Reflections

IMASE Reflections 2: Global Warming

We hear a lot about Global Warming in the media. Here we hope to give you a brief introduction to this phenomenon and explain the basic facts surrounding it.

Global Warming is the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans in recent decades, this is projected to continue in the future. 

The climate system varies through natural and internal processes and in response to variations in external forces such as; solar activity, volcanic emissions, change in the earth's orbit and greenhouse gases.  

The Greenhouse effect is the result of heat absorption by certain gases in the atmosphere and re-radiation downward of some of that heat. They are called greenhouse gases because they effectively 'trap' heat in the lower atmosphere.  

Greenhouse gases, such as water vapour, CO2, methane etc., create a natural greenhouse effect. The earth depends on these gases to keep the earth’s temperature high enough to maintain life on this planet.  

However, the present atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 383 parts per million (ppm) by volume which is at an all time high in earth’s history, having increased by 31% since 1750, pre-industrialisation period. This in turn causes the feed back effect, for example, the CO2 injected into the atmosphere warms up the atmosphere and the earth's surface which in-turn causes more water evaporation, which itself is a greenhouse gas; this could drive the earth into a vicious cycle of continuous heating.  

The detailed cause of the recent warming is still very much debated but scientific consensus identifies increase in levels of greenhouse gases due to human activity. The effects of change are not instantaneous in large systems such as the earth. For example, due to the thermal inertia of the earth's oceans and slow responses of other indirect effects, the earth's current climate will experience a further increase of about 0.5 ¬?C even if the greenhouse gasses were stabilized today. Thus, although we may experience some of the effects of global warming today, the ‚Äòfull force‚Äô of this phenomenon is still pending.¬†

The potential effects on the environment due to global warming can be divided into two main categories: 

  1. FINGERPRINTS

    These are direct manifestations of a widespread and long-term trend towards warmer global temperatures. 

a.       Heat waves and periods of unusually warm weather

b.      Ocean warming, sea-level rise and coastal flooding

c.      Glaciers melting

d.      Arctic and Antarctic warming 

  1. HARBINGERS

    These are events that foreshadow the types of impacts likely to become more frequent and widespread with continued warming.  

a.      Spreading diseases

b.      Earlier spring arrival

c.      Plant and animal range shifts and population changes

d.      Coral reef bleaching

e.      Downpours, heavy snowfalls, and flooding

f.       Droughts and fires 

Due to the complex nature of earth system, the only living planet known to mankind, it is difficult to say the long-term effects of Global Warming, or Climate Change.  

However, like a child that gets sick, we see the symptoms but we cannot find the exact diagnoses. Under such circumstances, it would be advisable to keep the child under careful supervision without exposing him or her to undue stress.  

Man creates for himself. God creates so He is worshipped, as the hills and birds declare their devotion to Him (Quran 38:18-19). So it is our duty as vicegerents of the planet to protect that which God has created, over that which men have created. Otherwise we will be deserving of the accusation of the angels against us, as said in the Quran (2:30): 

    Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" He said: "I know what ye know not."