Research Paper on Global Climate Change


The dictionary defines climate as the generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years. Although climate is something relatively stable over a long period of time, it does change. Thus our planet has seen ice ages come and go, oceans expanded or shrank to expose new land and further on. But climate change as part of earth’s natural processes is a phenomenon that usually happens at a very, very slow pace. Much slower than what mankind has been experiencing over the course of the last century, when average temperatures started rising more quickly than ever before (see picture 1). Temperatures have increased about 1.2 to 1.4ºF within 100 years according to data of NASA and NOAA (EPA). At the moment we are experiencing the highest temperatures in at least 1000 years with its peak in the last decade (Exploratorium).

Climate change is triggered by changes in the planets energy balance, this rise in temperatures in particular is triggered by the so called “greenhouse effect.” (Exploratorium)

Sunlight passes through the atmosphere and reaches the surface of the planet and part of it gets absorbed. The remaining energy that is reflected, passes back through the atmosphere into space. But some of this heat gets trapped by atmospheric gases and heats up the atmosphere. These gases are called greenhouse gases. The six main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and the three fluorinated industrial gases: hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride (Global Issues). Water vapor is also considered a greenhouse gas. Without this natural effect the temperatures on our planet would be 60° F colder and life as we know it would be impossible. Most atmospheric gases, like nitrogen or oxygen are not greenhouse gases, but since the composition of the atmospheric gases has changed recently and greenhouse gases make up a higher percentage than ever before, more and more heat is trapped which leads to the phenomenon of global warming.

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While the natural greenhouse effect is making life on earth possible and climatic changes occur naturally, the rapid changes and the significant rise of temperatures we are experiencing now are potentially very dangerous and have been caused by human activities.


Carbon dioxide and water vapor are greenhouse gases that occur naturally. But roughly since the onset of the industrial revolution carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere in increasingly large amounts, by burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. In addition to that more and more trees have been cut down. Trees can bind carbon dioxide and by cutting down trees we further reduce the planets capacity to cope with the huge amounts of this gas . Other greenhouse gases that do not occur naturally are produced by human activity. (EPA)

Not only the industries produce large amounts of carbon dioxide. A very large share is released through transportation, mainly of goods, but also of people, in growing numbers of cars, trucks, ships and planes. Findings in 2000 say that sulfuric gases, that originate in industry are the most potent greenhouse gases, particularly trifluoromethyl sulphur pentafluoride. Since ships emit sulphur they are a lot more damaging than assumed so far. One giant container ship is thought to emit the same amount of asthma and cancer causing substances as 50 million cars! (Global Issues):

Methane for example is produced by the ever growing amount of farm animals, especially cattle. The huge amounts of dead and rotting vegetation and garbage are also releasing different greenhouse gases.

One of the things that is already happening right now, is that global warning as it is increasing it is accelerating. A powerful example is the world’s largest frozen peat bog in Siberia. This particular region, known for its cold temperatures is currently warming faster than other parts of the world, with an average of 3° higher temperatures over the last 40 years. This frozen area with a size comparable to Germany and France combined is binding billions of tons of methane. If the ground starts to warm and stays wet these huge amounts of methane will be directly released into the atmosphere. Since methane is about 20 times as powerful as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide the effect would be dramatic. If the bog dries out during the melt the methane will oxidize and turn into carbon dioxide. So either way the atmosphere will be further damaged.

( Events like that have led to the fact, that global warming is happening much faster than initially predicted. This makes it further difficult to predict future events.

Furthermore as the sea ice levels are sinking, again global warming will accelerate since the ice reflects a lot of the sunlight back into space.


Since we are already experiencing global warming and mankind has only very late started to combat global warming and its causes, the key issue now is damage control. It has been decided to try and contain temperature rises to an average of 2°. Average means, that some regions will experience much higher temperatures than before and other regions will have to face only small changes.
An alternative plan has suggested to limit temperature rises to an average of 4°, but it quickly became clear that we would not be able to handle an increase of 4° average! (Global Issues)

It is generally thought that global warming will lead to more extreme weather patterns. That means more hurricanes, severe droughts, longer spells of either extreme heat or intense rain. Northern Europe would become significantly colder as the melting of the arctic ice sends fresh water south. This would cut off the Gulf Stream that brings warmer waters. While Scandinavia would freeze, the British Islands would become much warmer. South Asia could suffer from a lack of fresh water when the glaciers in the Himalaya start to retreat.

By now we have already experienced some tastes of what might happen in the future: 2010 as the almost warmest year in record, with heat waves in Russia, Europe and Asia; Floods in Pakistan and droughts in Brazil; the minimum extent of sea ice measured in history in September 2010 or the drought in China in early 2010 are only a few examples.

Through these examples we can see that global warming has three primary effects: the rise of temperatures, the change of global patterns of precipitation and a rise in sea levels. These changes will influence different aspects, such as our health, agriculture, the forests, water resources, wildlife and human life in coastal regions.

Human health

The expected long spells of heat could cause deaths and illnesses related to heat. Since greater heat will also worsen air pollution and smog the numbers of respiratory illnesses and related deaths are very likely to rise accordingly. The warmer climate will also allow a lot of insects to increase their populations and spread into new regions, where they will introduce many illnesses they can carry.

The above mentioned threats are particularly dangerous to very young or very old people, as well as to anyone with cardiac or respiratory problems.

As an example for insect- borne illnesses Malaria could be spread much further than ever before and back into regions where it has been successfully combated and has not occurred in a very long time such as the United States and Europe. Malaria is spread by a parasite that grows inside a certain kind of mosquito. When this mosquito bites, it transmits the parasite. Higher temperature allow the Malaria carrying parasite to reach maturity much faster and thus the disease can spread at a higher speed. This has already been witnessed in some highland regions in Africa when El- Niño caused warmer weather and increased rainfall. Malaria epidemics have occurred there as a consequence. (Exploratorium)


Although slightly warmer temperatures and a bit more carbon dioxide can be of benefit for certain crops, it is hard to predict how the availability of water and nutrients for agriculture will change. If the rise of temperatures exceed more than a few degrees the effects on crops will be only negative.

Water resources

As already mentioned more extreme weather patterns will be become more frequent. This includes long droughts and severe floods. All this could have very negative consequences for the quality and availability of water. While increased precipitation could make water more available than before in some regions, others will go dry. In short: the worldwide distribution of water will change, which could in turn lead to conflicts and war. This is only one possible way how global warming could also have strong effects on human societies that will be suffering from changes in their environments.

Living in coastal areas

Coastal areas will be sooner and stronger affected by the rise of sea levels. Millions of people living close to the sea will be endangered by accelerated coastal erosion, flooding, loss of coastal wetlands and more frequent storm surges and Tsunamis.

The rising of the levels occur not only because there is more water through the melting of arctic ice, but also due to the simple fact, that warm water takes up more space than the same amount of cold water.


Rising temperatures and increased precipitation will also have a significant influence on the habitats of animals. Those who will not be able to adapt to their new living conditions will become extinct. Others could be forced to migrate to new locations. (EPA)

How biodiversity will suffer in the near future is illustrated by the example of the melting of arctic ice. The whole ecosystem of this region with all its species, like the polar bear is threatened by extinction. How the patterns of melting and refreezing in the natural cycle of the seasons has been changed in recent times.


Predictions of what will happen next and how severe the effects of global warning will be once the process hits us with its full force are very different. This is due to two main factors:
Firstly, the discovery that global warming happens much faster than originally assumed has made scientists much more careful about predictions.

Secondly a very important element in the analysis of possible future outcomes is human behavior. Although measures are being taken through contracts such as the Kyoto protocols how humans will act on them in the future is impossible to foresee.

The effects of global warming could destroy life as we know it today. Since a lot of time has elapsed since it was first pointed out that human activities may be the cause of the climate changes and the processes are accelerating as described above, we are running out of time to stop global warming. It is necessary that every single person on earth will consciously try to reduce their individual carbon dioxide output and that society as a whole will lower the emission of greenhouse gases through industry and transportation of goods. It is an evil upon the world brought by man to better his life, yet the effects are worsening everything around him. As the old adage goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, hopefully we can reverse this road soon.

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EPA. 14. November 2011 .
Exploratorium. 14. November 2011 .
Global Issues. 14. November 2011 .
Global Warming Art. 14. November 2011 .

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