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The Science Behind Climate Change

Man-made climate change is happening!

Global average temperatures have already increased 1.4F since the start of the 20th century.  They are expected to increase by up to another 11F in the next hundred years.

Yet many people think that climate change is just one of the Earth's natural cycles.

It is not!  The rate of climate change we are seeing is roughly 100 times faster than normal. This is directly linked to the rate of greenhouse gases being generated by humans.

One of the main indicators of this is comparing the increase in surface temperature and the increase in greenhouse gases (mostly CO2).

Before the Industrial Revolution, the amount of CO2 released to the atmosphere was about equal to the amount that the atmosphere could absorb. However, due to the increased burning of fossil fuels, the CO2 levels have risen drastically, and the atmosphere is getting an excess CO2.  Half of the excess is being absorbed by oceans and plants, the other half is just accumulating in the atmosphere.

This creates what is known as "The Greenhouse Effect". The Greenhouse Effect is a natural occurrence whereby the greenhouse gases allow sunlight to enter the Earth's atmosphere, but trap some of the outgoing infrared radiation, warming the Earth's surface more than what would occur otherwise.

Since 1978, the energy reaching Earth has been measured by satellites. These measurements have not increased significantly since 1978, meaning the warming is not coming from an increase in sunlight. Also, there have not been any significant increases or decreases in the numbers of volcanic eruptions. (Volcanic eruptions reflect sunlight back to space, creating cooling). Therefore there is no known naturally occurring reason why the Earth should be warming.

Source: Understanding and Responding to Climate Change, Highlights Of National Academies Reports, 2008 Edition, The National Academies, Advisors To The Nation On Science, Engineering, And Medicine

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