The Earth is heated by the Sun. The atmosphere that blankets the
Earth is made up, for the most part, of Oxygen and Nitrogen
there are traces of many other gasses, including water vapour,
carbon dioxide, ozone, methane and nitrous oxide. These gasses
are responsible, to a very great extent, for regulating our
planet's surface temperature by trapping infra-red radiation
which is re-radiated by the planet's surface. This is known as
the "Greenhouse Effect".
This greenhouse effect is actually very important for our
planet because the energy reflected/re-radiated back down from
the greenhouse layer warms the Earth by about 32ºC; that means
that, without the greenhouse effect, our mean global temperature
would be around -18ºC!
Certain activities of
industrial-age Man (mainly the burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and
gas) are causing these "greenhouse gasses" to
increase, resulting in a slow, but inevitable, increase in the
surface temperature of our planet.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR OUR CLIMATE?
Over the past hundred years this temperature rise has been
measurable and has been recorded at about 0.6ºC. Seven of the
ten warmest years in the 20th century occurred in the 1990s. Over the next
hundred years it is projected that the surface temperature will
rise by another 2 to 3ºC (some estimates come out as high as a
5.8ºC rise). Now, that may not seem like much.
Perhaps you think that it's just the difference between a mild
and a slightly warmer day. However, the startling fact is that
the average surface temperature during the last ice age was only
5ºC lower than we now experience. So, I hope that you can see
that a 2 to 3ºC rise will result in an extremely dramatic
change in climate conditions.
The mean global temperature over the entire
period has been 13.9°C (that's the zero line on the graph
above). I've included the eight biggest volcanic
events (magnitude 5 or greater) of this period (numbers in blue)
to determine any effects these might or might not have on global
temperature. The biggest three were 1,3 and 5.
HOW WILL THIS EFFECT US?
Such a rapid "global warming" will have dramatic
effects on the World's eco-systems. Many species of animals and
plants will not be able to adapt to these changes. The sea
levels around the world will rise (by between 50 and 100
centimetres) as the warming oceans expand and the polar ice
sheets melt, flooding many coastal areas. Weather systems will
become more extreme with more storms, droughts and floods.
Agriculture will have to change, as traditional crops become
harder to grow under the changing conditions. The nightmare is
that many of the World's poorest areas will find it impossible
to cope with the changes. We will undoubtedly see increasing
famine, pestilence and human tragedy on a most terrible
scale. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
warned in 1996 that nine of the world's ten most dangerous
vector-borne diseases (including malaria, dengue fever, and
yellow fever) are likely to expand or shift their ranges due to
climate change. In 1996 The London School of Hygiene and
Tropical Medicine warned that nine of the world's ten most
dangerous vector-borne diseases (including malaria, dengue
fever, and yellow fever) are likely to expand or shift their
ranges due to climate change.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Well, the current situation has a certain amount of momentum,
which means that the warming trend is set to continue in some
degree. However, it will be made worse if we continue to pump
carbon dioxide and other chemicals into the atmosphere at ever
increasing rates, as we are currently doing. The World's leaders
have been trying to tackle this problem for some time now. The
key to this is the "Kyoto
Protocol", which seeks to get international leaders to
agree to reducing their national greenhouse gas emissions. The main
stumbling block to Kyoto is national self interest and the principal
offenders are the United States (responsible for 36% of the
World's greenhouse gas emissions), Canada (who have the third highest
per capita emission rate in the World after the USA and
Australia) and Japan (fourth).
Year 2000 Carbon Dioxide Emission Figures
|E.Eur. + FSU
|Rest-of - World
*Tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per capita per year
|THE U.S.A. AND
George W. Bush
|On March 28, 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the United States
would not implement the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. He said he could not
sign an agreement that would "harm our economy and hurt our workers."
According to the European Commission, instead of cutting
emissions, the Bush administration has initiated policy
changes that could increase its emissions by up
An interesting and informed footnote to this political stand comes from
Greenpeace, who say that the oil and gas industry donated more than $25 million
to the Republican Party in the 2000 U.S. presidential race and add that BP and
Esso were two of the three biggest donors according to Political
Money Line, an independent website that tracks political contributions.
|As a response to a request by the Bush
administration in May 2001, the National Academy of Sciences
has produced a report: "Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions"
which is available from the National Academy Press to read
online (click on the link to reach the contents page). The
268-page report, which blames human activities for
climate change, was submitted to the United Nations on 4
June 2002 by the Bush administration. It concludes that
"Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the Earth's
atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing
global mean surface air temperatures and subsurface
ocean temperatures to rise."
But President Bush has staunchly stuck by his
anti-Kyoto position. Of the report, his comment was that
he had "read the report put out by the
bureaucracy," but added that the provisions of
Kyoto "would seriously damage the American economy,
and I don't accept that." Errrr ..... do the words
"ostrich" "head" and
"sand" ring any bells?
Not quite an aside, but anyone interested in US interest in the World Oil
industry should view this BBC Newsnight report: The
CIA and Saudi Arabia, The Bushes and the Bin Ladens
"Hi there, is that the Federal Bureau of
Bureaucracy? I'd like some more of that scientific
toilet paper please"
In May 2002 all 15 European Union states ratified the Kyoto Protocol.
Margot Wallstrom, European Commissioner for the Environment, praised the
ratification as "an historic moment for global efforts to combat climate
change," adding "The European Union urges the United States to
reconsider its position. All countries have to act, but the industrialised world
has to take the lead.".
Australian PM John Howard
|Blowing a Raspberry at
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, announced in June 2002 that his
government would not ratify the Kyoto protocol, claiming it would "cost
jobs and damage our industry".
Hmmmmm, now where have I heard that one before?
In fact Howard announcing to the Australian
Parliament that it would not be in the country’s
interest to ratify without the inclusion of the U.S.A.
and developing countries.
Howard and Bush.
Apparently the best of buddies.
In May 2002 Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien
announced that, as the only signatory to the Kyoto
agreement to export non-polluting energy to a
non-signing country that pollutes a lot (USA), that
Canada should be given special consideration. He went on
to say that Canada was "not in a position to ratify
it (Kyoto) until some of these elements are clarified."
Many commentators are wondering if the Canadian
Government, already under heavy pressure from national
energy producers and business groups to leave the Kyoto
table, is deliberately pushing an idea it knows is
unacceptable as a way of effectively abandoning the
The Boston-based Tellus
Institute released a report on 23 April 2002 which
concluded that Canadian ratification would result in
economic growth for Canada and generate jobs. The report
was commissioned by the David
Suzuki Foundation and World
The report's principal author Dr. Stephen Bernow (vice-president
of the Tellus Institute) is an internationally
recognized authority on energy policy and a past adviser
to the World Bank and the U.S. Department of Energy,
among many others. He stated that “our study concludes
that reducing greenhouse gas emissions will not slow
down the Canadian economy or kill jobs. On balance,
industry, workers and consumers will benefit,” adding
“The benefit of implementing these policies to reduce
annual greenhouse gas emissions would exceed the costs.
Our study forecasts the net addition of 52,000 Canadian
jobs by 2012, and a $2 billion addition to the GDP, over
and above the growth forecast in ‘business as usual’
Canadian government projections.”
|JAPAN AND GLOBAL WARMING
A note of sanity: on 4 June 2002 Japan's Environment
Minister, Hiroshi Oki, announced that Japan will ratify
the Kyoto Protocol, making it the 73rd signatory. Japan's Prime
Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, called for the United States to get
back on board the Kyoto bus.