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Climate Change

Global-Warming Warnings

Climate: Reports concur that human-induced changes are already leading to damaging environmental shifts

by Cheryl Hogue , Jeff Johnson , Jyllian Kemsley
January 18, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 3

Credit: NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio
This NASA map represents global temperature anomalies averaged from 2008 through 2012.
Credit: NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio
This NASA map represents global temperature anomalies averaged from 2008 through 2012.

Global warming is occurring at record levels and is due to increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases generated by human activities, according to several new government scientific reports issued in recent weeks. The rapidity of greenhouse gas impacts will make projections and mitigation efforts increasingly difficult and will result in a drastic transformation of Earth’s environment, the reports say.

In a related development, researchers are reporting that airborne black carbon particles—which are a component of soot—hold twice the warming potential as previously thought.

Rising seas, heat waves, erratic and intense rainfall, storm surges, and droughts are among the effects accelerating climate changes now under way. That is one conclusion of a draft report by the National Climate Assessment & Development Advisory Committee, a 60-member federal advisory body established to advise the President and Congress on climate-change issues.

The draft assessment presents a grim picture of the ongoing impact from climate change. Looking to the future, the assessment warns of accelerating effects and the potential to reach a “tipping point” where cumulative climate extremes will exceed mitigation efforts.

The draft report, which is expected to be finalized in 2014, recommends active adaptation to a changing climate and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst cumulative climate-change impacts. It warns that scientists may no longer be able to use past climate conditions to predict future ones.

Meanwhile, analyses by the National Aeronautics & Space Administration and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration show that 2012 was one of the 10 hottest years on record, on the basis of global average temperature.

Earth’s global average temperature in 2012 was about 58.3 °F, NASA says, further noting that global average temperature has risen about 1.4 °F since recordkeeping began in 1880.

Scientists from the federal agencies say the ranking of one year’s global average temperature over another is less important than the fact that 2012’s temperature is part of a warming trend that began in the late 1970s.

“What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before,” explains Gavin Schmidt, climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “The planet is warming. The reason it’s warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

Another aspect of warming is the effect of airborne black carbon particles. A comprehensive analysis indicates that their climate-warming capability is double what was previously believed (J. Geophys. Res.: Atmos., DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50171).

Black carbon particles are aggregates of carbon spherules that are produced during combustion of carbon-based fuels. They directly influence climate by strongly absorbing sunlight. When deposited on snow or ice, they reduce the reflectivity of those surfaces and cause melting. Black carbon particles also change the formation and radiation absorptive or reflective properties of clouds, with mixed warming or cooling effects.

Researchers had estimated black carbon climate effects before, but the numbers had varied, says Tami C. Bond, the study’s lead author and an engineering professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Given the large role black carbon plays in global warming and its shorter lifetime in the atmosphere compared with carbon dioxide and methane, controlling black carbon emissions could be “a short-term, immediate action that we can take to slow climate change,” Bond says.

Diesel engines and household wood and coal burning would be the best black carbon sources to control to limit warming, Bond says.



This article has been sent to the following recipient:

klem (January 19, 2013 11:30 AM)
"Diesel engines and household wood and coal burning would be the best black carbon sources to control to limit warming, Bond says."

I burn wood in the winter to heat my home, if the government wants to buy me a new wood stove I will not stand in their way. Wahoo!
Lew (January 19, 2013 7:28 PM)
Again the link to the J. Geophys. Res. article does not work
Hiam Chipman (January 22, 2013 1:43 PM)
If there is a global warming, it's not human induced! Human being did not cause any climate change and will not cause it. This article is not accurate, Bond does not know anything. Any climate change it there is any, is just a natural cycle in the earth. The earth has been warm and has been cool, so stop spreading false data.
Richard (January 22, 2013 11:45 PM)
Sadly, the only thing your comment tells me is that you're a Republican.

Science is not meant to be political.
Ulick Stafford (January 24, 2013 4:50 AM)
You're the one that brought politics into it. Democratic warmists seem to believe that anyone who studies the evidence for catastrophic anthropomorphic climate change and comes to the conclusion that the case is not even close to being proven is in the pay of oil companies or polically motivated. I am a PhD Chemical engineer and have studied the science and found that the predictions of massive temperature increases due to increases in CO2 are not credible. More worrying is that warmists such as yourself usually play the man and not the ball, refuse to debate or discuss with sceptics, refer to sceptics as climate change deniers or say they are anti-science. Sadly, warmism resembles a cult that seems to have become a strong pseudo religious belief of many in government and scintific societies. 1C is the max global temperature increase that could be caused by a doubling of CO2 based on the IR absorption. The catastophic temperature increass can only happen with strong positive feedbacks that are unlikely to occur. Negative feedbacks suchs as inreases in cloud cover are more likely to make the increase less than 1C. And in case you haven't noticed a little bit warmer is much better for us than colder.
jan freed (February 6, 2013 9:17 PM)
You believe you are not political and use the term "warmist", which is the slur used against people convinced by the scientific evidence. So you think you are qualified to judge and set policy? Out of 14,000 peer reviewed published papers by actual climate scientists, only 24 of them contest the claim that CC is real, man made and freaking dangerous.

If even 3 out of 10 researchers claimed an infant seat was dangerous would you buy it? But, with 97/100 experts claiming our planet is in peril, you choose to dither?

Let us hope you are not simply a Koch roach whoring for the fossil fuel companies.
Ken R. (February 7, 2013 6:36 AM)
Can you point me to one or more recent peer reviewed scientific papers that supports your claims that massive temperature increases due to increases in CO2 are not credible, or that 1C is the max global temp increase that could be caused by a doubling of CO2 based on the IR absorption?
EnergyScientist (February 8, 2013 11:10 PM)
I think you meant to say "anthropogenic" climate change, not "anthropomorphic." I respect your PhD in Chem Eng, but would submit that there are many thousands of other PhD chemical engineers, physicists, chemists, geologists, and climatologists who have spent their careers trying to untangle the puzzle of climate change. They are not "warmists" or any other kind of cult-followers, but have simply come to the conclusion through their work that climate change is real and is caused by greenhouse gas buildup.

Interestingly, your last sentence seems to hedge your claim that it is not getting warmer by asserting that it would be good for us if it were! Why is that?
Richard Battaglia (February 11, 2013 3:04 PM)
Sadly, waiting for proof of a link between human activity and climate change is not likely to occur, the system is too complex to be modeled accurately. As a scientist I think it is important to consider several things:
1. Does it make sense to ignore a preponderance of evidence that lead to the conclusion by most climate scientists that human activity has had an effect on the climate until there is proof?
2. Does it make sense to invest huge amounts of money in exploration and drilling for oil when a fossil fuel economy is unsustainable?
2a. Who profits from the exploitation of this resource?
2b. From a chemists standpoint, are there better things to do with a petroleum feedstock than to just burn it?
3. From the standpoint of a resident of the planet that I, my children, and my grandchildren must live on and extract my life's necessities from, is the environmental gamble involved with extracting fuel from miles beneath the ocean surface, Canadian tar sands, Hydraulic fracturing of shale beds across the country with possible water contamination and oil spills worth the risk?

Maybe think twice about your answers. Although not proven, the possibility of climate change is very real. Remember also that while temperature cycles do indeed occur naturally, the time scale for natural variations was quite a bit longer than several decades, and it occurred when the majority of the human population were not clustered in low lying coastal regions (at least currently coastal). Don't stick your head in the sand, part of you is still exposed.
EnergyScientist (February 8, 2013 11:04 PM)
Yikes. For one thing, the article is not about assertions by Bond, but conclusions reached by 240 eminent scientists who contributed to the study. Scientists have been diligently looking for natural causes for the extremely rapid warming in the last century or so, and haven't identified any. Natural warming and cooling such as you refer to does occur, but it is orders of magnitude slower. The climate has been very stable since the end of the last ice age more than 10,000 years ago, which has allowed modern human civilization to develope. But now the climate is changing rapidly, and the only cause that comes even close to fitting the date is greenhouse gas buildup from fossil fuel burning.
alisha (January 22, 2013 2:30 PM)
Global Warming is real, and is human induced. yes the earth may have cycles of warm and cold air, but not quite like this. so if you say global warming isnt real, do you think the hole in the ozone layer isnt real also? i think by disregarding this information and saying its false is just as bad as ignoring a sick child and saying they are not sick. in my many years of living i have notice in the last 20 years winters get milder, more ice caps melt at a faster rate then predicted. so mr. chipman i believe your statement is false, and that ignoring the problem is what got us here so fast. are you part of the coverup so that big coal and big oil can keep polluting the earth? i live in a big coal state and even i have the guts to say its wrong.
klem (January 27, 2013 6:48 AM)
"yes the earth may have cycles of warm and cold air, but not quite like this."

Says who?
jan freed (February 6, 2013 9:04 PM)
U.S. Agency for International Development
United States Department of Agriculture
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
National Institute of Standards and Technology
United States Department of Defense
United States Department of Energy
National Institutes of Health
United States Department of State
United States Department of Transportation
U.S. Geological Survey
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
National Center for Atmospheric Research
National Aeronautics & Space Administration
National Science Foundation
Smithsonian Institution
International Arctic Science Committee
Arctic Council
African Academy of Sciences
Australian Academy of Sciences
Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences
and the Arts
Academia Brasileira de Ciéncias
Cameroon Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of Canada
Caribbean Academy of Sciences
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Académie des Sciences, France
Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina
of Germany
Indonesian Academy of Sciences
Royal Irish Academy
Accademia nazionale delle scienze of Italy
Indian National Science Academy
Science Council of Japan
Kenya National Academy of Sciences
Madagascar’s National Academy of Arts,
Letters and Sciences
Academy of Sciences Malaysia
Academia Mexicana de Ciencias
Nigerian Academy of Sciences
Royal Society of New Zealand
Polish Academy of Sciences
Russian Academy of Sciences
l’Académie des Sciences et Techniques
du Sénégal
Academy of Science of South Africa
Sudan Academy of Sciences
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
Tanzania Academy of Sciences
Turkish Academy of Sciences
Uganda National Academy of Sciences
The Royal Society of the United Kingdom
National Academy of Sciences, United States
Zambia Academy of Sciences
Zimbabwe Academy of Science
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association for the Advancement
of Science
American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians
American Astronomical Society
American Chemical Society
American College of Preventive Medicine
American Geophysical Union
American Institute of Physics
American Medical Association
American Meteorological Society
American Physical Society
American Public Health Association
American Quaternary Association
American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Society of Agronomy
American Society for Microbiology
American Society of Plant Biologists
American Statistical Association
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Botanical Society of America
Crop Science Society of America
Ecological Society of America
Federation of American Scientists
Geological Society of America
National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Society of American Foresters
Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics
Society of Systematic Biologists
Soil Science Society of America
Australian Coral Reef Society
Australian Medical Association
Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
Engineers Australia
Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies
Geological Society of Australia
British Antarctic Survey
Institute of Biology, UK
Royal Meteorological Society, UK
Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences
Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
European Federation of Geologists
European Geosciences Union
European Physical Society
European Science Foundation
International Association for Great Lakes Research
International Union for Quaternary Research
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
World Federation of Public Health Associations
World Health Organization
World Meteorological Organization
Sustainability Educator (February 28, 2013 8:30 PM)
Thank you. I hope you keep this list handy for just this kind of discussion (and persistent disbelief) on other sites you may visit.
Enviro Equipment Inc. (January 22, 2013 4:23 PM)
Every climatologist (i.e. people with advanced degrees in studying Earth's climate) say that our planet is getting warmer. How much of it is due to humans is up for debate but it's most likely all of it. Unfortunately, by the time we know for sure, it will be too late to reverse the process so I guess those of us living near the ocean better start making plans to move inland or learn to breathe underwater.
klem (January 27, 2013 6:52 AM)
"How much of it is due to humans is up for debate but it's most likely all of it."

That's just wishful thinking. The earth has been warming naturally since the end of the last glaciation 20,000 years ago. In what decade did humans take over from natural warming?

Surely this is an easy question to answer.
yoron (February 8, 2013 12:20 PM)
Isn't it funny how often this kind of comment appear just after someone presents facts, and organizations, agreeing on Global Warming to exist, constantly becoming worse, and being tracked to human endeavors, using fossil fuels as oil and coal?

It's like 'first we tell it's a lie.'
and if then someone present 'too much facts'...

'Hmm, let us deny that it is due to human behaviors, and further pretend that science agree with that'

Which neither of is true..

We can easily track it historically, and it's so easy to see the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere, and how it fits our use of fossil fuels historically.

And, believe it or not, it's not politically motivated. Mother Earth didn't decide to create a global warming to get Gore, or Hillary, as president :)

America really stands out on this issue to us Europeans, wanting it to become a 'vote able' subject.

You can't vote global warming away.
Alison Fairchild (February 11, 2013 5:17 AM)
Couldn't agree more! To be honest whether Climate Change is human-induced or not, is it not better to be prepared, and to know that we have made changes in our lifestyles to make them more sustainable? The reality is that whether we are heating up the planet or not we are going to run out of the resources that are not renewable sooner or later, and it is better to start making changes for the better now rather than arguing about if we're the ones warming up this planet. It could be a mixture of the Earth's natural cycle AND us for all we know!
Damius Fatemi (January 22, 2013 6:06 PM)
What moron wrote that "the earth gets warm and has been cool - so stop spreading false data?"

Once it is so huge to actually force you SEE it, to believe it, - suddenly it is far along and probably too late and who cares anyway?
Science shows us what we can't so easy. Facts don't lie.

Coal producing power plants pump nasty black tar into the air 24/7 - the Chinese are building 4 new ones every month - billions of tons in another couple years.... Sigh....
klem (January 27, 2013 6:57 AM)
True. I'm an old school environmentalist and hard core climate denier. But I'd pay real money to have catalytic converters installed on every coal power plant in the world. Seriously.

Just don't try to ram your life sucking carbon controls and Gaia worship down my throat thanks.

jan freed (February 6, 2013 9:10 PM)
Catalytic converters on coal plants, helpful on cars, would do nothing to reduce CO2 in coal plants. Carbon capture and sequester would do it but a. it would almost double the cost of coal energy, b. only pilot projects have been built using billions of government subsidy funds and c, it is unreliable.

Wind power is already less expensive, especially considering the externalities (health, etc.) of coal pollution, killing abou 26,000 per year (American Lung Assoc.)
Don Young (January 23, 2013 7:12 PM)
So, 1.4 degrees F increase since 1880 in global temp is huge and will be difficult to mitigate, eh? Is one year of drought in the middle of the US comparable to the years of drought in the '30's that exacerbated the poverty in the depression and caused demographic shifts out of the Dust Bowl? Is Greenland being farmed as it was by the Vikings during the Medieval Warm Period? We are in a warm period. Urban dwellers believe it is warmer because of the Urban Heat Island effect--perhaps the only human caused warming. Otherwise, 2012 was the first year wheat harvest came before my birthday since 1944. And, because the '30's were hotter than the 40's wheat harvest dates may have been even earlier, then. So far, I don't see a downside to this warm period. Those who encourage me to panic usually have an agenda that includes more government control, less personal freedom and a lower standard of living for me. Sorry, I just don't think it is necessary to panic.
klem (January 27, 2013 7:02 AM)
I don't see it either.
Jon M. Kelley (January 29, 2013 11:26 AM)
I see plenty of reasons to panic, and you stated them yourself: " agenda that includes more government control, less personal freedom and a lower standard of living for me...". Since we will be the ones that will have to start paying for this ____, that's another reason to panic. And if you should happen to have any earnings left, the taxman will need that for fixing "...the hole in the ozone layer...", you know, the one that gets bigger every winter when the Antarctic temperature drops.
klem (January 31, 2013 12:13 PM)
I know what you mean. Perhaps that's the real threat from climate change.
L. H. Sperling (January 24, 2013 1:09 PM)
Noting that there are strong suggestions that the Earth heated up and cooled down many times long ago, is a possible reason massive forest fires? If a large part of a continent burned, would enough carbon dioxide and soot be made, perhaps in a few days, that would set off a warming spell lasting for many years, followed by a cooling spell as new growth consumed the excess carbon dioxide, and the carbon particles either oxidized or fell to Earth?

klem (January 27, 2013 7:08 AM)
I think there would be evidence of these fires in carbon layers found in global paleo-soils. I don't think geologists and soil scientist have found this evidence.

Does not mean they layers aren't there though, maybe they missed it.
Dick Smith (February 8, 2013 11:35 AM)
Two great comments above. One lists the scientific organizations supporting the IPCC consensus on global warming (BTW, none oppose it). The second asks the denier to list any peer-reviewed article in support of his position that the most we will warm is 1C. (Of course, there are none.)

As Orestes and Conway put it so well in "Merchants of Doubt", modern scientific knowledge is nothing more than a consensus of experts that began with the national academies in Italy, France and the UK. Until both the opinion and the data supporting that opinion have been subjected to peer review, it's not a reliable scientific finding.

Deniers not only have almost no peer-reviewed that support their assertions--the deniers are divided over whether GW/CC is occurring (most actually agree it is) and the extent to which it is caused by humans (the range of opinions among deniers varies widely).

Whether you measure the scientific consensus on global warming and climate change by: (1) national academies of science that have endorsed the IPCC formulation; (2) scientific rganizations in a particular discipline that have endorsed the IPCC formulation; or(3)individual scientists who have published an article on "climate change" in peer-reviewed journal that support the IPCC formulation, the expert consensus on the 3-point IPCC formulation is overwhelming:
1. It's "unequivocal" that global warming is happening.
2. It's "very likely" (more than 90% certain) that human activity is the primary cause.
3. If we continue "business as usual", it's "likely" (more than 2/3 certain) to pose dangerous risks to humans and other species.

Arthur Sucsy (February 12, 2013 6:06 PM)
The earth's atmosphere is composed of approximately 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen.
Incoming radiation from the sun passes through that gas blanket unimpeded. When the radiation strikes solid objects on the earth surface, some of it is converted to heat. That heat has more difficulty in passing back out through the gas blanket to the stratosphere.
Since the heat can not rapidly escape from the earth's surface, nighttime temperatures are not greatly lower than daytime temperatures at any specific location. This equalization of temperature between night and day is a global warming effect, and is caused by the atmospheric gas blanket, which are global warming gases.
Carbon dioxide is said to be a global warming gas, with the implication that it is different from nitrogen and oxygen. However, when we measure heat transmission (thermal conductivity) of the pure gases (Air Gas Encyclopedia), differences are not huge. Nitrogen and oxygen each have thermal conductivities of 0.014 Btu.ft/(h.ft2.°F). The thermal conductivity of carbon dioxide is 0.008. This means that carbon dioxide has almost twice the resistance to the passage of heat than do nitrogen and oxygen. In other words is a better greenhouse gas than either nitrogen or oxygen.
However, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is only 0.04%. At this extremely low concentration, it can have little effect in the total global warming affect of the gas mixture, even though it is twice as effective as the other components when measured at 100% concentration.
Nobleone212 (March 14, 2013 12:38 PM)
Look there are very effective ways of reducing these effects, there have been several studies and test proven to get rid of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but they have been denied because in order to solve one problem another problem will come forth, basically in order to stop global warming, something else must suffer.
willy (April 1, 2013 8:11 AM)
introduce the name of my willy, I come from Indonesia, what is said by Cheryl Hogue, Jeff Johnson and Jyllian Kemsley indeed I myself feel it once in Indonesia, which is located in southeastern ASEAN spanning the equator. Indonesia have the tropical climate has two seasons namely the rainy season and summer. but the climate in Indonesia are now constantly changing drastically at some point kedaan sometimes sunny then suddenly rain and erratic. this has happened about 3 years, and every year the temperature up to 2 degrees Celsius.
thank you
jose pojas (April 8, 2013 4:33 PM)
Global warming is a done issue. Climate change is experienced in almost all parts of the earth. The causes must be addressed in a more holistic way. Carbon dioxide is playing a big part as a measurable cause. Other chemical emissions, such as natural gas or methane is silently evolving from landfills, wastes, and decaying matter. Therefore, the solution must be done in a more holistic manner. We need to address all these causes, plan for its mitigation and eventually implement a practical approach to reduce them. The use of carbon neutral or renewable energy is one solution. Waste utilization converting these solid waste to liquid fuels, solid briquettes, or the use of power plants fueled with domestic wastes will reduce the methane emissions. A more effective advocacy is a must. It is everybody's concern. We are all living in the same earth. Let's do our part, individually and collectively, then. Peace.

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