Pollution from car emissions has been pointed at as a major contributor to environmental degradation such as global warming. This is because dangerous gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of burning of fuels by cars. In fact, the earth”s temperature is on the rise and the contributions of car emissions are significant. As the earth is getter hotter and hotter, disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and floods become more frequent and continue kill thousands every year and destroy properties worth billions of dollars. The question is; are we too late to save humanity? Andrew C. Revklin in his document Global Warming Could Forestall Ice Age and Greensway H.D.S. in his article are we too late? In the New York Times both give clear indications that global warming could signify the end of the human race. In the article, Global Warming Could Forestall Ice Age, Revlin notes that fresh evidence indicates that human activity is not only warming the globe, particularly the Arctic, but could also even fend off what had been presumed to be an inevitable descent into a new ice age over the next few dozen millenniums. Greensway on the other hand notes that the Pentagon foresees situations resulting in political instability and unrest that might require American military intervention in the worst cases, and big humanitarian rescue efforts at best.
Effects of Car Emissions on the Environment, Ozone and Health of Organisms
Environmental factors simply refers to the concerns that a particular type of car produces substances that injure our surroundings thus making life on earth ore dangerous and therefore more complex (Anderson & Anderson, 2004). These substances include greenhouse gases as well as toxic metal compounds such as the ones that contain lead in their structure. The main source of air pollutants in cities and major towns is transportation. Fuel powered conventional motor vehicles produce much higher levels of carbon dioxide (Co2) carbon monoxide (Co), nitrogen oxides (Nox) and hydrocarbons (Hc) and this from the primary source of these dangerous pollutants. This is mainly because fuel powered conventional cars (FPCC) make short trips that do not give time for electric motor warm-ups and cold starts. It is noted that hybrid cars reduced the levels of the carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide by 97% in comparison to other sources of these pollutants. Carbon monoxide (C0), when inhaled for long periods interferes with the proper functioning of the brain in that it impairs the flow of oxygen (O2) into the brain.
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Carbon dioxide and water vapor form the principal components of greenhouse gases that bring about the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a scenario in which too much heat is trapped within the atmosphere due to the presence of such toxic gases as carbon monoxide and this resultant effect is a highly raised earth temperature. In fact, carbon dioxide (C02) is considered one of the major atmospheric pollutants, and is solely responsible for approximately 57% global warming. Negative effects of global warming include the rapidly declining numbers of polar bears and melting of ice in the tropics (Gore, 2006). It is, therefore, an open knowledge that releasing carbon dioxide (C02) into the atmosphere is detrimental to the lives of living organisms and the equilibrium of the ecosystem.
Sulphur and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are very dangerous air pollutants produced by combustion of sulphur containing fuels. Over the years, scientists have devised means of producing sulphur and lead-free fuels but achieving an excellent degree is still a distant mirage. Deposition of these compounds in the air is harmful to plants, man and infrastructure. Exposure to high concentration of sulphur dioxide irritates respiratory tracts making breathing difficult and can easily cause lung problems. Sulfur Oxide contributes to respiratory illness. Patients suffering from heart diseases risk aggravating their conditions if exposed to even mild concentration of sulfur oxides.
These components also form secondary pollutants when transported and combined with other elements forming sulfates, nitrate salts, nitrogen dioxides and even nitric acid vapor. This is what is commonly known as acid rain that corrodes buildings, burns vegetations, burns the human skin and destroys infrastructure.
Chlorofluorocarbons also form component of greenhouse gases that bring about the effect of global warming (Phil, 2006). When exposed to gamma rays, these compounds break down to release chlorine atoms. The presence of chlorine atoms in the atmosphere catalyses splitting of Ozone (O3) into oxygen gas (O2), however, the negative effects of their presence overweigh their importance.
Photochemical air pollution, usually known as smog and is commonly sported in the tropics and subtropics is also caused by incomplete combustion of gasoline emitted by fuel-powered conventional vehicles (Boschert, 2006). This process leads to the production of Ozone gas that is responsible for irritation in the eyes, extensive damage to plants and crops and lung complications.
The release of carbon dioxide (C02), chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides (N0x) and other pollutants into the atmosphere contributes to the destruction of plants on the earth”s surface. Photosynthesis, the process through which trees produce oxygen from carbon dioxide is so vital to human life in fact it is said that life cannot exist without trees. Destruction of trees by releasing these pollutants into the air is equal to destruction of both human life and plant life.
While particulate matters are the main contributors to lung problems and most cancer cases, hydrocarbons is also causing of lung problems and other tissue problems (Westbrook 2001). Long exposure to high concentrations of hydrocarbons eventually leads to total organ failures. Furthermore, it is a major contributor to birth defects and other complicated illnesses like cancer. With the commercial manufacture and introduction of hybrid cars, extensive damage to the environment is definitely reduced, quality of life enhanced and urban areas become clean to inhabit, the dream of world environmental rights groups.
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Life exists on this planet simply because of the fragile balance provided by the act of nature. The very existence of mankind rests on its resolve and ability to maintain this fragile balance. Ozone layer forms one of the most important players in the balance of this ecosystem and is under destruction by man. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are organic chlorine and fluoride compounds found in refrigerants and most industrial solvents. Invented by Dayton in 1928 in an attempt to find a non-flammable and safe refrigerant, CFCs have jumped above their important roles and become destructive. More than half a million tones of these compounds are released into the atmosphere annually by cars and the statistics are on the rise.
A simple definition of global warming is the heating of the earth”s surface as a result of the trapping of the sun”s heat by the earth”s atmosphere (Maslin, 2007). This has posed some of the greatest challenges to the existence of humankind. The concern is that human beings are still practicing the same activities that aggravate the extent of global warming.
Far much greater than human greed and nuclear war, I strongly believe that global warming constitutes the greatest threat to humankind. In fact, available literature and articles on the topic abide in the fact that the future of humankind hangs in the balance if the current trend in global warming is not reversed. According to Phil (2006) “Humanity is about to face the most devastating catastrophe that mankind has encountered since the Bubonic Plague during the Middle Age in the form of global warming.” This threat is also buttressed by Phil (2006) in stating that “the effects and consequences of global warming are both frightening and overwhelming. Currently, global warming is modestly increasing the average temperatures throughout the world”.
To have a better understanding of the fundamental reasons that make global warming constitute a major threat to the existence of humankind, perhaps it is best to take an analysis on its effects and real or perceived consequences in the present and future times as regards the existence of humankind. One notable effect of global warming is the increase in temperature that is estimated to be in the range of about 3° to 5° C (5.4° to 9° Fahrenheit) by the year 2100 (Phil, 2006). The increase in the global temperatures is a precipitating factor in a number of climatic changes in negative impacts on the life of organisms. The levels of sees are rising at alarming levels due to the thermal expansion of the oceans. Nations, lands and geographical areas surrounded by waters are on the verge of being totally submerged by the surrounding waters. Countries like India whose livelihood depend on agriculture, fishing and sea ports are in the greatest danger of losing these critical sources of their income (Paterson, 2007).
The rate of depletion of ozone layer is on the rise and if efforts are not hastened and legislation tightened on the use of these chemicals, the future of all earth”s inhabitants and the destiny of humanity remain uncertain. Seth Cagin and Phillip Dray, co-authors of Between Earth and Sky, inform us in their story of CFCs that “Freon soon topped the list of wonders, a “miracle” refrigerant … [with the] combination of safety, cleanliness, and efficiency . . .” (1993). Within a very short time, these compounds that were considered essential in homes and industries had turned into monsters threatening the very existence of life. The level of the destruction of ozone has reached an alarming rate. Vice President Al Gore warns of still another consideration in ozone depletion in his national bestseller Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit: Ironically, as the amount of ozone in the stratosphere declines, the extra ultra-violet radiation streaming through also interacts with the local air pollution above cities and increase the amount of smog-including the amount of low-level ozone.
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Another important factor that points to the global warming as a major threat to humankind is the increase of diseases in the future. This is illustrated by Juaerg (2009) in stating that “as northern countries warm, disease carrying insects migrate north, bringing plague and disease with them; indeed some scientists believe that in some countries thanks to global warming, malaria has not been fully eradicated.” This will mean that diseases like malaria will return to regions where they had been totally eradicated. The question that we ponder over is where the existence of the humankind lies given the fact that malaria parasites and other waterborne diseases are becoming more resistant to conventional modes of treatment.
The melting of polar ice caps is a threat to behold. It will result in rise of the sea levels and has led to a sharp decline in polar bear. According to Houghton (2004), “there are 5,773,000 cubic miles of water in ice caps, glaciers, and permanent snow, if all glaciers melted today the seas would rise about 230 feet. Luckily, that”s not going to happen all in one go! But sea levels will rise”. Whereas there is consolation now, the future of humankind is grim. This will throw the global ecosystem out of balance. The ice caps are composed of fresh water, in the process of melting; they make the ocean less salty than it is at the moment. This process, called desalinization, of the gulf current will definitely interfere with the ocean currents that are responsible for the regulation of temperatures.
From the foregoing, it is evident that the world stands to gain immensely from the introduction into the world of transportation hybrid cars. It is true that the cost of producing a hybrid car is not one that sends one smiling all the way to the bank. In fact, it is prohibitively high and the faint-hearted who will not pay attention to the long-term benefits of this hybrid car model will not dare. But the benefits or gains both in terms of saving a planet in peril and a global economy in a shambles are so enticing and crucial that it is actually the way to go. The environmental problems that come as a result of oil utilization in transport and other areas of life will be dealt with once and for all. For instance, the release of dangerous gases such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide into the atmosphere that are responsible for global warming and numerous respiratory problems as well as problems in farming through such phenomena as acid rain will be solved. The economic woes that emanate from over-dependence on oil will also be contained. The availing of financial resources to rogue nations such as Iran that fund terrorist groups, the shaking of the global economy due to shifts in oil prices as well as the escalation of conflicts in most third world countries in the east and Africa as a result of scrambling over oil resources will be eliminated.