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Global Warming: Fact or Fiction

Abhijit Naik
The poem, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner', does a poetic justice to the present scenario. In the wake of the global warming, melting glaciers will disrupt the fresh water supply, leaving millions with no water to drink.
It is surprising that we are busy debating whether global warming is a fact or fiction when we have obvious evidence in the form of rising sea level and frequent hurricanes at our disposal.
Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.

~ The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Global Warming

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The whole concept of global warming revolves around the fact that the Earth is getting warmer, which--according to the proponents of this concept--is attributed to anthropogenic or human-induced causes.

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While environmentalists express grave concerns over the hazards of global warming, skeptics seem least interested.
They argue that the predictions on which these environmentalists and scientists are relying are made by computer-simulated climatic models which are far from reliable.

Human-induced Vs. Natural Causes

Every time this concept comes to the debating table, the blame game between its human-induced causes and natural causes has to reach its peak. There is no denying the fact that natural causes of this phenomenon do exist, but one has to understand that they have always been there.
If it was not for these natural causes, the Earth would have been a lot colder ... even unsuitable for human habitation perhaps.
The major problem the planet is facing today is that of human-induced global warming. Over the last couple of decades, i.e., since the beginning of the industrial revolution to be precise, the use of fossil fuels for power generation has increased tremendously.
When these fossil fuels are burned, they produce greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, which remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and trap sunlight, thus causing the near-surface temperature to rise.
Other anthropogenic causes of the phenomenon include mining, use of vehicles, electricity production, deforestation, etc. While mining releases methane stored beneath the Earth's crust, use of vehicles and electricity production release carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Trees are designed to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and therefore, even their destruction--in the name of logging and agricultural activity--contributes to global warming.

Is Global Warming a Fact or Fiction?

Not everyone is ready to believe that global warming is actually happening. In fact, the world is divided into two groups: (i) People who understand the hazards of this phenomenon; and (ii) People who feel it's a hoax.
Both sides are armed with substantial amount of claims and arguments to support their stand and, more importantly, oppose the stand taken by others.

That human-induced global warming has a negligible share in climate change is by far the biggest myth about this phenomenon.
The amount of greenhouse gases generated as a result of human activities is too much to term 'insignificant' or 'negligible' as the skeptics do. The atmospheric concentration of these gases has increased manifold over the last few decades.
These gases trap the sunlight when it enters the Earth. The resultant rise in the near-surface temperature of the planet is what we refer to as human-induced global warming.
According to the IPCC, the expected temperature rise would be somewhere between 2.5-10°F over the next century. The data compiled by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) shows that the average temperature of 58.3°F recorded in 2012 was 1°F warmer than the average for the mid-20th century.
If the temperature rises at the ongoing rate, the resultant climate change is bound to cause the extinction of quite a few species of plants and animals inhabiting the planet.
Rising sea levels, increasing frequency of hurricanes, unusual precipitation pattern, droughts and resultant famines―the evidence of global warming exists in plenty, which makes it all the more surprising that we are trying to turn a blind eye towards the fact that the Earth is getting warmer.

Climate Change

The increasing number of hurricanes is perhaps the biggest evidence of climate change induced by global warming. If the data for the last 10 years is to be believed, summers have been warmer and winters colder than usual.
In fact, the period between January 2000 to December 2009 has been the warmest decade on record. The variations in global temperature are also causing droughts, floods, heat waves, cold waves, and changes in the precipitation patterns around the world.


Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, plants―no living thing is safe from the hazards of global warming. A look at the list of animals extinct in the last 100 years and you immediately realize that most of them were wiped off the planet as a result of a sudden change in temperature levels and resultant loss of habitat.
One of the best examples is that of the Monteverde toad (Bufo periglenes), endemic to the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica. It became extinct in 1989 when unusually hot climate resulted in sudden evaporation of all water bodies in this region, thus killing all the tadpoles before they matured.
One of the most popular examples of species affected by global warming would be the polar bear. Melting of ice caps is not just resulting is habitat loss for these bears, forcing them to migrate further north towards the pole, resulting in food scarcity for them as a result of which they have now started to resort to cannibalism, i.e., eating their own kind.

Why We Need to Worry?

The hazards of global warming haven't started to affect us directly as yet, but the indirect effects have already started to surface. Basically, everything on the planet is related to each other in such a complex manner that the effect of global warming on one species has to have its repercussions on others.
We humans are most dependent on nature, which we have been exploiting continuously for several years now, so any alterations in nature are bound to impact us in some way or the other.
Extinction of tigers will result in an increase in the number of herbivores. When these herbivores feed on vegetation, result in depletion of vegetation cover, which in turn, will impact the precipitation pattern & ground water level. Similarly, unusual precipitation pattern is more likely to result in crop failure thus leaving scores of people without food.
The rise in global temperature also means certain disease-carrying insects, which only thrive in warm climates today, will spread to newer regions on the planet, thus propagating the spread of diseases they carry.
Global warming-induced sea level rise will submerge coastal areas and tiny islands, which is a serious issue considering that most of the highly populated cities in the world are located in the coastal areas.
Tiny islands, like Maldives and Tuvalu, will become the first casualties of the eminent threat that we are talking about, while the coastal areas of other countries, including the United States will follow.
While large nations are trying to figure out whether it is a fact or fiction, small island nations have already started to bear the brunt of global warming. Maldives, for instance, has already made an appeal to the countries of South and Southeast Asia asking them to accommodate their population which will be displaced by rising sea level.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the global sea level has seen a rise of around 8 inches since 1870. Furthermore, the estimates put forth by the IPCC in 2007 reveal that the sea level is expected to rise by 7.1 to 23 inches by 2100.
Melting glaciers will disrupt the freshwater supply, thus leaving millions of people with no water to drink, and also cause flash floods in various parts of the world, leaving many people homeless.
The submerging of coastal areas of Bangladesh, sinking of Maldives, flash floods in the Himalayas, etc., are just a few examples coming from different parts of the world. It's evidence like this, that proves that global warming is a fact, and not fiction.
If these global warming facts can't help you realize how serious the issue is, nothing can. The skeptics are right when they say it is difficult to rely on climatic models to predict what the future has in store for us.
When we find it difficult to predict the weather for tomorrow even with the most sophisticated machinery at our disposal, how can we predict what will happen 10 or 100 years down the lane? But that doesn't mean we take the things that are happening around us lightly.
The situation may not be as serious as 'some' global warming proponents claim, but it is definitely worth taking a note of, especially with the substantial amount of evidence we have discussed here.

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Over the last decade, environmentalists have been coming up with facts about global warming, while skeptics refuting them as mere myths or exaggerations. The heated debates between the two sides will continue for some time to come. We can just hope that these debates―or arguments to be precise―don't continue even when the calamity itself knocks on our door.