Global Warming Timeline And Projections Essay

5185 words - 21 pages

Global warming
Global warming is the increase in the average measured temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century, and its projected continuation.
Global surface temperature increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the 100 years ending in 2005. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that most of the increase since the mid-twentieth century is "very likely" due to the increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. Natural phenomena such as solar variation and volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward. These basic conclusions ...view middle of the document...

Other expected effects of global warming include changes in agricultural yields, modifications of trade routes, glacier retreat, mass species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors.
Remaining scientific uncertainties include the amount of warming expected in the future, and how warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe. Most national governments have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Political and public debate continues regarding what, if any, action should be taken to reduce or reverse future warming or to adapt to its expected consequences.

Greenhouse effect

The detailed causes of the recent warming remain an active field of research. The scientific consensus is that the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases due to human activity caused most of the warming observed since the start of the industrial era, and the observed warming cannot be satisfactorily explained by natural causes alone. This attribution is clearest for the most recent 50 years, for which the most detailed data are available.

The greenhouse effect was discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824] and was first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. It is the process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by atmospheric gases warm a planet's lower atmosphere and surface. Existence of the greenhouse effect as such is not disputed. The question is instead how the strength of the greenhouse effect changes when human activity increases the atmospheric concentrations of some greenhouse gases.

Recent increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The monthly CO2 measurements display small seasonal oscillations in an overall yearly uptrend; each year's maximum is reached during the Northern Hemisphere's late spring, and declines during the Northern Hemisphere growing season as plants remove some CO2 from the atmosphere.
Naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F), without which Earth would be uninhabitable. On Earth, the major greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36–70 percent of the greenhouse effect (not including clouds); carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9–26 percent; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9 percent; and ozone, which causes 3–7 percent.
Human activity since the industrial revolution has increased the concentration of various greenhouse gases, leading to increased radiative forcing from CO2, methane, tropospheric ozone, CFCs and nitrous oxide. The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and methane have increased by 31% and 149% respectively since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s. These levels are 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 CO2 values this high were last attained 20...

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