Matt Moore

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Science » Global Warming - Fact or Fiction?

Aug 13, 2014

I've recently begun looking into the global warming issue, trying to determine whether it's real or a hoax. For those not yet aware, the global warming issue has to do with many scientists claiming the Earth's global average temperature is increasing, in large part due to an increase in carbon dioxide levels. Well, is this really happening?

First, read up on what carbon dioxide is.

Next let's look at evidence in support of this claim:

  1. NASA has been observing global increases in temperature for quite a while now. The space agency claims global CO2 levels are definitely rising and Earth's temperature is rising. NASA has a website dedicated to climate change that I'd recommend browsing through. They also publish the latest climate data there.

  2. I was curious just how CO2 levels were being measured. Here is an article from the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that explains how CO2 levels are being measured.

  3. How We Know Global Warming Is Real by Dr. Tapio Schneider on Skeptic discusses the science behind human-induced climate change. Dr Tapio Schneider is a climate scientist and Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

  4. Renowned astrophysicist and public educator Neil deGrasse Tyson has explained climate change and refuted deniers many times over. Google "Neil deGrasse Tyson climate change". Here's a video on the matter. Watch his show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. He presents a lot of good information on the physical world in general, but also talks about climate change.

  5. Bill Nye has also presented on the climate change problem and what it means. He gives a rather good explanation here.

  6. Check out this TED Talk video about climate change by David Bromwich. David Bromwich is a Full Professor with the Atmospheric Sciences Program of the Department of Geography and he is Director of the Polar Meteorology Group at the Byrd Polar Research Center (BPRC), which has broad interests in global climate variability and change and how the high-latitude parts of Earth are affected by and affecting global climate. His bio is here.

  7. Veritasium has an informative video about this topic.

  8. I found this video to be brutally honest about how the climate change denier side behaves about this issue.

The bottom line is this: there appears to be a lot of scientific evidence that there are higher CO2 levels than ever before, and that these higher levels are contributing directly to higher temperatures. But what does the other side have to say about this? The arguments I've heard thus far are basically centered around the concept that the Earth goes through climate cycles. This is true, but it's important to understand that the Earth's cycles operate under specific parameters. After the industrial revolution, humans began producing increasingly more CO2 than before. Climate cycles happen, but are directly affected by climate changes. Weather is a short-term thing, but climate involves trending changes that affect weather patterns. If we keep producing more CO2, we are going to see more violent weather.

I've also seen mention of the 2013-2014 winter as proof that global warming is a fraud. I currently reside in the Chicago area, and we had an unusual winter that was mind-numbingly cold. At first glance, this would seem to be indicative of a global cooling effect. However, climatologists have determined that, due to melting Arctic ice, Arctic weather is shifting further south, affecting the northeastern portion of North America. Think of an ice cube placed into a glass of warm water. The warmth of the water will be absorbed (warmth is energy) by the ice, causing the ice to melt. This will also cause the warm water to cool.

Another point to consider is the increased acidity CO2 is causing in our resources. I've seen the argument that water can absorb CO2—which is entirely true. However, when water absorbs CO2 it becomes carbonic acid, which is harmful to life. Our resources are becoming more acidic over time. We produce around 35 billion tons of CO2 every year. About 55% of that is absorbed by the ocean, land, and vegetation. That absorption is becoming more acidic and harmful to us. The remaining CO2 we produce remains in the atmosphere, where it is increasing the global temperatures of our planet via the greenhouse effect. In fact, since the Industrial Revolution (circa 1880), Earth's global temperature has risen nearly 1℃. See this presentation by the Climate Reality Project.

So, what do we do? It's important to realize that just because we don't have a fully workable solution doesn't mean we should stop trying to solve this problem. There isn't a single solution that will magically fix all our energy problems. Regardless, climate change appears to be a reality. There are multiple venues we can make use of including hydrogen and solar power, among many other possibilities. It becomes an engineering question—how do we build an economically feasible and sustainable energy production system that produces clean energy?