Climate Change

Concerns about Climate Change (a.k.a. Global Heating) arose because pollution from our combustion activities is changing the composition of the gases in our atmosphere. Some of these new and/or increased gases absorb the out-going infra-red radiation at night-side, keeping that energy in our atmosphere, from where some of it can re-emit to Earth, rather than away into Space.

Current CO2 Level in the Earth’s Atmosphere

Current chart and data for atmospheric CO2

During the night we are getting a small back-glow of radiant energy from those gases. The current estimate right now of this radiative forcing is about 2.5 watts per square metre. While this may not seem like a like a lot, it IS incremental. It appears until now that the oceans warming, and the ice melting, as well as a fair bit of industrial haze providing Global Dimming, have kept us largely unaware of what increased heat retention on this planet might mean. Even then, the numbers are as relentless as the Sun – we’ve ironically bought some cooling with our direct haze, so that a person can talk about a net forcing of 1.7 watts; but like a juggler, we’ve got to keep throwing those sulphate and particulate matter balls into the air daily to benefit from their shade and reflectivity (albedo)…and acid rain and particulate in lungs are among many side effects of air pollution. Because of our growing thicker greenhouse blanket, an increase of the energy retained on our planet is taking place – and at a rate of change this planet has never seen before.

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Some Global Warming Video Lectures and Courses

An excellent series of video lectures at the introductory college level is given by David Archer of the University of Chicago here, in his course on Global Warming. He introduces the physics necessary to understand “how stuff works that determines the climate of the Earth”.

These are the lecture videos from the free UBC course Climate Literacy:  “This course introduces the basics of the climate system, models and predictions, human and natural impacts, mitigative and adaptive responses, and the evolution of climate policy.”

And MIT OpenCourseWare has undergraduate lectures (2012) on Global Warming Science.

For a serious look through a video lens at the changes we have brought about, and what is coming at us, this recent hour-long video with Jim Hansen, called DISRUPTION. Good science background and historical time-line of societal development, and good current weather events coverage.  Calls for immediate political action.

Future Climate Change – the United States Environmental Protection Agency has a comprehensive site on the coming impacts of increased heat at our planet’s surface.

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Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

ccTo study this very serious pollution problem we’ve got with our own waste gases, and to help various national jurisdictions on this single planet’s surface to come together on not over-heating our only planet, we have formed, from the best of our Scientists from all over this world, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The FIFTH IPCC report is about to break: here, an educational article about how the IPCC works, and what this latest report has in it.

To bring home that the Science is real and we are imperilling safe living on this planet, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has published a primer:  “What we Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change”

Although water vapour is the greatest volume greenhouse gas, by far the most bountiful of the gases produced by human activities is Carbon Dioxide, followed by Methane. These absorb radiant energy at wavelengths that water vapour doesn’t. Right now our planet’s surface temperature (including atmospheric and ocean temperature) is rising. This will have many ramifications, not the least of which will likely be methane gas released from the melting gas hydrates now trapped in permafrost. (“Even the permafrost reservoir is on the order of hundreds of gigatons, not much smaller than the total amount of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere”.)

Methane has a much higher greenhouse effect than Carbon Dioxide per molecule, about 25 times as much. Higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will affect plants, upon which we rely for food. These are vast changes we have initiated, mostly by being the number of us that we are, burning fossil fuels as much as we do. We might call it Climate Change, but actually, it’s Planet Change, and we’re doing it!

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Atmospherically, the palette of change contains the absorption spectra of various gases. These are some common gases, their absorption bands and windows. CO2 fills in an important heat-releasing window in the atmosphere, tipping the balance.

Chart showing CO2 emtting energy through a window in water vapour's absorption spectrum
Chart showing CO2 emitting energy through a window in water vapour’s absorption spectrum

 

Al Gore wrote, in 2006, the easiest-to-digest compilation of all the planet changes we are initiating by burning fossil fuels and forests in such vast quantities. Read the book (for 1/2 price), see the movie, watch the trailer here.

He has come out with a newer book (that even has its own app): “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis”

Another hopeful private initiative is The Carbon War Room. Here we find Richard Branson extolling the brightest of us not caught up in Government to find solutions. A basic premise is: “Our global industrial and energy systems are built on carbon-based technologies and unsustainable resource demands that threaten to destroy our society and our planet. Massive loss of wealth, expanding poverty and suffering, disastrous climate change, water scarcity, and deforestation are the end results of this broken system…We need new thinking, new leadership, and innovation to create a post-carbon economy. Our goal is not to undo industry, but to remake it into a force for sustainable wealth generation.”

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Climate Change Background 

REALCLIMATE – “We’ve often been asked to provide a one stop link for resources that people can use to get up to speed on the issue of climate change, and so here is… Climate Science from Climate Scientists.

TEACHING CLIMATE – Science and Information for a Climate-Smart Nation

NOAA’S  ‘OCEAN AND CLIMATE LITERACY  – Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts.

THE SCIENCE OF DOOM – Evaluating and Explaining Climate Science – very good educational background material on the physics of Climate Change.

NASA’s GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: Vital signs of the Planet – replete with FAQ’s and frequent updates. 

SCIENTISTS ON CLIMATE CHANGE – A series of short videos (most are about two minutes long) interviewing climate scientists. Lots of interesting info there, with links to more information.


 

For continuing updates

These two blog-spots are probably the best if you are looking to give students accurate observations of the planet by scientists.

CLIMATE PROGRESS  – more political, but with updated scientific reports.

SKEPTICAL SCIENCE  – perhaps the best from a current events educational viewpoint, constantly updated. Here, one finds the famous Debunking HandBook.

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The Carbon War Room

logoAnother hopeful private initiative is The Carbon War Room. Here we find Richard Branson extolling the brightest of us not caught up in Government to find solutions. A basic premise is: “Our global industrial and energy systems are built on carbon-based technologies and unsustainable resource demands that threaten to destroy our society and our planet. Massive loss of wealth, expanding poverty and suffering, disastrous climate change, water scarcity, and deforestation are the end results of this broken system…We need new thinking, new leadership, and innovation to create a post-carbon economy. Our goal is not to undo industry, but to remake it into a force for sustainable wealth generation.”

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By | 2017-02-10T22:14:43+00:00 January 23rd, 2013|Solar Energy Notes and Links|
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