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Understanding the Science of Climate Change

For those who remain unconvinced about the realities of climate change or at perhaps have never researched it before at all, it can be confusing to discern fact from opinion in the millions of words that have been written about the problem since the science community started to think in terms of global climate in the late 1960s and 1970s. And almost none of the discoveries had anything to do with the climate.

First, there was the anti-lead campaign led by geochemist Clair Cameron Patterson, recently portrayed in an episode of Cosmos, which had little to do with climate. However, part of Dr. Patterson’s research showed that the proliferation of lead particles in the air was not affected by where automobiles were spitting them out. Put another way, once the lead got into the atmosphere it traveled to all the corners of the globe.

Another scientific discovery that changed the way the science community thought about the climate and the effects of greenhouse gases was the discovery of the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, now thought to be the primary impact site of the extraterrestrial object that caused the Creatceous-Paleogene extinction event that killed most of the dinosaurs. While trying to prove that this was the cause, scientists had to develop and improve models to study how the climate would have been affected by such an impact. This has led to an overall better understanding of how global climate works.

The final bit of evidence that makes man-made climate change almost undeniable, except to scientific fringe-thinkers (not necessarily a bad thing) and companies who make their fortunes on maintaining the status quo, is the drastic rise in carbon dioxide in the air.

In “debates” about climate change in popular media, this is a fact that is often met with arrogant laughter by the opposition. Because all but one known species of animal breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, aren’t we all then “polluters?” Unfortunately, we are.

However, this is not to suggest that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a bad thing. In fact, without CO2, there would be no life on Earth. However, part of what makes life so special is the delicate balance of Earth’s atmospheric cocktail. All the data indicates that since around the turn of the 20th century, both global temperatures and the amount of CO2 in the air have risen at an alarming rate.

With respect to temperature, this does not mean that every year is warmer than the next, but that there has been an overall rise in global temperature. Put another way, even if the annual mean temperature may have dropped a few tenths of point even a few years in a row, that drop is still more than 300 percent higher than the highest mean temperature thirty years ago. The CO2 in the air, however, has been on a constant rise since the industrial revolution.

With results like these, anyone who has the problem explained to them can see why even the most adamant opponents to climate change reform no longer deny its existence. Yet, the “debate” persists because America is not made up of scientists.
Photo via Wikicommons

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.