I. National Academy of Science: Understanding and
Responding to Climate Change.
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NCAR: Weather and climate basics
Oxford University: The basics of climate prediction
Pew Center: Global Warming basics
NASA: Global Warming update
NASA: Key Indicators of sea level; CO2 concentration million yrs ago to present; global surface temp’ arctic sea Ice; land ice. http:climate.nasa.gov/keyIndicators
National Academy of Science: Understanding and Responding to Climate Change
The UK Govt. has a good site on The Science of Climate Change (Sep 2010)
The IPCC AR4 Frequently Asked Questions (here (pdf)) are an excellent start.
• What Factors Determine Earth’s Climate? • What is the Relationship between Climate Change and Weather? • What is the Greenhouse Effect?
• How do Human Activities Contribute to Climate Change and How do They Compare with Natural Influences?
• How are Temperatures on Earth Changing? • How is Precipitation Changing? • Has there been a Change in Extreme Events like Heat Waves, Droughts, Floods and Hurricanes? • Can the Warming of the 20th Century be Explained by Natural Variability?
All of the below links have indexed debunks of most of the common points of confusion:
• Coby Beck’s How to talk to Global Warming Skeptic
•John Cook Skeptical Science
III. The Union of Concerned Scientists brings sound science to some of the most critical environmental and global security challenges of our day.
IV. A recent letter from U.S. National Academy of Sciences to US House and US Senate.. 2/ 2011
To the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate: The Importance of Science in Addressing Climate Change
As you begin your deliberations in the new 112th Congress, we urge you to take a fresh look at climate change. Climate change is not just an environmental threat but, as we describe below, also poses challenges to the U.S. economy, national security and public health.
Some view climate change as a futuristic abstraction. Others are unsure about the science, or uncertain about the policy responses. We want to assure you that the science is strong and that there is nothing abstract about the risks facing our Nation.
Our coastal areas are now facing increasing dangers from rising sea levels and storm surges; the southwest and southeast are increasingly vulnerable to drought; other regions will need to prepare for massive flooding from the extreme storms of the sort being experienced with increasing frequency. These and other consequences of climate change all require that we plan and prepare. Our military recognizes that the consequences of climate change have direct security implications for the country that will only become more acute with time, and it has begun the sort of planning required across the board.
The health of Americans is also at risk. The U.S. Climate Impacts Report, commissioned by the George W. Bush administration, states: “Climate change poses unique challenges to human health. Unlike health threats caused by a particular toxin or disease pathogen, there are many ways that climate change can lead to potentially harmful health effects. There are direct health impacts from heat waves and severe storms, ailments caused or exacerbated by air pollution and airborne allergens, and many climate-sensitive infectious diseases.”
As with the fiscal deficit, the changing climate is the kind of daunting problem that we, as a nation, would like to wish away. However, as with our growing debt, the longer we wait to address climate change, the worse it gets. Heat-trapping carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere because burning coal, oil, and natural gas produces far more carbon dioxide than is absorbed by oceans and forests. No scientist disagrees with that. Our carbon debt increases each year, just as our national debt increases each year that spending exceeds revenue. And our carbon debt is even longer-lasting; carbon dioxide molecules can last hundreds of years in the atmosphere.
The Science of Climate Change:
It is not our role as scientists to determine how to deal with problems like climate change. That is a policy matter and rightly must be left to our elected leaders in discussion with all Americans. But, as scientists, we have an obligation to evaluate, report, and explain the science behind climate change.
The debate about climate change has become increasingly ideological and partisan. But climate change is not the product of a belief system or ideology. Instead, it is based on scientific fact, and no amount of argument, coercion, or debate among talking heads in the media can alter the physics of climate change.
Political philosophy has a legitimate role in policy debates, but not in the underlying climate science. There are no Democratic or Republican carbon dioxide molecules; they are all invisible and they all trap heat.
The fruits of the scientific process are worthy of your trust. This was perhaps best summed up in recent testimony before Congress by Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and director of the Pacific Institute and member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.
He testified that the scientific process “is inherently adversarial – scientists build reputations and gain recognition not only for supporting conventional wisdom, but even more so for demonstrating that the scientific consensus is wrong and that there is a better explanation. That’s what Galileo, Pasteur, Darwin, and Einstein did.
But no one who argues against the science of climate change has ever provided an alternative scientific theory that adequately satisfies the observable evidence or conforms to our understanding of physics, chemistry, and climate dynamics.”
National Academy of Sciences
What we know today about human-induced climate change is the result of painstaking research and analysis, some of it going back more than a century. Major international scientific organizations in disciplines ranging from geophysics to geology, atmospheric sciences to biology, and physics to human health – as well as every one of the leading national scientific academies worldwide – have concluded that human activity is changing the climate.
This is not a “belief.” Instead, it is an objective evaluation of the scientific evidence.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) was created by Abraham Lincoln and chartered by Congress in 1863 for the express purpose of obtaining objective expert advice on a range of complex scientific and technological issues. Its international reputation for integrity is unparalleled. This spring, at the request of Congress, the NAS issued a series of comprehensive reports on climate change that were unambiguous.
The NAS stated, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities . . . and in many cases is already affecting a broad range of human and natural systems.” This conclusion comes as no surprise to the overwhelming majority of working climate scientists.
Climate Change Deniers
Climate change deniers cloak themselves in scientific language, selectively critiquing aspects of mainstream climate science. Sometimes they present alternative hypotheses as an explanation of a particular point, as if the body of evidence were a house of cards standing or falling on one detail; but the edifice of climate science instead rests on a concrete foundation.
As an open letter from 255 NAS members noted in the May 2010 Science magazine, no research results have produced any evidence that challenges the overall scientific understanding of what is happening to our planet’s climate and why.
The assertions of climate deniers therefore should not be given scientific weight equal to the comprehensive, peer-reviewed research presented by the vast majority of climate scientists.
The determination of policy sits with you, the elected representatives of the people. But we urge you, as our elected representatives, to base your policy decisions on sound science, not sound bites. Congress needs to understand that scientists have concluded, based on a systematic review of all of the evidence, that climate change caused by human activities raises serious risks to our national and economic security and our health both here and around the world. It’s time for Congress to move on to the policy debate.
How Can We Move Forward?
Congress should, we believe, hold hearings to understand climate science and what it says about the likely costs and benefits of action and inaction. It should not hold hearings to attempt to intimidate scientists or to substitute ideological judgments for scientific ones. We urge our elected leaders to work together to focus the nation on what the science is telling us, particularly with respect to impacts now occurring around the country.
Already, there is far more carbon in the air than at any time in human history, with more being generated every day. Climate change is underway and the severity of the risks we face is compounded by delay.
We look to you, our representatives, to address the challenge of climate change, and lead the national response. We and our colleagues are prepared to assist you as you work to develop a rational and practical national policy to address this important issue.
Thank you for your attention.
John Abraham, University of St. Thomas
Barry Bickmore, Brigham Young University
Gretchen Daily,* Stanford University
G. Brent Dalrymple,* Oregon State University
Andrew Dessler, Texas A&M University
Peter Gleick,* Pacific Institute
John Kutzbach,* University of Wisconsin-Madison
Syukuro Manabe,* Princeton University
Michael Mann, Penn State University
Pamela Matson,* Stanford University
Harold Mooney,* Stanford University
Michael Oppenheimer, Princeton University
Ben Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Richard Somerville, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Warren Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Gary Yohe, Wesleyan University
George Woodwell,* The Woods Hole Research Center * Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences
IV. Ocean acidification: The Inter-Academy Panel on International Issues (IAP) has June 2009 launched a statement signed by 100 of the world’s leading science academies.
The critical role of the oceans in the global carbon cycle: the oceans have absorbed about a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by human activities since the industrial revolution.
- the rapidity and irreversibility of the changes in ocean chemistry that have occurred as a direct result. The oceans are now more acidic than they have been for 800,000 years.
- the implications of these changes for marine ecosystems;
The statement calls on world leaders to:
- Acknowledge that ocean acidification is a direct and real consequence of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, is already having an effect at current concentrations, and is likely to cause grave harm to important marine ecosystems as CO2 concentrations reach 450 ppm and above;
- Recognise that reducing the build up of CO2 in the atmosphere is the only practicable solution to mitigating ocean acidification;
- Within the context of the UNFCCC negotiations, recognise the direct threats posed by increasing atmospheric CO2 emissions to the oceans and therefore society, and take action to mitigate this threat;
- Implement action to reduce global CO2 emissions by at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2050 and continue to reduce them thereafter;
- Reinvigorate action to reduce stressors, such as overfishing and pollution, on marine ecosystems to increase resilience to ocean acidification.
View the Inter-Academy Panel on International Issues website.
Is ocean acidification just another name for climate change? http://www.whoi.edu/OCB-OA/FAQs/
No. While ocean acidification and climate change share a common cause (increases in CO2 in the atmosphere), climate change encompasses the effects associated with changes in the Earth’s heat budget (due to the greenhouse effect of CO2 and to a lesser extent other climate reactive gases), which cause global warming and changes in weather patterns. Ocean acidification specifically refers to the lowering of ocean pH resulting from its absorption of human-released CO2 from the atmosphere. Ocean acidification does not include the warming of the ocean. — Christopher L. Sabine, Supervisory Oceanographer, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA
Many scientists think that ocean acidification will lead to important changes in marine ecosystems. This prediction is largely based on geologic history: millions of years ago, marine ecosystems experienced rapid changes during ocean acidification events, including some species extinctions (see “OA in Geologic History” below). Today, some species and the ecosystems they sustain are threatened by ocean acidification, particularly in combination with other climate changes such as ocean warming.
Examples include tropical corals, deep-sea corals, and swimming snails. These species play key roles in the oceans either because they build three-dimensional structures, which host a considerable biodiversity, or because they are key components of the food chain. Some species that build calcium carbonate structures, such as coral reefs, also provide key services to humans by providing food, protecting shorelines, and supporting tourism.
VI. How Carbon Dioxide Controls Earth’s Temperature; October, 2010
Water vapor and clouds are the major contributors to Earth’s greenhouse effect, but a new atmosphere-ocean climate modeling study shows that the planet’s temperature ultimately depends on the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide.
A new atmosphere-ocean climate modeling study shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide acts as a thermostat in regulating the temperature of Earth.
The study, conducted by Andrew Lacis and colleagues at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, examined the nature of Earth’s greenhouse effect and clarified the role that greenhouse gases and clouds play in absorbing outgoing infrared radiation. Notably, the team identified non-condensing greenhouse gases — such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons — as providing the core support for the terrestrial greenhouse effect.
Without non-condensing greenhouse gases, water vapor and clouds would be unable to provide the feedback mechanisms that amplify the greenhouse effect. The study’s results will be published Friday, Oct. 15, in Science.
A companion study led by GISS co-author Gavin Schmidt that has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research shows that carbon dioxide accounts for about 20 percent of the greenhouse effect, water vapor and clouds together account for 75 percent, and minor gases and aerosols make up the remaining five percent. However, it is the 25 percent non-condensing greenhouse gas component, which includes carbon dioxide, that is the key factor in sustaining Earth’s greenhouse effect. By this accounting, carbon dioxide is responsible for 80 percent of the radiative forcing that sustains the Earth’s greenhouse effect.
The climate forcing experiment described in Science was simple in design and concept — all of the non-condensing greenhouse gases and aerosols were zeroed out, and the global climate model was run forward in time to see what would happen to the greenhouse effect.
Various atmospheric components differ in their contributions to the greenhouse effect, some through feedbacks and some through forcings. Without carbon dioxide and other non-condensing greenhouse gases, water vapor and clouds would be unable to provide the feedback mechanisms that amplify the greenhouse effect.
Without the sustaining support by the non-condensing greenhouse gases, Earth’s greenhouse effect collapsed as water vapor quickly precipitated from the atmosphere, plunging the model Earth into an icebound state — a clear demonstration that water vapor, although contributing 50 percent of the total greenhouse warming, acts as a feedback process, and as such, cannot by itself uphold the Earth’s greenhouse effect.
“Our climate modeling simulation should be viewed as an experiment in atmospheric physics, illustrating a cause and effect problem which allowed us to gain a better understanding of the working mechanics of Earth’s greenhouse effect, and enabled us to demonstrate the direct relationship that exists between rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and rising global temperature,” Lacis said.
The study ties in to the geologic record in which carbon dioxide levels have oscillated between approximately 180 parts per million during ice ages, and about 280 parts per million during warmer interglacial periods. To provide perspective to the nearly 1°C (1.8°F) increase in global temperature over the past century, it is estimated that the global mean temperature difference between the extremes of the ice age and interglacial periods is only about 5°C (9°F)
“When carbon dioxide increases, more water vapor returns to the atmosphere. This is what helped to melt the glaciers that once covered New York City,” said co-author David Rind, of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Today we are in uncharted territory as carbon dioxide approaches 390 parts per million in what has been referred to as the ‘superinterglacial.’”
“The bottom line is that atmospheric carbon dioxide acts as a thermostat in regulating the temperature of Earth,” Lacis said.
VII. Pennsylvania’s Electricity Generation 6/2010 Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2009
Nuclear 35.1% ; Coal 48.1% ; Oil 0.3% ; Gas 13.6% ; Hydro 1.0% ; Renewable and Other 1.8%
VIIA. Note USA Energy generation:
The total energy generated in the USA by solar power plus wind turbines is less than 0.5% (eg: less than one half percent). This means that we have a HUGE way to go before we are generating even 50% of our energy from low carbon generation sources.