The debate over man-made global warming seems very much alive notwithstanding pronouncements from prominent global warming watchers that the facts supporting Anthropogenic Climate Change are irrefutable; the debate is over. Climate Change, we are told, will cause massive change to our planet—all negative. And we are rapidly running out of time.
Climate scientists have based their predictions on ancient tree rings and core samples from ice sheets and marine sediment because the human race has only been keeping cohesive written records of climate statistics for less than a couple of hundred years. In addition to obtaining a record of historical and pre-historical temperatures from ice cores, scientists can use the cores to correlate the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere with changes in climate.
Many greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons, nitrous oxide and others—affect climate. But so too does water vapour. And the water vapour record and its long-term effect on climate change is still being debated.
Scientists seem to agree that if you add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, warming will result. But how much warming and how quickly? Increasing water vapor is also know to lead to warmer temperatures, and warmer temperatures cause more water vapor to be absorbed into the air and so on in a spiraling cycle of warming and water absorption increase.
Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently reported that an increase in atmospheric water vapor is responsible for at least a third of the average temperature increase since the early 1990s. The scientist who lead the research,Susan Soloman, says that, while this finding does not undermine man-made global warming theories, it does suggest human emissions are having a much smaller role in climate change than previously thought.
NASA researchers and climate scientists have reviewed the NOAA water vapor research. Researcher Andrew Dessler from Texas A&M University described the effect of water vapor on atmospheric temperature as “enormous.”
So where do we stand. Global warming does seem to be a long-term trend. And some warming may be caused by human activity. Is carbon dioxide the culprit? Partially, yes, but so too are other factors like water vapour. Do we need more information and study before spending hundreds of billions on mitigation and coping strategies? Yes, a lot more.
The debate is alive and well.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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