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Causes of Global Warming

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  1. Polar Ice Caps
Lesson Plans
  1. Air Pollution (NASA Sample)
      Provides studies for kids to explore air pollution. 4-00

  1. -01-26-09 Desperate Times, Desperate Scientists (
      "For the first time in six years, more than 2,000 of the world's top scientists reviewed and synthesized all of the scientific knowledge about global warming. The Fourth Assessment Report makes clear that the accelerating emissions of human-generated heat-trapping gases has brought the planet close to crossing a threshold that will lead to irreversible catastrophe. Yet like Cassandra's warning about the Trojan horse, the IPCC report has fallen on deaf ears, especially those of conservative politicians, even as its findings are the most grave to date." 01-09

  2. Soot Important in Global Warming (Scientific American)
      "Greenhouse gases have taken much of the blame for rising global surface temperatures over the past century. The results of a new study suggest that soot has done a fair amount of damage as well."

      "In a paper published online today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, James E. Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Larissa Nazarenko of Columbia University report that soot may have caused fully 25 percent of the warming observed since 1880." 12-03

  1. -As Permafrost Thaws, Risks Rise (New York Times)
      "A recent estimate suggests that the perennially frozen ground known as permafrost, which underlies nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere, contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere." 12-11

  2. -Farm Interests Fight Climate Change Regulations (New York Times)
      "House appropriators approved a $10.6 billion spending bill for U.S. EPA last night, tucking in several amendments aimed at insulating agricultural interests from the reach of federal climate regulations." 02-13

  3. -Global Warming Causes Release of Ocean Methane (Scientific American)
      "Since time immemorial, methane and oil have seeped from beds buried beneath the ocean sediment off the California coast. The methane bubbles up and out of the sea, adding to the store of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere. The oil floats up as well and, over time, breaks down into tar that settles back into the marine sediment layer. Now new research into that tar residue seems to show that such seeps are influenced by ocean temperatures, and therefore by the very global warming they help to engender." 11-08

  4. -Sources of Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the USA (
      Shows the sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the USA with the primary two causes shown to be:

      1) coal-fired electricity plants (81 percent of 2343.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from energy-generation plants) and
      2) use of petroleum in the transportation sector (98 percent of 1,990.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions). 06-08

  5. -Study: Climate Change May Be Catastrophic (Washington Post)
      "Because of the impact of warming on cloud cover, the researchers calculated, average global temperatures could rise a full 7 degrees by the end of the century. This 'would likely be catastrophic rather than simply dangerous,' the study’s lead author, Steven Sherwood of the University of New South Wales in Australia, told the Guardian newspaper. He said such a temperature increase 'would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics.' It would also guarantee the melting of so much polar ice that sea levels would rise dramatically, with dire implications for coastal cities around the world." 01-14

  6. C.I.A. Shares Data With Climate Scientists (New York Times)
      "The nation’s top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government’s intelligence assets — including spy satellites and other classified sensors — to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change." 01-10

  7. Carbon Emissions for the Future (
      "About 97% of the world's new carbon emissions will come from outside the United States and Europe, largely from China, India and the Middle East, who will consume about half the world's energy by the year 2030. Before global habits begin to change permanently, greenhouse gas output will keep rising, probably at least until 2020. By which time the financial crisis of 2008 might seem like ancient history." 11-08

  8. Causes of Global Warming (GCRIO - United Nations Environment Programme)
      Provides a chart and description of how human activities have contributed to the warming (and cooling) of the planet. 8-00

  9. China's Coal Burning May Be Biggest Threat (New York Times)
      "Unless China finds a way to clean up its coal plants and the thousands of factories that burn coal, pollution will soar both at home and abroad. The increase in global-warming gases from China's coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks." 06-06

  10. Corn Ethanol May Accelerate Global Warming (
      "Worldwide investment in biofuels rose from $5 billion in 1995 to $38 billion in 2005 and is expected to top $100 billion by 2010, thanks to investors like Richard Branson and George Soros, GE and BP, Ford and Shell, Cargill and the Carlyle Group. Renewable fuels has become one of those motherhood-and-apple-pie catchphrases, as unobjectionable as the troops or the middle class."

      "But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline." 04-08

  11. Earth Clock (
      Provides measures on use of fossil fuels and other categories relevant to climate change. 12-12

  12. Global Warming - Explanation for Kids (Environmental Protection Agency)
      Provides information on global warming for kids. 12-00

  13. Global Warming - Likelihood and Effects (National Geographic Society)
      Provides a summary of findings of scientists regarding the amount of global warming that has begun, the causes, and the likely effects. 3-01

  14. Global Warming - Questions and Answers (GCRIO - United Nations Environment Programme)
      Provides answers to the most commonly asked questions about global warming. 8-00

  15. Global Warming Causes (
      Provides diagrams and explanations of global warming. Identifies the top ten nations causing global warming. Also provides indicators for global warming. 6-01

  16. Greenhouse Effect - Human Contribution (UMAC - OCP)
      Shows the amount and types of greenhouse gases contributed by humans. 4-02

  17. Greenhouse Effect in a Diagram (UMAC - OCP)
      Describes the "energy budget" of our atmosphere. 4-02

  18. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the US from 1987 - 1994
  19. Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the US in 1995 (Energy Plug)
  20. Industry Leader in Coal Refuses to Use New Technology (New York Times) star
      "Many scientists say that sharply reducing emissions of these gases [from coal processing] could make more difference in slowing climate change than any other move worldwide. And they point out that American companies are best positioned to set an example for other nations in adopting a new technique that could limit the environmental impact of the more than 1,000 coal-fired power projects on drawing boards around the world."

      "But most in the industry are not making that bet. Among them is Gregory H. Boyce, chief executive of Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal producer in the world thanks in part to its growing operations here in Wyoming and with aspirations to operate coal-fired plants of its own. Mr. Boyce's company alone controls reserves with more energy potential than the oil and gas reserves of Exxon Mobil." 05-06

  21. Is It Too Late to Stop Global Warming? (ABC News)
      "A prime example: decayed vegetation in the Arctic, which contains massive amounts of carbon, used to be protected by the perpetual cold. As the climate warms — sped along by human beings burning fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide — scientists say the vegetation will dry out and break down, releasing even more carbon dioxide."

      " 'Humans are putting about 6 or 7 billion metric tons of carbon in the atmosphere a year, and we're standing on 200 billion tons here," says [biologist Walter] Oechel. 'Any significant portion comes out, that's worse than current human injection into the atmosphere. And once that runaway release occurs, there would be no way to stop it.' " 03-06

  22. Methane-Caused Warming (
      "Methane is the greenhouse gas which has the second greatest effect on climate, after carbon dioxide. The concentration of methane in the atmosphere has almost tripled in the last 150 years. Methane is best known as natural gas, currently an important energy source. Nonetheless, only part of the methane uptake in the atmosphere is due to industrial activities connected to energy production and use. More important for the increase of methane in the atmosphere is the increase in so-called 'biogenic' sources, e.g., rice cultivation or domestic ruminants related to the rise in the world's population. Nowadays, methane in the atmosphere in fact is largely of biogenic origin."

      "The largest anoxic sources of methane are wetlands and rice fields, as well as the digestion of ruminants and termites, waste disposal sites, and the gas produced by sewage treatment plants."

  23. Ozone Depletion (Nature - Ball)
      Methyl chloride, which depletes ozone, is building up faster than hydroxl free radicals in the air can neutralize it. This paper explores the causes. 1-00

  24. Polar Caps Melting Fast (
      "The climate is crashing, and global warming is to blame." 08-06

  25. Report: Global Warming Cause and Effects (CBS News)
      "The study traces global temperatures and so-called greenhouse gases going back thousands of years. It shows a gradual variation until the Industrial Revolution begins, when fossil fuel use skyrockets, as do temperatures, CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports." 01-07

  26. Report: USA, China, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia Are the Worst Offenders (CBS News)
      "Sweden, Britain and Denmark are doing the most to protect against climate change, but their efforts are not nearly enough, according to a report released Monday by environmental groups."

      "The United States — the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases — ranked at 53, with only China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia doing worse." 11-06

  27. Research: Amazon Forest Crisis Can Create "Incalculable Consequences" for Earth (The Independent)
      "The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year."

      "Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable." 07-06

  28. Scientific Information on Global Warming Suppressed (New York Times)
      "The resignation [of Bush appointee George C. Deutsch] came as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was preparing to review its policies for communicating science to the public. The review was ordered Friday by Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, after a week in which many agency scientists and midlevel public affairs officials described to The New York Times instances in which they said political pressure was applied to limit or flavor discussions of topics uncomfortable to the Bush administration, particularly global warming."

      "Yesterday, Dr. [James E.] Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch's credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information."

      " 'On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed,' he said. 'The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That's the big issue here.' " 02-06

  29. Scientists: Arctic Ice Loss Triggering Global Warming (BBC News)
      " 'September 2005 will set a new record minimum in the amount of Arctic sea ice cover,' said Mark Serreze, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Boulder, Colorado.' "

      "The current rate of shrinkage they calculate at 8% per decade; at this rate there may be no ice at all during the summer of 2060."

      " 'These dark areas absorb a lot of the Sun's energy, much more than the ice, and what happens then is that the oceans start to warm up, and it becomes very difficult for ice to form during the following autumn and winter.' "

      " 'It looks like this is exactly what we're seeing - a positive feedback effect, a "tipping-point".' "

      "The idea behind tipping-points is that at some stage the rate of global warming would accelerate, as rising temperatures break down natural restraints or trigger environmental changes which release further amounts of greenhouse gases."

      "The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, a four-year study involving hundreds of scientists, projected an additional temperature rise of 4-7C by 2100." 9-05

  30. Siberian Peat and Global Warming (National Geographic)
      "Peatlands consist of layer upon layer of partially decomposed plant material. They play a crucial role in governing the atmospheric concentration of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, Smith said. Increased concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases can accelerate global warming." 12-04

  31. Simulation Results: Temperature Rise Caused a Mass Extinction (BBC News) star
      "A computer simulation of the Earth's climate 250 million years ago suggests that global warming triggered the so-called 'great dying'."

      "A dramatic rise in carbon dioxide caused temperatures to soar to 10 to 30 degrees Celsius higher than today, say US researchers."

      "Some 95% of lifeforms in the oceans became extinct, along with about three-quarters of land species." 8-05

  32. Study: The Cause of the Pause in Global Temperature Increase (
      Provides evidence that cool eastern Pacific winds have cooled surface temeratures. The excess heat from global warming has been absorbed deep in oceans. "This hiatus could persist for much of the present decade if the trade wind trends continue, however rapid warming is expected to resume once the anomalous wind trends abate." 02-14

  33. Trade Agreements Affecting the Environment (World Trade Organization)
      Provides the official WTO Web site. 12-99

  34. U.N. Report: Evidence for Global Warming Is "Unequivocal" (PBS News)
      "The evidence for global warming is 'unequivocal' and it is 'very likely' that human actions are to blame for rising temperatures, an international panel of climate experts said Friday.” 01-07


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