"Global warming is a myth; we are being encouraged to live in a state of fear" Before the World Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen in November 2009, most of the world believed that climate change was in fact very real and very dangerous. The public and the media believed that the scientists were all in agreement as to the fact that this problem was manmade and that a solution and radical change of behaviour was needed urgently. It was generally accepted that pollution from vehicles, burning of fuel, factories, etc was responsible for a greenhouse effect that warmed the earth.
Scientists provided computer generated models and a range of catastrophes were predicted, for example, floods, droughts, melting of the ice caps and glaciers. The Pentagon feared instability and even war and mass relocations of people. The world summit on Climate Change was meant to involve the international community to agree how to deal with this problem.
This was definitely not successful. Prominent scientists began to doubt the theory that this was a manmade disaster. There are a lot of people on both sides of the argument and all of them provide believable answers. On the internet, you will find loads of conflicting information and you'll have to form your own opinion. Therefore I will be giving a short history of global warming (or Climate Change), then look at the different sides and give my opinion.
What is global warming?
Some gases trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere, they let in light, but retain heat, something like a greenhouse's glass walls; therefore it is called the "greenhouse effect". This is necessary to keep the earth's temperature liveable. Greenhouse gas levels have always fluctuated, but stayed relatively constant for the past few thousand years, so too, have the global average temperatures. Recently, by burning fossil fuels and emitting green house gasses by other means, like methane from landfills and agriculture (gases from grazing animals), nitrous oxide from fertilizers, refrigeration gases and forests that are lost and can't store carbon dioxide, people have enhanced the greenhouse effect and the earth is warming. The amount of carbon dioxide has increased by more than a third since the start of the industrial revolution.
These greenhouse gas emissions, together with natural cycles and events, have caused a change in the climate. To understand this, the United Nations have formed a team of scientists, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that gets together every couple of years and write reports on the latest findings on global warming.
The effects of global warming:
Because the earth's temperature is increasing, the mountain glaciers, ice sheets in West Antarctica and Greenland and the arctic sea ice can start to melt. The sea level has also started to rise over the last century and rain and snowfall figures have increased around the world.
Global warming has had an effect on the animal kingdom and has been blamed for the decrease in the numbers of Adélie penguins in Antarctica. Researchers found the number of breeding pairs have dropped from 32 000 to 11 000 in 30 years. Some of the alpine plants, butterflies and other wildlife have moved to cooler and higher areas. Spruce bark beetles are becoming a pest in Alaska because of 20 years of warmer summers and they destroyed 1.6 million hectares of spruce trees.
If the warming should continue, some of the results could be:
By the end of the century sea levels could rise by 18 - 59 cm and if the poles continue melting, another 10 - 20 cm can be added. Higher sea levels can disrupt life in coastal communities. Presently there are 46 million people in the world that live at risk of flooding, if the sea level should rise by 50cm, this amount of people will be 92 million and 118million if the level rises by 1m.
Floods, droughts and heat waves can become more frequent and can result in death and damage to property as well as harming agriculture.
There will be less fresh water available in certain areas like Peru. If the Quelccaya icecap melts, as it is doing now, it will be totally gone by 2100.
A change in ecosystems will occur and some species will be forced to move or become extinct.
Storms and hurricanes will become more intense.
Species that work together for survival, like plants and the insects that pollinate them, may become unbalanced, e.g. plants bloom earlier than insects become active.
Diseases, like malaria, can become widespread if pests increase. If the temperature increases by 3-5oC, there will be 50-60 million more cases of malaria infection.
Different sides of the argument:
The issue of climate change has become quite controversial in the past months as the data that the IPCC have presented, was found to be corrupted. A snowball fight has broken out between the sceptics and the believers and opinions are flying.
Some opinions of the people who believe climate change is caused by humans and is very dangerous indeed: _33557_graph_warming.gif (16981 bytes)
A lot of time, effort and money have gone into the research of climate change. Statistics show that temperatures around the world are rising. There are studies showing that 2009 had temperatures that were the warmest since records were kept by satellites. However, there are places that have become cooler, but this is all part of the change of the climate. Prof Mike Mann of Pennsylvania State University, published a graph that shows average global temperatures for the last 1000 years (famously known as the "hockey stick graph"). This graph shows little change for the first 900 years and then a sudden increase in the 20th century (the shape of a hockey stick). This is when the industrial revolution started having an impact and people started polluting the environment.
Sceptics may say that some places are experiencing record low temperatures and increased snowstorms, but scientists explained that when there is a rise in temperatures, evaporation increases and this can cause more snow to fall, thus seeming that it is getting colder and that global warming is not happening, but it is.
Another reason for colder temperatures experienced, is that the polar ice caps and glaciers near Greenland, are melting, and the cold water is distributed into the Atlantic Ocean. This ice cold ocean will affect the climate and could lead to temperatures being colder in some places.
Ice in the mountainous regions of the Andes, Africa and the Alps are getting less and if the earth warms at this tempo, the glaciers in the Himalayas, will all have melted by 2035.
Amounts of CO2 that occur naturally, is 180-300ppm (parts per million), but current amounts are 380 ppm. This is 25% more than the highest levels occurring naturally in the last 650 000 years. _33557_graph_co2.gif (17322 bytes)
It is very important to control CO2 emissions as they trap heat and warm the atmosphere. This then leads to more water vapour in the atmosphere. Water vapour traps more heat than CO2, so it amplifies the situation. Water vapour cannot be controlled by people, thus it is necessary to control CO2. The levels of CO2 are linked by how much oil, gas and coal we burn and how many forests we destroy, so the cure is not out of reach, but can be accomplished quite easily. A good start would be to use more renewable and less polluting energy sources and look after our trees.
Excess CO2 is also causing acidification of oceans and could have a harmful effect on fisheries and marine life.
Respiratory illnesses are becoming more common and this is caused by higher levels of smog and pollution that is also part of the global warming problem.
The global warming activists stand firm behind their argument that there were previous warm periods, but today the temperatures are rising at an alarming rate and there is no evidence that it will drop again, because the ever increasing greenhouse gases will prevent a decline. This has the potential to be one of the greatest disasters to ever strike humanity and everyone needs to work together and try to make a difference. It is felt that big oil corporations and coal companies stand to lose a lot of money when people start waking up to the fact that we are killing our earth. They will try to make global warming activists seem like cheaters, but it will be impossible for them to prove that the bulk of data and statistics are untrue because there is overwhelming evidence that the earth is warming up.
Global warming sceptics have this to say:
After the World Summit on Climate Change, more and more people are starting to doubt the seriousness of global warming. For every claim made by scientists, the sceptics can find a counterclaim.
Scandals rocked the global warming industry. Hackers gained access to e-mails sent by scientists from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) that indicated that they were hiding some "inconvenient truths" and they were also "adjusting" some of the results in order for their predictions to suit their needs more. This would have been fine if it was just personal studies, but the IPCC draw their conclusions from the CRU data. This gave the sceptics enough ammunition to get people talking about the seriousness of global warming. Were we all being conned into believing half-truths and outright lies?
The e-mails weren't the only problem the scientists faced. Serious mistakes were made in the report of the IPCC that was presented at the Summit. The sceptics had a field day.
The report made doomsday predictions, like the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035 and that the rising sea levels will wipe out most of the Netherlands, as 55% of the country lies beneath sea level. It also states that the ice on the Andes and the Alps is melting. In reality, only 24% of the Netherlands is under sea level and apparently the year 2035 was a type error and should have read 2350 (not as scary!) The information regarding the melting of ice was obtained from an article based on a project of a student, published in a climber's magazine. If they can make such stupid mistakes, the other information must also be questioned.
On the website, www. wattsupwiththat.com, Anthony Watts wrote on May 2 2010, that a book was sent to him regarding the melting of the Arctic ice. The book's title is " Arctic Ice" by N.N. Zubov and it was printed in 1943. This is thus not a new thing and has been reported on widely, people went there to observe the melting of the ice and saw a mile wide face of a glacier dropping into the ocean. Why is it now being taken so seriously? Back in 1943 pollution wasn't nearly as much as today, but still the ice was melting. This could point to a natural cycle that has nothing to do with us humans.
Some climate scientists use only Arctic satellite data that only started in 1979. This only covers about 30 years and could lead to serious errors, as longer cycles are ruled out.
Ice core records were taken from 14 different sites in Greenland that provided data from 1784 to 2005 and then 3 more ice core records were used to make up a temperature history that went back 1 400 years. This information showed that there was a Medieval warm Period about 900-1300 years ago and that the Greenland temperatures of today, hasn't even reached that.
A big, thriving city was found buried under the ice in Alaska. It was inhabited about 2000 years ago. This also points to a warmer period, followed by cooling, strengthening the idea of warming and cooling being natural cycles.
There are positive statistics that doesn't make for interesting reporting, so it gets ignored by the media. Some very interesting data comes from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, University of Colorado. This shows that the Antarctic sea ice has been expanding since 1979 when measurements began.
The data for March 1980 and 2010 are as follows:
4 million km2
2.6 million km2
3.5 million km2
2 million km2
Sea ice happens as a result of colder temperatures.
This graph from www.flowingdata.com shows that, from 1995 to the present day, CO2 level have increased a lot, but the temperatures followed their own separate path. The people that believe CO2 is the main cause for global warming will not like this graph.
One of the most controvertial graphs in the global warming debate, is the "hockey stick" graph of Prof Mike Mann (see graph above). It shows that the temperatures remained constant while there was little pollution, but recently, the temperatures have risen dramatically.
The bottom graph shows that there was a warm period in the middle ages, followed by a cold period and then the current warming period. The sceptics believe this shows that the warming of the earth is due to a natural cycle of cooling and warming.
The graph below shows the same trend:http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/archives/blog_2000%20Years%20of%20Global%20Temps,%20Graph.jpg
The graphs don't show the actual temperatures but the amount by which it deviates from the normal.
The following graphs show how different methods of graph calculations can lead people to making the wrong predictions:
The above graph shows temperature anomaly, that is the deviation from the normal temperatures.blog_Temp Anomaly, 1850-2007.jpg
Below is a graph that records the actual global mean temperature for the same period and no trend exept a straight line can be seen from this.
blog_Global Mean Temp, 1850-2007.jpg
When looking at all the different angles, I find myself siding with the sceptics, but I do agree that the planet is definitely warming. I feel that it is not only the human race that is responsible for the warming, but in fact nature on its own is also playing a big part.
It would be stupid, however, not to care for the environment, as CO2 pollutes the air that we breathe and the cutting down of trees reduces the amount of oxygen that we have. These thoughtless acts must have an effect and it will greatly benefit everyone if we could lead a greener and more eco friendly lifestyle.
Roy Spencer, a climatologist and NASA Scientist, said: " Climate change- it happens, with or without our help."