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Emma Johansen-Hewitt
Essay #2
Post-Apocalyptic Literature
April 10, 2015
More than an Inconvenient Truth
In 2006, the phrase global warming was on many Americans radar, but not in any large
way. Global warming, or climate change as we now refer to is, was something many people
knew might be going on, but were not overly concerned about. When Al Gores famous film, An
Inconvenient Truth, came out, it seemed very gloom-and-doom. Perhaps, however, Gore wasnt
gloom-and-doom enough. The realities of climate change are immense. The way our planet is
changing is much, much more than an inconvenient truth. It is a reality that could prove to be
It is now accepted and well known science that our climate is changing. The phrase once
used, global warming, is no longer used to describe climate change. While technically
scientifically accurate, the phrase global warming often leads to colloquial confusion. According
to Global Issues, both climate change and global warming refer to an increase in average global
temperatures. (Shah). However, it is hard for individuals not well versed in the area of
Environmental Science to understand that the average global temperature rising a few degrees
can cause catastrophic, extreme weather changes. Thus, the term climate change is more widely
accepted and used.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate put it, Scientific evidence for warming of
the climate system is unequivocal. According to NASA, the global sea level has risen almost

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seven inches in the last century. While this fact alone in concerning, it is much, much more
concerning that the global sea level has risen at nearly double the rate in the past decade than in
the past century ("Global Climate Change."). This is evidence that the issue of climate change is
worsening, rapidly.
Why is this happening? The main cause for climate change is thought to be the
greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is when atmospheric gasses trap heat inside the
atmosphere, consequently warming the planet. Such gasses include methane, carbon dioxide,
nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. The greenhouse effect occurs naturally, and is the reason
the planet maintains relatively mild temperatures fairly consistently throughout the day, and
throughout the year, all across the world. However, humans are adding to the greenhouse effect
in an artificial, and ultimately deadly way.
The greenhouse gasses are becoming more abundant in the atmosphere, which are
consequently causing the greenhouse effect to become more potent, in turn warming the planet at
a quicker rate. Why are the gases becoming more abundant and the rate at which the planet is
warming becoming more and more rapid? Humans.
Evidence that humans are contributing to the greenhouse effect can be found no further
than the types of greenhouse gasses increasing in amount: methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous
oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. All four of these gasses are gasses humans produce in excess.
Methane, while occurring naturally, is also given off by human activities, especially the
decomposition of our waste in landfills and our excessive farming. The cultivation of rice, a
staple food in the vast majority of the world, is especially guilty. Carbon dioxide, perhaps the
most worrying of the greenhouse gasses humans are contributing, is given off when fossil fuels,
which we use to power much of our world, are burnt. Nitrous oxide is also caused by fossil fuels,

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as well as by the use of fertilizer, which is used in some form or another to produce nearly all of
the food consumed by the worlds population. Chlorofluorocarbons are entirely mans fault, as
they are a synthetic compound that does not occur naturally anywhere in any form. In addition to
being a greenhouse gas, chlorofluorocarbons are known for bonding to ozone to break down the
ozone layer. (Global Climate Change).
Once again, though, we must not take these facts as simply that: facts that present an
argument for a far off disaster. These statistics showcase a very near and present danger. Climate
change is increasing incredibly rapidly, and if we dont not only stop contributing to the problem,
but actively trying to reverse the damage already done, there is not telling what could happen.
Scientists predict that should climate change continue at its projected rate, we will see
significant increases in extreme weather. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council,
There's little doubt that climate change is contributing to the extreme weather disasters we've
been experiencing. Numerous studies show the clear links between extreme weather and
human-induced climate change. The NRDC says that extreme weather disasters that can be
attributed to climate change include increase strength and frequency of hurricanes and tornados,
superstorms such as Superstorm Sandy, flooding, severe droughts, and wildfires. ("Extreme
Weather: Impacts of Climate Change.").
Natural disasters in the form of extreme weather events, increasing in strength and
frequency can be almost apocalyptic in and of itself. An apocalypse can be defined as
any universal or widespread destruction or disaster. (apocalypse). Using this definition, we
are already beginning to enter into an apocalypse of sorts. The average number of deaths per year
caused by natural disasters from 2000 to 2010 was 97,954, with 297,728 people dying of natural
disasters in 2010 alone. In 2010, nearly 340,671,000 people were affected directly by natural

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disasters, having their homes and resources destroyed, being relocated or being severely injured.
("World Disasters Report 2014 Data"). This number will only increase should climate change
continue to worsen rapidly, as natural disasters will become more frequent, damaging, and
widespread. With natural disasters wiping out potentially millions of people each year, and
effecting over hundreds of millions of people, reaching into the billions of people, directly, it will
be hard to call the natural disasters anything but apocalyptic.
Is this the worse that can happen though? Surely the human race will wake up to the
realities of climate change, and enough people will have survived the natural disasters to undo
the effects of climate change, and humanity will live on once again in a balanced environment.
Unfortunately, this may not be the case. There is no way of knowing how much, if any, of the
damage we have inflicted on the planet is reversible.
Even if the damage isnt reversible, humans could potentially learn to live in extreme
weather conditions, improving safety technology and living conditions. Unfortunately, however,
there is a worst-case scenario that is a very real possibility that humans have no way of
surviving: a runaway greenhouse effect.
In our solar system, scientists have found that earth likely once had an almost identical
twin planet: Venus. Venus is no longer inhabitable in any form, but rather is a rock planet
covered in an extremely thick layer of hot gasses. Scientists believe that Venus was once very
much like earth, but its environment was unable, for whatever reason, to remain stable. Due to
an increase of carbon monoxide, one of the very same gasses we are putting into our atmosphere
at an alarming rate, Venus trapped more and more heat, which lead to more gasses being
released, which in turn trapped even more heat. This is what referred to the runaway greenhouse
effect. This ultimately led to the destruction of the planet, turning it into a toxic wasteland.

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("Probe Finds Venus Inferno Due To `Runaway Greenhouse Effect'"). There is absolutely no
proof that Venuss runaway greenhouse effect was caused by some form of intelligent life,
however it is not outside the realm of imagination. And, given what we know of greenhouse
gasses, and the rate at which humanity is putting them out into the atmosphere, it is certainly not
outside the realm of possibility that we very well could cause Earth to go into a runaway
greenhouse state. Should earth become a runaway greenhouse planet, there is absolutely no hope
for humanity. No man could survive under such extreme heat, as all of the oxygen becomes
replaces by toxic gasses.
The threat of an impending apocalypse by means of environmental changes due to
climate change is very, very real. It is already upon us. There are many speculations as to how
the end of days will come about: a nuclear holocaust, zombies, or the fire and brimstone
promised in the Bible. Though the God of the Bible may be sitting, unseen, waiting to reign hell
upon the earth after rapturing up His chosen people, that seems neither imminent nor within our
control. Zombies, although making a resurrection within pop culture, are certainly not a concern
for worlds population at this time. Even if the cause for the zombie apocalypse were a virus,
modern medicine could likely find a cure. The nuclear holocaust seems the second most likely
war the world will go out. Nuclear bombs, however, only effect a limited area, and while that
would be a tragedy, no one seems ready to hit the red button right now. Even if they did, the
nuclear holocaust would likely be extremely contained. Humanity would go on.
The threat of an environmental apocalypse, however, is here. It is now. If we do not act
now, we will be facing the total and permeant damage of our planet. Millions will be killed each
year, hundreds of millions homes and lives damaged and ruined. The economy will crumble, and

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life as we know it will perish. And that isnt even the worst case scenario. If we do not act now,
we risk losing our planet, and our livelihoods, forever.

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Works Cited
Shah, Anup. Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction. Global Issues. 01 Feb. 2015.
Web. 5 April. 2015
"apocalypse." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 5 April. 2015.
"Extreme Weather: Impacts of Climate Change." Extreme Weather, Climate Change. National
Resource Defense Council. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
"Global Climate Change." Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. NASA. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.
"Probe Finds Venus Inferno Due To `Runaway Greenhouse Effect'." Townsville Bulletin (n.d.):
Newspaper Source. Web. 5 April 2015.
"World Disasters Report 2014 Data." World Disasters Report 2014. International Federation of
the Red Cross. Web. 5 Apr. 2015.