We’ve all heard that the Earth is heating up because of greenhouse gases (GHGs) released by the human race. But scientists are divided about whether global warming is a catastrophe or a hoax. Anyway, gases formerly regarded as the culprits may actually be functioning as thermostats and air conditioning units protecting us from frying.
We all know the drill. By burning fossil fuels we release greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (NO). Greenhouse gases trap heat close to the Earth’s surface. So the surface temperature of the Earth increases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others estimate that the temp has increased 1.2 to 1.4° degrees F over the last 100 years and will continue to rise, melting ice caps, raising oceanic water levels, and trigger extreme weather events.
Even if we stopped emitting (GHGs) today, the Earth would continue to warm up by 2.5° to 10° degrees F., depending on who’s doing the predicting. Since the Industrial Revolution started, about 1750, humanity has been devoting most of its time to burning fossil fuels, adding CO2 to the atmosphere and changing Earth’s climate.
Until recently, it has been estimated that as many as 97% of scientists have blamed rising temperatures on bad decisions by the human race.
But greenhouse gases are not the only way that the planet has been gradually warming like an oven. Climate is influenced by natural changes as well. The temperature of the Earth is the result of a balancing act between energy coming in and being absorbed energy by the planetary system and going out, cooling things off. So both natural and human factors are at work.
One way the temperatures increase is by reflectivity. Sunlight hitting the reaches Earth, it can be reflected or absorbed. The amount it is reflected or absorbed depends on Earth’s surface and atmosphere. Light-colored objects, like clouds and snow and clouds reflect sunlight. Darker objects, like oceans, forests, or soil, absorb sunlight.
Of course, even absorption of the sun’s energy is not all nature’s fault. Aerosols, small particles or liquid droplets in the atmosphere also have an effect. When they reflect sunlight, like sulfur emissions from burning coal, they cool the Earth. Those that absorb sunlight, such as black carbon, have a warming effect.
Changes can also happen because of the capriciousness of the sun. Variations in solar activity can affect how intense sunlight can get depending on how it strikes the Earth. When the intensity increases, the planet’s surface warms up. The sun follows an 11-year cycle of ups and downs. But the consensus is that the effect of sunshine on the climate is minimal. Also, changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit and the tilt and position of the planetary Earth’s axis can also affect how much sunlight reaches the Earth.
There are many who don’t accept believe that we can use nature as the scapegoat anymore. Sure, historical records show that climate changes can be explained by natural causes, such as such as variations in solar energy, volcanic eruptions, and natural increases in greenhouse gas concentrations—but only prior to prior to the Industrial Revolution.After that, humans got busy burning fossil fuels and pumping CO2 and No into the heavens.
Chevron wants to save the Earth by sequestering CO2. They would capture it and store it underground. Plants and trees absorb CO2 as they grow, naturally “sequestering” carbon and preventing it from loitering in the skies above. Increasing forestlands and improving methods of cultivation would make such positive changes. There is an international initiative called the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum that wants to gain support for this practice and also develop improved, cost-effective technologies for sequestering.
But the whole idea of greenhouse gases being the problem may have been overturned by recent discoveries that have provided tremendous support for the anti-greenhouse camp.
To begin with, there are climatologists that have consistently insisted that the Earth is overdue for a bout of cold weather. They argue that during the prior to the last 10,000 years of geological history there were extreme climatic oscillations from warmer to cooler. But lately (in the geological sense) the global climate has been relatively stable. Even so, we have still experienced ice ages. A study of the way in which ice is currently traveling in ocean water, from colder to warmer areas of the world, suggests that there may be widespread planetary cooling going on. They know this because particles such as stones, pebbles and fine grains become embedded in ice. As the ice drifts, it melts, the particles are deposited those particles in oceanic sediments. This process is called ice rafting. In this scenario, stones and pebbles are like surfers, heading for warmer climes. As more and more ice travels from polar regions to lower latitudes by via ocean currents, the result could be substantially lower temperatures.
For years, some scientists have been espousing the view that high concentrations of greenhouse gases could have rescued the Earth from global freezing. A study by a team of scientists in Chicago and at the University of Colorado have been conducting detailed laboratory analysis of the world’s oldest sedimentary rocks found on the eastern shore of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec. They have concluded that, 3.75 billion years ago, greenhouse gas like CO2 sustained surface temperatures above freezing. Back then, the sun was 25% fainter than it is today and would have been unable to warm the liquid water present on the Earth’s surface. But high concentrations of CO2 could have warmed up the planet.
The most telling argument against greenhouse gases has come from a recent study by NASA, which declared that when the upper atmosphere, or “thermosphere,” heats up, molecules of carbon dioxide and nitric oxide push the heat back into space. So the villains in the greenhouse drama are natural thermostats that protect the Earth.
CO2 and NO are good.
This is an embarrassment by proponents of the greenhouse gas theory. However, they may not accept the notions that greenhouse gases act like gigantic air conditioners to save us from harm.