An Interview with an Expert on Greenhouse Gas Research
I had the perfect opportunity to interview an expert in the study of global warming. Duane asked that I respect his privacy and not post his full name. This is what he had to tell me about global warming.
Tell me some general information about yourself (what is your name, what do you do, etc) and how you are involved with the global warming issue.
I am Duane. I make the global standards for greenhouse gas research.
Some people are skeptical about global warming, in general that they are confused by it's exact definition. What is global warming?
It is better to use the term 'Climate Change' because that is closer to the effect of increasing re-radiative gases. The basis is Beer's Law of light absorption properties which 'greenhouse gases ' exhibit. These gases, Carbon Dioxide and Water being the highest atmospheric concentrations absorb some of the heat wavelengths of light and then re-radiate it, in all directions. It is a linear relationship, ie; if you double the gas in the path length, you double the effect. The greenhouse effect is that, the sunlight that reached the earth is absorbed and then radiated as heat [infrared], as this radiates away some of the air can absorb it and then re-radiate it. Half of this re-radiated energy is back towards Earth instead of out into space. Given the path length (atmospheric thickness) and temperature stays about the same, if you increase the density of this gas, you increase the heat trapped in the atmosphere. This manifests at more energy in the system, the atmosphere, which is rather thin, less than 100 mi from Earth surface to the vacuum of space.
As you are aware, global warming has been associated heavily with the sun. Can you explain how the sun is dramatically involved in global warming and it's cause and effects, as a result?
The change of energy from the fluctuation of the Sun over long time scales, is much less than the change of energy calculated, from the increased greenhouse gases combined'
I went to the library to research a variety of global warming charts from past to present. It shows that global warming's impact factor was very minimal until the 40s era. In the 1940s to the 1950s it increased and then slowly decreased to which it remained low until the present. Now, in 2007 it is the highest it has ever been. What are your thoughts on this?
First, there has always been an effect from greenhouse gases, otherwise we would be at minus temperatures like mars. When you talk of impact, it is that the changes visible in the data start to emerge from the noise of natural variability. It has varied forever. We have fairly good temperature records for about 400 K years. CO2 varied from 260 to 290 until present. Now CO2 is 380 ppm. I don't see a decrease, please send me the sites which show this. There are some temperature decreases from volcanic eruptions which returned to the trend within 5 years. The more notable are during the 80s. Remember a lot of this is new, the records are not very long compared to a geologic time frame. BUT, of the increased CO2 due to the burning of fossil fuels, half of the Atmospheric increase is from 1981 to present. Most is from 1940 to present. The 6 hottest years in the last 200 years has been the last 10 years. This is a bit suspect as the cause.
Since global warming is such an extreme issue and so current to boot, is it strongly a threat to our world?
Look this up in the IPCC assessment. Developed countries will have the means to adapt. Third world coastal sites will have the hardest time, perhaps. As a threat to our world, no, humans have not been here very long, I am sure the world will be different but not gone. It is a threat to environmental stability. If conditions change too quickly, life can not adapt.
Besides our planet, does global warming effect our health or our state of well being? If so, how does global warming effect us?
The most likely effects are larger storm systems and higher frequency of 'events' like heat waves, extreme precipitation events, tidal surges. The effect is here, some species are losing habitat, location, some diseases can survive where it used to be too cool, heat waves causing higher death rates. Permafrost is melting causing the release of large pockets of Methane [more greenhouse gas]. But are these from Climate change? Unfortunately only hindsight will tell. Once a long enough history is established, it will be too late. The physics are there, easy to calculate the we have increased the energy in the atmosphere. The question is how far do we want to go before we have no choice but to change?
It's been stated that global warming can be prevented or decreased dramatically by a variety of ways and means. How can we prevent global warming?
It can not be prevented, we have already put out a huge amount and have only seen about half of the average temperature shift. This will take a long time, perhaps 1000s of years to stabilize. Again the question is , how bad do we want to make it? There is one prevention, that is stopping the use of fossil fuels. You see even if we just kept it at todays levels of use, we put out more then 8 billion tons of Carbon Dioxide each year and have an increase of about 1.5% increase in CO2 each year. The answer is in conserving energy, burning less and wasting less.
What is one thing (or one important fact) you would like others to know about global warming?
The time for denial is over, it is time to change, Americans use twice the energy per person than any other developed country and undeveloped countries like China and India are not far behind. As a country, China now surpasses the USA in greenhouse gas emissions. America is 5 % of the global population but we use 25% of the global energy. You see if we conserved half of our energy [equaling the energy use of an average European] we can cut 12% of the global fossil fuel use! This can be done it just means living a bit differently, not worse but better as a part of the Earth ecosystem.