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The Global Warming Debate

Causes and consequences
You will be assessed on your ability to:

• Explain what global warming is (enhanced greenhouse effect).

• Outline the natural causes of climate change (orbital changes,
volcanic activity, solar output).
• Outline the main causes (deforestation, fossil fuels, air
pollution, agricultural change).
• Explain the consequences of global warming (rising sea levels,
more hazards, ecosystem change, employment opportunities,
changing settlement patterns, health and wellbeing, food supply)
with respect to one country Case Study - Bangladesh.

• Draw a fully labelled diagram of the greenhouse effect.

• Research and present - for and against global warming.
• Spider diagram of expected impact in an LIC such as
Bangladesh compared to an HIC such as the UK.
• Use key websites to research impacts on one named
country – Bangladesh
• Websites of the IPCC and UNEP:
What are the current thoughts?
Here are a number Climate Science: What You Need To Know
of current ideas with
leading figures.
Please take the time
to watch these for Denier and Brian Cox:
Why People Don't Believe In Climate Science

Truth about Climate Change: (grainy video)

Nat Geo 101 -

Coral Bleaching -
OK, let’s get something straight…

What is weather?
Weather is what we get on a day to day basis.

Climate is what we expect a region on Earth to be over

a longer period of time. Usually measured over 30
years – we expect the Mediterranean to be warm and
What is climate?
sunny but the UK to be wet.

What is climate Climate change is the long-term change in the Earth's

change then? climate, or of a region on Earth over 30 years.

Global warming is the increase in Earth's average

Well, what is global
surface temperature due to rising levels of greenhouse
gases. warming then?
Well, what is everyone talking about then?
That’s easy, both! But that doesn’t help me understand.
This panel gathers information from many
sources, experts and research and produces a
comprehensive review on the state of the
planet every 7-8 yrs.
And, so what? A bunch of scientists chatting about science and writing reports.
Well, from 1988 when it was founded, the IPCC has never categorically stated that humans
are responsible for global warming. That was until 2014…
“Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of
greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread
impacts on human and natural systems”.
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed
changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed,
the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen”.
Ah, so the planet is warming.
Yes, global warming is fact I sense a but...

Whilst the planet is warming, there hasn’t been enough time to

categorically state that the whole of the planet’s climate has
changed permanently.
Remember I stated that climate is measured over 30 years.
Well has there been 30 years of the same conditions to say that a
region is different?
There are changes year on year, and certainly the UK is wetter
each winter, but that is a reflection of warming. So the jury is still
out on climate change, but global warming is fact!
But some people say there is evidence to suggest climate
change is a natural process.
• Climate change is nothing new.
• Look at the graph below. This shows temperature changes during
the last 400,000 years. The red line shows today’s global
average temperature at 0’C.
• Humans have only been around for 200,000 years.
The graph shows what?
Cold glacial periods have alternated with warm inter-glacial
In the last few decades the average global temp has
increased. It is the current warming trend that has become
known as Global Warming. Year
Tree rings
How do we know?
Well we can’t stick
a thermometer in
the planet and take
its temperature,
that’s for sure.

Ice Cores

• Plants and animals good indicators as they favour different conditions.

• 60 million year old crocodile fossils show climate was warmer then than
Ice cores

Ice cores extracted from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have
provided evidence of past global temperatures. When snow falls, it
gradually builds up layer upon layer of snow every year. The Antarctic ice
sheet is nearly 5km thick and the oldest ice – at its base – is roughly
800,000 yrs. old.
The layers of trapped water molecules are analysed and the temperature
calculated to produce graphs of temperature change over the last 400,000
Ocean sediments

• Just in the same way as ice,

ocean sediments build up over
time. Scientists drill into the
ocean floor and have been able
to remove cores over 5 million
years old.
• Through studying oxygen
isotopes trapped in the
sediments, it is possible to
calculate past atmospheric
Historical records
• Ancient cave paintings of animals in France and Spain depict
nature as it was between 40,000 and 11,000 years ago. It is
difficult to accurately date a cave painting though.
• Records / diaries of extreme weather events such as floods and
droughts suggest that in recent decades extreme weather
events have become more frequent.
• Seasonal timings have changed – tree flowering and bird
migration is advancing. Swallows are arriving in the UK up to 20
days earlier than they did in the 1970s. But is it evidence of
global climate change?
• Diaries and written observations also provide evidence, although
they can lack objective accuracy.
Is climate change a natural process?

• Natural causes – sunspot activity, Milankovitch cycles,

volcanic eruptions and meteorite strikes

• Human activities – burning fossil fuels, deforestation

and waste disposal.
Look at the chart, what do you notice? How about the volcanoes?
4 natural causes of climate change
1. Meteorite strikes
•Large meteorite impacts could throw so much dust up into the atmosphere that the
amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface would be drastically reduced.
•The dust could remain in the air for months.
•The reduced sunlight would cause the both the air and Earth's surface to cool,
producing winter-like conditions throughout the world.
•Plant growth would be severely affected, and food crops could fail.
•Example: A meteorite strike at the end of the Mesozoic Era, 65 million years ago, is
thought to have been responsible for the mass extinction of almost half the species
alive at the time, including the dinosaurs.
2. Volcanic Eruptions
•When a volcano erupts it throws out large
volumes of sulphur dioxide (SO2), water
vapour, dust, and ash into the atmosphere.
•The gases and dust particles in the ei-ya-fyat-LA-yer-kwllsh)
stratosphere (upper atmosphere) reflect Eyjafjallajökull
some of the incoming rays of the sun,
leading to cooling.
•The large volumes of gases and ash can
influence climatic patterns for years.
•Example: Mount Pinatubo in the
Philippines, in 1991 - caused a 10%
reduction in sunlight, so average global
temperatures dropped by 0.5oC for 1 year.
3. Sunspots
Dark spots/patches on the surface of
the Sun. the number increases from a
minimum to a maximum over a number
of years – 11 years.
Sunspot cycle – strong magnetic fields
and gives rise to large explosions
causing solar flares.

Tenuous connection but between 1645 and 1715 – Maunder

Minimum – not a lot of sunspot activity was observed and
coincided with the Little Ice Age.
So more sunspots = more heat
4. The Milankovitch Cycles
Eccentricity (shape)
• The combined gravitational pull of the Sun,
Saturn, Jupiter and other planets cause
the shape of the Earth’s orbit to vary from
its most elliptical to almost circular.
• It has a 110,000 year time scale.
• The Earth is currently closer to the Sun in
January than in July. This makes the
Southern Hemisphere seasons more
• The tilt or obliquity of the Earth’s axis
varies over time
• 41,000 year cycle
• If the Earth’s axis were vertical, we
wouldn’t have any seasons at – the same
part of the Earth’s surface would be
facing the Sun all year.
• The more angled the axis, the more
extreme the seasons. Currently tilted at
23.44°, half way between its maximum and
minimum value.
• The angle is currently decreasing.

• The axis also traces a circle in space.

• 26,000 year time period.
• This is a gyroscopic motion due to tidal forces exerted by the sun and
moon on the solid Earth, because the Earth is not a perfect sphere but
has an equatorial bulge.
• It changes which star we see as the North Star – currently it is Polaris,
but 13,000 years ago, it would have been Vega
HW –
1. Explain the 4 natural causes of climate change IN
DETAIL. [15]
Make sure you can explain each in an exam with an
2. Watch the videos from slide 4. (All links on
3. Explain what global warming is (natural and the
enhanced greenhouse effect). [15]