The Facts on Climate Change
Though the science behind climate change is indeed complex, one basic fact is not — global warming is happening and it is driving climate change today. We are now seeing the impacts on the climate with record-breaking heat waves, floods, and extreme weather events, all of which were predicted decades ago by the first scientific climate models.
Now, with a growing body of evidence, including examples of dramatic systemic change such as rapidly melting arctic glaciers as well as more subtle scientific measurements of atmospheric gases such as Carbon-12 isotopes – it has been possible to determine that this increase in the warming of both air and sea temperatures is being driven primarily by human influence.
Photos: Jason Box, Ohio State University (left) & Alun Hubbard, Aberystwyth University, Wales
Human activity adds about 50 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases (CO2e) to our atmosphere each year. Nature’s own carbon cycle is about 750 gigatons of CO2. It may seem that the human contribution is small in comparison, but the reality is that only 40% of our added CO2 can be absorbed by natural carbon sinks like forests, oceans and wetlands. The rest — about 30 gigatons of CO2 — cannot be absorbed and so is added to the atmosphere year after year. With each year, this added CO2 is building a thicker and thicker layer of insulation around the planet, and we’re trapping more of the sun’s heat as a result.
Here’s a brief primer on Climate Change from the Climate Reality Project that explains more:
97% of all active climate scientists believe that rapid climate change is now being driven by human-made carbon pollution, and that we need to quickly transition from fossil fuels (responsible for about 62% of all human CO2 pollution) in order to bring the Earth’s climate system back in balance.
So why all the confusion in the media?
As it turns out, there are many corporations that make a lot of money on fossil fuel production, and they do not want to lose market share to new clean, renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power. As is documented in the book Climate Cover-Up by James Hogan, these corporations banded together, funneling millions of dollars into anti-climate lobbyists and PR firms. Taking from the Tobacco industry’s playbook they launched a “media war” bent on disinforming the public about the hazards of climate change and the fossil fuels driving it.
Here’s a historic look into both media campaigns from the Climate Reality Project:
For a great general video overview of how climate change works, check out Climate Science in a Nutshell video series. To learn how to talk to a climate skeptic, visit Skeptical Science which offers handy responses to the most common misconceptions and climate change myths. For a quick answers to the Top 10 most asked questions we turn to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
- How do we know that humans are the major cause of global warming?
- Why does CO2 get most of the attention when there are other greenhouse gases?
- What are the latest findings on climate science?
- Does air pollution and particulate matter (aerosols) affect global warming?
- How does the sun affect our climate?
- Is there a connection between the hole in the ozone layer and global warming?
- What is the best source of scientific information on global warming?
- Will responding to global warming be harmful to our economy?
- If we can’t burn it, what should we do with the stores of coal around the world?
- Has global warming already started?
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