Science

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What is science telling us?

Mounting climate science evidence shows that our atmosphere is dangerously out of balance and the climate we depend on for our food, water and health is changing rapidly. Studies published since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its comprehensive report in 2007 point ever more compellingly to the urgent need for swift, deep reductions of heat-trapping gasses to avoid catastrophic climate change. United States leadership is essential, and there is no time to waste.

Click here for the most recent IPCC reports.

Click here for updated CO2 data from the Mauna Loa Observatory.
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Dana Nuccitelli, CCL Research Coordinator and leader of Science Policy Network and Dr. Ben Santer, research scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory discuss the latest in climate science.
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Climate Change is already having real impacts:

  • Sea levels are projected to rise faster than we thought the last time the IPCC weighed in. Without emissions reductions, a 2.6 foot rise is likely by the end of the century and a 6.6 foot rise is possible.

Science indicates an even stronger need to act than previously thought:

  • The ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide is declining as it heats up and becomes more acidic.
  • Studies indicate that the Earth will take a long time — at least a thousand years — to come back into balance and recover from the excess CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere.

Every day of delay locks in more warming for ourselves and future generations.
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Ten facts that prove we are in a climate emergency
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Responding to skeptics

Given the preponderance of scientific evidence, it is hard to believe that there are still climate change deniers out there, but there are. For an excellent, well-researched article responding to some of the skeptics common charges and misperceptions see “Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense” by the former Chief Editor of Scientific American. This is a great piece to use the next time you visit your skeptical relative in Ohio, Wyoming or Alabama.

Thanks to Union of Concerned Scientists for much of the information on this page.

A Few More Science Facts

  • Naomi Oreskes, a science historian at UC San Diego reviewed 928 abstracts of peer-reviewed articles on climate change published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003 and could not find a single one that challenged the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and that it is primarily human caused.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which involved over 2000 scientists representing 100 countries, the largest peer-reviewed scientific collaboration in history, has concluded that human contributions to climate change is substantial and that we need to move quickly to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, the largest contributor to global warming;
  • Further, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science all agree that the scientific evidence is that global warming is happening and human activity is the predominant contributor.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association determined that 19 of the hottest 20 years on record have occurred since 1980. 2010 was the hottest year since the instrumental temperature record began. The temperature record is bolstered by a host of evidence from all over the globe, including the receding of glaciers worldwide, the melting of the Greenland Ice Cap, huge losses of sea ice (250 million acres since 1979) an impact on bird and butterfly migratory patterns and habitat, a change in the timing of the seasons, the thawing of permafrost melting (including the reabsorption by the tundra of 120 lakes in Siberia) and much more.

Background

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. In the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

nasa co2 chart2

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an important heat-trapping (greenhouse) gas, which is released through human activities such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, as well as natural processes such as respiration and volcanic eruptions.

Global Temperature

global tempThe Earth’s average temperature has increased about 1 degree Fahrenheit during the 20th century. One degree may sound like a small amount, but it’s an
unusual event in our planet’s recent history. Earth’s climate record, preserved in tree rings, ice cores, and coral reefs, shows that the global average temperature is stable over long periods of time. Small changes in temperature correspond to enormous changes in the environment.

The rise in the planet’s temperature has mostly occurred since the 1970. The 20 warmest years have occurred since 1981 and all 10 of the warmest years have occurred in the past 12 years. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.

Sea level rise

sea level riseGlobal sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.

Click to view infographic on sea level rise.

IPCC 4 key findings

1. There is 95 percent certainty that human activities are responsible for global warming
2. Carbon dioxide is at an “unprecedented” level not seen for at least the last 800,000 years
3. Sea level is set to continue to rise at a faster rate than over the past 40 years
4. Over the last two decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been melting and glaciers have receded in most parts of the world.

These key findings emerged from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report Summary for Policy Makers, released September 27, 2013, which more than 25 NASA scientists helped author and review. The IPCC is currently working on its Sixth Assessment Report.

The report is the work of 209 lead authors and 50 review editors from 39 countries, and over 600 contributing authors from 32 countries.

Source: Information above comes from NASA’s climate research center: climate.nasa.gov/
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