Hurricane Katrina, August 2005./National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration/Geostationary Operational
The Blue Marble./NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Reto
Stockli/Robert Simmon (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov)
Polar bear (Ursus maritimus). Threatened species. Polar
bears could be heading to extinction. Photo credit:
Elizabeth Labunski/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).
Vector of West Nile Virus, dengue fever, St.
Louis encephalitis and Chikungunya. Native
to tropical and subtropical regions of
Southeast Asia. Now well-established in
Europe and the Americas. Photo credit:
ID1862/ Centers for Disease Control and
Indonesia. Puncak Jaya ice cap, 1936.
U.S. Geological Survey
Indonesia. Puncak Jaya ice cap, 1972.
U.S. Geological Survey
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Climate Change and Global Warming
- It is believed that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. From out of its cataclysmic beginnings, the Earth had
emerged as the only known living planet in our galaxy. No one really knows the exact sequence of events that
had shaped the Earth into what it is today. But over the millennia, as it revolved and hurtled across the infinite
reaches of space, it is evident that the Earth has gone through cycles of warming and cooling. Ice ages have
advanced and retreated and species have teetered through evolution and extinction.
- The cyclic nature of the Earth's geologic history is one of the main arguments against the theory of
anthropogenic (man-made) global warming, which blames human activities for the current steady rise in the
planet' s average global temperature---arguably brought about by the excessive production of greenhouse gases
from massive industrial and commercial exploitation of coal, oil and natural gas.
- It appears that the timeline of man's extensive use of fossil fuels has temporally coincided with a measurable
and significant increase in global atmospheric CO2 levels over a span of only a couple of centuries.
- Prior to the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were estimated at 280
parts per million.
- Currently, it's at 398 parts per million.
- Although there are strong physical and measurable evidence pointing to the reality of global warming, the issue
continues to divide the scientific community. In the meantime, atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise at an alarming
- The signs of change are apparent: retreating glaciers, species being driven to extinction, global spread of insect
vectors, extreme weather patterns, to name a few.
- Scientists believe that further warming could cause:
- Significant changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation
- Rise in sea levels, eventually drowning coastal communities and forcing mass inland migration
- Massive thawing of permafrost causing further release of colossal amounts of terrestrial greenhouse gases, further intensifying the warming
- Further retreat of glaciers and sea ice
- More extreme weather patterns
- Heat waves
- Spread of water-borne and vector-borne diseases (such as malaria, dengue, encephalitis, cholera and
- War and human conflict as extreme weather conditions cause food crisis and shortage of other basic human necessities
- Over the past century, the Earth's temperature has increased approximately 0.7 degree
Celsius (about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Current projections predict that by the end of the century, if warming
continues at its current pace, the Earth could be up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit
warmer than it is today.
- Scientists studying Antarctic ice cores predict that we should be heading for
another ice age in the next 15,000 years --- too far off into the future in
human time scale, but just around the corner in geologic time. However, the
same scientists believe that it is possible that because of the colossal amounts
of greenhouse gases that have already been pumped and continue to be
pumped into the atmosphere, the next ice age may not actually arrive as
- This could be a source of celebration and inspiration for climate change
skeptics to keep the coal burning. After all, who would want to freeze in an
- But the alternative scenario is likewise grim. Who would want to fry in a
- The arguments for and against global warming is explored in greater detail