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Global Climate Change

Carmela Ariane D. Aliazas
BS Chemistry 311
What is Global Climate Change?
Global climate change is a change in
the long-term weather patterns that
characterize the regions of the world. The
term "weather" refers to the short-term
(daily) changes in temperature, wind,
and/or precipitation of a region. Weather
is influenced by the sun. The sun heats
the earth's atmosphere and its surface
causing air and water to move around the
Some of the sun's incoming long wave
radiation is reflected back to space by
aerosols. Aerosols are very small particles
of dust, water vapor, and chemicals in
Earth's atmosphere. In addition, some of
the sun's energy that has entered Earth's
atmosphere is reflected into space by the
planet's surface. The reflectivity of Earth's
surface is called albedo. Both of these
reflective processes have a cooling affect
on the planet.
Greenhouse Effect
Energy from the Sun that makes its way to
the Earth’s surface can have trouble
finding its way back out to space. This is
because of a natural process called the
greenhouse effect. Without the
greenhouse effect, Earth’s temperature
would be below freezing. However, Earth’s
greenhouse effect is getting stronger as
we add more greenhouse gases to the
atmosphere. And that is warming the
climate of our planet.
Heat is radiated into the atmosphere from
the Earth’s surface, which is warmed by
sunlight. As the heat makes its way back
to space, much of it is absorbed by
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases are larger than most
other molecules in the atmosphere, and
that makes them able to absorb heat.
They radiate the heat back to the Earth's
surface, to another greenhouse gas
molecule, or out to space.
Sometimes during this Century, the amount of
the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the
atmosphere is expected to double. Other
greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous
oxides are increasing as well. The quantity
of greenhouse gases is increasing as fossil
fuels are burned, releasing the gases and
other air pollutants into the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases also make their way to
the atmosphere from other sources. Farm
animals, for example, release methane gas
as they digest food. As cement is poured
and hardens, it releases carbon dioxide.
• With more greenhouse gases in the air, heat
passing through on its way out of the
atmosphere is more likely to be stopped. The
added greenhouse gases absorb the heat. They
then radiate this heat. Some of the heat will
head away from the Earth, some of it will be
absorbed by another greenhouse gas molecule,
and some of it will wind up back at the planet’s
surface again. With more greenhouse gases,
heat will stick around, warming the planet.
• Greenhouse gases
are released into the
air from many
sources. This pie
chart shows where
they were coming
from in 2004
• The amount of energy reflected by a surface is called
albedo. Albedo is measured on a scale from zero to one
(or sometimes as a percent).
– Very dark colors have an albedo close to zero (or close to 0%).
– Very light colors have an albedo close to one (or close to 100%).
• Because much of the land surface and oceans are dark
in color, they have a low albedo. They absorb a large
amount of the solar energy that gets to them, reflecting
only a small fraction of it. Forests have low albedo, near
0.15. Snow and ice, on the other hand, are very light in
color. They have very high albedo, as high as 0.8 or 0.9,
and reflect most of the solar energy that gets to them,
absorbing very little.
• Earth’s climate depends on the amount of solar
radiation that is reflected back out to space and
the amount that is absorbed. If Earth’s climate is
colder and there is more snow and ice on the
planet, more solar radiation is reflected back out
to space and the climate gets even cooler. On
the other hand, when warming causes snow and
ice to melt, darker colored Earth surface and
ocean are exposed and less solar energy is
reflected out to space causing even more
warming. This is known as the ice-albedo
• Clouds have an important effect on albedo
too. They have a high albedo and reflect a
large amount of solar energy out to space.
Different types of clouds reflect different
amounts of solar energy. If there were no
clouds, Earth’s average albedo would drop
by half.
• This picture of the Andes
Mountains between Chile and
Argentina in South America
was taken from the
International Space Station in
December 2000. Glaciers and
snow top many of the high
mountain peaks. Lakes in the
valleys between mountains
collect the water that melts
from the snow and ice each
spring and summer. Scientists
have found that the smaller
glaciers in this area are
melting quickly as the Earth
becomes warmer.
Effects of Air Pollutants
• Air pollution operates on a variety of
scales, from the personal to the global and
has serious consequences for the
environment and human health.
Effects to People
Our lungs are our personal link to the atmosphere. In a pollution-
filled environment, toxicity, concentration, and exposure time
are maximized. Those most at risk include infants, the elderly,
and those already at risk for lung disease. Mortality and
morbidity statistics should remind us of our social
responsibility concerning clean air legislation.

People spend the vast majority of their time indoors where
pollution levels may be 10 to 40 times higher than outdoors.
Asbestos, Radon, carbon monoxide, and secondhand
tobacco smoke are just a few of the airborne toxic pollutants
that we encounter in high concentrations indoors.
Effects to the Community
The immense amount of particulates, chemicals, and waste
heat in highly populated urban areas can cause
significant meteorological changes. Temperature
inversions can cause stagnant conditions for periods
ranging from several hours to several days. Urban heat
islands have emerged along with the growth of cities.
Polluted air over cities can contain as many as 1 million
cloud condensation nuclei and can change precipitation
patterns downwind.
• Acid deposition is also a regional or trans-boundary
pollution issue. Emissions from anthropogenic sources
account for about 70 percent of the sulfur and 88
percent of the NOx in the United States. They increase
the acidity of the rainwater which leads to physical
consequences, like the deterioration of buildings, as
well as natural consequences. It has also increased
the acidity of soil in forests, which destroys their plant
life. Overall, air pollution causes serious
meteorological, biological, and physical
• The SO2 and the NOx, which give rise to
acid deposition, are emitted almost
entirely by manmade sources. Although
small amounts are emitted naturally by
volcanoes or vegetation decay, the vast
majority is released from coal burning mills
or power plants.
Effects globally
Air pollution can contribute to global climate
change in a few different ways. Large amounts
of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere can
lead to global warming due to the greenhouse
effect. A significant rise in temperature will lead
to the melting of polar ice caps. This event will
then cause a rise in sea level, and the oceans
will submerge major coastal cities. Conversely,
the impenetrable amount of particulates in the
air may block out the sun and its heat causing
global cooling.
Health Effects
• CO
– Poor reflexes, ringing ears, headaches,
dizziness, nausea, breathing difficulties
drowsiness, reduced work capacity, comatose
• Pb
– kidney damage, reproductive system damage,
nervous system damage
Health Effects
• NOx
– increased risk of viral infections, lung irritation, higher
respiratory illness rates, airway resistance, some chest
tightness, eye burning
• O3
– respiratory system damage, reduced mental capacity,
damage to cell lining, reduces effectiveness of the immune
system, headaches, eye irritations, chest discomfort,
breathing difficulties, chronic lung diseases, nausea
Health Effects
• SO2
– aggravates heart and lung disease, increases
the risk for respiratory illnesses, cancer
• PM10
– respiratory illnesses, aggravates heart