The ever-increasing greenhouse effect is a problem that has been much debated and pondered. In the future it threatens to bake the earth to a crisp to the point where human life would be rather uncomfortable. In the present it is already increasing the regularity of summertime heat waves, which have been as a trend taking more lives every year. Through this essay, possible ways with which humanity may deal with this problem will be discussed, some more feasible than others, in hope of demonstrating the depth of the problem. The solutions will be divided into four categories: those which go around the problem, those which are incredibly expensive, those which are incredibly unlikely, and those that might possibly work.
First, we must deal with the ways of going around the problem. After all, why deal with a problem that doesn't need to be dealt with? The central solution here is obvious: don't do anything. The results of doing this would be similarly guessable: the equatorial areas would become uninhabitable; the wise, the rich, and those rare who are both would move into the polar regions; and the remaining who were stuck in the tropics would eventually die of heat exhaustion or stroke; or when enough people have died, lack of infrastructure will accelerate the process. And anyone who thinks that all the people living in the equatorial regions would be shipped out as a humanitarian act, think again: the people with the power would deny that a problem exists until it is too late. There would be a few valiant, independent rescue attempts, but it would hardly be enough. History repeats itself.
There are a few other points to consider besides the humanitarian argument. First, the 'lungs' of the world would be at threat. It would almost be a certainty that ecosystems would shift on the planet. The Boreal forests, the deciduous forests, and the tropical forests would all head to the polar regions. An important question to consider is whether the forests would be able to undertake such a shift in time. Can the deciduous forests grow on the remains of Boreal forest and mature in a short fifty years? If they can't, it would only increase the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, and create an accelerator effect, at which point humanity would be unable to stop the continuous warming until the earth becomes slightly more habitable than the moon. The forests may be able to meet the demand; however, that still leaves radical changes on the planet. Imagine: Anchorage Beach, 90210; Siberia, breadbasket of the world; Iceland, surfboarding capital of the world!
Another way of going around the problem is one that is hoped for and long awaited by Christians around the world: wait for Christ to come. Why bother with trying to stop global warming if Christ will return and destroy the planet with fire and brimstone? A small problem in that plan is Revelation 11:18; while many Christians find the last book of the Bible confusing, it is rather difficult to misinterpret the point being made here: "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. " Whether or not this world is going to be destroyed anyways, God will hold responsible those who advance earth's decline, especially those in this environmental age who have more environmentally friendly options that cause little extra effort. As a result, promoting global warming would not be a good idea. And for those non-Christians out there, you aren't waiting for Christ to come and save your skin, so you're still stuck on a planet that's been forgotten in the oven.
Another method of avoiding the problem is to sneak into Russia, preferably near the border with China and North Korea, purchase an ICBM from the black market, and launch it towards the United States. Aim wherever you wish, though New England or California might be best so that you would wipe out as many liberals as possible. This would then give the conservative war-hawks the power to strike back with the full force of the US Nuclear Arsenal. If you are in the right place, the military won't know whether is was Russia, China, or North Korea that hit them, and they'll go after all three. This would create nuclear holocaust, the end of human life on earth, and then we wouldn't have to worry about global warming.
On to the big bucks! The incredibly expensive solutions list is where the ambitious dream big and financiers scream murder. On the list here are a few solutions that various people have been relying on, which will come to their dismay. A note here on the definition of "incredibly expensive": any solution presented within this essay will cost billions to implement, whether the cost is borne by government or the people; incredibly expensive is meant as a contrast to this, which means the cost will be so prohibitive that it will prove the undoing of the plans.
The primary type of plan under this category are the escape plans. Packing humanity into a giant ship and moving to Mars is a solution. To move all of humanity is rather impossible, for reasons being: a) there is no promised land within light-years, and it would take a promised land to support a human race that arrives without food, farms, or infrastructure. b) how large would a ship have to be? Still, if a considerable portion of the Earth's population could be crammed into a settler ship and sent to Mars along with several carbon dioxide tanks, we could nail three problems with one stone: we could end overpopulation on the planet; we could cool off the earth enough to end any threat of global warming; and we could warm up Mars significantly, to the point where constant artificial heating will not be necessary on a planet where the average temperature is somewhere near -20 degrees Celsius. There would naturally be other problems, such as getting infrastructure in place for the large incoming population; packing enough food to last while the settlers work and wait to come up with their own; and creating a viable water cycle in the living complex. Apart from the obscene costs, however, this plan could work, in theory.
Another idea would be to build a giant disc and launch it into space. The hope would be that the completed disc would block out the sun for a few days, providing instant cooling. It would be like giving the earth another chance, and setting global warming back a few decades. This would only be a temporary fix, however, and wouldn't likely justify the costs, though its effects would be felt very quickly. Remember, the idea here is to brainstorm possible solutions, not necessarily good solutions.
Escape plans, number two: build underground caverns in which to live. It is naturally cooler under the earth; as well, crops could be grown on the surface while humanity lives inside the earth. Farmers would go from the lowest wage classes to the highest, as they would need special suits for protection while working on the surface, and it would also be a somewhat risky job, something few people would want to do. However, it would work, despite fairly high costs. It would also do wonders for world peace, as it would be difficult to fight underground battles, and any surface attacks would repeat Napolean's Russian experience. Here's mutually assured destruction for you: destroy the opponent's crops.
Another idea that could work if the resources exist is to gather tons and tons of chemicals together and mix them together to provoke an enormous endothermic reaction. The heat absorbed, if done on a proper scale, should lower the global temperature average by a degree or so, which should once again only delay heat problems, though for a few decades at least.
Escape strategy number three: build several self-sustaining space stations that would orbit earth. In theory, there is nothing wrong with this plan. From the space stations, we would be able to mine the asteroid belt, and thus have enough materials to construct more space stations, so it would be possible, provided that there is enough fuel on the earth to launch 6 billion people into space. Once there, human waste would be used to fertilize the crops, and water would be easily accessible after the global warming effect vaporizes the oceans. Salt would be left behind on the earth, saving us the problem of running high-energy usage desalinization plants; but at the same time, we'd have to get used to unsalted potato chips, which might be asking too much.
Having gone through what Bill Gates can't do for the world, let's go to what Murphy does for the world. The simplest of these unlikely solutions is one that has already occurred in the past. However, this doesn't make it any more likely to happen. In the early part of the 1800s, a volcano in Indonesia, Kraketoa, also known as Mount Tambora, erupted to such an extent as to throw 30 cubic miles of dust into the atmosphere. The volcano, after a month of forceful, violent eruptions, blew itself to bits. This had a rather immediate impact on the global weather systems; summer never came that year in the northern hemisphere, and it snowed that July in New England. The earth was plunged into a mini-ice age, nothing too serious as to cause glacial formations, but enough to lower the earth's average temperature for decades. Were this event to repeat itself, we would have no need to worry about global warming for a few decades at least. Personally, I think it would be cool to be able to hear a volcano erupting from thousands of miles away, which is what the Japanese experienced during this great eruption. The tsunami that the volcanic eruption caused might not be so great, but it is but a minor side-effect. Unfortunately, volcanic eruptions have proved to be rather unpredictable until they are imminent, and since the last time such a great eruption occurred was 200 years ago, we can't quite count on this.
Another unlikely solution is that the current upward trend of global temperatures is but a natural cycle. I can say with confidence that this is unlikely because over the last 200 years, human activity has just about doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It would be difficult to find some serious person who would argue that doubling carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would have zero effect on global temperatures. At this point, it is possible that we have overestimated the impact of global warming. But it would certainly be better to treat global warming as the Y2K bug and solve our problems rather than to delay and delay and delay until it is too late. Remember, global warming will slowly accelerate over time; the easiest time to stop it is now.
One possible way to stop global warming is to have an asteroid hit the earth, something to the effect of the one that killed all the dinosaurs. At the present moment, something to that effect would be like killing a fly with an anvil, and would go too far in solving our problem to the extent that we would have a cold problem. It might be possible that if we got a smaller asteroid, it just might work, though it could cause problems in where it lands. It would have to land on the land somewhere to cause the greatest effect, as that would launch more dust into our atmosphere. I don't have to explain why that would cause problems. Still, if it landed in a desert area, it just might work. Better yet, if one doesn't come about our way, have NASA go and find one of proper size and texture to launch towards our planet. Such a process could be repeated whenever Earth's temperature got a little too hot as well, though lawsuits may fly if the rock lands in the wrong place. It is for that reason, the possible damage, that this plan is quite unlikely.
After examining all of these hopeless reasons, is there something that might actually work? The position that is primarily advocated by environmentalists is one that would stop global warming, but it isn't the only possibility. Their ideas cover many facets, which will be examined individually along with other ideas.
To the environmentalists: I'm sorry, but stopping the cutting down of forests will not affect global warming all that much. It affects other things, to be certain, just not this. What will affect global warming is the planting of new forests, and the replanting of cut forest. As long as global forested acreage increases, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should be reduced. In fact, cutting down mature forests and replacing them with younger trees that will grow to reach the heights of the mature forest will help as well, since the carbon in the trees will be trapped in the lumber, and the trees will be replaced by saplings that will be able to internalize more carbon dioxide from out of the atmosphere. On the flip side, slash-and-burn is a bad thing. First off, it destroys valuable lumber. Secondly, it also releases all of the carbon that the forest had been storing back into the atmosphere. There are obvious problems with this, and to ban this outright would help our situation out considerably, though this may not be enough by itself.
Another method is to make our vehicles more efficient, with hybrid cars at first, with the eventual goal of switching outright to fuel cell technology. The reasons why this would be effective are completely obvious. This wouldn't solve the problem of the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere, but it would lower greatly the amount of additional carbon dioxide that gets added each year. In the same vein, ending our reliance on coal power plants would also help considerably in the fight against global warming. For this one in particular, there are few excuses, since the technology needed for more efficient power generation has existed for a long time now. Even nuclear power has got to be better for the environment than coal power. If we as humans ran into problems with nuclear waste, we could eventually just ship it all into space, preferably targeted at the sun, which is simply an ongoing nuclear explosion anyways.
Another good method to stop global warming is to develop solar powered aircraft. The technology for this isn't that far off, and perhaps the central reason that there are no solar-powered aircraft thus far is because the companies have not seen any reason to do so; in short, zero demand. Solar-powered model aircraft have been flying for extended lengths of time for a while now. True, we are talking propeller-driven crafts, but even developing a small solar-powered craft would be an important first step; turboprop aircraft are still used commercially today on regional routes. Once solar-powered crafts are developed, we would then be able to place carbon-filters on the crafts, which would hopefully filter some of the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The effect of this wouldn't be very large individually, but if carbon filters could be placed on all commercial aircraft, it may have a significant impact, that when combined with other plans could actually succeed in stopping the rise of global temperatures.
A further plan would be to place carbon filtration plants at the ground level. This would remove a significant amount of carbon from the atmosphere. What to do with the carbon that is filtered? Bury it below the ground, fairly deep. If this can be done, we may be able to recreate the conditions necessary for the creation of fossil fuels. This would then restore our carbon sinks, and bring the original balance back to the carbon cycle.
A more off-beat plan that would work, though at a higher cost, would be escape plan four: build undersea colonies. They wouldn't have to be that deep, though the curiosity of science would certainly put a few of the colonies in the depths of the ocean. They would be self-sustaining, as we would be able to gather fish from the sea for nourishment, and if they aren't enough, we can have sea farms. Those longing for familiar food would certainly cause some farms to be placed within the station, which wouldn't be as much trouble to create undersea than in space, as it wouldn't cost thousands of dollars to ship each pound of dirt in. Getting enough raw materials once down there to support a vibrant economy wouldn't be too much of a problem either, since the sea naturally contains dissolved minerals and elements. While the concentration of these elements in the oceans are not significant enough to merit mining at present, this would be mainly due to start-up costs. If the colony would be built anyways, then it might become a viable venture. Lighting wouldn't be an extraordinary problem either, especially if the colonies were built close enough to the surface. Power generation is another non-problem, since plans to build power generation stations in the ocean that would take advantage of sea currents and water flow that would result by connecting water at various depths have been fuel for thought by scientists for a considerable length of time. This idea, though unconventional, and slightly defeatist, since it goes around the problem, would work. However, it would also cause significant discomfort for most of our species, and enormous property loss would also be incurred. While it would work in theory, it would be a last resort option.
Of course, there's also the one plan that you can begin to enact: energy conservation. Currently, our primary sources of power in much of the world are fossil fuels. While I earlier mentioned about getting rid of the coal plants, that says nothing for the oil and gas plants. A reason for this is that it can't be done, not in any short length of time. Depending on the region, 50% of electricity generation coming from fossil fuel sources is a good average. This much energy production doesn't get replaced in a day, or a decade for that matter. The easiest way to lower carbon dioxide emissions from our power generation system is to use it with caution. Much power savings could result by simply turning off the light when leaving the room, something many fail to do. Leaving appliances on for hours that don't need to be, or doing the laundry with only half of a load also take up a lot of electricity. Besides, saving electricity lowers your bills!
Through this essay, I hope you have seen that global warming is a serious problem. While I didn't spend too much time proving it (this is best left to science, of which I am not), the potential solutions have been shown, and they aren't many. Most of them will only work to a degree, and need to be combined with other solutions. So unless you wish to suntan in Greenland a few years from now, I encourage you to begin energy conservation now, since it is the one thing you have control over. Besides, conserving energy saves you money, something in short supply these days. Just don't trip in the dark!
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