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MODULE #2: Climate Change

& Global Warming

…Science & Sources of


Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
Weather - the short term state of the atmosphere at a
specific time and place, including the temperature,
humidity, cloud coverage, precipitation, wind, etc.

Climate - the long-term “average weather” pattern of an


Some useful definitions …
area, including temperature, precipitation, and wind.

Climate Change - any long-term significant change in the


“average weather” that a given region experiences.
These changes can be caused by dynamic processes on
Earth, external forces including variations in sunlight
intensity, and more recently by human activities.
Global warming - the increase in the average measured
temperature of the Earth's near-surface atmosphere and
oceans since the mid-twentieth century, and its
projected continuation.
Is the Earth’s climate
changing?
Yes, it is constantly changing due to
natural forcings (intensity of the sun,
volcanic activity, etc.),
but more recently as a result of human
Is the Earth getting warmer?
activites.
The United States recorded
its warmest year ever in 2006
2.2°F above the 20th Century
ave.
2006

200
Source: NASA
7

The
Yes. Earth’s
20
Hottest
Years
Source: Union of Concerned
Scientists

on
Why is the Earth getting
warmer ?
There is overwhelming evidence to
show that our climate is changing
in response to our actions!
• Thousands of peer-reviewed
scientific research publications
provide clear & convincing
evidence for warming caused
by humans (anthropogenic GHG
emissions)

• Greenhouse Gas
concentrations have
increased dramatically since
the industrial revolution.
Prior to this, levels stayed
relatively stable for
thousands of years. Human
activities are adding more U.S. Industrial
GHGs to the atmosphere &
boosting the Greenhouse Revolution
• Temperature
Effect is about
that we learned begins
increasing
in MODULE #1 as
concentrations of CO2 (& Source: IPCC Report: Summary for Policy Makers,
Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis
other GHGs) increase in
Earth’s atmosphere
… CO2 levels have now reached
unprecedented highs, and continue to rise
steadily every year …

Graph courtesy of NASA. Data Source: Vostok ice core


data/NOAA
How can we tell that the recent, rapid warming is
caused by human (anthropogenic) activity rather
than natural cycles?
But when GHG emissions from human activities are included in the
computer models, the results match what scientists are seeing
(temperature increasing)… so we are a key part of the equation!

If scientists only consider Natural climate forcings (like solar &


volcanic activity), then computer models tell them Earth
should’ve been cooling down over the past 30 years (gray line)…
but that’s not what is happening in the real world (red line)
Why is this problem uniquely caused by
us?
After all…
we humans live along with countless other species on planet Earth,
and like all species … change our environment to a greater or lesser
degree.
… And change is inevitable.

…BUT the rate (and magnitude) of change we have caused since


the industrial revolution is much too great for the natural cycles
to maintain a balance!

As the American Geophysical Union recently concluded: "It is


scientifically inconceivable that - after changing forests into cities,
putting dust and soot into the atmosphere, putting millions of acres of
desert into irrigated agriculture, and putting greenhouse gases into the
atmosphere - humans have not altered the natural course of the climate
system."
Let’s take a look at the major sources
of GHG emissions in Vermont…
Vermont
Can you guess which 2 sources below are responsible
for nearly ¾ of Vermont’s Greenhouse Gas
Emissions?

Industry?
Agriculture Transportati
Heating our ? on?
homes and
businesses? Landfills
Electricity
generation /
?
Transportat Heating our
homes &
ion
businesses

Vermont 44% 27%

’s
Greenhou 11%
4% 6%
se Gas Agricultur
Electricity
Emissions (1-
Landfills / Waste 5%)
Industrial
e
3%
Industrial fuel use
processes
How does Vermont’s
“emissions profile”
compare to the entire
United States?
GHG Emissions
by Source
Category (2000)

Transportation
26%
Residential /
Commercial
Fuel Use Vermont
9%

Agriculture
7%
How do these 2 pie charts
Industrial Fuel
differ?
Use
Electrictiy
Can you think of reasons
14%
32%

Landfills / Waste
Industrial
Processes
why Vermont’s GHG
emissions profile looks
4% 8%

United States different?


Please go on to MODULE #3 to learn about how GHG
emissions are changing things around the globe…