Climate change

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The term climate change is used to refer to changes in the Earth's climate. Generally, this is taken to regard changes in temperature, by monitoring averages, extremes, durations, and geographic coverages. "Climate change" can include "natural" changes but the primary concern and focus is on human activities that are contributing to global warming. "When scientists talk about the issue of climate change, their concern is about global warming caused by human activities."[1]

Examples of climate change

In the August 30, 2005, Boston Globe article "Katrina's Real Name," Ross Gelbspan wrote:

  • "When 124-mile-an-hour winds shut down nuclear plants in Scandinavia and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the driver was global warming.
  • "And when the Indian city of Bombay (Mumbai) received 37 inches of rain in one day -- killing 1,000 people and disrupting the lives of 20 million others -- the villain was global warming."

A November 2010 Newsweek article summed up some of the extreme climate and weather events in 2009-10:[2]

  • 135 daily rainfall records were broken along the U.S. East Coast in September 2010 (Wilmington, N.C.: 19.7 inches over three days).
  • 2010 beat 1998 as the hottest year on record, with 153 of the 1,218 U.S. weather stations recording their hottest summer since 1895.
  • 2000–09 was the warmest decade on record.
  • In August 2010, an ice island four times the size of Manhattan (260 sq km) broke off from a Greenland glacier.
  • Moscow suffered a once-in-centuries heat wave, doubling average death rates to 700 people a day.[3]
  • One-fifth of Pakistan flooded, affecting 20 million people and killing nearly 2,000.[4]

Calculating the effect of CO2 change on extreme weather

Climate scientists have long resisted wholly attributing weather events to climate change, but have developed a technique called “fractional risk attribution” to calculate how many times an extreme event should have occurred absent human interference. The technique uses mathematical models of how the atmosphere would behave before human activity raised carbon dioxide levels to 389 parts per million (it was 278 before the Industrial Revolution), plus data about ancient (“paleo”) climates and historical (more recent) weather. Climate scientists led by Peter Stott of the British Met Office analyzed the 2003 European heat wave, the highest temperatures for the area since the introduction of weather instruments (1851), and concluded that human activity could be attributed to 75 percent of the heat wave. Put another way, they estimated that human activity more than doubled the chance that it would happen, and found it was twice as likely to be human-caused than natural.[2]

Climate change programs in the United States

Global Warming Controversy

Reviewing the continued campaign by climate change skeptics, David McKnight, an associate professor at the University of New South Wales (Australia), notes that there several reasons why companies such as Exxon have had some success playing the global warming denial card. "First, the implications of the science are frightening. Shifting to renewable energy will be costly and disruptive. Second, doubt is an easy product to sell. Climate denial tells us what we all secretly want to hear. Third, science is portrayed as political orthodoxy rather than objective knowledge, a curiously postmodern argument," he writes. While the tobacco industry is often referred to as the template for the fossil fuel industry's campaign, McKnight argues that there is an important distinction. "There are no 'smoke-free areas' on the planet. Climate denial may turn out to be the world's most deadly PR campaign," he concludes. [5]

Related SourceWatch & Congresspedia Resources

References and further reading

The links below present differing opinions regarding the extent and existence of various causes for climate change.

Documents & Reports

Articles & Commentary on Climate Change

Resources on Climate Change

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


External resources

External articles