2008 – National 3rd Place Award Winner:
Elizabeth Soricelli, Bronx, New York.
Is global warming the greatest challenge facing humankind?
Is global warming the greatest challenge facing mankind? It is if we are lucky. It is true that global warming is a serious issue; it is defined as an increase of the earth's temperature by a few degrees resulting in an increase in the volume of water which contributes to sea-level rise. Global warming effects the weather, increases evaporation which leads to erosion and therefore desertification, causes ocean acidification, and many other damaging results. However, even though global warming is a problem that will affect mankind in the years to come, it is certainly not the greatest challenge humans will face. The biggest issue mankind must face is each other. It is most likely that our downfall will come through nuclear warfare far before we are even able to see the most damaging effects of global warming. In fact, the possibility of a nuclear war will probably happen in our lifetime due to the increasing conflicting problems in foreign countries.
A nuclear weapon is a type of explosive weapon that uses nuclear reaction of fission or fusion. Two examples of nuclear warfare is the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were nuclear attacks during World War II. The bombs killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945. Since then, thousands more have died from injuries or illnesses due to exposure to radiation from the attacks. In both cities, the majority of fatalities were civilians. Deaths from radiation sickness did not peak until three to four weeks after the attacks and did not taper off until seven to eight weeks after the attack. As one American leaflet explained, "We are in possession of the most destructive explosive ever devised by man." There are currently nine countries that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons, five of which (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, and China) are internationally recognized as "nuclear weapon states". Other known nuclear powers are India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel, which is an undeclared nuclear weapon state. The number of nuclear weapons is currently at an outstanding 40,000 total. With this many weapons, there is even less of a chance for peace.
Global warming is definitely not the greatest challenge facing mankind: the biggest threat to mankind is mankind. As the philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, "Either man will abolish war, or war will abolish man." Around 180 million people have been killed in the twentieth century – a total larger than any other century in human history, and there have been around 165 wars or tyrannies that have killed more than 6,000 people. Nuclear warfare is a huge threat, and until there is either complete peace all over the world or the nuclear weapons are destroyed, it will remain as such. However, the idea of a global threat may bring together mankind. If people stop fighting and instead try to join together and begin to contemplate how to prevent global warming, maybe then both global warming and unnecessary nuclear warfare can be stopped.
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