Global Warming Facts Are Only Useful If They Lead To Global Warming Action.
Attempting to write about global warming facts is a bit like having a death wish, as one is likely to be hit with a lot of angry and dismissive replies. However, it is so fundamental to the whole quest to build up our use of home renewable energy that it cries out for attention.
The widespread attention that alternative energy receives today can be boiled down to the following factors:
- Fossil fuels are running out, not in our lifetime, but certainly in the lifetime of following generations
- Following on from the above, there is an issue of security of supply. The world's ever increasing energy usage may well exceed the supply of energy from traditional sources.
- The continued burning of fossil fuels contributes to global warming. The increased greenhouse effect certainly comes from the higher levels of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2 and this is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels.
It is this latter factor that will be the subject we will examine in greater depth – global warming facts.
So let's start...
Global Warming Facts - Global Warming Is A Reality
There isn't the slightest doubt that the globe is getting warmer but in order to back that up we are going to work it through step-by-step, starting with...
Fact 1: The level of CO2 is rising in the earth's atmosphere
This is best illustrated by the following graph:
The first graph shows measurements taken from floating air bubbles in ice-core samples. The timeline spans 450 thousand years. If you telescope the data to say the last thousand years then you get a virtual straight line at about 280-290 ppm. Notice the steep increase in more recent times.
The second graph shows the results of the work of Dr Charles Keeling who measured air samples in flasks from 1957 through to 2000. His work was pioneering because he changed the traditional thinking about the effects of CO2 on the earth's temperature.
Both graphs highlight the recent steep increases and there is no doubt that the levels are continuing to rise. This is one of the key global warming facts.
Why all the focus on CO2 when there are many other greenhouse gases?
Thats a fair question, but the available evidence gives us the answer.
The IPCC issued an assessment on this point which showed quite clearly that CO2 was the major contributor to global warming.
The graph below indicates the relative effects (both heating and cooling) of key greenhouse gases, aerosols and land change use due to human activity. The assessment covered a period from 1750 to 2005. The warming or coolling effect is expressed in Watts/square meter which is a standard way of measuring the increase or decrease in energy reaching the earth's surface.
It's very clear that CO2 is the major culprit. It's also worth noting that even the direct effect of variations in the sun's radiance(on the far right of the graph) is minor compared with the effect of carbon dioxide.
It's true that other greenhouse gases, notably methane, have a grrater capacity to trap heat than CO2 but they are not as prevalent in the atmosphere and nor are they being added at the same rate.
So the focus on CO2 is entirely warranted.
Fact 2 - The rise in CO2 concentrations is largely due to the burning of fossil fuels
The cause of this sudden change was no doubt the Industrial Revolution, heralded by the invention and use of the steam engine. From then on the burning of fossil fuels, predominantly coal, drove up the emissions of CO2 to the level of 26 Gigatons (a Gigaton is one billion metric tons) per year.
Now there are some so called “skeptics” who argue that this is largely irrelevant because it is miniscule compared with the increase in CO2 put out into the atmosphere by the oceans and biosphere. It's true that the level of CO2 put out by the oceans and biosphere is relatively much higher, 770 Gigatons, than the amount from burning fossil fuels. So, they argue, man's activity is not the culprit.
What a load of rubbish – either ignorance or a deliberate attempt to mislead!
The fact is that the emission of CO2 from the oceans and biosphere is counter-balanced by the return of CO2 in almost identical amounts. Otherwise our graphs would look very different. The flows of CO2 in and out remained in balance and it's been that way for thousands of years. The change to that balance is due to the burning of fossil fuels. That's one of the global warming facts - end of story!
Fact 3 - The increase in CO2 levels has harmful effects
The first point to note is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It's not the only one, not even the strongest one, but nevertheless, a significant one.
So what do greenhouse gases do? Or more particularly, what does CO2 do?
The physical properties of CO2 molecules are such that when it receives infra-red radiation from the earth it re-emits it in random directions and prevents it leaving the atmosphere.
One way of describing this effect is that it acts like a giant blanket and the end result is a warming of the earth. Nothing dramatic, but a slow and very gradual growth in the earth's temperature.
Measurements show that the earth's temperature has increased about 0.8°C (1.4°F) over the past one hundred years.
What are the effects of this global warming?
Climate change science is not exact, as it is relatively new, and there are wide differences of opinion as to the extent and nature of the effects of global warming. However, there has been a wealth of discussion in papers, book and conferences all round the globe.
Some of the key events attributed to global warming are listed below as described by National Geographic and sourced from the Inter-Governmental Panel On Climate Change:
Some impacts from increasing temperatures are already happening- they are global warming facts!
Other effects could happen later this century, if warming continues.
- Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland, and Arctic sea ice.
- Researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years.
- Sea level rise became faster over the last century.
- Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have moved farther north or to higher, cooler areas.
Precipitation (rain and snowfall) has increased across the globe, on average.
- Spruce bark beetles have boomed in Alaska thanks to 20 years of warm summers. The insects have chewed up 4 million acres of spruce trees.
- Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimeters) by the end of the century, and continued melting at the poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters).
- Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger.
- Species that depend on one another may become out of sync. For example, plants could bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active.
- Floods and droughts will become more common. Rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are already common, could decline by 10 percent over the next 50 years.
- Less fresh water will be available. If the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru continues to melt at its current rate, it will be gone by 2100, leaving thousands of people who rely on it for drinking water and electricity without a source of either.
- Some diseases will spread, such as malaria carried by mosquitoes.
- Ecosystems will change—some species will move farther north or become more successful; others won’t be able to move and could become extinct. Wildlife research scientist Martyn Obbard has found that since the mid-1980s, with less ice on which to live and fish for food, polar bears have gotten considerably skinnier. Polar bear biologist Ian Stirling has found a similar pattern in Hudson Bay. He fears that if sea ice disappears, the polar bears will as well.
Source for climate information: IPCC, 2007
Global Warming Facts – Solutions Are Possible
One important body in all of this is the United Nations Framework On Climate Change and most countries are parties to this framework. One of the key elements is the fact that it is agreed that in order to prevent serious environmental effects, warming needs to be below 2°C (3.6°F) in the coming years.
Given that we have already used up some of that because of the 0.8°C rise already mentioned you can see that there is a real urgency in adopting strategies that will contain the situation within acceptable limits.
We discuss the solutions issue in
preventing global warming.
- a complex issue that will require well coordinated global action to have any chance of success.
The global warming facts are worth repeating as they are fundamental to any future solutions.
- The level of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere is rising rapidly and approaching 400 ppm.
- The rise in CO2 levels is largely due to the burning of fossil fuels
- The increase in CO2 levels leads to harmful environmental effects
Unfortunately, we also have a legion of
Global Warming Skeptics
who either don't accept the science of global warming, or worse, try to discredit it because of their allegiance to the fossil fuel industry. Read our rejection of their claims.
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