What is Global Warming?

Answers to a few basic questions..

The artic polar bear has become the poster-child of the climate change movement. Explore these pages to learn more about why.. (Photo Credit)

What is the Definition of Global Warming?

Global warming is defined as the gradually increasing trend in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere.

How do we know it’s a real thing? Well, we will get to that question later.

But for now, we can say that three major scientific entities, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), all agree that our world is getting warmer.

And based on the measurements that we have available to us since record keeping first began in 1880’s, the facts seem to bear this conclusion out.

According to many top scientists, not only is there is enough evidence to support the conclusion that global warming is real, but in addition, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that it is ‘extremely likely’ that human activity, in the form of the burning of fossil fuels, is the predominant cause of global warming.

The Industrial Revolution

The root cause of global warming can traced back to the beginning of the industrial revolution, around the mid to late 1700’s. This is the time period when humanity first began using fossil fuels for large-scale industry.

Historians have written that the main features of the Industrial Revolution involved the use of new materials, such as iron and steel, as well as the first large scale use of new energy sources, including coal, petroleum, and most importantly, the internal-combustion engine.

These new energy sources, coupled with a new form of organization we know today as the ‘factory system’, are what enabled a whole new world of specialization and mass production.

Unfortunately, the burning of fossil fuels also results in the release of what scientists call ‘greenhouse gases‘ into the atmosphere, and it is generally accepted by scientists today that the time period following the industrial revolution, when these greenhouse gases first began being produced, is when the progress of global warming began to grow.

And the expert awareness of this problem is actually nothing new.

Even back in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, some of the world’s top scientists began to speculate about what impact the burning of fossil fuels might have on our atmosphere.

For example, in 1896, long before computers existed, Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist and future Nobel Prize winner, became one of the first scientists to be interested in studying the effects of fossil fuels.

His concluded that fossil fuels would indeed have a significant impact on global temperature, but compared to what we know today, he actually underestimated what the impact would be.

Here are the numbers that we have available today:

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as stated in the administrations 2020 Annual Climate Report, the earth’s combined land and ocean temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit (0.08 degrees Celsius) per decade since 1880. In addition, the average rate of increase after 1981 has more than doubled to 0.32°F (0.18°C ) per decade.

What are some of the specific human activities that have an influence on global warming?

Our means of transportation, (meaning the gasoline and oil that we burn in our automobiles), the pollution coming out of our factories, the cutting down of our forests, and our agricultural practices, just to name a few.

In order to understand how these factors effect climate change, let’s take a closer look at them, starting with a concept called the greenhouse effect..

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What are Greenhouse Gases?

What are greenhouse gases?

And how do they get into our atmosphere? The gases ammonia, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane gas, and a class of gases collectively known as the chlorofluorocarbons, are all referred to as the greenhouse gases.  These are the damaging gases that are contained in the pollution coming out of our factories, as well as the exhaust coming out of our automobiles. And these gases together are primarily responsible for producing the effect referred to by scientists as the greenhouse effect:

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