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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Definitions and Debate

Definition of Global Warming: Gradual increase in the earth's surface temperature.
Popular usage definition: Warming caused by human activity.
Technical term for this: Anthropogenic global warming.
Definition of Greenhouse Gas: A gas, like CO2, which traps the sun's heat.

The debate:
Is the observed global warming natural or man made?

Human causes: Carbon dioxide (CO2), e.g. exhaust from cars and power plants.
Natural causes: Some claim the sun is getting hotter.

U.S. Government Position: The Energy Act of 2005 states: "the President shall establish a Committee on Climate Change Technology [which] shall submit to the Secretary and the President a national strategy to promote the deployment and commercialization of greenhouse gas intensity reducing technologies and practices."

History: In 1896 Svante Arrhenius (1903 Nobel Prize in Chemistry) pre dicted the decrease in CO2 need ed to cause past ice ages. He wasn't far off, and it is not a large decrease. This helped confirm the 1859 prediction that human-produced increases in CO2 would cause just the reverse: global warming.

What Causes Global Warming, human activity or the sun? The final answer is not in, but you can see the results so far. (1) Exhaust is clearly the source of CO2. (2) Everyone now agrees the earth is warming. (3) Decide for yourself if warming is better explained by CO2, or the sun's heat.

Stoft  2005 09 hurricane global warming-S

The Effects of Global Warming. We can see the long-term effects coming in the melting of polar ice and glaciers. But a powerful trend in Atlantic hurricane data indicates we can already see the impact. Katrina was partly the result of a normal weather cycle, but that cannot explain away stronger hurricanes world wide.


Can we Stop Global Warming?
It's too late for that, but we can slow it down and lessen its effects. CO2 does not last as long in the air as was once thought, so the big problem is slowing human use of fossil energy, especially coal. (Especially since CO2 goes into the ocean and destroys coral reefs.)

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