Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Timeline: Climate Change

Interesting and informative.

18 comments:

martine10 said...

When reading this timeline, I couldn’t help but think, about the unusually cold winter that we have experienced this year. It made me wonder if abnormal winters like these deceive the general population into believing that global warming is over and is not a major issue. So I began to search around on the internet and found this great explanation:

Global warming is responsible for the overall upward temperature trend, and any snow outside our window shouldn’t convince us that Earth has stopped heating up, says Richard Heim, an NCDC meteorologist. "Most of the top 10 warmest years have happened in the last decade and a half," Heim tells ScientificAmerican.com. "Global warming does not mean every year will be warmer than the previous year. Global warming means there's an increasing frequency of warmer temperatures and a decreasing frequency of cooler temperatures, and that’s definitely what we're seeing."

Therefore, it is essential for people to understand that just because we are experiencing colder temperatures this particular year, we must take into consideration the trend over the long run which indeed indicates that global warming is real and significant.

Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=cold-winter-doesnt-mean-global-warm-2009-02-12

Jarrett W. Brotzman said...

One aspect of the global warming trends that interest me, is what the trends would show if we had recorded temperatures from before the 1800s. While we have some information from sources like tree rings, scientists do not have specifics on temperatures.

I think the one thing this timeline illustrates is that there are other factors that influence the planet's temperature fluctuations other than human activity. While the temperature fluctuations have increased since the time of the industrial revolution, I cannot help but wonder what temperature changes have been before humans.

Tess Hayden said...

It is amazing that in 1827 Jean Baptiste Fourier made the first connection with greenhouse gases and atmospheric warming. It is hard to believe that this connection was introduced almost two hundred years ago and the human population has let greenhouse gas emission get to its current level.

On another note, this article focused a lot on how many years in the past two decades have been considered "the warmest to date." When you look at the earth's climate over its entire history, it has gone through drastic changes. I took a class last term that looked at the carbon cycle and climate throughout history, where we learned that 550 million years ago the CO2 level was twenty five times what it currently is. After the extinction of the dinosaurs, there was a very warm climate with high levels of CO2 as well. We should be experiencing another ice age relatively soon (in geologic time) so the earth should be in a natural state of warming right now. I agree that greenhouse gas emissions are leading to a quicker climate change and it is a very important issue that needs to be managed. But I also feel like many people don't realize that climate has not been a stable factor in earth's history.

Stevenson said...

The timeline was not only interesting, but extremely informative regarding public opinion shifts with new findings from research. I too wondered what people were saying about global warming in regards to this abnormally cold winter and found there were many misconceptions on the facts and ideas behind what it truly is. I took the same class as Tess and I agree with her that few people realize that warming and cooling of the earth are natural processes that have occurred throughout our geologic history. While this cannot change, what can change is the intensity of the negative cooling feedback due to an accelerated rate of warming through emissions. I think the article demonstrates that if people understood more about the facts, they might be able to implement better policy

Tara said...

I thought it was interesting to read how long we have known about climate change and yet it still remains a huge, global issue. As early as 1890, scientists predicted that the burning of fossil fuels could lead to global warming. If only people had begun to mitigate costs of global warming then, we would not be paying such a heavy price today. It seems that no one acted upon any of these reports until 1992, over 150 years after Jean-Baptiste Fourier's prediction with the signing of the Climate Change Convention.

Also, I think Tess brought up a good point when mentioning that climate has not been steady throughout Earth's history and drastic changes have occurred. Nevertheless, emissions can and need to be cut.

Luke said...

I found this to be a pretty interesting timeline, but as much as I hate to say it, I agree with Brotzman. When climate change occurs naturally, it takes a very long time to occur, and I wish information was available from earlier than 1827. I would also like to see some data detailing the amount of CO2 released from human activities as compared to the amount occurring naturally. I'm not saying that I don't believe in global warming, I would just like to be better educated on the topic before making up my mind.

Joseph Doyle said...

I think that this information is interesting because it shows that data has pointed towards a general warming trend for a while now. And it also appears that there has been lack of involvement from the US in initiatives to curb CO2 emissions.

Ellie Van Sant said...

Just like many of my classmates, I also found this timeline and subject to be incredibly interesting especially with the recent weather patterns. As Stevenson and (Martine) pointed out because of the more severe winter weather we have been experiencing over the last couple of months, there is an overall misconception that global warming is over. This has become a common misconception which I have witnessed first hand when I heard someone say, “Wow, this snow has been crazy this year, so much for global warming.” It is important that people don’t misinterpret the abnormal weather and recognize that global warming is still an incredibly important current issue that needs to be addressed. As Jordan Lite explains in the source Cold winter doesn’t mean global warming is over, “global warming is about long-term, rising temperature trends over time.”

Stephanie Beebe said...

I, too, took the same class as Tess and Stevenson last semester, and I took Global Climate Change my freshman year. Shifts in global climate have happened frequently in Earth's history and are dependent on so many factors, including greenhouse gases. However, the global warming that we are experiencing right now is not part of a natural cycle. According to climate proxies, Earth should currently be in a cooling cycle; clearly this is not the case.
What I thought was most interesting and upsetting about this article was that the indigenous peoples are being affected by global warming to the extent that they have met to establish a "common position" on climate change. I read a newspaper article about a month ago that explained how a group of indigenous peoples who lived on an island (i don't recall where) planned to sue all major oil companies for the rise in sea level and resulting disappearance of their land. The effects of global warming on our infrastructure are far-reaching and already occurring.

Frank Dale said...

This is an interesting and convincing timeline that allows you to see the extent of research that has been undertaken in order to understand the earth's changing climate. I think a lot of younger people, including myself, believe this is a relatively young study, having only become popular over the last 5-10 years. This timeline shows a brief history of our earths changing temperature.
While the article is convincing, I think it is difficult to argue this point because of the snapshot view of the earths temperature that we have recorded. It is widely accepted that the earth's temperature is currently rising and that our effect on the environment is overall negative, but it is often difficult to quantify the link between the two. How can we be certain the exact impact we have had on the environment? We are taking the right steps by funding and researching alternative forms of energy and we should continue to do so. Personally though, I believe there are more convincing arguments that can gain support for alternative energy sources, such as ruining habitats and other natural resources, than by trying to argue that humans have considerably increased the temperature of the earth over our short history.

Allie Long said...

Like everyone else, I think it is interesting to read this timeline and to see how far back to the 1800s the discussion of global warming goes. While I know that trends of heating and cooling occur naturally, I would think that by making the realization in the 1800s that human carbon emission can effect global climate to such a large extent, that there would have been bigger preventative steps done to cut emissions by now. It would be interesting to see the comparison of how much of the heating is natural and how much is human, but it is clear that most of what is currently going on is from human emission. This timeline makes it clear that people haven't been acting quickly or efficiently enough at cutting emissions.

Joe said...

This timetable leads me to believe that the earth has been warming; however, the current winter makes me wonder. Just this past weekend, 49 of the 50 states experienced snow. Lexington has had more snow this year than any other year I have been here. While more snow does not show that global warming has stopped, I use these examples to show that while data points toward the earth warming, there is still volatility. How much volatility will there be?

One thing we do know is that glaciers are shrinking and many animals face loss of habitat. As we discussed in last class, for humans to sit back and allow habitat to be destroyed and animals to become extinct seems very immoral.

If something is going to be done, the change will have to go through a lot of questions from people who faced the worst winter this year in a very long time.

Beth said...

I had no idea that research concerning global warming went back as far as this timeline suggests. It is also fairly disturbing that after all of this research, the United States is just now becoming an active part of this global movement. According to the World Health Organization, the United States is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, yet we are not the frontrunner for greenhouse gas reduction. Global warming affects developing countries to a significantly greater extent than developed countries, mainly with the increase of disease associated with high temperatures. This means that the countries who are emitting the least amount of greenhouse gases are suffering from the short term negative externalities. I hope the United States will stop worrying that the Kyoto Protocol "will damage the US economy" and start realizing the damages our greenhouse gas emissions are having on other, less developed countries.

Elsa said...

I think one of the most interesting aspects of this timeline is how it highlights the past few years as such a small snapshot in contrast to the beginning of the timeline, which lists several hundred years as one listing. It just proves how interesting it could be to do the same in a few hundred years into the future, and study the current time period as one large block.
It's also amazing how early on scientists began noting the effects of CO2 and global climate change. Clearly this is not an issue we're just conceptualizing. I think it is important for people to understand that this is not a new concept, and not some hoax, especially now during a winter that has been exceptionally cold. I think it's important to stress that it is an issue of global climate change, not necessarily warming, but just extreme susceptibility to change.

Elsa said...

I think one of the most interesting aspects of this timeline is how it highlights the past few years as such a small snapshot in contrast to the beginning of the timeline, which lists several hundred years as one listing. It just proves how interesting it could be to do the same in a few hundred years into the future, and study the current time period as one large block.
It's also amazing how early on scientists began noting the effects of CO2 and global climate change. Clearly this is not an issue we're just conceptualizing. I think it is important for people to understand that this is not a new concept, and not some hoax, especially now during a winter that has been exceptionally cold. I think it's important to stress that it is an issue of global climate change, not necessarily warming, but just extreme susceptibility to change.

Jeremy Becht said...

I thought the timeline was pretty interesting, but I wish scientists had data over the past few centuries. I feel like one of the biggest arguments against climate change is that it is a natural process. If we had data over a longer time span, we could actually see if climate change became way more vigorous since the industrial revolution.

victor said...

I also think that, one of the most interesting issues of this timeline is verify how intense became the discussion about global climate change in the last years, in addition to the fact of the first observations about global warming was made years and years ago. But, unfortunately, the concerns of our leader just happen a few years ago.
That said, we could highlight two points: why this discussion just reach these points of concerns right now if the fir notices of global warming happened in 1800s? But, at least, we could assume a most optimistic position, since, we can interpret that world reach this point because no measure was taken before, and, since now this point are being largely discussed, I suppose that some measure might be taken. Of course, several others issues are related to it.

Pearson Nibley said...

The timeline was very entertaining yet shocking at the same time. There were cooling periods within the past millennium, but during those times there were not billions of people on the earth emitting harmful elements such as carbon and aerosols. The shocking and disturbing part of the timeline for me is how quickly the earth can respond to climate events. This is evidenced by the two year temperature change caused by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. The lack of participation by our country in climate negotiations was particularly discouraging to me, and I hope that the new administration will make steps in the right direction towards curbing emissions. It is easy to say that climate change is exaggerated when you look at a winter like the one we're having this year, but the warming trend throughout the past century or so shows that this year is likely an exception to the warming. Besides, I am not going to say anything about this year's temperature until we see what this summer is like...