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Rising Tides:

Richard Lonardo 11/17/2010

The controversy surrounding climate change and how to deal with it is a necessary dialogue that needs to happen in the engineering community. In response to a recently published article on the Fox News Website, titled White House Should Coordinate Geoengineering research to Help Fight Climate Change, that raises prevention of climate change rather than which will be inevitable, one must consider that there are too many variables associated with climate change. Those of which, prevention, are far beyond our technological reach and preparedness may, therefore, be our necessary alternative. A summary of industrializations affect in climate change follows but is only part of the whole mechanism of climate change. There have been numerous instances of Earth undergoing climate change of which the mechanisms are only now understood in a limited nature. Global Warming has become a significant political, socio-economic and academic focus over the past two decades. The science behind it has become dogma for many and its highly politicized nature has energized the contentious issue for many around the world. Governments of the western world are attempting to organize themselves in an effort to curtail the possible negative environmental effects. Companies are attempting to capitalize on the exposure by selling products and ideas. Politics has made this a hot spot for highly contentious debate moving into the Twenty First Century. The movement to go green has gained much ground over recent years in the United States and around the globe. The general understanding of climate change as the phenomena of industrializations byproduct is now universally accepted; however, the science behind it has been appearing since the middle of the twentieth century [Houghton, 1997] and is still a highly debated issue. The only universal agreeance is that our global climate is changing. The popular term Global Warming refers to climate change induced by other than naturally occurring events. Scientific inspection has catalogued a cyclic warming and cooling of Earths climate for much of its existence. In this situation, due to factors directly influenced by the presence of humanity, the natural cycle is being skewed by factors such as: carbon dioxide emissions, deforestation and the

release of trace amounts of other greenhouse gasses. The mechanics of which these gaseous molecules all deemed to be greenhouse gasses, with the addition of water vapor in the atmosphere, offset the radiation balance of the planet. Heat exchange equilibrium from the radiation of the sun and Earths atmosphere is dependent on the atmospheres ability to limit radiation to and from the surface, as the radiation from the sun and the surface of the planet is relatively constant [Houghton, 1997]. The particular range that the gases are responsible for absorbing is long wave radiation that is below visible light within the infrared region of the electro-magnetic wave spectrum [Drake, 2000]. The general species considered to be greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Hydrofluorocarbons, Perfluorocarbons and Sulfur hexafluoride [EIA, 2009]. The commonalities between all of these gasses are that they are both produced by humanity and their particular thermodynamic properties within our atmosphere. These gases limit the thermal radiation from the planets surface to the extraterrestrial environment, space. Nearest the surface the mechanism which predominate the heat transfer is convection, the principle of higher temperature gasses having a lower density causing them to carry the heat away from the surface as they rise. It is in the upper atmosphere that the radiation due to the gases affects the delicate balance of incoming and outgoing thermal radiation. Understanding the general mechanics and dependent nature of climactic trends on the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere science attempts to decompose the complicated nature of the planets many systems. In doing so, paying particular attention to the cycle in which carbon is produced and consumed the Earths system has been deemed the biosphere [Houghton, 1997]. Biosphere is a generalization for all of the components that metabolize fuel and release carbon dioxide as well as those that utilize the greenhouse gas and release non-greenhouse gasses and therefore, the loss of systems in which consume the gas are also important, deforestation is one such instance [Houghton, 1997]. This delicate cycle happens throughout the many systems and has been the underlying process from the onset of the Earth in its current form. Thus, the focus for the immediate increase of the gasses has lead science to the many known and documented sources from the industrialization of the planet. Atmospheric gas

levels have been analyzed from the late nineteen fifties and have identified an increase of about one and a half parts per million by volume each year [Houghton, 1997]. Focusing on the imbalance of gases created by humans, postulates suggest that this will indeed rapidly cause a change in the climate. Science has endeavored to model [Houghton, 1997] the possible future trends and find the evidence that there has indeed been a record of human intervention in what would normally be the planets natural cycle. One of the largest hurdles is to find trends in climate of large periods which span much more that our recorded history. In doing so many cleaver approaches have been used to track carbon levels in the atmosphere. Deep ice core sample have been taken in the Polar Regions, trees rings have been analyzed as well as accurate, though recent in geological terms, and continuous records have been kept from observation stations across many areas for over one hundred years. Highly accurate reading from satellites and sea level variations has also been employed in the discovery of climate changes [Houghton, 1997]. Alternative arguments have been introduced contrary to industrializations induced climate change. However, the argument of how needs to currently be secondary to the impact of what is inevitable. A shift in scientific resources needs to happen if what is necessary for our global communitys preparedness to the event of climate change. As engineers, more specifically those of us who specialize in the engineering of chemicals, will find ourselves at the forefront in adapting current and future technologies to hedge societys prosperity in the changing global environment. As chemical engineers our discipline expands across many of the necessary adaptations the will need to be implemented. From food to energy our engineering is incorporated into many of the processes. It is our esthetical duty to take a proactive approach to the possibility rather than a reactive stand to the if. Whether or not anything of a catastrophic nature occurs the results of research will undoubtedly find a useful place and will provide advancement to society without regard to climate change.

References: Drake, Francis, Global Warming: The Science of Climate Change, (London, New York Edward Arnold Ltd., 2000).

"FoxNews.com - White House Should Coordinate Geoengineering Research to Help Fight Climate Change." FoxNews.com - Breaking News | Latest News | Current News. Web. 17 Nov. 2010. <http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/10/30/white-house-coordinate-geoengineering-researchhelp-fight-climate-change/>.

Houghton, John Theodore, Global Warming: The Complete Briefing, (Cambridge; New York Cambridge University Press, 1997). U.S. Energy Information Administration, Energy and the Environment Explained, http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=environment_about_ghg, (Washington, D.C.: Department of Energy, 01 October, 2009).