The Life of Gerard Mercator

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Part 2: Conservation and Debate

Hotter temperatures, rising sea levels and melting glaciers are all part of natural cycles that Earth has experienced for thousands of years. History is dotted with Ice Ages, which have followed somewhat predictable patterns in distant years past. Whether the primary cause is greenhouses gases or the Sun's natural cycle, temperatures are still rising, as are sea levels. Scientists say that the current patterns of global weather activity are putting Earth and its people on a course for a severe Ice Age, with potentially catastrophic results in the very near future.

These same scientists, though, say that people can do something about all of this. For one thing, people can cut back on the burning of fossil fuels. One of the primary users of oil and gasoline is the automobile. Many people are embracing cars and trucks that are powered by alternative fuels, such as electricity and biofuel (like corn and other vegetables that can be added to gasoline and cut down on the overall level of gas and oil in automobile fuel). Many buses and trains are already electricity-powered.

Other methods of alternative fueling include solar and wind power, whereby the burning of fossils is kept to a bare minimum.

Big businesses that make lots of money from the burning of fossil fuels are naturally speaking out against such conservation efforts. It is true that even though the amount of coal, oil, and gas is currently thought to be limited, that is a huge limit and new stores of fossil fuels are being discovered all the time.

Many people also argue that to truly abandon fossil fuels as power sources would mean a massive change in the way people live today. This is certainly true. Cutting back severely on consumption of coal, oil, and gasoline would put a tremendous amount of people out of work. Eliminating these fuels and the industries that burn them entirely could cause worldwide panic, as literally thousands of businesses no longer have jobs or income.

The other powerful argument that many people advance is that global warming is happening at such a tiny rate that it is barely noticeable. This is certainly true. Temperatures are rising very slowly indeed. Glaciers are melting very slowly indeed. Sea levels are rising very slowly indeed. The effects of all of this are barely noticeable. Generations of people will be born and live their entire lives before any sort of world global warming crisis exists, if one ever comes.

However, many people argue, it is the responsibility of people living today to take care of the people of tomorrow, by making sure that they have a planet left to live on. If temperatures and sea levels continue to rise, many scientists say, the world will have to come to grips with a population crisis accompanied by a water and perhaps even a land shortage.

The political debate on the issue of global warming can sometimes be intense. Proponents of global warming often say that Earth is moving into crisis mode. Opponents of the methods for combating global warming often try to dispute the science behind the claims while also pointing out that methods to combat it can be far more disruptive than many people realize. This political debate takes place on a daily basis, between individuals, businesses, and governments.

First page > Natural and Manmade Causes > Page 1, 2

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David White