Is the earth getting warmer?
Although some recent frigid winters may convince you otherwise many scientists say that it is. They note that in this century, the average temperature has already risen by almost 1° Fahrenheit, and that by 2050, it may be 4° warmer.
Many scientists and environmentalists attribute this warming to the greenhouse effect. This occurs when greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, rise into the atmosphere and trap the heat reflected from sunlight striking the earth. This heat is then reflected back toward earth, warming the planet. Without those gases, the heat would radiate out into space. A certain concentration of greenhouse gases is necessary to keep the earth warm.
Recently, however, the concentration of greenhouse gases has risen rapidly due to human activities - possibly leading to global warming. The primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is created by the burning of fossil fuels.
And more carbon dioxide is present in the atmosphere than ever before because plants and trees, which normally take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, are being cut down. Ozone, another greenhouse gas, is also created by pollution.
If the earth is, in fact, becoming warmer, it will mean more than steamier summers. The polar ice caps may melt, causing seas to rise nd causing flooding in coastal cities. More droughts may occur and more deserts may be created, leading to mass starvation. The earth will not warm equally: the poles are expected to warm more than the middle of the earth. This will cause drastic climatic changes, and the kinds of food that can be grown in agricultural regions today will
Agriculture will shift throughout the world. Because agricultural pests and diseases thrive in warmer weather, there may be much more crop damage. Some scientists believe that climate change will favour the most common plant species, killing off rarer plant forms, so there will less biodiversity Weather patterns throughout the world will alter, possibly leading to more extreme weather such as hurricanes and storm surges along the coasts.
Not everyone agrees that the earth is getting warmer. Many believe that it is not. At the moment, there is no way to prove or disprove the theory. The problem, though, is this: If, in fact, it is getting warmer, by the time the evidence proves conclusively that it is happening, it will be too late to do anything about it; the drastic effects will have already taken hold.