Climate Change

Trevor Mooney

Climate Change Paper
Monday, March 21, 2011

Understand the basics

1. Some of the causes of past climate change are changes in the earth??™s orbit, changes in the sun??™s intensity, and volcanic eruptions causing aerosol and carbon dioxide emissions. The first cause, changes in the earth??™s orbit, affects climate because it changes how much sunlight is received on the earth??™s surface. The second cause, changes in the sun??™s intensity, affects climate because the intensity of sunlight that reaches earth??™s surface creates a warming or cooling effect depending on the intensity. The third cause, carbon dioxide emissions through volcanic eruptions, changes climate because of the warming effect that raises temperatures. The fourth cause, aerosol emissions through volcanic eruptions, changes climate because aerosols block sunlight and affect climate with short term cooling.

2. The following is a list of indicators that suggest global warming in the U.S.:
??? U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions ??“ Concentrations of greenhouse gases have risen greatly since the start of the industrial era.
??? U.S. and Global Temperature ??“ Average temperatures in the U.S. have risen exponentially with the greatest warming in states such as Alaska.
??? U.S. and Global Precipitation – During the twentieth century, average precipitation in the U.S. has increased by six percent.
??? Tropical Cyclone Intensity ??“ The intensity of tropical storms has increased in the last 20 years and is closely related to warmer Atlantic sea surface temperatures.
??? Sea Surface Temperature ??“ Sea surface temperatures have been warmer over the past three centuries then any other three consecutive centuries.
??? Sea Level ??“ The average sea level rise has grown exponentially and in recent years has grown more then an inch per decade.
??? Glaciers ??“ Since 1960 the sizes of U.S. glaciers have shrunk and are shrinking exponentially quicker by each year.
??? Length of Growing Season ??“ The length of the U.S. growing season has increased since the start of the 20th century because of warmer temperatures.

3. Over the past one hundred years our planet has experienced global climate change largely in the form of global warming. This warming was sparked by the industrial era as problems generated by emitting heat-trapping gases into our atmosphere were introduced and continued to grow. The addition of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, a primary byproduct of burning fossil fuels, has trapped more heat in our atmosphere and brings many climate changes. These changes include, greater frequency of intense tropical storms, increased global temperatures, rising sea levels and glacial melt to name a few.

4. GHG is an abbreviation for greenhouse gases. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the climate. These gases are thought to be detrimental to the environment as the EPA is doing everything possible to minimize the amount of GHG??™s in the atmosphere.

5. The most common gases that have a profound effect on our planet are:
??? Carbon Dioxide ??“ A byproduct of burning fossil fuels and the result of chemical reactions such has the creation of cement.
??? Methane ??“ An emission resulting from the transportation of coal, natural gas and oil. Agricultural processes also emit this greenhouse gas.
??? Nitrous Oxide ??“ a byproduct of combustion, burning fossil fuels, industrial activities and agricultural activities.
??? Fluorinated Gases ??“ Manmade synthetic gases that deplete atmospheric ozone and are emitted in smaller quantities but are much more potent.

6. Some questions still need to be answered about the factors of global warming. These factors include how much warming will occur, how fast the warming will occur and how much will global warming affect global climate systems including annual precipitation and violent weather. In order to answer these uncertainties the following issues must be addressed:
??? Understanding when climate change is driven by natural causes and when human forces drive climate change.
??? Understanding the effect of GHG??™s, changes in solar insolation and the effects of changing humidity and cloud cover.
??? Generating greater accuracy in projections for GHG??™s and their future impacts on global climate change.
??? Understanding the potential for abrupt and or rapid climate change based on human or natural forces.

7. IPCC is an abbreviation for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This group is hugely involved in the activities that result in international climate change legislation and research for areas such as environmental monitoring, science and mitigation. This group believes that global warming is real and that it needs to be addressed thorough increasing the public and political leaders knowledge about the various aspects of global climate change. Their primary avenue of communicating information is through a series of assessment reports. To date, four separate reports have disclosed the evolution of climate change from 1990 until 2007.

8. If our planet continues to warm many climate changes could be the result. Although a few degrees of warming may not seem like much, it would create the largest and fastest climatic change over the past 10,000 years. Continued warming increases the risk of negative impacts on climate with more rapid changes being exponentially more costly especially for developing nations, along with fragile ecosystems that would be vulnerable to slight climatic changes. These warmer global temperatures will impact ecosystems forcing animals to migrate. For the animals unable to migrate, extinction may be unavoidable. In terms of human health reasons, global climatic warming will increase the amount of heat and death related illnesses. Agriculture will suffer since farmers will be unable to continue growing the crops they always have since the climate may not be suitable for continued growth of the same crops. Polar regions will see significantly more ice and snow melt causing sea levels to rise. The intensity of tropical storms will increase as a result of the larger capacity for water vapor that warmer water possesses. In all, continued warming of global temperatures will have a profound effect on global climates.

The prevailing environmental perspective

9. The IPCC has been publishing a series of influential assessment reports focused on climate change since 1990. These reports contain an almost unlimited amount of information regarding the status of our planet. The most compelling method this panel uses to raise awareness about global climate change is showing how the abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased significantly in the recent past. The IPCC then shows the correlation between the level of greenhouse gases and the changes that continue to modify planet earth. The four gases discussed heavily are Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Aerosols. By showing that these gases and others are largely the byproducts of burning fossil fuels, agricultural processes and the use of synthetically created molecules, the IPCC demonstrates how humans are causing the destruction of our planet. The anthropogenic activities were listed and then tied to the problems they are creating. However, the most powerful tool the IPCC used was showing climatic changes in relation to the beginning of life on our planet with details stating that our ocean??™s global average temperature has never been warmer and that our glaciers have never been smaller. Therefore, the most compelling evidence for anthropogenic climate change is quantitative data from the world??™s existence and how the emission of greenhouse gases by humans is causing violent effects.

10. One of the largest strengths of the IPCC in demonstrating their findings is also their biggest weakness. This panel has done so much research and published the vast majority. As the IPCC has divulged so much research it seems that they are obsessed with quantity and not quality. Undoubtedly, some pieces of their summary that felt like a slam dunk that addressing global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed but other parts such as stating that no trend exists with the frequency of tropical storms and warmer temperatures, seemed to strengthen opposition??™s arguments. When they gave so much information it gave way to chinks in their figurative armor. With opposing groups and skeptics looking for a hole in each argument the IPCC makes, the panel should have concentrated their efforts on their four or five most pivotal points and given them unconditional backing. With so many small issues that can be combined together, the IPCC made a fatal mistake that their argument contained far too much quantity with a serious lack of focus and direction. This organization should compile their facts to create a strong focused message rather then an all-encompassing pool of data.

A skeptical perspective
11. The authors A.B. Robinson and Z.W. Robinson believe that greenhouse gases and hydrocarbons have no relationship with global warming. They believe solar activity and the sun??™s solar magnetic cycle are the reason the planet is warming. They say the correlation between solar activity and solar magnetic cycle are the reasons for rising temperatures because when the solar cycle gets shorter, the sun to becomes more active. Robinson and Robinson state that the previous period we were in, the Little Ice Age, which occurred 300 years ago, was colder then the current global averages and since that time we have seen gradual warming with large fluctuations caused by solar activity. The pair believe this theory as they view climate on a much broader scale citing that the earth was in one of its two coldest periods 300 years ago and that the earth has seen five extended distinctly warmer periods of time in contrast to the current global average. Through broad scale research and graphic smoothing, Robinson and Robinson believe that the sun is to blame and not greenhouse gases for our warming planet.

12. In contrast to reports created by the IPCC, the authors Robinson and Robinson did not write their article objectively and without bias. First, the article is written in an almost ???conversational tone??? where the reader is being addressed by the authors directly. This may be in large part because Robinson and Robinson wrote their piece for the Wall Street Journal that tends to be more conservative, not to mention the opinionated nature of many newspaper articles. Second, the article is structured not to provide evidence on why solar energy is the main cause for global warming and the effects that global warming have on our planet but is written to almost attack the holes and imperfections in data provided by the scientific community. Lastly, the lack of quantitative data as to the cause and effects of anthropogenic forces on climate change, seem to skew the opinions of readers in the favor of Robinson and Robinson without proper numerical backing or citations. This article written for the Wall Street Journal is very bias and shows an extreme lack of objectivity in demonstrating theories of climate change.

An economic perspective

13. The author??™s largest point is not to argue if humans have an impact on the global climate but rather the uncertainty derived from the incredible amount of data that has been collected. The author, O??™Keefe, demonstrates his belief that since there are knowledge gaps between scientists and their lack of understanding data such as water vapor and aerosols, that it would be ludacris to attempt to predict future climate changes without understanding that current climate. He also demonstrates the problem with politics and policy issues as they have a tendency to create controversy through the whirlwind effects of a ???bandwagon???. With a skeptical mentality, O??™Keefe addresses the notion that economics behind climate change should be given more light as humans have little effect on the planet itself.

14. On paper, the Kyoto Protocol appears to be a great step forward in reducing emissions in order to preserve the planet and reduce climate change in the form of global warming. The foundations this protocol was built on was to reduce emissions but it??™s largest problem is that reducing Carbon Dioxide only seems like some buzz words or a catchy tag line. This is because when the initiative began and was eventually documented, there was a serious void. The protocol contains no time tables as to when Carbon Dioxide must be lowered to a pre determined level and no amount that Carbon Dioxide levels should be reduced by. The overall idea to internationally make people agree to reduce the amount of potentially detrimental gases in our atmosphere sounds fantastic but the foundation that the Kyoto Protocol was build on does not hold water.

Information synthesis

15. The debate over anthropogenic climate is larger then ever with individuals becoming more and more polarized by the political ramifications and the gigantic amount of data being collected on the topic. As pressure builds on the issue that is global warming, the best way to swim through the muddied waters is to look at quantitative data and its relationship to climatic impacts. In terms of quantitative data, the topic with a large amount of correlation to global warming is greenhouse gases. As the amount of greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide and Halocarbons become increasingly prevalent in the earth??™s atmosphere, the amount of human influence to global climate change becomes progressively more significant.

The best way to show how anthropogenic climate change occurs through the introduction of added greenhouse gases is to look at historical data on the levels of these gases over time. Looking at technology as a whole shows a large correlation between humans and climate. As technology has evolved greatly over time, so have the effects of their byproducts on the environments they contaminate. When the industrial revolution started, so did the start of something else; an exponential rise in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Before the widespread burning of fossil fuels and the general use of aerosols, the environment contained far less of these gases with the PPB of Nitrous Oxide and Methane being half as much as it is now and the PPM of Carbon Dioxide was 1.5 times less then its current level. The effect these gases have on our planet is significant as a direct correlation between exponentially rising amounts of greenhouse gases and a similar increase in global average temperature, global average sea level and northern hemisphere snow cover are just a small list of the many changes our planet continues to experience.

Another way to show the correlation between climate change derived from humans and increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is through aerosols. Aerosols such as Chloral Fluorocarbons, break down molecules of ozone and are a prime example of anthropogenic climate change. The dreaded ???hole in the ozone layer???, although the location in the atmosphere was not a hole, it was an area where a thinning in the ozone layer was occurring. At this time, many products such as hair sprays contained CFC??™s and it was unknown that these small molecules had such a profound impact on molecules of ozone. In 1996, as the government moved to ban the use of CFC??™s, the eventual disappearance of newly produced CFC??™s was soon to be a thing of the past. As the production of all CFC??™s had ceased in 2010, scientists were excited to see that with the sharply declining amount of CFC??™s in the atmosphere the formerly thinning area of the ozone layer was regenerating faster then anyone could have expected. Although the ozone layer can be naturally depleted by events such as sunspots and volcanoes, the damage CFC??™s were doing far outweighed the natural damage. Since the ozone layer protects the earth from the sun??™s high frequency waves as well as serving as a layer of insolation that traps heat and keeps our planet warm, it is essential to life on planet earth. With the accelerated depletion of ozone in earth??™s atmosphere through the synthetic manufacturing of CFC??™s, the impact humans have on climate change may be greater then previously expected.

Unarguably, greenhouse gases have a profound impact on the global climate. While, natural forces can add or remove greenhouse gases, it seems humans can do just the same. The only difference being our technology and our desire consumption of fuels, anthropogenic climate change is a very real concern. As technology has a profound impact on our lives, so do the byproducts emitted during the creation of these technologies. With these byproducts comes the responsibility to our planet and the overwhelming impact humans have on climate change.

16. As a world super power and a member of the G-7, the United States is a leader in financial markets, innovative technology, medicine and military might we should also strive to fore frontally address global climate change. Since the countries in the G-7 make up a significant amount of the world that posse technology that emit greenhouse gases, we should take a objective stance and drive efforts to minimize the human impact on global climate change. The Kyoto Protocol in theory was a fantastic idea, yet it holds very little weight. A plan similar in the means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible, but different in that the G-7 would holistically create a plan on how to eradicate the use of fossil fuels and develop cost efficient sustainable energy platforms. While many world leaders may put reducing anthropogenic climate change far down on their ???to do lists???, the G-7 could set a precedent of unanimous buy in and holistic solutions being created to reduce greenhouse gases. The result Global cohesion to become as sustainable as possible would become a very real possibility.