30 Oct 2022


Chemistry and Environment: Global Warming

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Academic level: College

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Global warming is one of the major problems that is negatively affecting the world on a universal scale. Global warming is a result of several chemical and physical processes that are started or catalyzed by human being activities ( Wallington, Andersen, & Nielsen, 2015) . Human-induced chemical reactions that give out gases that, when released to the atmosphere, causes a harmful effect. This position paper demonstrates how chemistry knowledge and skills (which are naturally harmless) is being used to affect life on the planet negatively. The paper will take a chronological approach from the time fossil fuels are mined to the time they significantly cause global warming outlining the chemistry processes (i.e., distillation, carbon lattice and percentage, combustion, carbon reaction with oxygen, boiling, melting, etc.) that are used. Fossil fuel is any naturally occurring fuel that is made after carbon has been compressed on the earth’s crust for millions of years. When the fuel is mined in form of crude oil, a chemistry concept called fractional distillation is used to separate the crude oil into consumable constituents of petroleum ( Hodnebrog, Etminan, Fuglestvedt, Marston, Myhre, Nielsen, & Wallington, 2013) . The process is made possible by the fact that the constituents of the crude oil have different boiling points, and thus, when heated with increasing heat, each constituent will boil at its own boiling temperature. These components include petrol, gas, diesel, etc. and the denominator of all these fuels is that they contain carbon compounds in their structure through at different amounts and arrangements in their lattice ( Caillol, 2011) . Due to their flammable capability, fossil fuels are used to drive systems and engines that are designed to use combustible fuels. Any combustion engine utilizes a form of fossil fuel that has a certain amount of carbon percentage. Carbon on its own is harmless to the environment and the living animals that interact with it in its natural solid-state. The combustion (which is only supported by oxygen gas) burns the carbon in the fossil fuel at very high temperatures that make the carbon in the fuel to be oxidized, forming an oxide of carbon. The type of oxide that is formed depends on the availability of oxygen in the surrounding that bonds with the carbon via ionic bonding. The weak covalent bonds that hold the gas molecules of a carbon oxide makes the reaction to produce or emit carbon oxides into the atmosphere ( Hodnebrog, Etminan, Fuglestvedt, Marston, Myhre, Nielsen, & Wallington, 2013) . All the other oxides of carbon undergo oxidation forming the most stable carbon oxide, Carbon IV Oxide. Below is the combustion equation.

C (S) + O2 (g) à CO2 (g). The emitted carbon iv oxide into the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas, meaning that when it ascends into the higher atmosphere, it forms a “blanket” around the earth’s atmosphere. This condition is referred to as the ‘greenhouse’ effect since it traps heat into the atmosphere, which increases the global temperatures beyond normal sustainable levels. An increase in the global temperature is the condition that is called global warming as the temperatures are increasing ( Caillol, 2011) . The increase in global temperature is responsible for the change in climate and weather patterns that previously existed. The irregular climate patterns greatly agricultural ventures in a negative way, causing food production to drop, which leads to low economic growth, and ultimately increases food insecurity in agricultural dependent areas. Global warming also causes the change of state of the massive ice that is located on the earth's polar regions, i.e. 

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Solid ice + heat à liquid water. The liquid water adds up to the oceans, increasing the water level in the oceans and in massive water bodies. The continued rise in water level will eventually cause the coastal towns to submerge in water.

In conclusion, chemistry plays a role in the global warming problem after human intervention by aiding distillation, oxidation, combustion, melting, temperature increase processes. Though not directly intended to cause global warming, expansion of knowledge in all fields, including chemistry, have contributed to the problem of global warming ( Romps, Seeley, Vollaro, & Molinari, 2014) . Unless an alternative to fossil fuel is found that employs a different process whose by-product is not any of the greenhouse gases, global warming will remain a threat to the very basic human habitat, planet earth.


Caillol, S. (2011). Fighting global warming: the potential of photocatalysis against CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs, tropospheric O3, BC and other major contributors to climate change.  Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology C: Photochemistry Reviews 12 (1), 1-19. 

Hodnebrog, Ø., Etminan, M., Fuglestvedt, J. S., Marston, G., Myhre, G., Nielsen, C. J., ... & Wallington, T. J. (2013). Global warming potentials and radiative efficiencies of halocarbons and related compounds: A comprehensive review.  Reviews of Geophysics 51 (2), 300-378. 

Romps, D. M., Seeley, J. T., Vollaro, D., & Molinari, J. (2014). Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming.  Science 346 (6211), 851-854. 

Wallington, T. J., Andersen, M. S., & Nielsen, O. J. (2015). Atmospheric chemistry of short-chain haloolefins: Photochemical ozone creation potentials (POCPs), global warming potentials (GWPs), and ozone depletion potentials (ODPs).  Chemosphere 129 , 135-141. 

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