Global Warming Science
The latest in global warming science, global warming information, and strategies for reducing global warming are presented.
This article was adapted from my website (link below). I present the latest global warming information by summarizing major points from the latest book of one of the most well-respected climate scientists in the world, James Hansen of NASA. His book, 'Storms of my Grandchildren' tackles the complex subject of global warming science with a blend of science, policy recommendations, politics encountered, and some personal experiences in his crusade to educate and inform.
I will also fill-in some additional information from various sources. The earth is warming and this is supported by numerous observations and studies by climate scientists, and even verified by some studies financed by global warming skeptics, such as the BEST study.
This past century average global temperatures have risen 0.8 C (1.4 F) and 0.6 C (1.1 F) in just the last 30 years! The source of this increase in global temperatures is very likely the increased concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) put into the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels. For the last 400,000 years the concentration of CO2 has fluctuated from around 180 parts-per-million (ppm) to 300 ppm, varying with the waxing and waning of the ice ages.
Now all of a sudden we have an un-natural curve due to the activities of man; a CO2 concentration of 280 ppm at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution has now increased to 390 ppm today with no let up in sight. The increase is approximately 2 ppm per year (or 2%). Studies have shown that there is a sensitivity of +3 C with each doubling of CO2 concentration.
'Forcing' is a term used in global warming science to describe what causes something, such as the climate forcing which is leading to the global warming. The main forcing agents in place today is around 3 watts per meter squared (W/m2) for greenhouse gases countered by -2 W/m2 for atmospheric aerosol effects, from pollution. Droplets due to these aerosols can lead to more scattering and reflecting of incoming solar radiation back to space (and hence less for warming of the atmosphere).
The net result of this forcing is +0.5 W/m2, which means the earth on average is taking in more energy than it is emitting and we are out of balance half a watt. It doesn't sound like much, it is just a Christmas tree light (typically 2 W) for each 4 square meters (approximately 4 square yards). But this seemingly small forcing, when summed over the entire globe, has large global warming effects.
This out-of-balance forcing of 0.5 W/m2 has lead to an increase of 0.6 C over the last 30 years, as mentioned earlier. (the earth's average temperature is 15 C or 59 F) Keep in mind that during the height of the last major ice age, 20,000 years ago, the average global temperature was only 5 C lower than today, yet parts of New York City was under at least a mile of ice! Sensitivity of the climate to small changes can also be understood when one considers the fact that if we reach approximately 450 ppm of CO2 concentration, the earth will probably be free of ice. Sea levels would be approximately 75 m (250 feet) higher than today, a major impact of global warming.
While on the subject of sea level...as a result of the warming, sea levels have been rising at a rate of 3 cm (1.5 in)/decade. According to global warming science the rate is expected to increase over the coming decades. After the last ice age, the breaking up of glacial ice led to rapid increases of up to a meter (yard) in 20-25 years! By the way, at the height of the last ice age, the sea level was around 105 meters (350 feet) lower than today.
There is a chance of runaway global warming if we reach a tipping point and enter a positive feedback loop, if we continue 'business as usual'. The main consequences of global warming are sea level rise (a billion people around the world live within a few meters of the ocean) and extinction of species, with rapidly shifting climate zones. (the current extinction rate is 100 times the natural rate)
With all this info on future doom and gloom, you might ask what can we do to prevent global warming. According to global warming science -first and foremost, we need to phase out the use of fossil fuels, not just spread usage around (i.e., cap and trade). Fossils fuels need to stay in the ground. A fossil fuel fee can be part of the phasing out process.
Typical discussions turn to alternative energy and energy conservation as ways to prevent global warming.
However, Most energy experts and some climate scientists agree that renewable energy and conservations alone will not meet the tremendous thirst for energy in the United States, China, and the rest of the world in the coming decades. Global warming science is getting a better understanding of this problem.
Alternative energies and conservation are still an important part of the solution, although we will probably need either one of two additional things: 1) carbon 'capture & storage' on coal-fired plants; and 2) 'fast' or 4th generation nuclear reactors.
Carbon capture and storage refers to fitting coal-fired plants with a mechanism to prevent the escape of CO2 into the atmosphere, which leads to global warming. Added expense is the stumbling block for this solution.
Fast nuclear reactors are a smaller and safer version of the typical reactor. They allow for a more efficiency and hence lead to less waste. The worry about nuclear power in general has hindered the further development of this technology, however. Situations such as the recent nuclear incident in Japan has further cast doubts on the future of nuclear power. But according to some of the latest global warming science it is wise to not discount the potential of this source of energy to fill the fossil fuel void.
If you familiarize yourself with Global warming science it will benefit you and your family as you navigate the future. Research on global warming continues so it is wise to keep abreast of the latest information on the effects of climate change. Climate change in the news is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
If you'd like to learn more about climate change, please visit my site: SurviveClimateChange
About the Author:
I'm a meteorologist with a Masters in Meteorology. Besides weather, I also have a passion for climate change and environmental issues. I hope to share my enthusiasm in my writing on these subjects and offer suggestions on how to live in a more 'earth friendly' way. :)
By Jon Flatley