Although the degree to which global warming is a man-made crisis has been hotly debated, the effects of global warming are largely measurable. In addition to climate and geographic changes, modifications to our culture and government legislation are also included amongst the effects of global warming. Whether or not global warming is a preventable crisis, a natural stage in the earth’s evolution, or both, the issue has already made a significant impact on the way we live.
As its name would suggest, global warming entails an overall increase in the earth’s temperatures. The last few decades have featured the hottest temperatures on record since the latter-19th century, which is often cited amongst the negative effects of global warming. With these hotter temperatures comes the melting of ice and snow in even the coldest regions of the planet. Global experts warn that such effects could lead to a major ice sheet collapsing in West Antarctica or Greenland, resulting in the rise of sea levels and the subsequent flooding of millions of homes on coastal areas. Another potential result of melted ice sheets in Greenland is the interruption of currents which help Northern Europe retain its heat, creating a sudden and dramatic shift in temperature on the continent.
Earthquakes, wildfires, and permafrost melting causing trapped methane gas are all predicted as potential effects of global warming. Global warming may have also played a part in Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, Louisiana and parts of Mississippi in 2005. The increased intensity of hurricanes has been yet another consequence cited to the effects of global warming.
In 2006, the release of Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth drew mass public attention to the potentially disastrous effects of global warming. As a result of more attention being drawn to global warming over the last decade, North American culture has shifted to reflect the growing concern with the issue. Gas-guzzling automobiles, private jets, and other causes of excessive carbon dioxide emissions have become unfavorable symbols of ways in which society may be contributing to the effects of global warming. As well, many corporations have restructured their operations to reduce their own carbon footprint and re-branded themselves as more “earth-friendly” in order to appeal to the public.
At the government level, an international treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol has been designed to encourage countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon taxes have also been introduced as an incentive for organizations to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Although a reduction of fossil fuel consumption would help decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions on a temporary basis, it is not seen as a long term solution to the overall problem of global warming. Government groups have also attempted to alleviate the effects of global warming through campaigns which encourage citizens to use less electricity on an individual basis and opt for public transportation whenever possible.