The debates about climate change and its inevitability, our ability to prevent it happening and what we do to mitigate its effects if we fail to act are becoming more heated.
Tag Archives for global warming
The UK Climate Projections for 2009 (UKCP09), which has been informed by scientific data from the UK Met Office, has been released today, and provides an alarming insight into the potential effects of global warming on the UK climate. The projections include an array of scenarios including changes in temperature that we would expect to encounter, variation in rainfall, humidity and cloud cover across the year.
A paper published by the Royal Society, the UK’s academy of science, has highlighted concern for tropical lizards who are at risk from rising temperatures caused by Climate Change. Raymond Huey, a professor of biology at the University of Washington stated in the Royal Society paper published on the 4th March that as lizards living in the tropical rainforests are already living in warm temperatures, the lizards’ intolerance of heat could push the species “over the edge”.
Although lizards of various species live in different countries and therefore different climates across the globe, these particular lizards, including the species Anolis gundlachi, are considered to be at particular risk. This is because although lizards that live in different areas are used to and are established within climates where they see temperature ranges throughout the year that vary by as much as 40°, the climate that Anolis gundlachi and the like are used to varies by a much narrower margin. Therefore any change to this is thought to be much more significant, and much more likely to put the species under stress.
This prediction is based on research that Huey undertook during the 1970s studying native lizards’ activities in relation to their body temperature. Although this research was not motivated by climate change, Huey believes the information gained from the research would accurately inform this current concern. Some have argued that the lizards may be able to evolve to adapt to the warmer temperatures, however Huey is not convinced that this would be the case, stating “we don’t think it’s likely because of their long generation times.”
An article by scientists Andrew Dessler and Steven Sherwood was published on Thursday in ‘Science’, and brings a new area for discussion regarding the issue of global warming to the forefront.
The article discusses the role that water vapour plays in the warming of the planet, and adds to the controversial disputes about whether global warming would have happened and be happening anyway, with or without human activity’s contribution.
Although it is true that the evaporation of water would occur anyway, the high amounts of CO2 released into the atmosphere every day by industrial processes and their effect on accelerating the speed at which the planet’s temperature is rising will inevitably cause more evaporation and therefore a higher level of water vapour in the Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore by continuing to release carbon emissions at our current rate, we are not only adding to levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but as result of a feedback reaction, means our actions are having twice the impact we may have first thought.
According to New Scientist, 50% of greenhouse gases are made up of water vapour, with CO2 being 20% by comparison. It may be easy considering this to think that if the water vapour is the bigger problem, why is everybody so worried about reducing CO2 levels in the first place, however the problem with carbon dioxide it that the level present builds up over a much longer period of time. The action we take now will not be seen immediately, but will be more a preparation for the future to try and prevent levels from spiraling out of control.
Of course there are also other contributors to the greenhouse effect, such as CFCs and methane, and their effects compared to the same amount of CO2 are much more destructive. The difference, however, is that the amount of CO2 is so much higher that the other gases are almost insignificant by comparison, so in light of this, the importance of continued campaigning to reduce the carbon emissions of the planet of a whole really is the best way forward to hopefully ensure a future for the human race.
More about the case for water vapour vs carbon dioxide can be found on the New Scientist website.