Climate Change the Human Impact

Topics: Greenhouse gas, Climate change, Fossil fuel Pages: 5 (1766 words) Published: April 30, 2011
Back in the summer of 2008 athletes from all over the world were getting together in China for the 29th edition of the Olympic Games. Just prior to the games inaugural ceremonies there were a lot of concerns about the air quality, the contamination, and the heat in Beijing. Many athletes wore face masks to prevent getting sick prior to their respective competitions. We might be asking ourselves, what does that have to do with climate change? As China and its neighbors economies grow, the need for more energy increases. In order to meet their energy demands, industries have to use fossil fuels for energy. Fossil fuel burning accounts for 75% of the total global energy use (Ciserone, 2000, p. 1). When fossil fuels are burned, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere thickening the air, trapping heat and other pollutants increasing the chances for climate change thru human induced activities. Human activities promote the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases cloud the atmosphere leading to a warming of the earth’s atmosphere. Climate change occurs as a result of atmospheric changes promoted by human activities. As industrialized nations energy demands increase, the discharge of greenhouse gases like Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) increases thus contaminating the air and clouding the atmosphere. Since the beginning of the industrial era in 1750, the usage of fossil fuels for energy have increase more than 20 fold. However, this amount of energy is a lot less than the solar energy that is absorbed by the atmosphere. What makes the big impact is the release of human induced greenhouse gases. Thru these gases, the earth receives an additional 1% of the solar energy and it is growing (Ciserone, 2000, p. 1). For example: Carbon dioxide is the most important anthropogenic greenhouse gas and its annual emissions have increased 80% between 1970 and 2004. These emissions come from fossil use in transportation, heating, and manufacture of household goods. Methane has increased as a result of agricultural practices, natural gas distribution and landfill related releases of the gas. Halocarbon gases have also increased. These gases were used extensively as refrigeration agents and were found to cause ozone layer depletion. Ozone is a greenhouse gas that is continually produced and destroyed by chemical reactions. The release of these Halocarbon gases destroys the ozone layer and has caused the opening of an ozone hole over the South Pole. The characteristics of these greenhouse gases have been studied since the beginning of the 19th century. Changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, land cover, and solar radiation alter the energy balance of the climate system (Climate Change for Policy Makers, IPPC, 2007). To explain how these gases affect the atmosphere a group of scientists (Fourier, Pouillet, Tyndall, Langley, Arrhenius) came up with a measure called radiative forcing. In technical terms, radiating forcing is the change in net radiation at the tropopause or the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere. In other words, radiative forcing is the amount of solar infrared energy that is either returned back to earth or filtered thru the layers of the atmosphere back into space (Ciserone, 2000, p. 1). There are two types of radiative forcing: Positive and negative. Negative forcing is the complete return of solar infra-red energy back on to space after bouncing from the surface of the earth. Positive forcing is the return to the earth of the same solar infra-red energy but from the greenhouse gas cloud in the tropopause. The thicker the cloud, the more positive forcing thus is increasing the average temperature on earth. From all the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide has caused the largest positive forcing with the release of halocarbon gases in close second. But not all radiative forcing is a direct effect...
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