IPCC - SEr-ECTroN 26 2 ClimateC hange 007: B The P lrysical...

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SEr-ECTroN 26 Climate Change 2007: The Plrysical Science Basis The Interglyernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) The idea that the heat-trapping ability of infrared-absorbing gases in the atmosphere is similar to that of the glass panes in a greenhouse (hence the "greenhouse effect") was first proposed by the French mathematical physicist Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Fourier in 1827. In 1896, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, who later won the 1903 Nobel prize in chemistry predicted that if atmospheric carbon dioxide (COr) levels doubled due to the burning of fossil fuels, the resulting increase in the average temperature at the Earth's surface would amount to four to six degrees Celsius (seven to ten degrees Fahrenheit). The Arrhenius prediction about global warming was all but forgotten for more than half a century until direct observations and historical data demonstrated that by f 960, atmospheric CO, levels had risen to 315 ppm from the preindustrial level of 280 ppm. Careful measurements since then have shown that the present CO, level is approaching 380 ppm, and rising. The Arrhenius prediction that the average temperature on Earth will rise four to six degrees Celsius is likely to come true before the end of the twenty-first century if present fossil fuel use and forest destruction trends continue. Most atmospheric scientists agree that such a warming will be accompanied by changes in the world's weather patterns and a significant increase in sea levels. The data on which these conclusions are based, as well as the conclusions themselves, have been vigorously debated for years. In 1988, due to concern about the potentially serious disruptive effects that would result from significant, short-term changes in world climate, the United Nations Environment Programme joined with the World Meteorological Organization to establish the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to assess the available scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information regarding greenhouse gas-induced climate change. Thousands of meteorologists and other atmospheric and climate scientists have participated in periodic reviews of the data. The Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC appeared in 2007. The following selection is taken from the first section of that report, "Summary for Policymakers: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis." It clearly states that "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level." Later sections of the report (see http://www.ipcc.ch,/) make it clear that the impacts on ecosystems and human well-being (especially in developing nations) will be serious and outline the steps that must be taken to prevent, ease, or cope with these impacts. Other reports (see Nicholas Stern, Stern Review: The Economics oJ Climate Change, Executive Summary October 30, 2006 [http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern-review_economics_climate-change/ sternreview_index.cfml) make it clear that although taking steps now to limit future impacts of global warming would be very
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This note was uploaded on 12/26/2009 for the course LSP T07.5005.0 taught by Professor Caseyking during the Fall '09 term at NYU.

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IPCC - SEr-ECTroN 26 2 ClimateC hange 007: B The P lrysical...

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