. Such controversies have stemmed from its causes as well as effects. This is because since the first international awareness of the problem that took place in 1992 during a United Nations (UN) Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, several opinions have continued to grow concerning the genesis of this problem as well as the potential effects posed on the planet. Such international meeting saw an intellectual exchange among the many delegates concerning the best approaches that can be used in dealing with the causes and effects of global warming. However, this problem is still a controversial one among many environmentalists around the world. Therefore, this essay analyzes the various controversies presented by different articles and authors concerning global warming, its main drivers, and seriousness of the issue as well as claimed consequences.
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As a global environmental concern, global warming has had several impacts especially for both the biodiversity and the climatic conditions of the planet (Elkins and Simmonds, et al., 2010). This is because current trends have shown that it affects flora and fauna as a result of the increase in the amount of the anthropogenic gases that are accumulated in the atmosphere such as neon- surface air. As a result, this leads to the melting of the ice caps, rise in the sea levels and other climatic changes. Hence global warming represents a major threat especially to the fundamental life forms of living things on the earth.
Back, Russ, Liu, Inoue, Zhang and Otto-Bliesner (2013) contends that global warming leads to the increase in the rate of water evaporation into the atmosphere. This is of great concern owing to the fact that water is life and without it, no life can be realized. This is further compounded by the fact that the water vapor is in itself is a greenhouse gas that exacerbates the problem leading to warming of the atmosphere. As such, this increase in the water vapor can further be compounded by the excessive use of the fossil fuels and through land use changes. Burning of fossil fuels contributes to the addition of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the sense that such fuels produces anthropogenic gases such as CFCs, methane and nitrous oxide which are responsible for the global warming. In addition, deforestation, explosive population growth, technological advancement, growing urbanization, and industrial expansion are some of the factors that account for the increases in these gases in the atmosphere. However, it is projected that the rate of the rise will continued if this global issue of concern is not nipped in the bud.
Among other major causes, deforestation is argued to be the main causes of the increases in the global warming (Liss, 2012). This is because trees play a major role in the global carbon cycle since they are considered as one of the largest land-based carbon mechanism that helps in the removal of excessive carbon dioxide from the air. Due to this, deforestation has been considered as the second principle cause of atmospheric carbon dioxide contributing for 25 per cent of all the carbon emissions in the atmosphere especially through burning and cutting of trees. For instance, estimates are that over 5500 acres of rainforest are destroyed daily leading to a rise in the global carbon dioxide level which is approximated to be 0.4 per cent each year. The long effects of such changes are inclusive of the melting of the glaciers, increased intensity and frequency as well as the changes in rainfall patterns.
According to Liss (2012), imbalances that are created between various life forms on earth makes global warming a controversial issue of global concern. Such imbalances are showing through signs in the form of increased occurrences of cyclones, landslides, tsunami, flood, drought among others. As a result, the increases in the rise of the aforementioned disasters on this planet threaten different life forms. For instance, due to the extreme weather patterns, this can lead to increased effects of malnutrition, airborne as well as water-borne diseases, starvation and extinction of the flora and fauna.
For the purpose of discussion of the controversies presented in the global warming issue, this essay will analyze four news articles from different media sources. Such controversies will run from the works of the two main authors as presented in the four news articles. As such, the two notable environmentalists who discuss and analyze this issue are J.R. McNeill and Bjorn Lomborg. McNeill’s arguments have been contained in the news article, Something New under the Sun: an Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World whereas Lomborg discusses it in, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Other two news articles that will be discussed are the “Forecasting the consequences of climate driven shifts in human behavior on cetaceans.” and “States Adapting to Climate Change. Environmental Forum.”
The central theme in McNeill’s article is revolving around the fact that environmental problem like global warming comprises some of the byproducts of the modernization as well as development (Cho, Martens, Kim & Rodrigue, 2011). As such, he is of the belief that “humans have impacted our planet more deeply in the twentieth century than we did in all previous history combined.” Hence the irony in this debate according to McNeill is the fact that some of the same factors that have helped humankind to develop such as economic prosperity as well as technological advancement, are inherent the real causes of the serious environmental problems such as global warming.
Consequently, McNeill makes an argument that global warming with no exception from other environmental problems, cannot be dealt with in an effective manner without necessarily having to involve the technological advancements (Dos Santos, 2012). Moreover, McNeill puts it clearly by stating that if global warming consists a serious environmental problem, “then the equation will be revised in the direction of a stronger role for the environment. Paradoxically, if humanity is to escape projected environmental crises, then technology, which helped bring them on, will be asked to lead us out.” Therefore, McNeill sees technology to be the only solution in dealing with the problem of global warming that can minimize the negative consequences especially of this environmental dilemma that runs rampant across the globe.
On the other hand, the rhetoric of global warming has been presented by Lomborg and his argument lies in the premise that global warming together with the other environmental problems, is a mere exaggeration especially from the media specialists, scientists and politicians (Long, Xie, Zheng & Liu, 2014). According to him, global warming is a less serious and severe threat as opposed to the weight that is accorded to it in media and among the scientists. As such, Lomborg believes that inaccuracy of studies and predictions that have been made by complicated computer software consist the causes of the fears among the scientists concerning this issue. This is evident through his statement, “the limitations of computer modeling, the unrealistic nature of basic assumptions made about future technological change and political value judgments have distorted the scenarios being presented to the public.”
In addition, Schuldt, Konrath and Schwarz (2011) argue that Lomborg raises many doubts in regard to greenhouse gas emissions considered as the real cause global warming. His main thesis of argument is that greenhouse gas emissions cannot have any impact on the world temperatures. His argument is that even specialized scientists cannot make accurate predictions of the future climate primarily because the climate system is much complex. On the basis of this argument, Lomborg makes a conclusion that global warming is unlikely to be a devastating issue. As such, this raises an important question regarding to whether the temperature change leads to catastrophic consequences.
Although in all the environmentalists in the four articles raise valuable claims about the issue of global warming, independent review of the news articles have indicated that McNeill is quite reasonable in his warning and realistic. The point of departure that makes this to be an issue of controversy is the fact that Lomborg’s argues against global warming being a real environmental problem.
An analytical review of both the environmentalists’ arguments in all the four news articles in regard to global warming brings out the controversies that are presented for and against global warming debate. According to Sharpe (2012), McNeill makes valid as well as reasonable argument in comparison to Lomborg because McNeil bases his argument on the historical backgrounds making references too many past examples in proof of his assumption especially about the relationship that exists between the global warming and economic activities. For instance, McNeil makes a reference to the New Caledonia’s nickel production that took place in 1920s as well as its negative impact especially on the environment, air and weather. According to him, the production of nickel through mining activities led to the pouring of the smoke as well as dangerous gases that were released into the atmosphere.
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Furthermore, McNeill also refers London’s notorious fog in 1950s as a result of coal mining that caused death of many thousands of people (Sharpe, 2012). This makes McNeill’s argument to have a proof that global warming is not necessarily a very recent environmental problem but as a result of accumulated economic activities of the past century that have paved the way especially for the complication of this problem. Accordingly, in the controversies of global warming debate, McNeill has raised a very strong as well as valid argument as he reviews the information in the recent past in sending the message that the current global warming should be seen as a severe environmental problem that is deeply rooted in the past actions of humankind. The strength and credibility to McNeil’s warnings on the impacts of global warming environmental problem is refereed to authenticated cases especially from the past.
Contrary to McNeil’s strong and supported argument, Lomborg’s assumptions are weak and invalid (Schuldt, Konrath & Schwarz, 2011). This is because Lomborg does not make any much insight as regards his argument that global warming is not an environmental problem because of the less severity it has in practical in comparison to the predictions made by the scientists and environmentalists. For instance, Lomborg refutes scientific assumptions about the global warming by mentioning that the greenhouse gases does not comprise the only cause of global warming and that there are other factors such as solar energy that may impact global warming. However, this makes his argument to be an invalid one because it has no logical basis due to the fact that existence of many causes of global warming does not refute the fact that it is not a severe environmental problem with many destructive effects especially on life on the earth. Hence Lomborg does not trust technological advancements through computer modeling that allow scientist to make predictions concerning the environment. According to him, he has a belief that scientific predictions are not accurate to make certain real seriousness as well as severity of such environmental phenomena.
In these controversies, Lomborg uses ‘doubt’ technique in developing his arguments in his manipulation of global warming being an environmental problem (Dos Santos, 2012). As such, his arguments have received a lot of responses from many experts as well as environmentalists. For instance, Sharon Begley, an environment expert is of the idea that Lomborg’s argument is based on bad logic especially through Lomborg’s argument that people should not to fear global warming because there is high number of deaths resulting from the ‘cold’ weather as opposed to death as a result of the ‘warm’ weather. Begley is right in his refutation of Lomborg’s argument because this means that regardless of the fact that the death toll from the warm weather is slightly less in comparison with cold weather, and then this still remains a problem that calls for a confrontation in order to minimize deaths from the global warming (Anthony and Maynard, p.1802). As such Begley noted that, “according to a 2006 study, 850,000 deaths from cold will be averted in a warmer world, not the 1.4 million, as Lomborg says.” This makes it an effective strategy in raising an argument especially against severity of global warming and scientists should make an exploration of all possible means in fighting this global problem.
Another response to Lomborg’s discussion is that he deals with the issue of global warming from an economic point of view (Cho, Martens, Kim & Rodrigue, 2011). This is because lives of people should be seen as being much worthier in comparison with whatever cost is needed especially to in fighting global is warming. In this regard, the problem of global warming “is approached as an economist would approach it, asking whether the benefits of intervention would exceed the costs.” This is illustrated from his attempt to convince audience with a cost-benefit argument concerning global warming. For instance, Lomborg cites William Nordhaus, a well-known economist in his defense that “the cost of implementing Kyoto would exceed the total projected cost of global warming” hence this is not a sound argument in dealing with global warming especially from an economic point of view because it is a matter of life and death issues.
Liss (2012) claims that one way of refuting Lomborg’s argument is that if global warming problem had not been serious the way Lomborg assumed, concerns of many countries as well as environmental organizations would not have been raised especially through the meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and in Kyoto in 1997 to assess individual countries’ efforts in minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. These meeting involved studies conducted by highly reputable scientists as well as professional experts that led to a conclusion that global warming is a an environmental problem caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The findings of the meetings enumerated the ice melting as well as depletion of sea shores as some of the serious consequences of global warming. Accordingly, McNeill gives a more reasonable account than that given by Lomborg because the former respects and trusts scientific facts and predictions due to his full confidence in the technological tools as well as computer software that are used in predicting ill consequences of the global warming. Therefore, global warming still remains an environmental problem that needs confrontation adequately.
In conclusion, the foregoing controversies of global warming debate illustrates that global warming is a very serious environmental problem with destructive negative consequences like ozone depletion and an increase in temperatures as presented by McNeil’s strong and supported argument. Hence global warming should be fought adequately due to the data, statistics, and scientifically-based predictions that such a threat is real.
Elkins, A and Simmonds, et al. (2010). Forecasting the consequences of climate driven shifts in human behavior on cetaceans. Marine Policy 34(5): 943-954.
Back, L., Russ, K., Liu, Z., Inoue, K., Zhang, J., & Otto-Bliesner, B. (2013). Global Hydrological Cycle Response to Rapid and Slow Global Warming. Journal Of Climate, 26(22), 8781-8786.
Liss, B. (2012). States Adapting to Climate Change. Environmental Forum, 29(1), 10.
Cho, C., Martens, M., Kim, H., & Rodrigue, M. (2011). Astroturfing Global Warming: It Isn’t Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence. Journal of Business Ethics, 104(4), 571-587.
Dos Santos, M. O. (2012). Investigating consumer knowledge of global warming based on Rogers’ knowledge stage of the innovation decision process. International Journal Of Consumer Studies, 36(4), 385-393.
Long, S., Xie, S., Zheng, X., & Liu, Q. (2014). Fast and Slow Responses to Global Warming: Sea Surface Temperature and Precipitation Patterns. Journal Of Climate, 27(1), 285-299.
Schuldt, J. P., Konrath, S. H., & Schwarz, N. (2011). “Global warming” or “climate change”?. Public Opinion Quarterly, 75(1), 115-124.
Sharpe, M. (2012). Will We Stop Global Warming Before It Kills Us? Challenge (05775132), 55(5), 123-124.
Urpelainen, J. (2012). Global Warming, Irreversibility, and Uncertainty: A Political Analysis. Global Environmental Politics, 12(4), 68-85.
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