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Yoga Korunta

Life & Politics

Location: United States

One learns, as nothing endures but change.

31 October 2006

Tuesday's Word: Global Warming

Global mean surface temperatures 1856 to 2005

Mean surface temperature anomalies during the period 1995 to 2004 with respect to the average temperatures from 1940 to 1980

Energy Portal
Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans in recent decades.
The Earth's average near-surface atmospheric temperature rose 0.6 ± 0.2 °Celsius (1.1 ± 0.4 °Fahrenheit) in the 20th century. The prevailing scientific opinion on climate change is that "most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities"[1].
The increased amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are the primary causes of the human-induced component of warming. They are released by the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing and agriculture, etc. and lead to an increase in the greenhouse effect. The first speculation that a greenhouse effect might occur was by the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius in 1897, although it did not become a topic of popular debate until some 90 years later. [2]
The measure of the response to increased GHGs, and other anthropogenic and natural climate forcings, is climate sensitivity. It is found by observational [3] and model studies. This sensitivity is usually expressed in terms of the temperature response expected from a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere. The current literature estimates sensitivity in the range 1.5–4.5 °C (2.7–8.1 °F). Models referenced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) project that global temperatures might increase between 1.4 and 5.8 °C (2.5 to 10.5 °F) between 1990 and 2100. The uncertainty in this range results from both the difficulty of estimating the volume of future greenhouse gas emissions and uncertainty about climate sensitivity.
An increase in global temperatures can in turn cause other changes, including a rising sea level and changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation. These changes may increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, and tornados. Other consequences include higher or lower agricultural yields, glacial retreat, reduced summer stream flows, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors. Warming is expected to affect the number and magnitude of these events; however, it is difficult to connect particular events to global warming. Although most studies focus on the period up to 2100, warming (and sea level rise due to thermal expansion) is expected to continue past then, since CO2 has an estimated atmospheric lifetime of 50 to 200 years. [4]. Only a small minority of climate scientists discount the role that humanity's actions have played in recent warming. However, the uncertainty is more significant regarding how much climate change should be expected in the future, and there is a hotly contested political and public debate over what, if anything, should be done to reduce or reverse future warming, and how to deal with the predicted consequences.


1 Nomenclature
2 Historical warming of the Earth
3 Causes
3.1 Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere
3.2 Alternative theories
3.2.1 Solar variation theory
4 Predicted effects
4.1 Effects on ecosystems
4.2 Impact on glaciers
4.3 Miniature rock glaciers
4.4 Destabilization of ocean currents
4.5 Environmental refugees
4.6 Spread of disease
4.7 Financial effects
4.8 Biomass production
4.9 Opening up of the Northwest Passage in summer
5 Mitigation
6 Climate models
7 Dangerous global warming
8 Other related issues
8.1 Ocean acidification
8.2 Relationship to ozone depletion
8.3 Possible compounding effects
8.4 Relationship to global dimming
8.5 Pre-human global warming
8.6 Pre-industrial global warming
9 References
9.1 Global Warming in popular culture
10 See also
11 External links
11.1 Scientific
11.2 Polar ice-related links
11.3 Other

The term "global warming" is a specific case of the more general term "climate change" (which can also refer to "global cooling," such as occurs during ice ages). In principle, "global warming" is neutral as to the causes, but in common usage, "global warming" generally implies a human influence. However, the UNFCCC uses "climate change" for human-caused change, and "climate variability" for other changes [5]. Some organizations use the term "anthropogenic climate change" for human-induced changes.

Historical warming of the Earth
See also: Temperature record of the past 1000 years

Two millennia of mean surface temperatures according to different reconstructions, each smoothed on a decadal scale. The unsmoothed, annual value for 2004 is also plotted for reference.
Relative to the period 1860–1900, global temperatures on both land and sea have increased by 0.75 °C (1.4 °F), according to the instrumental temperature record. Since 1979, land temperatures have increased about twice as fast as ocean temperatures (0.25 °C/decade against 0.13 °C/decade (Smith, 2005). Temperatures in the lower troposphere have increased between 0.12 and 0.22 °C per decade since 1979, according to satellite temperature measurements. Over the one or two thousand years before 1850, world temperature is believed to have been relatively stable, with possibly regional fluctuations such as the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age.
Based on estimates by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2005 was the warmest year since reliable, widespread instrumental measurements became available in the late 1800s, exceeding the previous record set in 1998 by a few hundredths of a degree Celsius. Similar estimates prepared by the World Meteorological Organization and the UK Climatic Research Unit concluded that 2005 was still only the second warmest year, behind 1998 [6] [7].
Depending on the time frame, a number of temperature records are available. These are based on different data sets, with different degrees of precision and reliability. An approximately global instrumental temperature record begins in about 1860; contamination from the urban heat island effect is believed to be small and well controlled for. A longer-term perspective is available from various proxy records for recent millennia; see temperature record of the past 1000 years for a discussion of these records and their differences. The attribution of recent climate change is clearest for the most recent period of the last 50 years, for which the most detailed data are available. Satellite temperature measurements of the tropospheric temperature date from 1979.

Main articles: Attribution of recent climate change and Scientific opinion on climate change

Carbon dioxide during the last 400,000 years and the rapid rise since the Industrial Revolution; changes in the Earth's orbit around the Sun, known as Milankovitch cycles, are believed to be the pacemaker of the 100,000 year ice age cycle.
The climate system varies both through natural, "internal" processes as well as in response to variations in external "forcing" from both human and non-human causes, including solar activity, volcanic emissions, and greenhouse gases. Climatologists agree that the earth has warmed recently. The detailed causes of this change remain an active field of research, but the scientific consensus identifies greenhouse gases as the primary cause of the recent warming. Outside of the scientific community, however, this conclusion can be controversial.
Adding carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4) to Earth's atmosphere, with no other changes, will make the planet's surface warmer; greenhouse gases create a natural greenhouse effect without which temperatures on Earth would be an estimated 30 °C (54 °F) lower, and the Earth uninhabitable. It is therefore not correct to say that there is a debate between those who "believe in" and "oppose" the theory that adding carbon dioxide or methane to the Earth's atmosphere will, absent any mitigating actions or effects, result in warmer surface temperatures on Earth. Rather, the debate is about what the net effect of the addition of carbon dioxide and methane will be, when allowing for compounding or mitigating factors.
One example of an important feedback process is ice-albedo feedback. The increased CO2 in the atmosphere warms the Earth's surface and leads to melting of ice near the poles. As the ice melts, land or open water takes its place. Both land and open water are less reflective than ice, and so absorb more solar radiation. This causes more warming, which in turn causes more melting, and the cycle continues.
Due to the thermal inertia of the earth's oceans and slow responses of other indirect effects, the Earth's current climate is not in equilibrium with the forcing imposed by increased greenhouse gases. Climate commitment studies indicate that, even if greenhouse gases were stabilized at present day levels, a further warming of perhaps 0.5 °C to 1.0 °C (0.9–1.8 °F) would still occur.

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere

Plots of atmospheric Carbon dioxide and global temperature during the last 750,000 years
Greenhouse gases are transparent to shortwave radiation from the sun. However, they absorb some of the longer infrared radiation emitted as black body radiation from the Earth, making it more difficult for the Earth to cool. How much they warm the world by is shown in their global warming potential. The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane have increased by 31% and 149% respectively above pre-industrial levels since 1750. This is considerably higher than at any time during the last 650,000 years, the period for which reliable data has been extracted from ice cores. From less direct geological evidence it is believed that carbon dioxide values this high were last attained 40 million years ago. About three-quarters of the anthropogenic (man-made) emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere during the past 20 years is due to fossil fuel burning. The rest of the anthropogenic emissions are predominantly due to land-use change, especially deforestation [8].
The longest continuous instrumental measurement of carbon dioxide mixing ratios began in 1958 at Mauna Loa. Since then, the annually averaged value has increased monotonically by approximately 21% from the initial reading of 315 ppmv, as shown by the Keeling curve, to over 380 ppmv in 2006 [9] [10]. The monthly CO2 measurements display small seasonal oscillations in an overall yearly uptrend, with the maximum reached during the northern hemisphere's late spring (the growing season in the northern hemisphere temporarily removes some CO2 from the atmosphere).
Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, enters the atmosphere both from biological production and leaks from natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure. Some biological sources are natural, such as termites, but others have been increased or created by agricultural activities, such as the cultivation of rice paddies [11]. Recent evidence suggests that forests may also be a source (RC; BBC), and if so this would be an additional contribution to the natural greenhouse effect, and not to the anthropogenic greenhouse effect (Ealert).
Future carbon dioxide levels are expected to continue rising due to ongoing fossil fuel usage, though the actual trajectory will depend on uncertain economic, sociological, technological, and natural developments. The IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios gives a wide range of future carbon dioxide scenarios [12], ranging from 541 to 970 parts per million by the year 2100. Fossil fuel reserves are sufficient to reach this level and continue emissions past 2100, if coal and tar sands are extensively used.

Anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases broken down by sector for the year 2000.
Globally, the majority of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions arise from fuel combustion. The remainder is accounted for largely by "fugitive fuel" (fuel consumed in the production and transport of fuel), emissions from industrial processes (excluding fuel combustion), and agriculture: these contributed 5.8%, 5.2% and 3.3% respectively in 1990. Current figures are broadly comparable. [13] Around 17% of emissions are accounted for by the combustion of fuel for the generation of electricity. A small percentage of emissions come from natural and anthropogenic biological sources, with approximately 6.3% derived from agriculturally produced methane and nitrous oxide.
Positive feedback effects, such as the expected release of methane from the melting of permafrost peat bogs in Siberia (possibly up to 70,000 million tonnes), may lead to significant additional sources of greenhouse gas emissions. [14]. Note that the anthropogenic emissions of other pollutants—notably sulfate aerosols—exert a cooling effect; this partially accounts for the plateau/cooling seen in the temperature record in the middle of the twentieth century [15], though this may also be due to intervening natural cycles.

Alternative theories
Various alternative hypotheses have been proposed to explain all or part of the observed increase in global temperatures, including but not limited to:
The warming is within the range of natural variation.
The warming is a consequence of coming out of a prior cool period — the Little Ice Age.
The warming is primarily a result of variances in solar irradiance, possibly via modulation of cloud cover [16]. It is similar in concept to the operating principles of the Wilson cloud chamber, however acting on a global scale, where earth's atmosphere acts as the cloud chamber and the cosmic rays catalyze the production of Cloud condensation nuclei.
The observance actually reflects the Urban Heat Island, as most readings are done in heavily populated areas [17].
There have been attemps to measure the degree of scientific consensus on the issue of anthropogenic warming. In the journal Science, an essay by UCSD Professor of History Naomi Oreskes considered the abstracts 928 scientific articles in the ISI citation database identified with the keywords "global climate change". Dr. Oreskes concluded: Of these 928 articles 75% were either explicitly or implicitly accepting of the consensus view while 25% covered methods or paleoclimate and did not take any stance on climate change.[18] [19]. Dr. Oreskes did not specify how many of the 928 abstracts explicitly endorsed human-induced warming effects, however.

Solar variation theory

30 years of solar variability
Main article: Solar variation theory
Modeling studies reported in the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) did not find that changes in solar forcing were needed in order to explain the climate record for the last four or five decades [20]. These studies found that volcanic and solar forcings may account for half of the temperature variations prior to 1950, but the net effect of such natural forcings has been roughly neutral since then [21]. In particular, the change in climate forcing from greenhouse gases since 1750 was estimated to be eight times larger than the change in forcing due to increasing solar activity over the same period [22].
Since the TAR, some studies (Lean et al., 2002, Wang et al., 2005) have suggested that changes in irradiance since pre-industrial times are less by a factor of 3 to 4 than in the reconstructions used in the TAR (e.g. Hoyt and Schatten, 1993, Lean, 2000.). Other researchers (e.g. Stott et al. 2003 [23]) believe that the impact of solar forcing is being underestimated and propose that solar forcing accounts for 16% or 36% of recent greenhouse warming. Others (e.g. Marsh and Svensmark 2000 [24]) have proposed that feedback from clouds or other processes enhance the direct effect of solar variation, which if true would also suggest that the impact of solar variability was being underestimated. In general the level of scientific understanding of the contribution of variations in solar irradiance to historical climate changes is "very low" [25].
The present level of solar activity is historically high. Solanki et al. (2004) suggest that solar activity for the last 60 to 70 years may be at its highest level in 8,000 years; Muscheler et al. disagree, suggesting that other comparably high levels of activity have occurred several times in the last few thousand years [26]. Solanki concluded based on their analysis that there is a 92% probability that solar activity will decrease over the next 50 years. In addition, researchers at Duke University (2005) have found that 10–30% of the warming over the last two decades may be due to increased solar output [27]. In a review of existing literature, Foukal et al. (2006) determined both that the variations in solar output were too small to have contributed appreciably to global warming since the mid-1970s and that there was no evidence of a net increase in brightness during this period. [28]

Predicted effects
Main article: Effects of global warming
The predicted effects of global warming are many and various, both for the environment and for human life. These effects include sea level rise, impacts on agriculture, reductions in the ozone layer, increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, and the spread of disease. In some cases, the effects may already be manifest, although it is difficult to attribute specific natural phenomena to long-term global warming. In particular, the relationship between global warming and hurricanes is still being debated. [29][30] A draft statement by the World Meteorological Organization acknowledges the differing viewpoints on this issue [31].
The extent and likelihood of these consequences is a matter of considerable controversy. A summary of possible effects and recent understanding can be found in the report of the IPCC Working Group II [32]. Some scientists believe global warming is already causing death and disease across the world through flooding, environmental destruction, heat waves and other extreme weather events. (Reuters, February 9, 2006; archived)

Effects on ecosystems
Both primary and secondary effects of global warming — such as higher temperatures, lessened snow cover, rising sea levels and weather changes — may influence not only human activities but also ecosystems. Some species may be forced out of their habitats (possibly to extinction) because of changing conditions, while others may flourish. Similarly, changes in timing of life patterns, such as annual migration dates, may alter regional predator-prey balance. The effect of advanced spring arrival dates in Scandinavia of birds that over winter in sub-Saharan Africa has been ascribed to evolutionary adaptation of the species to climactic warming [33].
Ocean pH is lowering as a result of increased carbon dioxide levels. Lowering of ocean pH along with changing water temperature and ocean depth will have a direct impact on coral reefs.
Another suggested mechanism whereby a warming trend may be amplified involves the thawing of tundra, which can release significant amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane that is trapped in permafrost and ice clathrate compounds [34].

Impact on glaciers

Global glacial mass balance in the last fifty years, reported to the WGMS and the NSIDC. The increased downward trend in the late 1980s is symptomatic of the increased rate and number of retreating glaciers.
Global warming has led to negative glacier mass balance, causing glacier retreat around the world. Oerlemans (2005) showed a net decline in 142 of the 144 mountain glaciers with records from 1900 to 1980. Since 1980 global glacier retreat has increased significantly. Similarly, Dyurgerov and Meier (2005) averaged glacier data across large-scale regions (e.g. Europe) and found that every region had a net decline from 1960 to 2002, though a few local regions (e.g. Scandinavia) have shown increases. Some glaciers that are in disequilibrium with present climate have already disappeared [35] and increasing temperatures are expected to cause continued retreat in the majority of alpine glaciers around the world. Upwards of 90% of glaciers reported to the World Glacier Monitoring Service have retreated since 1995 [36].
Of particular concern is the potential for failure of the Hindu Kush and Himalayan glacial melts. The melt of these glaciers is a large and reliable source of water for China, India, and much of Asia, and these waters form a principal dry-season water source. Increased melting would cause greater flow for several decades, after which "some areas of the most populated region on Earth are likely to 'run out of water'" (T. P. Barnett, J. C. Adam and D. P. Lettenmaier 2005) [37]

Miniature rock glaciers
Rock glaciers — caches of ice under boulders — are among other water signs such as drying meadows and warming lakes that scientists are studying in the Sierras in the western United States [38]. Connie Millar searches for the rock glaciers in the Yosemite area of the Sierra crest. She hypothesizes that rock glaciers will be predictors of how ecosystems change with rising temperatures. Millar is leading an effort (the Consortium for Integrated Climate Research in Western Mountains [39]) to co-ordinate the work of many scientists to see how the pieces of the Global Warming puzzle may fit.

[edit] Destabilization of ocean currents
Main article: Shutdown of thermohaline circulation
There is also some speculation that global warming could, via a shutdown or slowdown of the thermohaline circulation, trigger localized cooling in the North Atlantic and lead to cooling, or lesser warming, in that region. This would affect in particular areas like Scandinavia and Britain that are warmed by the North Atlantic drift.

Environmental refugees

The termini of the glaciers in the Bhutan-Himalaya. Glacial lakes have been rapidly forming on the surface of the debris-covered glaciers in this region during the last few decades. According to USGS researchers, glaciers in the Himalaya are wasting at alarming and accelerating rates, as indicated by comparisons of satellite and historic data, and as shown by the widespread, rapid growth of lakes on the glacier surfaces. The researchers have found a strong correlation between increasing temperatures and glacier retreat.
Even a relatively small rise in sea level would make some densely settled coastal plains uninhabitable and create a significant refugee problem. If the sea level were to rise in excess of 4 meters (13 ft) almost every coastal city in the world would be severely affected, with the potential for major impacts on world-wide trade and economy. Presently, the IPCC predicts sea level rise of less than 1 meter (3 ft) through 2100, but they also warn that global warming during that time may lead to irreversible changes in the Earth's glacial system and ultimately melt enough ice to raise sea level many meters over the next millennia. It is estimated that around 200 million people could be affected by sea level rise, especially in Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, India, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Egypt.
An example of the ambiguous nature of environmental refugees is the emigration from the island nation of Tuvalu, which has an average elevation of approximately one meter above sea level. Tuvalu already has an ad hoc agreement with New Zealand to allow phased relocation [40] and many residents have been leaving the islands. However, it is far from clear that rising sea levels from global warming are a substantial factor - best estimates are that sea level has been rising there at approximately 1–2 millimeters per year (~1/16th in/yr), but that shorter timescale factors—ENSO, or tides—have far larger temporary effects [41] [42] [43] [44].

Spread of disease
One of the largest known outbreaks of Vibrio parahaemolyticus gastroenteritis has been attributed to generally rising ocean temperature where infected oysters were harvested in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 2005. Before this, the northernmost reported risk of such infection was in British Columbia, 1000 km to the south (McLaughlin JB, et al.).
Global warming may extend the range of vectors conveying infectious diseases such as malaria. A warmer environment boosts the reproduction rate of mosquitoes and the number of blood meals they take, prolongs their breeding season, and shortens the maturation period for the microbes they disperse [45]. Global warming has been implicated in the recent spread to the north Mediterranean region of bluetongue disease in domesticated ruminants associated with mite bites (Purse, 2005). Hantavirus infection, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, tularemia and rabies increased in wide areas of Russia during 2004–2005. This was associated with a population explosion of rodents and their predators but may be partially blamed on breakdowns in governmental vaccination and rodent control programs.[46] Similarly, despite the disappearance of malaria in most temperate regions, the indigenous mosquitoes that transmitted it were never eliminated and remain common in some areas. Thus, although temperature is important in the transmission dynamics of malaria, many other factors are influential [47].

Financial effects
Financial institutions, including the world's two largest insurance companies, Munich Re and Swiss Re, warned in a 2002 study (UNEP summary) that "the increasing frequency of severe climatic events, coupled with social trends" could cost almost US$150 billion each year in the next decade. These costs would, through increased costs related to insurance and disaster relief, burden customers, taxpayers, and industry alike.
According to the Association of British Insurers, limiting carbon emissions could avoid 80% of the projected additional annual cost of tropical cyclones by the 2080s. According to Choi and Fisher (2003) each 1% increase in annual precipitation could enlarge catastrophe loss by as much as 2.8%.
The United Nations' Environmental Program recently announced that severe weather around the world has made 2005 the most costly year on record [48], although there is "no way to prove that [a given hurricane] either was, or was not, affected by global warming" [49]. Preliminary estimates presented by the German insurance foundation Munich Re put the economic losses at more than US$200 billion, with insured losses running at more than US$70 billion. Nicholas Stern has warned that internationally, 20% of economy could shrink.[50]

Biomass production
The creation of biomass by plants is influenced by the availability of water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide. Part of this biomass is used (directly or indirectly) as the energy source for nearly all other life forms, including feed-stock for domestic animals, and fruits and grains for human consumption. It also includes timber for construction purposes.
A rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide can increase the efficiency of the metabolism of most plants, potentially allowing them to create more biomass.[citation needed] A rising temperature can also increase the growing season in colder regions. It is sometimes argued that these effects can create a greener, richer planet, with more available biomass. However, there are many other factors involved, and it is currently unclear if plants really benefit from global warming. Plant growth can be limited by a number of factors, including soil fertility, water, temperature, and carbon dioxide concentration.
IPCC models currently predict a possible modest increase in plant productivity. However, there are several negative impacts: decreases in productivity may occur at above-optimal temperatures; greater variation in temperature is likely to decrease wheat yields; in experiments, grain and forage quality declines if CO2 and temperature are increased; and the reductions in soil moisture in summer, which are likely to occur, would have a negative impact on productivity. [51]
Satellite data show that the productivity of the northern hemisphere did indeed increase from 1982 to 1991 [52]. However, more recent studies [53][54] found that from 1991 to 2002, widespread droughts had actually caused a decrease in summer photosynthesis in the mid and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere.

NOAA projects that by the 2050s, there will only be 54% of the volume of sea ice there was in the 1950s.

Opening up of the Northwest Passage in summer
Melting Arctic ice may open the Northwest Passage in summer in approximately ten years, which would cut 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km) from shipping routes between Europe and Asia. This would be of particular relevance for supertankers that are too big to fit through the Suez Canal and currently have to go around the tip of Africa. According to the Canadian Ice Service, the amount of ice in Canada's eastern Arctic Archipelago decreased by 15% between 1969 and 2004 [55][56]. A similar opening is possible in the Arctic north of Siberia, allowing much faster East Asian to Europe transport.
Negative impacts of the melting of ice include a potential increase in the rate of global warming, as that ice reflects more sunlight than the open water that is replacing it. There are also ecological effects of melting polar ice: for example, polar bears use sea ice to reach their prey, and swim to another ice floe when one breaks up. Ice is now becoming further separated, and dead polar bears are being found in the water, believed to have drowned. [57] More recently, some scientists have suggested observed cannibalistic behavior in polar bears to be the result of food shortages brought on by global warming (Amstrup et al. 2006).

Main articles: Mitigation of global warming and adaptation to global warming
The likelihood that global temperatures will continue to significantly increase has led to proposals to mitigate global warming. Mitigation covers all actions aimed at reducing the negative effects or the likelihood of global warming.
There are five categories of actions that can be taken to mitigate global warming:
Reduction of energy use (conservation)
Shifting from carbon-based fossil fuels to alternative energy sources
Carbon capture and storage
Carbon sequestration
Planetary engineering to cool the earth
Strategies for mitigation of global warming include development of new technologies; carbon offsets; renewable energy such as biodiesel, solar power, and wind power; nuclear power; electric or hybrid automobiles; fuel cells; energy conservation; carbon taxes; enhancing natural carbon dioxide sinks; population control; and carbon capture and storage. Many environmental groups encourage individual action against global warming, often aimed at the consumer, and there has been business action on climate change.
The world's primary international agreement on combating climate change is the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries that ratify this protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions of these gases.
Although the governments of 163 countries ratified the Kyoto Protocol, (notably excluding the United States and Australia), there is a growing debate about how effective the Kyoto protocol has been. Some politicians, including President of the United States George W. Bush [58], Prime Minister of Australia John Howard [59] had argued that the cost of mitigating global warming via the Kyoto protocol is too large to be practical. This view may be proving correct, as the signatories of the Kyoto protocol are currently struggling to meet their targets [60], including Europe and Japan. After only five years, Canada has given up entirely. Also, of the 163 countries that have signed and ratified Kyoto, only 31 are actually required to lower greenhouse emissions.
Some segments of the business community have accepted global warming and its attribution to anthropogenic causes as valid, as well as a need for actions such as carbon emissions trading and carbon taxes.
Adaptation strategies accept some warming as a foregone conclusion and focus on preventing or reducing undesirable consequences. Examples of such strategies include defense against rising sea levels or ensuring food security.

Climate models

Calculations of global warming from a range of climate models under the SRES A2 emissions scenario, which assumes no action is taken to reduce emissions.

The geographic distribution of surface warming during the 21st century calculated by the HadCM3 climate model if a business as usual scenario is assumed for economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. In this figure, the globally averaged warming corresponds to 3.0 °C (5.4 °F)
Main article: Global climate model
Scientists have studied global warming with computer models of the climate (see below). Before the scientific community accepts a climate model, it has to be validated against observed climate variations. As of 2006, sufficiently high-resolution models successfully simulate summer/winter differences, the North Atlantic Oscillation[citation needed], and El Niño [61]. All validated current models predict that the net effect of adding greenhouse gases will be a warmer climate in the future. However, the amount of predicted warming varies by model, and there still remains a considerable range of climate sensitivity predicted by the models which survive these tests; one of the most important sources of this uncertainty is believed to be different ways of handling clouds. Part of the technical summary of the IPCC TAR includes a recognition of the need to quantify this uncertainty: "In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear system, and therefore that the prediction of a specific future climate is not possible. Rather the focus must be on the probability distribution of the system's possible future states by the generation of ensembles of model solutions." (See [62], page 78.) An example of a study which aims to do this is the climateprediction.net project; their methodology is to investigate the range of climate sensitivities predicted for the 21st century by those models which are first shown to give a reasonable simulation of late 20th century climate change.
As noted above, climate models have been used by the IPCC to anticipate a warming of 1.4 °C to 5.8 °C (2.5 °F–10.4 °F) between 1990 and 2100 [63]. They have also been used to help investigate the causes of recent climate change by comparing the observed changes to those that the models predict from various natural and human derived forcing factors. In addition to having their own characteristic climate sensitivity, models have also been used to derive independent assessments of climate sensitivity.
Climate models can produce a good match to observations of global temperature changes over the last century [64]. These models do not unambiguously attribute the warming that occurred from approximately 1910 to 1945 to either natural variation or human effects; however, they suggest that the warming since 1975 is dominated by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Adding simulation of the carbon cycle to the models generally shows a positive feedback, though this response is uncertain (under the A2 SRES scenario, responses vary between an extra 20 and 200 ppm of CO2). Some observational studies also show a positive feedback [65].
Uncertainties in the representation of clouds are a dominant source of uncertainty in existing models, despite clear progress in modeling of clouds [66]. There is also an ongoing discussion as to whether climate models are neglecting important indirect and feedback effects of solar variability. Further, all such models are limited by available computational power, so that they may overlook changes related to small-scale processes and weather (e.g. storm systems, hurricanes). However, despite these and other limitations, the IPCC considered climate models "to be suitable tools to provide useful projections of future climates" [67].
In December, 2005 Bellouin et al. suggested in Nature that the reflectivity effect of airborne pollutants was about double that previously expected, and that therefore some global warming was being masked. If supported by further studies, this would imply that existing models under-predict future global warming. [68]

Dangerous global warming
Although global warming has been seen as potentially dangerous for some time, the first international attempt to define what constitutes a 'dangerous' level occurred at the Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change scientific conference in February 2005. This took place in Exeter, United Kingdom under the UK presidency of the G8 [69].
At the conference it was said that increasing damage was forecast if the globe warms to about 1 to 3 °Celsius (1.8 to 5.4 °Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. It was concluded that the stabilization of greenhouse gasses at the equivalent of 450 ppmv CO2 would provide a 50% likelihood of limiting global warming to the average figure of 2 °C (3.6 °F). Stabilization below 400 ppm would give a relatively high certainty of not exceeding 2 °C, while stabilization at 550 ppm would mean it was likely that 2 °C would be exceeded.
It was stated that unless 'urgent and strenuous mitigation actions' were taken in the next 20 years, it was almost certain that by 2050 global temperatures will have risen to between 0.5 and 2 °C (0.9 and 3.6°F) above current levels. With carbon dioxide levels currently around 381 ppm and rising by 2ppm per year, without such action greenhouse gasses are likely to reach to reach 400ppm by 2016, 450ppm by 2041, and 550ppm by around 2091.

Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming"


Blogger barbie2be said...

i wish it were warmer today.... i am seriously freezing my tutu off.

Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

The Bush Administration welcomes global warming so you may get some heat soon! Thanks for visiting and for your patience in wading through all the science info.

If I'd been thinking this morning the Word would have been "Halloween!"

Blogger Joe Zombie said...

Yoga, Global Warming is an adequate Word for Halloween. Scary.


Blogger Yoga Korunta said...

You're right, Joe! Thanks for reading!


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