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Climate Change


 

 

CLIMATE CHANGE - GLOBAL WARMING

 

 

Never before in recorded history has the earth’s surface been visible below the polar ice cap – 

UNTIL NOW !

 

Throughout its long history, Earth has warmed and cooled time and again. Climate has changed when the planet received more or less sunlight due to subtle shifts in its orbit, as the atmosphere or surface changed, or when the Sun’s energy varied.

 

But in the past century, another force has started to influence Earth’s climate: HUMANITY !

 

Why The Controversy ? 

The global warming controversy includes a variety of disputes about the nature, causes, and consequences of global warming. The debates, however, are more in the popular media than in the scientific literature. The disputed issues involve the causes of increased global average air temperature, especially since the mid-20th century, whether such a warming trend is unprecedented or within normal climatic variations, whether humankind has contributed significantly to it, and whether the increase is wholly or partially an artifact of poor measurements. Additional disputes concern estimates of climate sensitivity, predictions of additional warming, and what the consequences of global warming will be.

However, in the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused mainly by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. No scientific body of national or international standing disagrees with this view, though a few organizations hold non-committal positions. (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) 

 

 

CLIMATE CHANGE - GLOBAL WARMING FACT SHEET

WHAT IS GLOBAL WARMING, ANYWAY?

 

Ø Global warming is caused by the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into earth’s atmosphere. The gases act like a thick blanket, trapping the sun's heat and causing the planet to warm up. Increase the gases and the warming increases, too. These gases are created when we burn fossil fuels in our cars and power plants as well as by loss of forests and agriculture.

 

Ø Scientists find clues to global warming by studying remnants of the past in ancient glacial ice, ocean sediments as well as tree and coral rings.

 

Ø Global warming is problematic to human civilization because it will cause increasingly severe storms and droughts, glaciers to melt, rising seas, changes in weather patterns, the spread of disease.

 

Ø Automobiles and coal-burning power plants are the two biggest sources of carbon dioxide in the U.S. Clearing of forests is also an important source worldwide.

 

Ø Scientists say that unless we curb global warming emissions, average temperatures could rise by 3 to 9 degrees by the end of this century – in our grandchildren’s lifetime!.

 

 

SURPRISING SCIENTIFIC STATS ON GLOBAL WARMING

 

Ø Recent data from Antarctic ice cores indicates that carbon dioxide concentrations are now higher than at any time during the past 650,000 years, which is as far back as measurements can now reach.

 

Ø 2005 was the warmest year on record since atmospheric temperatures have been measured. The ten warmest years on record have all been since 1990. In summer 2005, and in every year since, heat records were broken in hundreds of U.S. cities.

 

Ø Over the past 50 years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history.

 

Ø In 2003, heat waves caused over 30,000 deaths in Europe and 1500 deaths in India.

 

Ø Since 1978, arctic sea ice has been shrinking by about 9 percent per decade -  a total of 29% to date.

 

Ø Seagulls were spotted for the first time ever at the North Pole in 2000.

 

Ø The snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, at their current rate of melt, may be gone by 2020.

 

 

PREDICTED EFFECTS AS TEMPERATURES RISE

 

Ø Global warming is predicted to increase the intensity of hurricanes. In the past several decades, the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes globally has almost doubled. Because the ocean is getting warmer, tropical storms can pick up more energy and become far more powerful.

 

Ø Even as severe storms cause flooding in some areas, droughts and wildfires will increase in others.

 

Ø Low-lying islands, some capes and coastlines will no longer be habitable due to rising sea level.

 

Ø Forests, farms and cities will face troublesome new pests and more mosquito-borne diseases.

 

Ø Disruption of habitats such as coral reefs and alpine meadows could drive many plant and animal species to extinction.

 

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

 

Ø Energy efficiency, conservation, renewable sources of energy and new policies will all be part of the solution. Much of this technology already exists to reverse the effects of global warming. Immediate steps include building cleaner cars, CFL light bulbs, manufacturing more efficient appliances and conserving energy on an international basis.

 

Ø Individuals can make an immediate difference by trying to reduce their personal greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Ø Major corporations are already finding ways to cut emissions while still saving money – but there is tremendous opportunity for more innovation.

 

Ø Developing and making available new clean energy technologies -- such as wind power, solar power, hybrid electric engines, and alternative fuels – will be key to controlling global warming.

 

Climate Change Blog

 

Posted on September 14, 2016

Ocean Levels are Rising - We Need to Act Now...

     

"Core samples, tide gauge readings, and, most recently, satellite measurements tell us that over the past century, the Global Mean Sea Level has risen by 4 to 8 inches. However, the annual rate of rise over the past 20 years has been roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years. Over the past century, the burning of fossil fuels and other human and natural activities has released enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. These emissions have caused the Earth's surface temperature to rise, and the oceans absorb about 80 percent of this additional heat....

The rise in sea levels is linked to three primary factors, all induced by this ongoing global climate change:

Thermal expansion: When water heats up, it expands. About half of the past century's rise in sea level is attributable to warmer oceans simply occupying more space....

Melting of glaciers and polar ice caps: Large ice formations, like glaciers and the polar ice caps, naturally melt back a bit each summer. But in the winter, snows, made primarily from evaporated seawater, are generally sufficient to balance out the melting. Recently, though, persistently higher temperatures caused by global warming have led to greater-than-average summer melting as well as diminished snowfall due to later winters and earlier springs. This imbalance results in a significant net gain in runoff versus evaporation for the ocean, causing sea levels to rise....

Ice loss from Greenland and West Antarctica: As with glaciers and the ice caps, increased heat is causing the massive ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica to melt at an accelerated pace....

When sea levels rise rapidly, as they have been doing, even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats....

With an increasing number of large storms, as they hit land, higher sea levels mean larger, more powerful storm surges that can strip away everything in their path. In addition, hundreds of millions of people live in areas that will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding. Higher sea levels would force them to abandon their homes and relocate. Low-lying islands could be submerged completely....

Most predictions say the warming of the planet will continue and likely will accelerate. Oceans will likely continue to rise as well. A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. More dire estimates push sea level rise to 23 feet, enough to submerge London...."

(excerpted from National Geographic

 

 

Posted on November 2, 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change:

  

“The devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the Northeast -- in lost lives, lost homes and lost business -- brought the stakes of Tuesday’s presidential election into sharp relief. The floods and fires that swept through our city left a path of destruction that will require years of recovery and rebuilding work. And in the short term, our subway system remains partially shut down, and many city residents and businesses still have no power. In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods -- something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable. Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action. Here in New York, our comprehensive sustainability plan has helped allow us to cut our carbon footprint by 16 percent in just five years, which is the equivalent of eliminating the carbon footprint of a city twice the size of Seattle. Through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group -- a partnership among many of the world’s largest cities -- local governments are taking action where national governments are not….“ Leadership is Needed ! Read more at The Bloomberg View. 

 

 

Posted on August 23, 2012

Arctic Sea Ice at Lowest Levels Ever 

  

North Pole webcam picture taken on 22 August 2012 showing ice cap melting. Climate scientists expect the Arctic sea ice is on course to plummet to its lowest levels ever this weekend. Photograph: University of Washington/ North Pole Environmental Observatory/NOAA

 

Posted on July 20, 2012

Severe Storms on the Increase

  

WASHINGTON – Global warming is leading to such severe storms, droughts and heat waves that nations should prepare for an unprecedented onslaught of deadly and costly weather disasters, an international panel of climate scientists says in a report issued Wednesday.

The greatest danger from extreme weather is in highly populated, poor regions of the world, the report warns, but no corner of the globe — from Mumbai to Miami — is immune. The document by a Nobel Prize-winning panel of climate scientists forecasts stronger tropical cyclones and more frequent heat waves, deluges and droughts.

The 594-page report blames the scale of recent and future disasters on a combination of man-made climate change, population shifts and poverty. From USA Today. By Seth Borenstein, Associated Press. 7/20/12.

 

Posted on February 28, 2012

Where does some of our plastic trash end up? 

At least 1,700 miles of plastic trash is floating in what is commonly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Up until this point, scientists only had a vague idea of the scope of the trash they would find in the North Pacific Gyre, a vortex where four ocean currents meet.

 

Posted on February 28, 2012

New Scientist Magazine for February 25, 2012 notes that “There simply is no credible scientific alternative to the theory that humans are warming the atmosphere. In 2010, a survey of 1372 climate scientists found that 97 percent of those who publish most frequently in the field were in no doubt. They agreed with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that human activity had caused most of the Earth’s warming over the second half of the 20th century…. (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).”

By not acting now, we are doing a disservice to those who will have to deal with the consequences of worsening climate change in the near future.

 

Posted on February 2, 2012

Recycling Plastic Bottles - What are the benefits to recycling plastic bottles?

Conservation of Oil. When a ton of plastic bottles are recycled approximately 3.8 barrels of petroleum is saved.

Reduction of Greenhouse Gas emissions. The substitution of recycled materials reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that are produced in the manufacturing of virgin materials.

Saving of Landfill Space. Not having millions of plastic bottles in the landfill results in a saving of 6.7 cubic meters of landfill space that is at a premium right now. Plastic bottles also take an average of 500 years to biodegrade.

Conservation of Energy. Water and soft drink bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate or PET. Recycling of one pound of PET results in a saving of approximately 12,000 BTU’s (British Thermal Units).

Benefits of Reuse. Recycled bottles can provide an environmentally friendly source of materials for the manufacture of new products and substitutes recycle materials for virgin materials. (from Benefits-of-Recycling.com)

 

Posted on January 31, 2012

Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None

By LESLIE KAUFMAN

New York Times

Published: October 19, 2009

At Yellowstone National Park, the clear soda cups and white utensils are not your typical cafe-counter garbage. Made of plant-based plastics, they dissolve magically when heated for more than a few minutes. 

At Ecco, a popular restaurant in Atlanta, waiters no longer scrape food scraps into the trash bin. Uneaten morsels are dumped into five-gallon pails and taken to a compost heap out back.

And at eight of its North American plants, Honda is recycling so diligently that the factories have gotten rid of their trash Dumpsters altogether.

Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as “zero waste” is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations. 

The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can.

Though born of idealism, the zero-waste philosophy is now propelled by sobering realities, like the growing difficulty of securing permits for new landfills and an awareness that organic decay in landfills releases methane that helps warm the earth’s atmosphere. To read more click here….

 

United Nations (UN) warns world lacks food:

The world population – the number of all living humans on the planet Earth - is today estimated to number 6.991 BILLION by the United States Census Bureau. According to a separate estimate by the United Nations, the number has already exceeded 7 BILLION. The world population has experienced continuous growth since the end of the Great Famine and Black Death in 1350, when it stood at around 370 million.

As the world’s population continues to grow, the United Nations warns that the world lacks food to support the growth. The UN estimates that within the next 20 years the world's population will need 50 per cent more food and vast new reserves of energy and water [Reuters].

A major United Nations report on sustainability has warned that time is running out to ensure that there is enough food, water and fuel to meet the needs of the world's rapidly growing population.

In a grim warning about the earth's increasing demand for resources, the report found that demand will grow exponentially as the global population rises from 7 billion people to an expected 9 billion by 2040.

Within the next 20 years the world's population will need 50 per cent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water, according to UN estimates.

The report warns a failure to secure resources will condemn up to 3 billion people to poverty.

The report's authors have urged governments to tackle sustainable development with a greater sense of urgency and political will. "The current global development model is unsustainable," the report reads.

"To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is required. Tinkering on the margins will not do the job. The current global economic crisis ... offers an opportunity for significant reforms."

The panel, which made 56 recommendations for sustainable development to be included in economic policy as quickly as possible. Among the panel's recommendations, it urged governments to agree on a set of sustainable development goals which would complement the eight Millennium Development Goals to 2015 and create a framework for action after 2015. It also recommends efforts to double productivity while reducing resource use.

Water and marine ecosystems should be managed more efficiently and there should be universal access to affordable sustainable energy by 2030. The authors also recommend the establishment of carbon and natural resource pricing, and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies by 2020. (source Asia Pacific News / ABC Radio Australia)

Posted on January 15, 2012

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: Change a Light Bulb and Change the World

If you want to change the world, start by changing a few light bulbs. It is one of the best things you can do for the environment—and your budget.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if every U.S. household replaced just one regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, it would prevent 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, the equivalent of taking 7.5 million cars off the road. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that by replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs at the same minimal rate, Americans would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year.

On top of that, replacing one regular light bulb with an approved compact fluorescent light bulb would save consumers $30 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use at least two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and they last up to 10 times longer. Compact fluorescent light bulbs also generate 70 percent less heat, so they are safer to operate and can also reduce energy costs associated with cooling homes and offices.

The only real drawback to using compact fluorescent bulbs is that each one contains about 5 mg of mercury, so when they do expire, one should be recycling compact fluorescent bulbs to make sure they don't end up in landfills. (from About.com - Environmental Issues)

 

Posted on January 5, 2012

Since 1978, arctic sea ice has been shrinking by about 9 percent per decade -  a total of about 29% to date. The Arctic is global warming's "canary in the coal mine". It is a highly sensitive region, and it is being profoundly affected by the changing climate. Most scientists view what's happening now in the Arctic as a harbinger of things to come.

 

  This chart compares the actual loss of Arctic Ice Cap volume between the 1950s and 2000, and the projected loss by 2050. The more ice that is lost, the faster the ice cap shrinks due to the loss of albedo, the amount of light energy that is normally reflected back out into space by the ice cap. Image: NOAA

It is now known that the Arctic Ice Cap, frozen for 50 million years, is melting. We also know that above normal Arctic temperatures, from the ocean water to the air currents, account for the melting. Global warming is real, and the melting of the Arctic Ice Cap is one of its symptoms.

 

Reprinted from Washington Post. March 3, 2006:

"Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Melting Rapidly

By Juliet Eilperin

Washington Post Staff Writer. Friday, March 3, 2006 

The Antarctic ice sheet is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year in a trend that scientists link to global warming, according to a new paper that provides the first evidence that the sheet's total mass is shrinking significantly.

The new findings, which are being published today in the journal Science, suggest that global sea level could rise substantially over the next several centuries.

It is one of a slew of scientific papers in recent weeks that have sought to gauge the impact of climate change on the world's oceans and lakes. Just last month two researchers reported that Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, and a separate paper in Science today predicts that by the end of this century lakes and streams on one-fourth of the African continent could be drying up because of higher temperatures.

The new Antarctic measurements, using data from two NASA satellites called the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), found that the amount of water pouring annually from the ice sheet into the ocean -- equivalent to the amount of water the United States uses in three months -- is causing global sea level to rise by 0.4 millimeters a year. The continent holds 90 percent of the world's ice, and the disappearance of even its smaller West Antarctic ice sheet could raise worldwide sea levels by an estimated 20 feet.

"The ice sheet is losing mass at a significant rate," said Isabella Velicogna, the study's lead author and a research scientist at Colorado University at Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. "It's a good indicator of how the climate is changing. It tells us we have to pay attention."

Richard Alley, a Pennsylvania State University glaciologist who has studied the Antarctic ice sheet but was not involved in the new research, said more research is needed to determine if the shrinkage is a long-term trend, because the new report is based on just three years of data. "One person's trend is another person's fluctuation," he said.

But Alley called the study significant and "a bit surprising" because a major international scientific panel predicted five years ago that the Antarctic ice sheet would gain mass this century as higher temperatures led to increased snowfall.

"It looks like the ice sheets are ahead of schedule" in terms of melting, Alley said. "That's a wake-up call. We better figure out what's going on."

Velicogna acknowledged that it is hard to predict how fast the ice sheet will melt in the future but said, "I don't expect it's going to stop in the next couple of years."

Scientists have been debating whether the Antarctic ice sheet is expanding or shrinking overall, because the center of the sheet tends to gain mass through snowfall whereas the coastal regions are more vulnerable to melting.

Velicogna and her co-author, University of Colorado at Boulder physics professor John Wahr, based their measurements on data from the two GRACE satellites that circle the world more than a dozen times a day at an altitude of 310 miles. The satellites measure variations in Earth's mass and gravitational pull: Increases or decreases in the Antarctic ice sheet's mass change the distance between the satellites as they fly over the region.

"The strength of GRACE is that we were able to assess the entire Antarctic region in one fell swoop to determine if it was gaining or losing mass," Wahr said.

But some scientists remain unconvinced. Oregon state climatologist George Taylor noted that sea ice in some areas of Antarctica is expanding and part of the region is getting colder, despite computer models that would predict otherwise.

"The Antarctic is really a puzzle," said Taylor, who writes for the Web site TSCDaily, which is partly financed by fossil fuel companies that oppose curbs on greenhouse gases linked to climate change. "A lot more research is needed to understand the degree of climate and ice trends in and around the Antarctic."

At the other end of the temperature spectrum, two South African researchers are reporting today in Science that their computer models indicate that by 2100 climate change may rob the south and west of Africa and areas in the upper Nile region of a significant portion of their current water supply. Warming may reduce the rainfall needed to replenish up to 25 percent of Africa's surface water, said Maarten de Wit and Jacek Stankiewicz at the University of Cape Town in Rondebosch, South Africa.

"Water is essential to human survival," they wrote, "and changes in its supply can potentially have devastating implications, particularly in Africa, where much of the population relies on local rivers for water."

Congressional Democrats, including Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.) said yesterday that the two new papers show that the United States must act quickly to impose mandatory limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Bush administration opposes such curbs on the grounds that they could hurt the country's economy and has instead invested money on new technology to limit greenhouse emissions and further climate science research.

"Climate change is not just someone else's concern but a very real threat to the lives and livelihood of people across the globe," Kerry said."

 

Notes: 

Current warming makes it unlikely that the Arctic will return to its previous conditions. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA Arctic Report Card 2010 Update, USA)

In winter 2009-2010, Arctic warming brought severely cold winds and heavy snow to eastern North America and eastern Eurasia. (Dr. James Overland of the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA, 2010)

Overall warming has extended the annual melting period for Arctic sea ice to 20 days longer now than three decades ago, meaning more heat can be absorbed by the Arctic sea, and big impacts on marine ecosystems and North American climate. (NASA 2010)

Due to disappearing ice, polar explorers were able for the first time to journey around the North Pole in a small fiberglass sailing boat, a feat that would have been impossible even 10 years ago without an ice-breaker ship because the passages were sealed with ice. (Norwegian polar explorer Borge Ousland, voyage started in June 2010)

 

Effects on Arctic Polar Bears

photo © Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com

"The Arctic is experiencing the warmest air temperatures in four centuries. The Arctic has experienced warm periods before, but the present, rapid shrinking of sea ice is unprecedented. Scientists predict a mostly ice-free Arctic summer by 2040 if present trends continue. Most scientists now believe that the Arctic will continue to grow warmer as a result of human activity—namely, the introduction of increasing quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

In 2008, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. EPA, and the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment all reported sea ice loss in the Arctic equal to an area the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined.

Today's polar bears are facing rapid loss of the sea ice where they hunt, breed, and, in some cases, den. Changes in their distribution or numbers affect the entire arctic ecosystem. 

Scientists believe that we still have time to save polar bears if we significantly reduce greenhouse emissions within the next few years. Yet it will take 30 to 40 years for changes reversing the warming trend to show...." (From Polar Bears International.)

 

Effects on Humans

Watch the news every evening - As storms continue to increase in quantity and intensity, deaths, injury and property loss into the billions of dollars just in the United States alone, continue to increase as well.  Can we sustain this amount of devastation ? Do we want to ?

 

Developing Countries:

"Climate change is expected to hit developing countries the hardest. Its effects—higher temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more frequent weather-related disasters—pose risks for agriculture, food, and water supplies. At stake are recent gains in the fight against poverty, hunger and disease, and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people in developing countries...." To read more: The World Bank. 

 

Sources: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2009,  United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO),  United States Environmental Protection Agency, Ecology Communications Group, Inc. (ECG), NOAA, Washington Post (March 3, 2006), Polar Bears International, Wikipedia, New York Times, About.com, Benifits-of-recycling.com, Asia Pacific News / ABC Radio Australia, 

 

Recycling of Paper:

  

If every American recycled 10% of their paper and newspapers each year in the United States, this would save 15 MILLION trees yearly. 

 

World's Largest Dump:

Do you know where the world's largest dump is ?

  

The world's largest dump is located in the Pacific Ocean - the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch". The garbage area is twice the size of Texas, and stretches from the US West Coast to Japan. To read more, visit 

"Great Pacific Garbage Patch"  .

  

 

 

 

 

To Read More - Links:

"Great Pacific Garbage Patch" 

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

NOAA

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Climate Change

Polar Bears International

NASA - Global Climate Change - Vital Signs of the Planet

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

New York Times

About.com - Environmental Issues

Benefits-of-Recycling.com

Asia Pacific News / ABC Radio Australia

The Bloomberg View. 

 

 

 

Posted and updated by James W. Claflin. BS Environmental Science / Resources Management, SUNY College of Forestry & Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY.

 

 

 

 

 

Page updated September 14, 2016

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