The Chemistry of Global Climate
Chapter 3, part III
Miriam L. Wahl, PhD
Suggestions to counter climate change
• Planting green plants on roofs
• Painting roofs white
• Painting tar (roads) white
Solar irradiance (brightness)
• The sun’s orbit oscillates
• Output varies
• Sunspots occur in large numbers every 11
years-dark spots mean more radiation is
hitting the Earth, not less
• Is the least variant of the radiative forces
• (see next slide)
The ratio of reflected to incident light
Varies from 0.1 to 0.9
Changes where snow melts, ice melts
These things reflect light
Receding glacier in Alaska
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Recognizing the problem of potential global climate change,
the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) in 1988. It is open to all members of the UN and
In 2007, the IPCC stated in a report that scientific evidence for
global warming was unequivocal and that human activity is the
Kyoto Protocol - 1997 Conference
•Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
certified the scientific basis of the greenhouse
•Kyoto Protocol established goals to stabilize and
reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases.
•Emission targets set to reduce emissions of six
greenhouse gases from 1990 levels.
(CO2, CH4, NO, HFC’s, PFC’s, and SF6)
•Trading of emission credits allowed.
The Kyoto Protocol, an international and legally binding
agreement to reduce greenhouse gases emissions worldwide,
entered into force on 16 February 2005.
What is the Kyoto treaty about?
The Kyoto Treaty commits industrialized nations to reducing
emissions of greenhouse gases, principally CO2, by around
5.2% below their 1990 levels over the next decade.
• Drawn up in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, the agreement needs to be
ratified by countries who were responsible for at least 55% of
the world's carbon emissions in 1990 to come into force.
Kyoto Treaty (2)
• The agreement was dealt a severe blow in
March 2001 when President George W.Bush
announced that the United States would
never sign it.
• Finance - funding for poor countries to develop new technology
• Mechanisms - tough systems in each country to verify and report carbon
• Sinks - heavily forested countries can use their 'tree sinks' to offset
• Compliance - countries that fail to keep to their greenhouse gas reduction
targets should face legally binding consequences
• A scaled-down version was drawn up four months later and finalized at
climate talks in Bonn in Germany in 2002. The treaty now only needs
Russian ratification to come into effect.
• When the revised treaty took effect in 2008, it would have required all
signatories, including 39 industrialized countries, to achieve different
emission reduction targets.
• With that aim, it will provide a complex system which will
allow some countries to buy emission credits from
• For instance, a country in western Europe might decide
to buy rights or credits to emit carbon from one in
eastern Europe which could not afford the fuel that
would emit the carbon in the first place.
• The US produced 36% of emissions in 1990, making it the world's biggest
• The revised Kyoto agreement, widely credited to the European Union,
made considerable compromises allowing countries like Russia to offset
their targets with carbon sinks - areas of forest and farmland which absorb
carbon through photosynthesis.
• The Bonn agreement also reduced cuts to be made to emissions of six
gases believed to be exacerbating global warming - from the original
treaty's 5.2% to 2%. (Green peace called it “Kyoto lite”)
• It was hoped that these slightly watered down provisions would allow the
US to take up the Kyoto principles - but this has not proved to be the case.
Politics as Usual
• What role does politics play in this kind of
• Which party typically backs industries?
• Do industries contribute to political
campaigns? What are lobbyists? What are
special interest groups?
• Who is the biggest loser? The environment
2007 figures (Wikipedia)
(in thousands of
European Union (27)
• It’s normal for there to be debate
• It’s normal to test a hypothesis, find support
for it or not
• It’s normal for people to argue about the best
way to handle data
• It’s common to find people who won’t let go
of their original hypothesis despite evidence
to the contrary.
Two You Tube Videos
• “Man made Global Warming Hoax”
• Key features of many: the person talking is not
a scientist, is a theologist
• No data shown, and graphs shown are without
• “The Age of Stupid”
• “An Inconvenient Truth”
• Is he a scientific expert?
• Use of exaggeration to prove a point…leads
to….a lack of trust and unnecessary fear.
• What is exaggeration when used while
describing scientific data?
• The message in An Inconvenient Truth, the new movie starring
former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, is clear: Humans are
causing global warming, and the effects are devastating.
• Most scientists agree that the Earth is heating up, due
primarily to an atmospheric increase in CO2 caused mainly by
the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum.
• But how accurate are some of the scientific claims made in
• Fact or hype?
• In an attempt to clear the air, National Geographic News
checked in with Eric Steig, an earth scientist at the University
of Washington in Seattle, who saw An Inconvenient Truth at a
• He says the documentary handles the science well.
• "I was looking for errors," he said.
• "But nothing much struck me as overblown or wrong."
• Claim: According to the film, the number of Category 4 and
Category 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last year.
• "This is true," Steig said. "There is no theoretical basis for the
notion that this is a [natural] cycle."
A study published in the journal Nature in
August found that hurricanes and typhoons
have become more powerful over the past
The study also found that these upswings in
hurricane strength correlate with a rise in
sea-surface temperatures. Ocean heat is the
key ingredient for hurricane formation.
No one can link Katrina or any other storm/disaster to the
But," Steig said, "the statistics [show] that such events are
more likely now than they used to be and will become more
likely in the future."
Some scientists, however, believe that we are in the
high-intensity stage of a decades-long natural hurricance
cycle, which they say is primarily responsible for any uptick
in storm activity.
Still others aren't even sure hurricanes are gaining strength.
Claim: Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense as temperatures rise.
"There's no question about this," the University of Washington's Steig said. "If the
average is going up, the extremes have to go up as well."
2005 was the hottest year on Earth since the late 19th century, when scientists
began collecting temperature data. The past decade featured five of the warmest
years ever recorded, with the second hottest year being 1998.
Claim: Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years to 300,000
people a year.
"The exact numbers are, at best, an extrapolation from [a heat wave that]
was experienced in Europe in 2003," Steig said.
"However, there is no question that that heat wave was a major event and
statistically very unlikely to have happened unless the statistics are
"Since it did happen, the statistics are changing—that is, the globe really is
Claim: More than a million species worldwide could be driven
to extinction in just half a century as a result of global
Steig is "skeptical that climate change itself will cause this
[extinction] … so much as direct human impacts such as landclearing." But he noted that he hadn't read the latest studies,
some of which do make such a claim.
For example, a study published in Nature in 2004 predicted
that climate change could drive more than a million species
towards extinction by 2050.
"Climate change now represents at least as great a threat to
the number of species surviving on Earth as habitat destruction
and modification," said the lead author of that study, Chris
Thomas, a conservation biologist at the University of Leeds in
the United Kingdom.
Claim: Global warming will also cause the introduction of new, invasive
"I take issue with the invasive-species linkage, because the human
influence—directly, by transporting species around—I suspect is much more
important than climate change," Steig said.
Claim: Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet (6 meters) with the loss of
shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.
There is little doubt that sea levels would rise by that much if Greenland melted.
But scientists disagree on when it could happen.
A recent Nature study suggested that Greenland's ice sheet will begin to melt if the
temperature there rises by 3ºC (5.4ºF) within the next hundred years, which is quite
possible, according to leading temperature-change estimates.
"It's uncertain how much warmer Greenland would get, [given] a certain carbon
dioxide level, because different climate models give different amounts of warming,"
said Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the
University of Arizona in Tucson.
But many experts agree that even a partial melting would cause a one meter (three
foot) rise in sea levels, which would entirely submerge low-lying island countries, such
as the Indian Ocean's Maldives.
Some climate models are more conservative, suggesting that there will be no summer ice in the
Arctic by the year 2100.
But new research shows it could take as little as 20 years for the sea ice to disappear.
"Since the advent of remote satellite imaging, we've lost about 20 percent of sea-ice cover," said
Mark Serreze, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder,
"We're setting ourselves up for very big losses this year."
"We think of the Arctic as the heat sink to the climate system," Serreze said.
"We're fundamentally changing this heat sink, and we don't know how the rest of the climate
system is going to respond."
There is no doubt that as sea ice continues to melt, habitat for animals like polar bears will
continue to shrink.
What is the U.S. doing about
What are other countries doing
CO2 Data Information Analysis Center (CDIAC)
• The primary climate-change data and information analysis
• part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). CDIAC is located
at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and includes
the World Data Center for Atmospheric Trace Gases.
• CDIAC's data holdings include records of the atmospheric
concentrations of CO2 and other radiatively active gases; the
role of the terrestrial biosphere and the oceans in the
biogeochemical cycles of greenhouse gases;
• emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel consumption and land use
changes; long-term climate trends; the effects of elevated CO2
on vegetation; and the vulnerability of the coasts to the rising
• DIAC provides data management support for major projects,
including the AmeriFlux Network, continuous observations of
ecosystem level exchanges of CO2, water, energy and
momentum at different time scales for sites in the Americas;
the Ocean CO2 Data Program of CO2 measurements taken
aboard ocean research vessels
• DOE-supported FACE experiments, which evaluate plant and
ecosystem response to elevated CO2 concentrations, and
NARSTO, which assesses ozone and fine particle processes in
the troposphere over North America. (note: NARSTO was a
coalition of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada; chartered in 1999,
disbanded in 2010-government/industry/researchers)
• CDIAC is supported by DOE’s Climate Change Research
Division of the Office of Biological and Environmental
The Maldives-near Southern India
Was originally a sultanate, under Dutch, then British protection.
It became a republic in 1968, three years after independence.
President Maumoon Abdul GAYOOM dominated the islands' political scene for 30 years; was
elected to 6 successive terms by single-party referendums.
Following riots in the capital Male in August 2004, the president/ government pledged
democratic reforms including a more representative political system and expanded political
freedoms. Progress was sluggish, however.
Political parties were legalized in 2005. In June 2008, a constituent assembly - termed the
"Special Majlis" - finalized a new constitution, which was ratified by the president in August.
The first-ever presidential elections under a multi-candidate, multi-party system were held in
October 2008. GAYOOM was defeated in a runoff poll by Mohamed NASHEED, a political
activist who had been jailed several years earlier by the former regime. Challenges facing the
new president include strengthening democracy and combating poverty and drug abuse.
Maldives officials have been prominent participants in International climate change talks due
to the islands' low elevation and the threat from sea-level rise.
Maldives-over 1,000 islands
Maldives Island community
A City in the Maldives
What Can (or Should) We Do?
• Climate mitigation measures
• Highest are China, the U.S., the Russian
Federation, India, and Japan
• Carbon capture from C02 (two dozen projects
worldwide): promising, though expensive
• Norway was first, in 1996! Now also
Saskatchewan, and North Dakota
• Tree planting (going on in Africa)
Global Climate Change Initiative, 2002
• Proposed by Bush administration
• 18% reduction by 2012
• Agreements between 10 Northeastern states,
another by NY, another by California, Oregon,
• California has been the boldest: imposed
restrictions on cars and light trucks in addition
The science historian (PhD in Geology) Naomi Oreskes did a complete
• And of the 850 papers reviewed from the 2003 literature
and review of 928 abstracts. She concluded the following:
"This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peerreviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of
Sciences, and the public statements of their professional
societies. Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may
have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord
among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect."
Our New Freshman Class in Congress
In Their Own Words
"With the possible exception of Tiger Woods, nothing has had a worse year
than global warming. We have discovered that a good portion of the science
used to justify "climate change" was a hoax perpetrated by leftist ideologues
with an agenda.“
— Todd Young, new congressperson from Indiana
• "I absolutely do not believe that the science of man-caused climate
change is proven. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s far more
likely that it’s just sunspot activity or something just in the geologic eons of
time where we have changes in the climate."
• — Ron Johnson, new senator from Wisconsin
More 2010 quotes
• "I think we ought to take a look at whatever the group is that measures all
this, the IPCC, they don't even believe the crap."
• — Steve Pearce, new congressperson from New Mexico
• "There isn't any real science to say we are altering the climate path of the
• — Roy Blunt, new senator from Missouri
• "It's a bigger issue, we need to watch 'em. Not only because it may or may
not be true, but they're making up their facts to fit their conclusions.
They've already caught 'em doing this."
• — Rand Paul, new senator from Kentucky