Causes of Global Warming

What Causes Global Warming?

Scientists have spent decades figuring out what is causing global warming. They¶ve looked at the natural cycles and events that are known to influence climate. But the amount and pattern of warming that¶s been measured can¶t be explained by these factors alone. The only way to explain the pattern is to include the effect of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted by humans. To bring all this information together, the United Nations formed a group of scientists called the International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The IPCC meets every few years to review the latest scientific findings and write a report summarizing all that is known about global warming. Each report represents a consensus, or agreement, among hundreds of leading scientists. One of the first things scientists learned is that there are several greenhouse gases responsible for warming, and humans emit them in a variety of ways. Most come from the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, factories and electricity production. The gas responsible for the most warming is carbon dioxide, also called CO2. Other contributors include methane released from landfills and agriculture (especially from the digestive systems of grazing animals), nitrous oxide from fertilizers, gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes, and the loss of forests that would otherwise store CO2. In order to understand the effects of all the gases together, scientists tend to talk about all greenhouse gases in terms of the equivalent amount of CO2. Since 1990, yearly emissions have gone up by about 6 billion metric tons of ³carbon dioxide equivalent´ worldwide, more than a 20% increase.

Effects of Global Warming Signs Are Everywhere

The planet is warming, from North Pole to South Pole, and everywhere in between. Globally, the mercury is already up more than 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius), and even more in sensitive polar regions. And the effects of rising temperatures aren¶t waiting for some far-flung future. They¶re happening right now. Signs are appearing all over, and some of them are surprising. The heat is not only melting glaciers and sea ice, it¶s also shifting precipitation patterns and setting animals on the move. Some impacts from increasing temperatures are already happening.

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.

The insects have chewed up 4 million acres of spruce trees. picking up moisture over the oceans. or long-term weather patterns. . rising here. sea levels are rising. their levels are higher now than in the last 650. Called greenhouse gases. where their numbers have fallen from 32. could decline by 10 percent over the next 50 years. if warming continues. the face of the Earth as we know it² coasts. Some diseases will spread.y y y y Researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica. Sea level rise became faster over the last century. It¶s becoming clear that humans have caused most of the past century¶s warming by releasing heat-trapping gases as we power our modern lives. Species that depend on one another may become out of sync. Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger. it will be gone by 2100. cooler areas. where it is absorbed and then radiates back into the atmosphere as heat. Some butterflies. If the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru continues to melt at its current rate. the new heat swirls with it.000 breeding pairs to 11. where droughts are already common. Rainfall in Ethiopia. Floods and droughts will become more common. Other effects could happen later this century. In the atmosphere. cloud forests are drying. As the Earth spins each day. What Is Global Warming? The Planet Is Heating Up²and Fast Main Content Glaciers are melting. foxes. but it is causing a set of changes to the Earth¶s climate.000 in 30 years. These gases let in light but keep heat from escaping. plants could bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active. like the glass walls of a greenhouse. Spruce bark beetles have boomed in Alaska thanks to 20 years of warm summers. leaving thousands of people who rely on it for drinking water and electricity without a source of either. and continued melting at the poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters). and alpine plants have moved farther north or to higher. sunlight shines onto the Earth¶s surface. that varies from place to place. ³greenhouse´ gases trap some of this heat. settling there. First. Less fresh water will be available. and wildlife is scrambling to keep pace. forests. farms and snow-capped mountains²hangs in the balance. For example. We call the result global warming. Greenhouse effect The ³greenhouse effect´ is the warming that happens when certain gases in Earth¶s atmosphere trap heat. y y y y y y Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimeters) by the end of the century.000 years. It¶s changing the rhythms of climate that all living things have come to rely upon. What will we do to slow this warming? How will we cope with the changes we¶ve already set into motion? While we struggle to figure it all out. such as malaria carried by mosquitoes.

the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius discovered that humans could enhance the greenhouse effect by making carbon dioxide. which means there isn¶t much time to lose. but they have been fairly constant for the past few thousand years. but the question of what to do about it remains controversial. sociology. Levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have gone up and down over the Earth¶s history. This greenhouse effect is what keeps the Earth¶s climate livable. The more greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere. and everyone can help. Global Warming Solutions What Can We Do? Main Content The evidence that humans are causing global warming is strong. Is this possible? Many people and governments are already working hard to cut greenhouse gases.´ This means reducing GHG emissions .and the rest escapes into space. and politics are all important factors in planning for the future. until recently. Economics. A commonly cited goal is to stabilize GHG concentrations around 450-550 parts per million (ppm). Without it. But what we do from today forward makes a big difference. when Joseph Fourier calculated that the Earth would be much colder if it had no atmosphere. Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs) today. Researchers Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow at Princeton University have suggested one approach that they call ³stabilization wedges. Scientists have known about the greenhouse effect since 1824. scientists predict that the Earth could eventually warm by as little as 2. This is the point at which many believe the most damaging impacts of climate change can be avoided. the Earth¶s surface would be an average of about 60 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. Current concentrations are about 380 ppm. the Earth would still warm by another degree Fahrenheit or so. Depending on our choices. Through the burning of fossil fuels and other GHG emissions.5 degrees or as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Global average temperatures have stayed fairly constant over that time as well. a greenhouse gas. He kicked off 100 years of climate research that has given us a sophisticated understanding of global warming. humans are enhancing the greenhouse effect and warming Earth. or about twice pre-industrial levels. the more heat gets trapped. we¶d have to reduce GHG emissions by 50% to 80% of what they¶re on track to be in the next century to reach this level. In 1895. According to the IPCC.

from a variety of sources with technologies available in the next few decades. There are many possible wedges. rather than relying on an enormous change in a single area. There is also the potential to capture the carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuels and store it underground²a process called ³carbon sequestration. hydrogen produced from renewable sources. and nuclear power. biofuels (produced from crops). natural gas. including improvements to energy efficiency and vehicle fuel economy (so less energy has to be produced). the general increase in the earth's near-surface air and ocean temperatures. remains a pressing issue in a society that has expanded its industrial use since the mid-twentieth century.´ Global Warming. and increases in wind and solar power. They suggest 7 wedges that could each reduce emissions. putting us on a potential path to stabilize around 500 ppm. and all of them together could hold emissions at approximately current levels for the next 50 years. .

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's). As human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation increases. a non-regulated air and ocean temperature. Thus. our natural environment. we are also losing wildlife habitats. Methane. When forest land is destroyed. heat is trapped inside of our planet and creates a general warming effect. when heat enters the atmosphere. These are processes that have been expanded since the mid-twentieth century. greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide are released into the air. But what are the real causes and effects of global warming? What does this scientific evidence conclude in regards to our future? fghg Causes of Global Warming The crucial component that causes greenhouse gases such as CO2.. buildings. Nylon and nitric acid production. cars. airplanes. have projected a significant change and future increase in these atmospheric temperatures. atmospheric gases that exist to keep our planet warm and prevent warmer air from leaving our planet. carbon dioxide is released into the air thus increasing the long-wave radiation and trapped heat.e. it is through shortwave radiation. it escapes the earth in the form of long-wave radiation. and natural gas) has a significant effect on the warming of the atmosphere. Effects of Global Warming . The heavy use of power plants. Greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere cause this long-wave radiation to increase. and the burning of organic matter also release the greenhouse gas Nitrous Oxide. As we lose millions of acres of rainforest a year. As this radiation heats the earth's surface. and over thirty others. Normally.Greenhouse gases. and Nitrous Oxide to be released into the atmosphere is human activity. the use of fertilizers in agriculture. are enhanced by industrial processes. Deforestation Another cause of global warming is land-use changes such as deforestation. a type of radiation that passes smoothly through our atmosphere. and most significantly. coal. a type of radiation that is much more difficult to pass through the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels (i. Scientific organizations around the world. including The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. non-renewable resources such as oil. the InterAcademy Council. and other man-made structures release CO2 into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

this does become a global responsibility. As these continue to melt.´ The summary report on the effects of global warming is part two of a four-part IPCC report that will be released in stages throughout 2007. released in February 2007. in my view. coastal flooding. ³People who are poor are least equipped to be able to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This further contributes to global warming. Albedo is the ratio of the light reflected by any part of the earth's surface or atmosphere. glaciers. And many of those changes are already under way. Since snow has one of the highest albedo level. and population risks. and shoreline retreat. As it melts.500 scientists from more than 130 countries²also makes it clear that while poor people worldwide will suffer most from the effects of global warming. and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica melting or sliding into the oceans. everything changes from the natural habitats of wildlife to the culture and sustainability of a region. such as Western Europe experiencing a mini-ice age. it reflects sunlight back into space. Global Warming to Affect Every Person on Earth Climate Change 2007: Impacts. bays. Melting ice caps will desalinize the ocean and disrupt natural ocean currents.The increase in the warming of the atmosphere has significant effects on both natural environment and human life. Melting of the Polar Ice Caps One of the most obvious effects of global warming involves the melting of the polar ice caps. 2007 by the world¶s leading panel of climate change scientists.´ said Rajendra K Pachauri.773. increased salinity of rivers. melting mountain glaciers. the chairman of the panel and an energy expert from India. and permanent snow on our planet. and therefore. As climate changes. The first part. Another important effect of melting ice caps lies in a changing albedo. sea levels rise. Rising sea levels result in coastal erosion. Rising sea levels are also caused by expanding ocean water. Since ocean currents regulate temperatures by bringing warmer currents into cooler regions and cooler currents into warmer regions. the report from Working Group II of the United Nations¶ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)²which took six years to compile and draws on the research of 2. Adaptation and Vulnerability [pdf].000 cubic miles of water. no person on Earth will escape its consequences. and worldwide sea level rise. Arctic shrinkage. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. there are 5. and aquifers. according to the summary of a scientific report issued on April 6. in some sense. ice caps. helping to keep the earth cooler. more sunlight is absorbed by the earth's atmosphere and the temperature tends to increase. There are also less obvious effects such as economic trouble. confirmed with 90 percent certainty that global warming is now unstoppable and humans are . The effects of global warming will be felt in every region and at all levels of society. ³It¶s the poorest of the poor in the world ² and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies ² who are going to be the worst hit. EFFECTS The effects of global warming in the 21st century and beyond are expected to be disastrous. ocean acidification. a halt in this activity may cause extreme climate changes. Obvious effects include glacial retreat.

are: Also read President Obama's Speech at U. and electrical power y Vehicles that achieve high miles per gallon of gas consumed Solutions to reduce reliance on fossil fuels to produce energy and warmth include alternative energy sources such as: y Solar power. which are vehicles that combine two types of power. About. and related solutions to stemming the flow greenhouse gases. typically internal combustion engines . forest and agricultural residues and other feed stocks" as well as waste from factories and landfills. urban wood waste. y y y . y Geothermal energy. transportation sector emits more CO2 than all but three other countries' emissions from all sources combined. in vehicles Hybird vehicles. SOLUTIONS Solutions to slowing or stopping global warming lie in mankind's ability to slow and stop activities that inject greenhouse gases into Earth's's Guide to Environmental Issues. emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). and produce energy and warmth. Natural Gas The largest single contributer to the rise of man-made greenhouse gases is the burning of oil and gas to power blame for a significant portion of the heat-trapping greenhouse gases that have caused global temperatures to rise dramatically since the middle of the 20th century.S. The U. Coal. rather than use of individual cars Alternative fuels.N. Major sources of greenhouse gases generated by mankind. which is usually generated by groups of wind turbines y Biomass energy." Solutions to reduce reliance on vehicles that burn fossil fuels include: Taking mass public transportation whenever possible. the primary global-warming gas. rather than fossil fuels. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Burning of Fossil Fuels: Oil and Gas. machinery. "Motor vehicles are responsible for almost a quarter of annual U. which is usually generated by solar panels or a solar tower y Wind power. see Top 7 Renewable Energy Sources by Larry West. which is derived from "lumber mill wastes. which is derived from steam and hot water found deep beneath the Earths surface y For others. Per the Union of Concerned Scientists. which burns fossil fuels.