If someone mentions clouds to you, first thing that comes to your mind might be a fluffy, cartoony wisp in the sky, or childhood memories of gazing up into the mid-afternoon sky and imagining each cloud was some sort of object. Chances are that clouds being involved in climate change never really crossed your mind, but scientific studies show that they actually might be.
Elementary school science shows that certain colors reflect certain light. For example, red surfaces reflect red light and absorb every other color. The same goes for most other colors, but black and white are a bit different. The color black reflects no light, and the color white reflects all visible light. When visible light hits the ground or water, it reemits as infrared light. Well since clouds are white and reflect all visible light, they prevent a lot of heat being contributed to global warming.
So clouds reflect and block light; this means that in theory they would cool the earth. Whats the catch? Well the catch is that certain clouds reflect light and certain clouds actually trap heat. Clouds that are higher up tend to allow more light to hit the earth and also traps more heat than lower clouds. Heres a diagram that shows the effects of high and low clouds:
As we’ve discovered in class, global warming is a HUGE elephant. At first we thought it was all about science, but after watching a few movies, we realized that global warming was more about politics than just science. Then we talked to former economics teacher, Chad Laney, and realized that things aren’t too simple in the world of the economics of global warming. Just a few days ago we had brainstormed about things that interest us about global warming, and we came up with a list of over 10 completely different categories. To me, this elephant just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
When we zoom into the heart of the elephant, what exactly causes global warming, I think things just become too polarized. When it comes to the cause of global warming, either you’re right wing or left wing—global warming anthropogenic or it isn’t. Out of all the movies we’ve watched in class, each one takes the another movie’s point and dismantles it. The world of global warming has become much more competitive with regards to being right instead of actually trying to educate the world about a global issue. So I did a bit of research about some aspects of global warming and I’ve realized that some movies got some things right and some things they got wrong, especially when it comes to the causes of global warming. Why can’t there just be a middle ground on this issue?
The cause of global warming may not seem like a huge issue, but it is. If we don’t know what is going to cause the potential demise to life on earth as we know it, how are we going to fix the problem? Take the rise of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice for instance. If too much sea ice melts, instead of the white ice reflecting the sun’s rays, the dark ocean absorbs them, making the seas warmer, speeding up global warming. All in all, this would be a pretty large impact if it were to continue. A lot of people think that the sea ice is melting because humans are emitting carbon dioxide, hence heating the earth and melting the ice, but this may not be the case. Studies have shown that the reason for the melting of sea ice is a natural phenomena called the Arctic/Polar Amplification Effect.
Ok, so I have just put this new potential cause for a controversial issue in your face, but how does this connect to our emitting carbon dioxide? Lets get a few things straight: First, lets say hypothetically the Arctic/Polar Amplification Effect is the only cause of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice fluctuations but instead, scientists believe that it is caused by anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions . If this is the case, then chances are at some point before we all die, there is going to be some worldwide effort to cut human carbon dioxide emissions. Lets say this is done by cutting the world’s oil demand in half.
This relates back to what Laney had said: so many people in the oil industry would lose their jobs just because we are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist (and when I say that I mean Arctic and Antarctic sea ice changes that are caused by carbon dioxide). And think about the magnitude of this change—the whole world. Thats a lot of jobs lost. I’m not much of an economist, but I do know that if many jobs are lost, that means less money into the economy, and more economic hardship, possibly a global depression. I don’t know, but right now, global warming needs a lot more thought before we do something about it. Risking a global depression, at this point, isn’t worth it.
Now I know you’re wondering, what do I mean when I say, “A Burning Ocean: But Not From Heat”. Well here I am talking about global warming and what I am going to say has nothing to do with heat. Heres my explanation: Acid. According to an article on PolicyMic, Earth’s Oceans have an average pH of 8.2. Now considering that this article was written on Monday that makes it pretty recent. Heres where things get kind of scary:
however, if the current rates of carbon dioxide emissions continue, it is predicted that the average pH of seawater will drop to 7.8 in the year 2100. The pH scale is logarithmic, so if the pH of a solution was to drop by 0.1, it would indicate the solution is 30% more acidic. Thus, if predictions are correct, surface seawaters will be 150% more acidic in 2100, when compared to current conditions. Seawater should be slightly alkaline to allow for the concentration of carbonate ions, which are required by many organisms to impregnate calcium carbonate into their body structures.
Just as a little background knowledge, pH is basically the measure of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. Take for example a lemon, it has a pH around 2, so that makes it pretty acidic. Purified water is about 7, which we call neutral because its in the middle of the scale. Borax, which is a household washing detergent has a pH of around 10, so that is kind of alkaline
Now that you have some basic knowledge on pH, the quote above might have a bit more significance to you. But the thought might arouse: A decrease of 0.1 on the pH scale doesn’t seem like much, does it? Simply, the answer to this question is yes, it is. Like our bodies, the earth has its own “homeostasis”, or an equilibrium of natural ups and downs. Alluding to our bodies even more, our equilibrium of average body temperature is about 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The Influenza virus tends to raise our body temperatures. In some cases, it raises our body temperatures to the point where it can be classified as hyperthermia, where the average body temperature raises to or above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Now with a few calculations, this is about a 6.1% increase in body temperature. Now another question that might be going through your mind is: 6.1% is much larger than 0.1%, is it not? And if you compare them to each other, then yes, it is, but you need to consider 2 things. One, the pH scale spans 14 numbers, even a small change in pH can be substantial. And two, that 6.1% increase in body temperature is the threshold to where things get serious, and by serious I mean medical emergency serious.
If we look at today’s meteorology technology and make a few observations, people will begin to wonder how on earth people get the assumption that the globe is going to continue to heat up. What I’m hearing many climate scientists say when it comes to global warming is “If we keep this up…” and phrases like that. They’re all talking about patterns. Based off of the movie An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore reffered to patterns that have been deduced from multiple models and graphs. But when there was a disturbance in the pattern, many climate scientists weighed the possibilities and came to the conclusion that this massive spike in CO2 and global temperatures were the fault of people.
Many people are talking about cars and coal plants producing all these green house gasses that are warming the air. However most cars contain a spark-ignition engine which emits exhaust gas. A study by Audi showed that only 14% of its emissions were CO2. That really isn’t much considering the whopping 71% of nitrogen it releases, which in fact is an essential part of life on Earth. According to David Biello, an author for Scientific American, when coal is burned, it releases sulfur dioxide which then form into little droplets of sulfuric acid. These droplets are called aerosols, which reflect sunlight away from Earth, cooling it down.
You can also look into the past for answers. Were people worrying about the harmful effects of CO2 which they created with their big, heavy-duty power plants back in the Industrial Age? This might possibly be because of the aerosols that coal plants released. This actually caused a cooling that worried people so much, that they reduced their aerosol output, heating the Earth once more. So using a bit of logic, the constant heating and cooling of the earth that we were doing before could have kept the equilibrium of the Earth’s temperature moderately in check.
And besides, “…new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years,” says Lee Hannon, a journalist for Science Daily. This data was retrieved from more than 30,000 stations around the world. This data was issued in late January so it considered as more current, unlike An Inconvenient Truth which was released in 2006. When this data was released by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. Their data confirms that the warming trends ended in 1997.
The cold hard facts say it pretty clear: sure there might be global warming but anthropogenic it is not. Whatever major mechanisms that scientists have come up with have been disproven. David Biello wrote his article in 2011 and Hannon in 2012. As you can see, this data is more current news, and when it comes to earthly problems, people, and scientists, should rely more on facts when it comes to what is happening on the Earth now.