Global Warming Essay

1003 words - 5 pages

The global warming hypothesis originated in 1896 when Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist, developed the theory that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels would cause global temperatures to rise by trapping excess heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Arrhenius understood that the earth’s climate is heated by a process known as the greenhouse effect. While close to half the solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface is reflected back into space, the remainder is absorbed by land masses and oceans, warming the earth’s surface and atmosphere. This warming process radiates energy, most of which passes through the atmosphere and back into space. However, small concentrations of ...view middle of the document...

Over the twentieth century, the IPCC believes that global temperatures increased close to 0.5 degree Centigrade (C), the largest increase of any century during the past one thousand years. The 1990s, according to IPCC data, was the warmest decade recorded in the Northern Hemisphere since records were first taken in 1861, with 1998 the warmest year ever recorded.
Given this data, many scientists are convinced of a direct correlation between rising global temperatures and the emission of greenhouse gases stemming from human activities such as automobile use, the production of electricity from coal-fired power plants, and agricultural and deforestation practices. Concludes the IPCC in its Third Assessment Report, “The present carbon dioxide concentration has not been exceeded during the past 420,000 years and likely not during the past 20 million years. . . . In light of new evidence . . . most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the [human-induced] increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.”
Based on IPCC projections that global temperatures will increase by 2.5 to 10.4 degrees F between 1990 and 2100, scientists and environmentalists are predicting that global warming will have mostly negative consequences for the world’s climate. Kelly Reed of the environmental organization Greenpeace states that the “effects of global warming not only include rising global temperatures, but an increase in floods, droughts, wildfires, heat waves, intensified hurricanes and the spread of infectious disease.” Accordingly, those who share Reed’s view of global warming believe that the world’s governments must take immediate action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
In response to these pressures, a growing band of skeptical scientists are questioning the validity of the global warming theory. According to these critics, the IPCC bases its predictions for rising global temperatures on faulty computer climate models, which exaggerate the climate’s response to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases while failing to accurately reproduce the motions of the atmosphere. Explains Richard L. Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Present models have large errors . . . [and] are unable to calculate correctly either the present average...

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