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By Roger Ball on Feb 24, 2009 with no responses

Climate Change: A Leap Into The Unknown

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Pollution often hinders visibility in China.

The possibility that the Earth is liable to undergo large-scale climate change as a result of mans’ economic and industrial activity over the last 250 years, is one of the most compelling issues facing us in the 21st century.

The possible consequences of raising the levels of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from a pre-Industrial level of 280 ppb (parts per billion) to its current level of 387ppb, and still rising, on the planets’ climate are potentially profound, and it is an issue which is exercising the minds of climate scientists across the world.

The energy industry, responsible as it is for so much of the emissions of greenhouse gases, inevitably finds itself at the heart of this debate.

The problem is, what exactly, will these consequences be?

Studies of  past climates tell us that there seems to be a very close correlation between increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and rises in global temperature. So we have an open- and-shut case. Keep emitting carbon dioxide, and the planet will warm up. This is almost certainly a bad thing to do, so we should either reduce our emissions or, better still, cut them out entirely.

Except things are not as simple as that. The connection between variations in the Earth’s orbit, and large-scale glaciations and de-glaciations proposed by Milutin Milankovic in the early 20th century, are widely accepted within the scientific community.

The energy industry, responsible as it is for so much of the emissions of greenhouse gases, inevitably finds itself at the heart of this debate.

Furthermore, it is known that waters’ ability to absorb carbon dioxide increases as it cools, providing a compelling explanation as to why atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise and fall in line with temperature. No similar explanation for carbon dioxide rising and falling independent of temperature, and in synch with the Earth’s orbital variations is forthcoming.

An inconvenient truth, indeed.

If scientists hoped to learn from the past, what the effect of rising carbon dioxide levels on the earth’s climate would be, they have been disappointed.

Nevertheless, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and unless even our most basic science is incorrect, we have to expect that the Earth will, indeed warm as carbon dioxide levels rise.

We are, in effect, conducting an experiment to see exactly how rapidly rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels has on the planets’ climate. The outcome is currently unknown.

And that, may just be the scariest fact of all……