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An examination of the environmental effects of global warming

Human activities are impacting the climate system.

How difficult is it to recover from dangerous levels of global warming?

Climate Literacy Principle 6 Jump down to: Teaching these ideas Find activities Teaching about the human impacts on climate is supported by five key concepts: Teaching this principle is supported by five key concepts: The overwhelming consensus of scientific studies on climate indicates that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the latter part of the 20th century is very likely due to human activities, primarily from increases in greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from the burning of fossil fuels.

Emissions from the widespread burning of fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution have increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Because these gases can remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years before being removed by natural processes, their warming influence is projected to persist into the next century. Human activities have affected the land, oceans, and atmosphere, and these changes have altered global climate patterns.

Human activities are impacting the climate system.

Burning fossil fuels, releasing chemicals into the atmosphere, reducing the amount of forest cover, and the rapid expansion of farming, development, and industrial activities are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and changing the balance of the climate system.

Growing evidence shows that changes in many physical and biological systems are linked to human caused global warming. Some changes resulting from human activities have decreased the capacity of the environment to support various species and have substantially reduced ecosystem biodiversity and ecological resilience. Scientists and economists predict that there will be both positive and negative impacts from global climate change. These key ideas relate to the causes and effects of human-induced climate change.

The potential for human activities to increase the temperature of the Earth through greenhouse gas emissions has been described and calculated for over a century. Volumes of scientific research across multiple scientific disciplines agree that humans are warming the climate, and the 2013 IPCC Forth Assessment Report states, "Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.

Potential impacts of climate change

That greenhouse gases "trap" infrared heat is well established through laboratory experiments going back to the mid 1850s when Sir John Tyndall first measured the effect.

The well-documented trend of increasing of CO2 in the atmosphere is caused by the burning of fossil fuels and massive land cover changes. The "smoking gun" that shows clearly that human activities are responsible for recent increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is provided by carbon isotopes carbon atoms of different atomic weight. These isotopes allow scientists to "fingerprint" the source of the carbon dioxide molecules, which reveal that the increased CO2 in the atmosphere is caused by fossil fuel burning see references.

Clearly, this is a topic with enormous political, socio-economic and emotional dimensions, but the scientific results show clearly that: Human activities, particularly the combustion of fossil fuels, are altering the climate system. Human-driven changes in land use and land cover such as deforestation, urbanization, and shifts in vegetation patterns also alter the climate, resulting in changes to the reflectivity of the Earth surface albedoemissions from burning forests, urban heat island effects and changes in the natural water cycle.

An examination of the environmental effects of global warming the primary cause of recent global climate change is human, the solutions are also within the human domain. Because we understand the causes of climate change, that paves the way for effective solutions to be developed and deployed.

Learn more about teaching about solutions. Jamie Dwyer wikicommons Reuse: The human impact on climate change is the most frequently misunderstood aspect of climate science.

Some sectors of the public continue to debate whether these ideas can be true, despite the well-established science.

  • Studies were included if they were primary research studies modeling GHG emissions associated with a dietary pattern using life-cycle analysis or similar methods;
  • Recently, India has launched a major program for study of the impact of sea-level rise due to the greenhouse effect along the coasts and islands of India.

There are several possible reasons why students may resist the conclusion that humans are altering the climate. This concept may be uncomfortable to students due to feelings of guilt, political resistance, or genuine lack of scientific understanding. Furthermore, projections of the effects of climate change on our society can frighten, overwhelm, or discourage students. This can result in denial or resistance to learning.

Furthermore, even if a student possesses a firm grasp of this topic, it is nearly certain that at some point this knowledge will be challenged outside of class. Building a solid and careful scientific argument is essential. Educators are encouraged to introduce this topic with generous scaffolding that establishes the foundations of the process of science, the underlying principles of climate science, and a reliance on the robust scientific research that supports this conclusion.

Several strategies are presented on this page about Teaching Controversial Environmental Issues which emphasizes the affective and emotional aspects of student learning. It may be tempting to have a debate about this topic, but that may not be the most effective way to characterize it. A debate suggests that there are two credible, opposing viewpoints, when in fact the scientific community is virtually unanimous about the human causes of climate change.

Secondly, debating a topic can reinforce misconceptions and cause unnecessary controversy in the classroom.

Helping students understand these ideas

That said, careful discussion of diverse viewpoints is absolutely essential. Role playing can be one way to represent broad perspectives, while maintaining scientific accuracy. This graph shows a breakdown of carbon emissions by their source. Data from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Even though this topic can be a sensitive one, it is also an essential facet to understanding climate change.

Educators are urged not to shy away from the human role in shaping the climate, but instead to approach it in a deliberate manner, with pacing and framing intentionally designed to help your students understand the science and reconcile the meaning. When possible, use data-driven explanations.

Climate Literacy Principle 6

Avoid assigning blame or judgement. As atmospheric scientist Scott Denning puts it, CO2 traps heat "because of its molecular structure, not because capitalism is evil. It's just bad luck!

This prevents feelings of hopelessness and also shows the scientific and technical responses that are needed to curb the worst effects of climate change.

Foster a classroom environment where all perspectives are welcome.

How difficult is it to recover from dangerous levels of global warming?

Invite students to voice their doubts, fears, or uncertainties. Learn more about creating a validating classroom environment. Loss of productive forests is another contributor to human-caused climate change.

  1. Studies from other countries reported substantially lower diet-related emissions, possibly due to reduced meat content in the diet.
  2. International treaties, government regulatory policies, shifts in consumer preference for products, and changes in public and private sector investment patterns may all result from growing public concern over the threat to humanity posed by rapid global warming.
  3. Many organic carcinogens are also common in the urban air.
  4. Some other regions might benefit from more abundant water, but accurate prediction of such regional impacts is difficult at this point. The floods of 1987 and 1988 proved very damaging to Bangladesh, forcing millions of people from their homes for long periods of time.

Climate Change Basics video offers a simple and easy-to-understand overview of climate change and its causes. High school Students can learn about the Keeling Curve and its famous data with this graphing exercise: The Chemistry of the Greenhouse Effect is a sequence of activities that help students learn why greenhouse gases trap heat.

Climate scientist Richard Alley summarizes the case for human-caused climate change in this video segment, It's Us.

  1. Some infectious diseases are well known to show apparent seasonal changes and would seem to be very sensitive to global warming. There is a wide number of potential indirect effects that may follow changes in climatic variability.
  2. The effect of global climate change on human health may also be detected most sensitively in changes of some seasonally changing biological phenomena.
  3. The "smoking gun" that shows clearly that human activities are responsible for recent increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is provided by carbon isotopes carbon atoms of different atomic weight. Pairotti et al, 19 for example, recommend championing the Mediterranean diet as a compromise rather than a vegetarian or vegan diet because of the cultural value of meat in Italian society.

The National Academies of Science offers a series of short videos describing the evidence for climate change. Increased Emissions and How Much Warming?