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Global warming occurs when the levels of greenhouse gasses rise and less infrared light, or heat, escapes the earth's atmosphere. Thus, the temperature experienced on Earth begins to rise. Climate change is a part of the Earth's history. There have been dramatic fluctuations in overall average temperature for the past 150,000 years that suggest a direct association with carbon dioxide levels. In the past the temperature highs and lows have been in tandem with carbon dioxide level highs and lows, this does not seem to be a mere coincidence.
Carbon dioxide currently accounts for 0.03% of the gas content within the atmosphere. However, it has a disproportionate impact on the earth's temperature. Thus, minor fluctuations in the percentage of atmospheric carbon dioxide will likely have a significant effect on the global temperature. The percentage of atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen over the past century at an alarming rate. Industrial civilization is essentially driven by fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gasoline all major contributors to the raise in carbon dioxide emissions. Deforestation also releases carbon dioxide via burning and exposing the soil to sunlight. Also, since trees are a major factor in the natural processing of carbon dioxide, needing it to make up their mass, when they are cut down they can no longer serve to absorb carbon dioxide. Our practices are altering the environment and endangering society in return.
Carbon dioxide is put into the atmosphere in many ways; some of which are naturally occurring and others are from human activity. Over 95% of the carbon dioxide emissions are from natural sources, and would occur even if humans were not on Earth. However, Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, due to the cyclic nature of the carbon cycle, would change little if not for human activities that produce so much every year. The present addition of 3% annually to emissions is enough to throw off the balancing effect of the carbon cycle. The result is a build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is currently at about a third higher than pre-industrial levels worldwide.
Throughout the last century our world, reshaped by dams, irrigation, logging and so forth, has seen drastic human population growth. Resulting technologies produced an industrial age that transformed the land, sky, waters, and distribution of the biota of the worlds' nations. The engines and power plants, which evolved from this historical transformation of science and technology, threaten our stability. Just imagine for a moment how the American continent was changed by these revolutions:
The frontier was conquered during the industrial age when science and technology were unifying in a grand experiment which, at the time, seemed like the manifest destiny of civilization: to plow from one coast to the other. The wheels of transformation were set into motion long ago and they are far from slowing down. The consumption patterns of the industrial age will continue to grind for some time and place even greater demands upon all related resources in the meantime.
Even if we change our practices in time to avoid instantaneous climatic disturbances, the lessons of ecological history show that society and environment continually alter each other regardless of the global warming phenomenon. The environment may initially shape the range of choices available to a people at a given moment, but then culture ...
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