Global Warming: Is there need for all the ALARM? - By Assayouti Murtala Akinola

The tragedy in Haiti, the extreme weather conditions in Europe and Australia, the floods in India, hurricanes, bush fires, and tsunamis; these are the order of the day. Signs of the end times, perhaps? We can attribute all of the events around the world to Quranic and Biblical prophecies, and if really this symptoms are the assertions of the doomsday analogy, then we, as humans should take it as a priority to understand the unfolding events and ask the ultimate question of how and why.

If the long and careless degradation of the planet by humans through illicit far-reaching acts of ‘development’ are the cause of the phenomenal, then humans not God will be responsible for the eventual annihilation of life on earth. But is that really so? Is the natural phenomenal really a consequence of human activity? Is this seemingly unique occurrence really the cause of the extreme conditions and climate change?  And are they really really hazardous to human existence?  Even if the effects of global warming are perilous to humanity, is it really enough to destroy all of mankind? Does the process have an antidote or is it inevitable? Are people making much ado about nothing? What then should be done? These are questions the following piece intends to clarify.

What is Global Warming? Global warming is the term used to describe a gradual increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and its oceans, a change that is believed to be permanently changing the Earth’s climate forever.  The increase in the average temperature of Earth's near-surface air and oceans has occurred through the mid-20th century and it is projected to continue. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientific intergovernmental body tasked with evaluating the risk of climate change caused by human activity, ( The panel was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization(WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), two organizations under United Nations. The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, concludes global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the 21st century.

While many view the effects of global warming to be more substantial and more rapidly occurring than others do, the scientific consensus on climatic changes related to global warming is that the average temperature of the Earth has risen between 0.4 and 0.8 °C over the past 100 years.  This in itself is remarkable given that a climate change scenario like this happens in 10,000 years interval. Imagine Ice Ages and the warm intermediate times between them (interglacial) that evolved over periods of 50,000 to 100,000 years occurring every 100 years. A temperature rise as fast as the one we have seen over the last 30 years has never happened before, as far as scientists can ascertain. Moreover, normally the Earth should now be in a cool-down-period, according to natural effects like solar cycles and volcano activity, not in a heating-up phase. The rise many believe is directly linked to scenes of climate extreme conditions, though not readily observed in the old continent of Africa, experiential with significant precision around the world. Extreme heat, delayed rains and long droughts are some of the features observed in Africa as against, the hurricanes and bush fires of temperate regions. Bottom-line, things are changing really fast! Causes The increased volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released by the burning of fossil fuels, gas flaring, land clearing, agriculture, and other human activities, are believed to be the primary sources of the global warming phenomenal that have occurred over the past 50 years.

Greenhouse gases are gases in an atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation warming planet's lower atmosphere and surface. This process is the fundamental cause of the warming or the greenhouse effect. The main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Greenhouse gases greatly affect the temperature of the Earth; without them, Earth's surface would be a chilling -18 degrees Celsius.  These gases make life on Earth possible – and in nature’s brutal irony they could also destroy it. Of all the gases, CO2 happens to be the most important as it is the one most produced by human actions. Increased amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere augment the greenhouse effect. It is currently the major scientific opinion that carbon dioxide emissions are the foremost cause of global warming observed since the mid-20th century. Natural sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide include volcanic outgassing, the combustion of organic matter, and the respiration processes of living aerobic organisms; man-made sources of carbon dioxide include the burning of fossil fuels for heating, power generation and transport, as well as some industrial processes such as cement making and of course human breathing. Plants convert carbon dioxide to carbohydrates during a process called photosynthesis. They produce the energy needed for this reaction through the photolysis of water. The resulting gas, oxygen, is released into the atmosphere by plants, which is subsequently used for respiration by heterotrophic organisms, forming a cycle. During the 100,000 year ice age cycle, CO2 varies between a low of approximately 200 ppm (parts per million) during cold periods and a high of 280 ppm during interglacials. Recent human influences have increased this to above 380 ppm. There is a large natural flux of CO2 into and out of the biosphere and oceans. In the pre-industrial era these fluxes were largely in balance. Currently about 57% of human-emitted CO2 is removed by the biosphere and oceans; without this effect CO2 levels would be even higher.  CO2 emissions are caused by power plants. These are burning coal, natural gas and diesel fuel. Also, cars and trucks with internal combustion engines burning fossil fuels; gasoline and diesel spew forth a large amount of CO2.It is pertinent to note here that ozone, one of the greenhouse gases, depletion is distinctly different from global warming, even though there is a very insignificant link. Ozone depletion is actually a process that has a cooling influence, but dangerous in that it encourages the passage of harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun into the earth’s atmosphere. It is linked strongly with the cause of skin cancers Effects Several effects have been attributed to global warming, from sea-level rise, increased flooding and stronger storms, among other climate-related threats; devastating heat waves sweeping across continents, poisonous plants producing more potent toxins, Disease-carrying insects swarming mountain villages. Several documented occurrences that may or not be associated with global warming have also occurred.

The African continent is rich complex ecosystems, ranging from the snow and ice fields of Kilimanjaro to tropical rainforests to the Saharan desert. Although it has the lowest fossil energy use of any major world region. Africa may be the most vulnerable continent to climate change because widespread poverty limits countries capabilities to adapt. Signs of a changing climate in Africa have already emerged: spreading disease and melting glaciers in the mountains, warming temperatures in drought-prone areas, and sea-level rise and coral bleaching along the coastlines. Nigerians will notice even if innocuously the hotter days, seemingly shorter Harmattan periods, late rains and constantly rising ocean water level-Bar Beach is good example.   But the most frightening of the effects for Nigerians would be the seemingly conducive environment the new heat levels would give disease-causing organisms. Mosquitoes and other vectors would have field days and Nigeria is not ready for an outbreak of an unknown disease.  Imagine an outbreak of a viral disease the world has not known for thousands of years because they were frozen in the glaciers of the Antarctic only released by melting icebergs due to global warming.  There could be deaths by the thousands. The developed nations would be highest hit. The Debate and What to Do So is there a need to be panicky? You’ve probable read Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing. You will understand that phrase refers to unnecessary concern for something that certainly does not require it.

The global warming saga acknowledges the facts that change is eminent, that this change whether caused or not caused by human activity, could have some devastating effects on human living. Scientists like John Christy… believe the panic over global warming is just an agenda to enable government t spend money combating an issue that require little more than creating awareness and encouraging good practices. There is certainly no need according to him for all the panic. The planet has always been in a constant state of change, that this period of global warming is the natural phase for the change in climate which they feel is inevitable.  If there had been evidence of global temperatures before 150 years ago, one would realize that earth temperature has been fluctuating from time and is still doing so. A change that will NOT lead to the end of the world. Panic and fear are two human substances that always reverberate negatively. We certainly do not want scenes of mass suicide again based on very faulty judgment.  The biblical references to the signs of the end of days being increased natural disasters fuels the religious argument of many zealots that global warming is the harbinger of the inevitable Last Days. Islam on the other hand adheres to systematic progressive change in climate and even though the Last Days are prophesized, the earth will undergo its normal changes before this time according to the hadith of the Prophet Muhhammed. It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Hour will not begin until the land of the Arabs once again becomes meadows and rivers.” Narrated by Muslim (157). Meadows refer to spacious land with a great deal of vegetation. Most of Arabia is arid desert. 

Climate studies indicate that global warming might encourage new rainy periods, the evidence of which is the shift of the ice-cap in the northern hemisphere towards the south, and a noticeable fall in winter temperatures. This can precipitate environmental changes around the world. Victor Ogugu, an environmentalist writer insists that there is much to be anxious about, observing that prevailing evidence in the past century crates a doomsday scenario that can only be combated with sincere appreciation of the gravity of the present situation.  People, Africans, Nigerians will not be ready for the outcome, having neither technology nor wealth to cushion the fall. While some would call global warming a theory, others would call it a proven set of facts. Opinions differ vehemently.  The prevailing counter opinion is that all that is presently perceived to be global warming is simply the result of a normal climactic swing in the direction of increased temperature. Let us consider global warming to be both a foundation that the environment of the world as we know it is slowly, but very surely increasing in overall air and water temperature, and a promise that if whatever is causing this trend is not interrupted or challenged life on earth will dynamically be affected.  Global warming may or may not be a problem.  Man may or may not be driving it.  Given the uncertainties, a significant amount of global regret may apply if we divert too much of our global wealth to solving what may be a non-existent or trivial problem, especially if that diversion puts billions in poverty.  On the other hand, we may also regret not doing anything if man-made global warming does turn out to be a problem.  Given the several predictions from several side on the outcome of global warming, there is no general consensus of the extent of the effects over the periods of years. Will there be a sudden drastic change? Maybe the next 100 years will see a relatively gradual increase that would affect climate change slightly. How, then , about the next 100 years and the next? It is a general consensus, however, that if unchecked the effects of the gradual increase in earth temperature would transform in many ways living conditions on earth.  What then should be done?

The ominous aura of global warming can be countered, many believe by the assurance that any effect of global warming can easily be adapted to, if not militated against. Three aspects should be considered when thinking of what to do; mitigation, adaptation geoengineering and there is essentially a need to balance the tide of opinions, to profess solutions that will implicate both sides of the coin. A total ban on fossil fuel usage will certainly create an unpalatable situation for billions especially people in developing countries like Nigeria where most livelihoods revolves around these fuels, yet there will be a need to gradually reduce their usage, providing alternatives simultaneously. Oil companies will have to stop unsavory practices of gas flaring and oil spillages. These are already hazardous to humans and the environment and stopping them will be killing two birds with one stone. Also there is need to encourage more emissions-free energy like that produced by nuclear technology; more energy even for the developing countries at less risk of contributing to global warming. Geoengineering actually considers creating technology that would virtually remove excess greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere to achieve the required balance. A solution considered extremely expensive and capable of offsetting world economic balance.

Nigeria and other developing nations would be deprived of much needed foreign aid to assist in its development as the money would be pumped into solutions that might not even be required Efforts should be put in place to ensure most people adapt to foredooming climate change. Health care systems should begin preparing so that communities can be protected as temperatures rise and various previously unheard of diseases become rampant. And more than anything human beings should be enlightened on the developments and encouraged to engage in simple activities like taking the bus instead of driving, washing and hanging out to dry instead of drying with a dryer, not leaving electronic equipments on all the time, spending more time  outdoors, carpooling and planting trees. Nothing is too small, for it might just be the act that will help in saving our planet.

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