Understanding Global Warming
Andrew Moreno

It seems that everywhere you go someone is talking about global warming. More
specifically, we have seen this topic often within the political arena. On one side of the
spectrum, someone is arguing that the earth’s climate is getting warmer; however, this
issue is many times disputed by other politicians. The question to consider is: Does it
matter what politicians say? What do the environmental scientists have to say?

Global warming refers to the gradual incline in the Earth’s overall climate/average
temperature. It’s true that the earth’s climate fluctuates. Scientists on the side of global
warming state that although climate change is natural, it has continually risen without a
regression. Opponents don’t seem to understand this concept, stating we are most likely
at the end of a glacial period. However, since the inception and commercial use of fossil
fuels (oil, gas, and coal) during and after the industrial revolution, the Earth’s climate has
continued to climb.

In order to grasp a better understanding of this concept, a condensed version of global
warming is in order. The sun is one of the primary energy sources in the universe. The
sun naturally emits UV rays that are directed toward the earth. These UV rays consist of
UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. When the sun emits these rays some are absorbed by the earth
and some are reflected. When the sun’s energy reaches the earth, those rays are
reflected back into the atmosphere. This is referred to the greenhouse effect. This is a
natural process that keeps the earth livable. This process occurs naturally and has kept
the earth's temperature about 60 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would otherwise be.
Current life on Earth could not be sustained without the natural greenhouse effect.

The problem associated with the greenhouse effect is when those rays that are reflected
out in the atmosphere, become trapped below that stratosphere (our atmosphere). At
this point, greenhouse gases absorb the outgoing energy (heat) and have gradually
caused the Earth’s climate to increase by about 1 degree Fahrenheit. Any gas that
absorbs infra-red radiation in the atmosphere refers to a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse
gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O),
halogenated fluorocarbons (HCFCs), ozone (O3), perfluorinated carbons (PFCs), and
hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is
CO2. The majority of CO2 emissions stem from industrial and transportation industries.
This includes fossil fuel power plants and our day-to-day transportation schedules.

You may wonder what a 1 degree difference might make. Here are some scenarios that
have been suggested by the world’s top scientists and professors. It is expected that the
temperature will continue to increase an additional 2-5 degrees over the next hundred
years. Although this might not have a devastating effect in the short-run, it will have an
impact on future generations. When the climate changes, there may be big changes in
the things that people depend on. These things include the level of the oceans and the
places where we plant crops. They also include the air we breathe and the water we

There are ways we can actively reduce our carbon-footprint. For example, car-pooling,
recycling, using alternative renewable energy sources, planting trees, and becoming
educated are all examples of ways you can reduce your carbon-footprint.

For more information on global warming, please visit the
EPA website , Harvard
University’s Green Campus Initiative website  or view the academy-award winning
An Inconvenient Truth .