Global Warming and the Future of the Earth

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What is climate change? Climate change is a global challenge that has no borders and to combat it requires coordinated work by all countries. Causes and consequences of climate change The main cause of climate change is global warming, which has many negative consequences on physical, biological and human systems, as well as other effects.

Explaining The Greenhouse Effect Sustainability. Increase in greenhouse gases. Methane : from livestock, rice farming and waste tips. Nitrogen oxide : caused by excess use of fertilizers and industrial activity. Destruction of marine ecosystems. Population increase. When did humans first begin to cause climate change?

Anthropocene: the age of human impact on Earth Sustainability. Change in ecosystems and desertification. Melting of the poles and rising sea level. Rebuilding all the steelworks; refashioning the cement works; recycling or replacing the plastics; transforming farms on all continents.

And doing it all while expanding the economy enough to meet the needs and desires of a population which may well be half again as large by as it is today. No nation is on course to do that. Some countries already emit less than half as much carbon dioxide as the global average. But they are countries where many people desperately want more of the energy, transport and resources that fossil fuels have provided richer nations over the past century. Some of those richer nations have now pledged to rejoin the low emitters. Britain has legislated for massive cuts in emissions by But the fact that legislation calls for something does not mean it will happen.

And even if it did, at a global level it would remain a small contribution. This is one of the problems of trying to stop warming through emission policies. If you reduce emissions and no one else does, you face roughly the same climate risk as before. If everyone else reduces and you do not, you get almost as much benefit as you would if you had joined in. It is a collective-action problem that only gets worse as mitigation gets more ambitious. What is more, the costs and benefits are radically uncertain and unevenly distributed. Most of the benefit from curtailing climate change will almost certainly be felt by people in developing countries; most of the cost of emission cuts will be felt elsewhere.

And most of the benefits will be accrued not today, but in 50 or years. It is thus fitting that the most striking recent development in climate politics is the rise of activism among the young. For people born after , like Greta Thunberg, a Swedish activist, and some 2. This gives moral weight to their demands that the Paris targets be met, with emissions halved by The price of such installations has tumbled; they are now often cheaper than fossil-fuel generating capacity, though storage capacity and grid modifications may make that advantage less at the level of the whole electricity system.

One step towards halving emissions by would be to ramp such renewable-electricity generation up to half the total. This would mean a fivefold-to-tenfold increase in capacity.

The Earth Is Heating Up

Expanding hydroelectricity and nuclear power would lessen the challenge of all those square kilometres of solar panels and millions of windmills. But increased demand would heighten it. Last year world electricity demand rose by 3. Eleven years of such growth would see demand in half as large again as demand in All that new capacity would have to be fossil-fuel-free. And electricity is the easy part. Progress on reducing emissions from industrial processes and transport is far less advanced.

Predictions of Future Global Climate

Only 0. The investment needed to bring all this about would be unprecedented. So would the harm to sections of the fossil economy. According to Carbon Tracker, a think-tank, more than half the money the big oil companies plan to spend on new fields would be worthless in a world that halved emissions by The implications extend to geopolitics.

Our Warming World: The Future of Climate Change [INFOGRAPHIC]

A world in which the oil price is no longer of interest is one very different from that of the past century. Dislocation on such a scale might be undertaken if a large asteroid on a fixed trajectory were set to devastate North America on January 1st It is far harder to imagine when the victims are less readily identifiable and the harms less cosmically certain—even if they eventually turn out to be comparable in scale. Instead of not putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at all, put it in and take it out later. By evoking ever larger negative emissions later in the century it is possible to accept a later peak and a slower reduction while still being able to say that you will end up within the 1.


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  • Unfortunately, technologies capable of delivering negative emissions of billions of tonnes a year for reasonable prices over decades do not exist. There are, though, ideas about how they could be brought into being. One favoured by modellers involves first growing plants, which suck up atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and then burning them in power stations which store the carbon dioxide they produce underground.

    A surmountable problem is that no such systems yet exist at scale. A much tougher one is that the amount of land required for growing all those energy crops would be enormous. This opens up a dilemma. Given that reducing emissions seems certain not to deliver quickly enough, it would seem stupid not to put serious effort into developing better ways of achieving negative emissions.

    Something similar applies for a more radical potential response, solar geoengineering, which like the ping-pong balls of would reflect sunlight back to space before it could warm the Earth. Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping to allow groups to share a computer workstation. Tell students they will be working through a series of pages of models with questions related to the models. After students have completed the activity, bring the groups back together and lead a discussion focusing on these questions:.

    Students explore the relationships between ocean surface temperature and levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and water vapor.

    Revolution in reverse

    Tell students that matter cycles throughout Earth's system and that matter is not destroyed as it moves throughout the system. Let students know that in this activity they will be asked questions about the certainty of their predictions.

    Tell them to think about what scientific data are available and the evidence they get from the model as they assess their certainty with their answers. Introduce the concept of computational models, and give students an example of a computational model they may have seen, such as forecasting the weather. Have students launch the Sources, Sinks, and Feedbacks interactive. Provide students with the link to the Sources, Sinks, and Feedbacks interactive.

    Tell students that they will be working through a series of pages of models with questions related to the models. Students use interactive computational models to explore how light-colored surfaces such as snow, ice, and some clouds have a cooling effect on Earth. Then they interpret real-world data to examine the positive feedback loop between ice coverage and temperature. Show the photos of the Bear Glacier in Alaska and Tell students that some surfaces reflect light more than others and that more reflective surfaces have a higher albedo.

    4. How do we expect climate to evolve in the future?

    The cone shows the scientists' uncertainty in the track of the storm, just as the climate models show the scientists' uncertainty in how much Earth's temperature will change in the future. Ask: When are scientists most confident in their predictions? Tell students that they will be asked questions about the certainty of their predictions and that they will need to think about what scientific data are available as they assess their certainty with their answers.

    Ask: What will happen to the populations of foxes, rabbits, and grass after the dogs are introduced? Tell students that they will be exploring cause-effect and system feedback relationships between carbon dioxide and water vapor in this activity. Have students launch the Feedbacks of Ice and Clouds interactive. Provide students with the link to the Feedbacks of Ice and Clouds interactive.

    Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping to enable sharing computer workstations. Students explore how solar radiation, Earth's surface and oceans, and greenhouse gases interact to cause global warming. They can change variables to determine how much greenhouse gas emissions might need to fall to mitigate the temperature increase. Activate students' prior knowledge about greenhouse gases and global warming. Tell students they will be investigating how much greenhouse gas concentrations need to be reduced to prevent major warming of Earth's atmosphere.

    Review with students the interactions of greenhouse gases with radiation and temperature and Earth's surfaces and temperature. Tell students they will be asked questions about the certainty of their predictions and that they will need to think about what scientific data are available as they assess their certainty with their answers. Let students know they will be exploring cause-effect and system feedback relationships between carbon dioxide and water vapor in this activity. Have students launch the Using Models to Make Predictions interactive.

    Provide students with the link to the Using Models to Make Predictions interactive. Divide students into groups of two or three, with two being the ideal grouping to allow students to share a computer workstation. Earth's climate is continually changing. Earth has been covered in ice snowball Earth at some points during its existence, while at other times Earth has been ice-free. Earth is in a warming period now, due in part to enhanced human emissions of greenhouse gasses.

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