Global warming as the term suggests, is nothing but the slow and continuous increase in the average temperature of the atmosphere surrounding the Earth and the vast oceans on its landscape. This effect is primarily caused by a few gases like carbon-dioxide, ozone, nitrous oxide, methane and water vapor, which are better known as green house gases. These gases are capable of absorbing heat from the Sunâs rays and emitting it back to the space, and play an important role in maintaining surface temperatures on Earth, which otherwise would become too cold for human existence. However, when in excess quantities, these gases tend to have a negative impact on the environment, causing natural calamities that make our lives difficult. Pollution from extensive industrialization, deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels, are a few important factors that affect the level of green house gases in the atmosphere, thereby leading to unpredictable natural disasters and climate changes. Here are five of the most destructive effects of global warming that we are faced with:
1. Increased probability and intensity of droughts and heat waves
As the atmosphere gets saturated with higher levels of green house gases, surface temperatures on the Earth are bound to increase. These gases tend to absorb and retain more of sunâs heat without allowing it to escape freely into the outer space, causing the land, air and water to heat up. This in turn speeds up evaporation of water from the land and fresh water sources, leading to frequent and severe drought conditions. High land and air temperatures create intense heat conditions.
2. Polar ice caps melting
Ice caps and glaciers that dominate the Arctic Pole have started to melt at an alarming rate, submerging vast expanse of land in the process. The melt down is also simultaneously opening up access to vast deep sea oil and gas deposits, including methane in the Tundra region, endangering the Arctic marine ecosystem, impacting shipping routes, and the cool water currents that flow down to Europe and Africa. A tremendous change is also observed in terms of the new land revealed by melting ice, and variations in shore-lines, leading to conflicting international interests in the geographical terrain.
3. More floods
Heat wave conditions and increasing land and air temperature trigger faster evaporation of water, eventually leading to cloud formation and torrential downpours. Varying temperature settings are bound to create flash floods other than those occurring during the regular rainy seasons. Research findings reveal that a two-degree increase in global temperatures will increase frequency of floods occurring in a century, by up to 5 times.
4. Fires and wildfires
De-forestation associated with farming and construction of residential buildings bordering forest land, sparse dry vegetation, combined with drought and high temperatures, form an ideal setting for wildfires which rage over forests and bush lands for days together. Instances of wildfires are expected to be on the rise with the increase in heat wave conditions, which are commonly associated with the greenhouse effect. In the absence of green cover, lightning induced fires are also expected to be on the rise resulting in loss of human/wild life and property.
5. Increased volcanic activity
Although there is no immediate danger of volcanic disaster, a research carried out by a team from University of Leeds, headed by Dr Carolina Pagli, reveals that melting glaciers in Iceland and other polar regions have reduced the mass of the Arctic ice-cap, and hence the pressure exerted by the ice on the land beneath it. Absence of sufficient pressure, allows the rock deep within the Earthâs surface, to melt easily and the extra magma be thrown up through the active volcanoes.
In addition to the trauma caused by these effects, costs and human effort involved in addressing these calamities is tremendous; Needless to say that it is impossible to accurately estimate loss of life, property and income/revenue. We could, however, reduce emission of carbon dioxide by preserving the natural carbon sinks of dense forest cover and fresh water sources. It is a well known fact that trees absorb carbon dioxide during their vital photosynthesis process, and release the much required oxygen, thereby, providing a mutual win-win situation for life on earth. Reduced dependency on fossilized fuels and stringent emission control measures will also help to slow down global warming.