Over the past 200 years, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation have caused the concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to increase significantly in our atmosphere. These gases prevent heat from escaping to space, somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse.
Greenhouse gases are necessary to life as we know it, because they keep the planet's surface warmer than it otherwise would be. But, as the concentrations of these gases continue to increase in the atmosphere, the Earth's temperature is climbing above past levels.
As the emission of greenhouse gases continue to increase, climate models predict that the average temperature at the Earth's surface could increase from 3.2 to 7.2ºF (above 1990 levels by the end of this century.) Scientists are certain that human activities are changing the composition of the atmosphere. Check out the Global Impacts link to see what these temperature changes could mean.
Climate Change In the News
Rolling Stone (July 2012)
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven't convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (March 2012)
The character and severity of impacts from climate extremes depend not only on the extremes themselves but also on exposure and vulnerability. In this report, adverse impacts are considered disasters when they produce widespread damage and cause severe alterations in the normal functioning of communities or societies.
Denver Post (August 2011)
Polar ice, although still headed for a melt down, may temporarily stabilie or maybe even expand over the next few decades even as the climate continues to warm, Boulder scientists said today.
Time (August 2011)
Climate Change advocates haven't had much to celebrate recently, but New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement last week that he was giving $50 million to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign marked a real win.
New York Times (2010)
Guangzhou, China - Premier Wen Jiabao has promised to use an "iron hand" this summer to make his nation more energy efficient. The central government has ordered cities to close inefficient factories by September, like the vast Guangzhou steel mill here, where most of the 6,000 workers will be laid off or pushed into early retirement.
New York Times (August 11, 2009)
Washington - The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United Sates in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intellegence analysts say.
New York Times (August 9, 2009)
John Broder has a story above the fold in Sunday's Times describing growing concerns of Defense Departement planners over the potential destablizing effect of the building global greenhouse effect. Strategists and planners within the Pentagon have for many years been exploring the military implications of rising temperatures and seas and retreating Arctic sea ice. Bust such studies had until recently been a relatively low priority.
Have you seen a story lately that could be added to our webpage? Send the info to Susan.Beckett@colorado.edu.