The broad scientific understanding today is that our planet is experiencing a warming trend over and above natural and normal variations that is almost certainly due to human activities associated with large-scale manufacturing. The process began in the late 1700s with the Industrial Revolution, when manual labor, horsepower, and water power began to be replaced by or enhanced by machines. This revolution, over time, shifted Britain, Europe, and eventually North America from largely agricultural and trading societies to manufacturing ones, relying on machinery and engines rather than tools and animals.
The Industrial Revolution was at heart a revolution in the use of energy and power. Its beginning is usually dated to the advent of the steam engine, which was based on the conversion of chemical energy in wood or coal to thermal energy and then to mechanical work primarily the powering of industrial machinery and steam locomotives. Coal eventually supplanted wood because, pound for pound, coal contains twice as much energy as wood (measured in BTUs, or British thermal units, per pound) and because its use helped to save what was left of the world’s temperate forests. Coal was used to produce heat that went directly into industrial processes, including metallurgy, and to warm buildings, as well as to power steam engines. When crude oil came along in the mid- 1800s, still a couple of decades before electricity, it was burned, in the form of kerosene, in lamps to make light replacing whale oil. It was also used to provide heat for buildings and in manufacturing processes, and as a fuel for engines used in industry and propulsion.
In short, one can say that the main forms in which humans need and use energy are for light, heat, mechanical work and motive power, and electricity which can be used to provide any of the other three, as well as to do things that none of those three can do, such as electronic communications and information processing. Since the Industrial Revolution, all these energy functions have been powered primarily, but not exclusively, by fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide (CO2), To put it another way, the Industrial Revolution gave a whole new prominence to what Rochelle Lefkowitz, president of Pro-Media Communications and an energy buff, calls “fuels from hell” – coal, oil, and natural gas. All these fuels from hell come from underground, are exhaustible, and emit CO2 and other pollutants when they are burned for transportation, heating, and industrial use. These fuels are in contrast to what Lefkowitz calls “fuels from heaven” -wind, hydroelectric, tidal, biomass, and solar power. These all come from above ground, are endlessly renewable, and produce no harmful emissions.
Meanwhile, industrialization promoted urbanization, and urbanization eventually gave birth to suburbanization. This trend, which was repeated across America, nurtured the development of the American car culture, the building of a national highway system, and a mushrooming of suburbs around American cities, which rewove the fabric of American life. Many other developed and developing countries followed the American model, with all its upsides and downsides. The result is that today we have suburbs and ribbons of highways that run in, out, and around not only America s major cities, but China’s, India’s, and South America’s as well. And as these urban areas attract more people, the sprawl extends in every direction.
All the coal, oil, and natural gas inputs for this new economic model seemed relatively cheap, relatively inexhaustible, and relatively harmless-or at least relatively easy to clean up afterward. So there wasn’t much to stop the juggernaut of more people and more development and more concrete and more buildings and more cars and more coal, oil, and gas needed to build and power them. Summing it all up, Andy Karsner, the Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, once said to me: “We built a really inefficient environment with the greatest efficiency ever known to man.”
Beginning in the second half of the twentieth century, a scientific understanding began to emerge that an excessive accumulation of largely invisible pollutants-called greenhouse gases – was affecting the climate. The buildup of these greenhouse gases had been under way since the start of the Industrial Revolution in a place we could not see and in a form we could not touch or smell. These greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide emitted from human industrial, residential, and transportation sources, were not piling up along roadsides or in rivers, in cans or empty bottles, but, rather, above our heads, in the earth’s atmosphere. If the earth’s atmosphere was like a blanket that helped to regulate the planet’s temperature, the CO2 buildup was having the effect of thickening that blanket and making the globe warmer.
Those bags of CO2 from our cars float up and stay in the atmosphere, along with bags of CO2 from power plants burning coal, oil, and gas, and bags of CO2 released from the burning and clearing of forests, which releases all the carbon stored in trees, plants, and soil. In fact, many people don’t realize that deforestation in places like Indonesia and Brazil is responsible for more CO2 than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, ships, and trains combined – that is, about 20 percent of all global emissions. And when we’re not tossing bags of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we’re throwing up other greenhouse gases, like methane (CH4) released from rice farming, petroleum drilling, coal mining, animal defecation, solid waste landfill sites, and yes, even from cattle belching. Cattle belching? That’s right-the striking thing about greenhouse gases is the diversity of sources that emit them. A herd of cattle belching can be worse than a highway full of Hummers. Livestock gas is very high in methane, which, like CO2, is colorless and odorless. And like CO2, methane is one of those greenhouse gases that, once released into the atmosphere, also absorb heat radiating from the earth’s surface. “Molecule for molecule, methane’s heat-trapping power in the atmosphere is twenty-one times stronger than carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas..” reported Science World (January 21, 2002). “With 1.3 billion cows belching almost constantly around the world (100million in the United States alone), it’s no surprise that methane released by livestock is one of the chief global sources of the gas, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency … ‘It’s part of their normal digestion process,’ says Tom Wirth of the EPA. ‘When they chew their cud, they regurgitate [spit up] some food to rechew it, and all this gas comes out.’ The average cow expels 600 liters of methane a day, climate researchers report.”
What is the precise scientific relationship between these expanded greenhouse gas emissions and global warming? Experts at the Pew Center on Climate Change offer a handy summary in their report “Climate Change 101. ” Global average temperatures, notes the Pew study, “have experienced natural shifts throughout human history. For example; the climate of the Northern Hemisphere varied from a relatively warm period between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries to a period of cooler temperatures between the seventeenth century and the middle of the nineteenth century. However, scientists studying the rapid rise in global temperatures during the late twentieth century say that natural variability cannot account for what is happening now.” The new factor is the human factor-our vastly increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil as well as from deforestation, large-scale cattle-grazing, agriculture, and industrialization.
“Scientists refer to what has been happening in the earth’s atmosphere over the past century as the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’”, notes the Pew study. By pumping manmade greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, humans are altering the process by which naturally occurring greenhouse gases, because of their unique molecular structure, trap the sun’s heat near the earth’s surface before that heat radiates back into space.
“The greenhouse effect keeps the earth warm and habitable; without it, the earth’s surface would be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit colder on average. Since the average temperature of the earth is about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, the natural greenhouse effect is clearly a good thing. But the enhanced greenhouse effect means even more of the sun’s heat is trapped, causing global temperatures to rise. Among the many scientific studies providing clear evidence that an enhanced greenhouse effect is under way was a 2005 report from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Using satellites, data from buoys, and computer models to study the earth’s oceans, scientists concluded that more energy is being absorbed from the sun than is emitted back to space, throwing the earth’s energy out of balance and warming the globe.”
1. Which of the following statements is correct?
(I) Greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming. They should be eliminated to save the planet
(II) CO2 is the most dangerous of the greenhouse gases. Reduction in the release of CO2 would surely bring down the temperature
(III) The greenhouse effect could be traced back to the industrial revolution. But the current development and the patterns of life have enhanced their emissions
(IV) Deforestation has been one of the biggest factors contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases
Choose the correct option:
(A) I and III
(B) II and III
(C) II, III, and IV
(D) III and IV
2. Which of the following statements is incorrect?
(A) Natural and controlled greenhouse effect is good for earth
(B) As a measure to check global warming, prevention of destruction of forests needs to be given priority over reduction in fuel emission
(C) Greenhouse gases trap the sun’s heat from radiating back into the space making the earth surface warmer
(D) It is for the first time in human evolution that the global temperatures have started to witness a shift
3. Increasing warming of earth has been due to:
(I) Increased manual intervention in the manufacturing process
(II) The fallout of mechanization of production
(III) Industrial revolution
(IV) Over reliance on non- replenishible energy sources
Choose the correct option:
(A) I, II, and IV
(B) I, III and IV
(C) I, II, III, and IV
(D) II, III, and IV
4. Which of the following according to the passage are the features of “fuels from heaven”?
(A) I and II
(B) II and III
(C) III, and IV
(D) I and IV
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