Global Warming – a burning issue

By Imaz Ilyas

The term ‘Global Warming’ evolves from the theory that our planet is getting hotter due to an increase in the Greenhouse effect brought about by an increase in the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases. Thus, the greenhouse effect and global warming are interrelated with each other. The greenhouse effect refers to the incoming solar radiation that passes through the earth’s atmosphere, heats the earth’s surface, and absorbs much of outgoing infrared radiation re-radiated from the earth’s surface. The heat is thus retained like the glass panels of a greenhouse or like the windshield of a parked car.

Therefore, when the atmosphere becomes warmer. Greenhouse gases trap more heat and this increases the average temperature of the globe. The key gases to this process are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other trace gases. The natural greenhouse effect has kept the earth’s average temperature at a suitable level required for the healthy survival of earth. Without this natural greenhouse effect, the temperatures would be much lower than they are now, and life as it is known today would not be possible, but the problem happens when human actions cause a larger impact, increasing the earth’s temperature.

Global warming is caused by an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases (chlorofluorocarbons, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) because of human activities. In the future, these may have several consequences if the problem is left ignored by most of the world. Our planet would get hotter, glaciers would melt, and wildlife would suffer. At our current rate of creating these gases by industrial emissions, car and other motor vehicles, and burning fossil fuels, scientists predict a temperature increase of 3 degrees by 2100.

Air’s carbon dioxide concentration has been increasing rapidly since the industrial revolution and this is attributed to the rise in humanity’s use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gases, etc. There is little dispute that the earth has warmed slightly over the same period. Industrial societies typically have a history of shallow ecological reactive policy-making as opposed to deep ecological proactive planning. With this tradition how can we realistically expect to survive in years to come?

The future generations being born into a world affected by human-induced warming seems to be probable unless proactive actions are taken on an international basis to tackle global warming. Ozone, which is a minor constituent in the earth’s atmosphere is responsible for most of the absorption of ultraviolet radiation which otherwise would reach the earth’s surface and cause health problems to the living beings and to the natural environment. Chlorofluorocarbons released by human beings deplete the ozone layer. CFCs and other contributory substances are commonly referred to as ‘ozone-depleting substances.  Governments have now started enforcing a minimal or zero use of CFCs by the industries to reduce the depletion of the ozone layer.

Today, global warming has become a major scientific and social issue and the increase in greenhouse gases has captured some public attention because it could easily damage nature and many socio-cultural aspects of life. The long-term burning of fossil fuels is at the forefront of the issue of global warming. Global warming is destroying the earth; hence, the emphasis should be on how to produce energy that is safer for earth and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases. International agencies such as the UN have taken the initiative to bring various country governments together to evolve methods to achieve the objective.

The United Nations Sustainable development goals are highly related to this issue. SDG 13 climate action, SDG 15 Life on land, SDG 14 Life below water, SDG 06 Clean water and sanitation, and SDG 03 Good health and well-being are some SDGs related directly, and some others are indirectly connected to this issue. The UN panel on climate change recommends that we immediately cut our use of fossil fuels by at least half. Other predicted results of global warming include expanding deserts, forest fires, heat waves, crop failures, poor air quality, water scarcity, and many more.

To avoid all these, we need to take necessary steps to overcome this crucial issue through minimizing the emissions of harmful gases, planting more trees, recycling, avoiding unnecessary usage of electricity, etc. This is our moral obligation as citizens of this beautiful earth and our religious obligation as Muslims to protect and contribute to the earth that we live on.

Let’s hope that our earth will flourish with an abundance of natural resources and be favorable for healthy survival for humans and other beings.***

(Imaz Ilyas is a student from Kulliyyah of Economic and Management Sciences (KENMS). The article is part of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ course. The views expressed here are those of the writer/author and do not necessarily represent the views of IIUMToday,)

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