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Connection Between Industrial Revolution and Climate Change

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Climate change is a swift change in the earth’s normal weather patterns and when this change results to an unusual increase in the global temperatures, which lasts for even over a decade. An aspect that we can see arise from this change is global warming. This can be defined as the long term rise in the average temperature of the earth’s climate system, and can also be seen as one of the major drivers of climate change.

Industrial revolution on the other hand is a period in time that saw the transformation from rural, to more urban and more industrialized societies in Europe and the U.S. This period in time saw changes like hand production methods, transitioning to new manufacturing processes like machines and this innovation period happened between the late 1700’s and the early 1800’s.

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So, did this transformation to technological innovation make humans start modifying the climate? To begin with, if we take the perspective that the industrial revolution did really make humans start altering with the climate; we can see that, according to an article named “Industrialization and its backlash: Focus on climate change and its consequences” by Chigbo A. Mgbemene, Chidozie C. Nnaji and Chekwubechukwu Nwozor, their arguments are that, humans do largely contribute to climate change because of the partaking of human activities, which happens on a daily basis in different parts of the word. This therefore begun during the industrial revolution when humans started “changing agricultural and industrial practices” and this manufacturing processes required large scale usage of energy, and modification of natural systems from their unused states, and then continued to modify the climate by “pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.” “The population growth, which accompanied the revolution, gave rise to the need for more land for agriculture and urban development, leading to massive deforestation and changing of the environment. This population explosion also meant more people burning fossil fuels to satisfy their energy requirements.”

Humans are believed to have done this and continue to do so because these machines that they continue to change and modify for the better, for themselves, improves their quality of life when doing so and has become a way of life all together. Moreover, their standards of living are raised while the industrialization process goes on, which sadly, leads to an increase in the global temperatures causing climate change, even though industrialization comes with its many strengths and positive results. This is why it is believed the industrial revolution was the first step that made humans start tampering with the climate.

The article has both its strengths and weaknesses. Some of its strengths are that, it is very convincing because it was published by a believable and reasonable publisher called science alert, which is a leading international scientific publisher, dedicated to publish peer-reviewed significant research work, thus making it relevant because the topic at hand is industrial revolution, initiating humans’ alteration to causing climate change, which is a scientific topic. This can be seen as also coming from an authoritative and accredited source, since it is officially recognized and its reputation can easily be believed thus increasing the vested interest the source gains. Furthermore, it was written by experts who have knowledge on what they are arguing about, and so we can assume they have experience as well in their fields because the authors are doctors in the department of mechanical engineering and civil engineering from the University of Nigeria and they are senior lecturers.

Moreover, the breadth of evidence given by the authors is from a wide variety and increases the vested interest once again. This is seen when the authors first support their facts of industrial revolution initiating humans to start causing climate change, with figures comparing trends in atmospheric concentrations and emissions of carbon dioxide. The figure clearly shows that there was a sharp rise in atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, beginning from the industrial revolution period. Secondly, the provision of records and statistics from 1997 to 2007, showing USA having the highest total percentage emission of carbon dioxide, proves the argument because, the industrial revolution begun in USA and due to its much longer period of industrialization still emits the highest percentage of greenhouse gases, and so only humans would have the capacity do so during that period. This strengthens the article as well as it gains the benefit of having their conclusions accepted by others. Thirdly and lastly, studies being done and carried out over a long period of time, due to the subject that is being researched which is industrial revolution and climate change, detailing the progress in understanding climate change and showing that they were even more certain than before of human-induced climate change during that period, because of better scientific understanding. Accompanied with detailed reports, together with recommendations, done by an international panel of scientists, who were appointed from the UN, which is an accredited source, and even made a body called IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), compromising of hundreds of these climate scientists from all around the world, proves the argument once again and shows first-hand knowledge on the issue at hand and therefore the ability to observe makes the source even more convincing.

Additionally, the article has a sustained argument throughout because they talked about the same thing from beginning to end which is the link between industrial revolution and humans’ alteration to climate change, and never shifted arguments. It was also neutral in the sense that it was not biased but actually balanced and managed to talk about the issue at hand, with its strengths and weaknesses and looked at both sides of the argument in some way. For example, even though the industrial revolution is what caused humans to start altering with the climate, humans would have done other things to start tampering with the climate if the industrial revolution did not happen. Or even natural factors would have caused the climate to start changing. Some of these other things to name a few are variations in the sun’s output and ocean, atmosphere and land systems. Lastly, there is a clear conclusion to summarize the lengthy article and this conclusion states that, there are a number of reasons climate change has increased since the industrial revolution and there is a need for social and behavioural adjustments. At the same time people simply have to accustom their living statuses to adapt to the recommended lifestyle.

However, as much as it has much strength, it still has its weaknesses and some of these are that the language used in the source is quite technical. Lay people who have no knowledge on the topic of climate change as a whole may not understand much from the article. The article is also quite lengthy and adds onto the weakness that most readers would not find the content of the article accessible and easy to consume. The article was also published in 2016 and so it may not have relevance in the world today as climate change is an issue that is not really predictable and changes daily. The article also has a lot of information that is not really needed to help readers understand what they are talking about and if relevant information is kept only, the article would be more appealing. Lastly, the article provides a lot of opinions and does not give evidence to support some of their claims making the article less reliable and credible.

Moving on, if we take the perspective that the industrial revolution did not make humans start altering with the climate, we can be able to capture that, a source that advises in this favour is that of “How did humans first alter global climate” by William F. Ruddiman. This article argues that, our ancestors’ farming practices actually kick started global warming thousands of years before we started other human activities such as burning coal. The author adds and says that evidence proves this and shows that concentrations of carbon dioxide started rising about 8,000 years ago, when natural indicators stated that they should have actually been dropping instead.

The articles also states that our human ancestors began contributing significant quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere thousands of years earlier by clearing forests and irrigating fields to grow crops. As a result, human beings kept the planet particularly warmer than it would have been otherwise. Therefore, the strengths of the article are that firstly, the author has expertise in this field because he has an undergraduate degree and a PhD in geology, he is a paleoclimatology, who is a person that studies changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of Earth and he is a professor in Environmental Sciences at a reputable, authoritative and accredited university, the University of Virginia. For this reason, we can assume that he has some sort of authority when it comes to the topic of climate change because, all this shows us that he has experience, it makes William’s reputation believable and reasonable because he clearly has knowledge on what he is talking about and his findings can therefore gain the benefit of having their conclusions accepted by others, this makes the source more convincing.

Secondly, William’s article was published by Scientific American which is an American popular science magazine. Many famous scientists, including Albert Einstein, have contributed articles to it and it is the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States. This is seen as strength because this magazine has a high reputation and so would not publish just anything on their website, but information that has relevance, and so William’s article is of very high relevance to climate change as a science for it to be published in this very popular science magazine. His findings must have had to also be very credible for Scientific American to have published it.

Thirdly, William’s article is also very convincing because what he is arguing against, which is that humans started altering with the climate when we started burning fossil fuels and even driving cars, has been scientifically proven by many scientists time after time, and even became a scientific consensus, but for William to be able to come up with this hypothesis that our ancestors are the ones that kick started global warming by their farming practices’, and prove this hypothesis beyond reasonable doubt, makes his claim a fact but a fact with very high standards because of the number of people he had to prove wrong and which he successfully did with facts. He also managed to prove his hypothesis with graphs, diagrams and figures showing years back and present changes in the atmosphere concentration, like 11,000 years later in the orbit controls over greenhouse gases and even carbon dioxide concentrations thousands of years ago. Other graphs also managed to show the greenhouse effect from human activities and how early human agricultural activities produced enough greenhouse gases to offset most of the natural cooling trend during preindustrial times, warming the planet. This is very convincing as it shows a summary of what he is arguing about and is clearly easily believed with the amount of research he did over the years.

Moreover, William was able to get his facts to prove his hypothesis by long term studying of the problem, examining historical records and even doing his own experiments, and climate change needs long term research because once again it is an unpredictable and ever changing issue. This made his article even more convincing because it has the ability to observe since he is getting his information from first-hand knowledge and has high vested interest.

Lastly, William showed us surveys that were done to prove his hypothesis and came up with future suggestions to be done when other scientists are researching on the topic as well so that they come up with effective findings to actually prove the little things they are trying to arguing against. These surveys were done on the people of England, to show that 90 percent of the natural forest in lowland, agricultural regions was cleared as of A.D. 1086. The survey also counted 1.5 million people living in England at the time, indicating that an average density of 10 people per square kilometre was sufficient to eliminate the forests. He summarised the survey by saying that Europe and southern Asia had been heavily deforested long before the start of the industrial era, and the clearance process was well under way throughout the time of the unusual carbon dioxide rise.

The weaknesses of this article however are, the article was published in 2005 and so it is not broad enough to apply to years before and after that and may not have relevance in the years after that. The author also did not show where he got some of his evidence from and so cannot be proved but can only be seen as an opinion or a claim. The article was also quite lengthy and technical and so made some of the facts being proved in the article hard to understand for lay people who are reading the article.

After considering both perspectives, I believe that humans in general did contribute to the amendments made to the climate and after this research I have learned that humans are the main cause of climate change where prior to this research, I believed that natural factors did cause climate change but humans just added onto these factors. I also learned that humans do need to change their ways and treat climate change like a big issue because it is and when these changes are made throughout the world, the earth’s system will finally be at peace. Whether the industrial revolution or our ancestors farming practices’ initiated climate change, this is still an issue I cannot bring myself to lean towards one side, but with further research on climate change as a topic and in depth research on both these issues, the need to have a final decision can be made.   

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