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Blowin' in the Wind, Issue #008 - What's all this talk about Global Warming July 1, 2004
July 01, 2004
Global Warming Questions & Answers - What is global warming?With the recent movie, The Day after Tomorrow, and all of the controversy it has stimulated, it seems appropriate to settle a few issues, in the form of a question and answer session. Such as what is global warming?
1. What would you say are the most important green house gases? And what is their origin?
Carbon Dioxide - From many sources, natural ones include respiration and decay mostly. People create it primarily through combustion (industry and transportation) CARS! CARS! CARS!
Methane - A natural product of decomposition, including digestion and soil emissions. So agriculture contributes this substance consistently. Industries tend to leak some fuel gases containing this stuff.
Ozone - at lower elevations - Like the others it traps radiation under its blanket. Some natural processes suck ozone from the ozone layer and bring it down to ground level. We call this stratospheric intrusion. Industry creates its fair share of ozone as well.
Nitrous Oxide - Natural sources involve the decomposition of ammonia. Again, agriculture is a major contributor. Water vapor - Evaporation puts this guy in the air. Of course, with global warming, the air will be able to "hold" more of this one. Power plants release great quantities of steam.
Halocarbons (chemical formulas with a combination of C, H, F, Cl and numbers) - Not produced naturally. Used to propel aerosol sprays, manufacture foams, and enable refrigeration. Also, this is the group of culprits causing the ozone problems addressed in the next question.
Aerosols - Also known as particulates. Naturally produced by fires and volcanoes. Many human activities release dust and smoke.
Bear in mind that without Greenhouse gases, the whole planet would be at least 50°F colder than it is now.
2. How does ozone depletion tie into global warming and or climate change?
Depletion of stratospheric ozone is caused by the emissions of chemicals which act as catalysts for reactions resulting in the dismantling of ozone molecules. These chemicals contain chlorine and fluorine atoms within their molecules, and we call them halocarbons, chloro- and fluorocarbons.
Generally considered a different although just as serious problem. 3. How will global warming affect the polar ice caps?
Recent global warming articles point to a study that seems to indicate that the Greenland ice cap and glaciers are destined to melt away and raise the sea levels by over 20 feet, 6 metres.
Also this melting is supposed to be responsible for the salt dilution, which could stop the ocean currents and cause wintry scenes like those depicted in the movie The Day After Tomorrow. Now wouldn’t that slow the melting? Anyway this melting is predicted to take hundreds of years.
4. With the possibility of rising emissions of greenhouse gases what will happen to the Earth's climate?
Most popular weather predictions:
Temperatures will rise - Anywhere from about 2 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, or up to 6°C, as a global average. Some areas will be colder - Caused by the desalination of parts of the ocean and suppression of the Atlantic Gulf Stream, which keeps the northern hemisphere mild. This is the possible experience shown in this year’s movie The Day After Tomorrow. Areas will be wetter - The Great Plains and US southwest, for instance, according to some researchers. Areas will be drier - With climate change, drought can be expected in other areas. Though exactly how remains up for debate. Dispute, in fact.
5. How does the increasing population affect global warming?
With more people, there should be more man-made greenhouse gases, unless people suddenly become aware of their consequences and change their activity accordingly.
6. How does the concentration of carbon dioxide affect the world?
True facts on global warming:
It is first on many greenhouse gas lists. This is because there is so much of it being produced, and it is the subject of Kyoto and similar agreements. Greenhouse gases trap heat energy trying to escape from the planet’s atmosphere. It normally goes out through virtual windows, which are becoming plugged. Incoming energy comes through different windows that are not clogged as severely.
If there is enough CO2, we all would suffocate due to a decreased oxygen concentration. But this would take a lot. Conceivably, after a certain amount is produced, an incremental increase would have minimal effect on the green house effect. That’s because once that particular radiation window is filled, adding to it would be redundant.
7. What steps are being taken to prevent as much as possible the increase in global warming?
International pollution incentives - Green house gas reduction from industrial sources. Consumer awareness of environmentally friendly products and smart purchasing decisions. Green taxes and rebates. Government agreements and emissions reduction, emission credits and trading. Cars - Commuter challenges, car pooling, electric and energy reduced cars, increase transit service and awareness. Alternate energy sources - how many can you think of? Hydrogen, nuclear, solar and wind to name a few. 8. Which regions have most at stake?
Heavily populated low-lying areas, homes lost due to rising sea levels and flooding. Many third world areas severely affected. Temperate regions which have not be subject to diseases such as Lyme Disease, West Nile and Malaria could now get them. Agricultural areas dependent on marginal and perhaps decreasing precipitation.
9. It has been said that human activities have played a significant role in the rise of the Earth's surface temperature. Can you elaborate on that?
We are all sources of:
Heat Our breathing, animals, cars, houses, industries. You get the point. Green house gases Our bodies, animals, cars, houses, industries. All emit Carbon dioxide, methane (cows are famous here), or both, plus others. Heat becomes trapped and the temperature goes up.
Global warming graphs of how historical temperatures fluctuated upwards and downwards by amounts much more than we are currently seeing.
Global warming history - The earth has survived. Many of these changes occurred before man was around, so there is some question whether mankind will survive. There is only one way to find out for sure, but I am willing to bet YES.
10. With cinematography playing on such serious topics as global warming, how much truth was portrayed in the recent movie "The Day After Tomorrow"?
I haven’t seen it yet, but much as been written about it. Keep in mind that this is Hollywood, and sacrificing some reality for excitement and profit is the norm here. However, any of those things shown in the film is possible.
What about them all happening on the same day? Well, that will be decided. I’d say likely not, but global warming articles give some reasons why multiple things could occur in a sudden chain reaction, causing catastrophe.
11. What can we do to reduce global warming?
a) Drive less - walk, use a bicycle, travel in groups. Use a cheaper, more fuel efficient car if nothing else.
b) Buy things such as food that do not have extensive processing or packaging, resulting in manufacturing and industry. They are also cheaper and healthier for you to usually.
c) sort and recycle anything that can be salvagable. Re-use if possible. Create less demand for polluting factories.
d) Use the internet for more things, but try to conserve on electricity usage as well.
These things really apply to North Americans, who tend to be more wasteful than other people of the world.
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