Global warming has appeared to be of different aspects to different people in different times. Once the global warming was indeed good news for the people of Northern areas. It was not until 1960 when scientists started to realize the long term hazards of global warming in terms of threat to the world supply of food and the increased level of oceans. The list of complains was enhanced by a number of categories added lately like the degradation of ecosystems and the threats to human life.
Besides climate analysts, the debate on the possible consequences gained popularity in not only economists, but also among the security experts. Until then it was impossible to put forth something concrete while keeping in mind the complexities associated with the global warming. There were issues regarding the differences of one region from others and the different impacts of humans on different parts of the world.
However, the dawn of 21st century evolved the fact that the climate changes would be harmful for the globe especially for certain regions. Some of those damages were even appearing in different parts of the world as an alarm to wake up before it is too late. Here we are encompassing the major turnings in the history of the global warming so the reader can be properly informed about the issue in the historic perspective.
In the first half of the 20th century global warming generation due to green house effect was a mere speculation. The scientist dealing with the subject considered that prior warnings would be for the greater good. Svante Arrhenius was the first who put forth calculations in this regard. He claimed that nations like Sweden “may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates.”
It was perceived by a majority that the balance of nature will made impossible any catastrophic situation. And in case industrialization led men to some consequence then it will be surely in mankind’s advantage. In short it was assumed then in case the damage will occur due to climate change it will affect their remote descendants and to a minor level in several centuries to come.
It was not until late 1950s when scientists started to realize that the quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) is increasing in the atmosphere suggesting that the global temperature will increase by few degrees in 21st century.
Roger Revelle was the first researcher who claimed publically that the green house effect may exert in 21st century. He was afraid that the green house effect will increase the global temperature that will in turn melt down the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. The melting glaciers will increase the sea level and flood will damage the coastal area.
In 1957 Rvelle forecasted that the increasing temperature may one day convert Southern California and Texas into real deserts, he said so while keeping in mind the ancient civilizations that were most probably failed due to sudden and abrupt environmental changes. He pointed out that it will be in Russia’s benefit if the Arctic Ocean will be left with no ice.
After 1960 more and more scientists were taking interest in the issue of global warming as the observations declared that the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has rapidly elevated. The private Conservation Foundation arranged a meeting on “Implications of Rising Carbon Dioxide Content of the Atmosphere” in 1963. The increasing awareness on human kind’s indulgence in activities that are spoiling the ecosystem worldwide was traditionally called ‘conservation’ that was later evolved as ‘environmentalism.’ The participants discussed green house warming as a potential danger to not only the biological set up of the planets but also to the human beings. However, at that time it was hard to nominated dangers while one thing was sure that the increasing temperature will damage the planet.
In 1965, the global warming was in focus of United States President’s Scientific Advisory Committee that declared, “By the year 2000 the increase in atmospheric CO2 … may be sufficient to produce measurable and perhaps marked changes in climate…. changes could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings.”
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970 put forth a landmark study under the title of “Man’s Impact on the Global Environment.” It concluded that the result of global warming will be changes in sea level, widespread droughts and much more. Same was suggested in a meeting in Stockholm in the same year while make addition that the humankind will cross a point after which the Arctic Ocean’s ice cover will be vanished. How will the melting of Arctic affect the weather of the earth was unimaginable by the scientist who content at claiming the future to be engulfed in extreme danger.
At that time scientists perceived that any changes as a result of global warming will not appear before the 21st century that was three decades away, so there was nothing to worry about. But the climate changes were not as far away as they perceived. But in 1970s the world saw the climate fluctuations in the face of severe droughts in American Midwest, Russia and Africa.
At that time the global warming study has not progressed and debates were on multi-topics related to the effects of increasing temperature and what crops will be able to sustain themselves, and likewise. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of United States governed a study in 1974 that highlighted the climate changes that will occur within few decades. The food supply worldwide will be imperiled the report concluded. There would not only migrations at massive level due to lack of resources but also wars on the remaining supplies.
Government watching the climate changes felt the need of making laws about the environment impact assessment. Expert consultants were there to predict the impacts of factory emissions to the building of dam on environment. Impacts of deforestation, acid rain and other large scale climate activities were studied by the use of sophisticated scientific tools. The counsel did not only focus on the impacts on ecosystem but also on the human health and economic activities.
In 1977, a panel of geophysicists assembled by the United States Academy of Sciences produced a report by the title “Energy and Climate.” Until then green house was accepted as one of the strong possibility and the report was focusing on the range and potential of results. The warming will be positive as the Arctic Ocean will be open for the shipping but the melt down will damage the marine life. The melting ice will possibly raise the sea level to 4 meters in 300 years. For crops nothing could be said as effects would be both positive and negative and far distant to perceive.
In 1980s scientists were taking keen interest in global warming. The very first semi-official effort to address the issue directly, separate from the science was made by the Academy that appointed “Ad hoc Study Panel on Economic and Social Aspects of Carbon Dioxide Increase.” The conclusions of the panel were lame. It concluded that if there will be any problem due to global warming, it would be extremely slow and will be overtaken by unpredictable yet expected technology and the future changes in social set up. It was reassured that those who will be in areas affected by the climate change can easily migrate to better places like it has done in the past.
With the passage of time “climate impact studies” emerge as a more respectable field to study. The expected catastrophic consequences were not only teasing the scientists but also encouraging the layman to go through the matter broadly. The contributing reports of 1970s were made by Americans where it was a common desire to make the issue international as the upcoming problem was not regional; the global warming is going to be a global threat. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) were the pioneer in striving to throw light on the topic globally. In 1980, a one week meeting was organized in Villach, Australia that was unable to cross in its conclusion the earlier United States Academy, where the report was not circulated properly. Bert Bolin was one of the leaders of the meeting and he acknowledged that the internationalization of the assessment has not remained successful.
Another effort on corporate level was made in Stockholm and resulted in the profound ecological, agricultural, water and marine disaster by the hands of global warming.
By and by groups of varying speculations emerged. In 1983, a study by the United States Environment Protection Agency elaborated the effects of global warming on seal level. About more than 100 reviewers proclaimed that the end of 21st century will be contaminated with flooding, shore line retreat, saltwater intrusion and raised sea level.
In 1983, the United States Academy made a very profound report that encompassed the topic at the maximum length until then. Including the previously predicted changes of sea level and agricultural troubles, the report highlighted that the summer temperature will be remarkable increased and excessive human death and illness will result by the heat wave. The informed the melting of permafrost of Arctic would require the adaptation of engineering. The most important point made by the repot was the fact that there would be some changes that cannot be imagined or predicted right now. There will be things that will engulf man by surprise and humankind will be left with no measure to deal with the trouble. The Academy was under the influence of conservative economists and did not make any customary appeal to research further. Moreover, no policy was recommended at all.
In 1982, Bolin with Dr Mustafa Tolba, executive director of UNEP talked about the international effort. An “environmental” study was brught in that could be supported by the UNEP. When WMO came, the ICSU agreed to publish the results widely to increase awareness and to make the debate global. The report was composed of 560 pages, Bolin claimed that the green house problem was brought “much more to the forefront in the scientific community than earlier assessments had done, particularly amongst those engaged in analysis of the terrestrial ecosystems.”Tolba chaired a sequel UNEP/WMO/ICSU conference in Villach in 1885 and make the warnings more public. The experts stressed the need of a policy not to restrict the green house gases but to initiate coordination on international level to study the portions of the report.
Studies at that time were mostly focusing on cause and effect. Interestingly, it was predicted by employing computer models that the crops would vatu with the weather. The scientists then focused on looking forward to adapt to the changing climate and models were designed to notice the crop response to the climate change. Life scientists were evaluating the response of coral reefs and forests to the increasing green house.
“Some ecological systems, particularly forests… may be unable to adapt quickly enough to a rapid increase in temperature… most of the nation’s coastal marshes and swamps would be inundated by salt water… an earlier snowmelt and runoff could disrupt water management systems… Diseases borne by insects, including malaria and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, could spread as warmer weather expanded the range of the insects,” the experts of EPA concluded in New York Times in 1989.
The effect of climate change on human beings’ health was in focus in 1990s.The issue was not only attracted the experts but also made the general public worried. This work was, like many other ongoing researches was supervised by not only government but also international organization like World Health Organization (WHO) and International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Here it became crystal clear hat the generalization made on international l level were of less concern at regional level. It can be explained by the example that insect vectors of tropical diseases such as malaria and fever that has already inflicted half a billion people would expand its range. It was revealed that the impacts of global warming will be felt in developing nations where the habitants of developed world were worried about the transport of diseases to temperate zone.
The computer models have evolved certain levels of green house gases that may trigger the climate changes, the regional analysis can be started from keeping in mind the models. The sophisticated models finally but roughly agreed on some global features like the average temperature that differed in the details. There were also factors that were balancing each other like the Sahel region between the African rain forest and the Sahara desert where one model predicted excessive rain and other extreme droughts. Policy makers were not concerned with the average temperature. They were more concerned about the changes emerged on local level.
The IPCC decided to focus on the “vulnerabilities” as the quantitative predictions were tough to make. The study was in line with the with the vulnerabilities’ study going on in other areas from earth quakes to the food supplies. The term showed that the net effects of the global warming will be harmful. In 1990, the IPCC’s initial report disagreed by many experts and became a controversy. Mikhail Budyko, the eminent Russian climatologist, reconstructed the climate changes of the past and argued that the global warming would be of some important benefits. He made a point about Siberia as the warming soared not higher than the temperature studies by ancient interglacial epochs.
“The Regional Impacts of Climate Change” the pioneering report was composed by the IPCC in 1997. The detailed account of vulnerabilities was different for different people. It was necessary at that level to consider ecological systems, local climate, local economics, and political conditions and trends. The standard practice to highlight was the way in which climate changes will be accepted and adapted by the people. For Africa, it was concluded, “the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of projected changes.”
The future of climate was invested in the hands of the method that will adapted by a nation to control the emission level. It revealed a problem with the standard method of predicting climate impacts. The scientists were extrapolating the visible forces and trends along a single line and calculated the likely outcome of a number of possibilities, “global average temperature will rise three degrees plus or minus 50 per cent” or the like.
In 1992, the IPCC published a set of six different scenarios. Each of which described a range of ways in which the population of the world, political structure, and economics will evolve in a decade. Experts of social sciences and physics were trying to predict the emission of green house gases by the society of a given scenario and the estimation of the extant to which the society will adapt the change.
Another effort in 1996 resulted in scenarios of about 40 types. The scenarios were grouped in terms of sensitivity to environmental problems, rate of economic growths, degree of international cooperation and many more. The explorers were able to deeply study only handful possibilities because so much about the upcoming changes was unknown, where the known was variable from region to region.
IPCC in its reports of 2001 and 2007 resemble each other as a variety of expected climate impacts suggesting various regions as per their vulnerability. The best things about the IPCC reports is the fact that it encompassed a range of scenarios it has investigated in addition specifications on whether an impact is listed as “virtually certain”, “very likely” or just “likely”. It is clear from these reports that the issue has gradually become complex while introducing more interdisciplinary analysis, and climate impacts were potentially adapted and stressed.
These trends were asking for proper policy making. The scientists’ first task was to figure out how much the danger is expected to hit the globe in case of increased green house gases. This will enable them to guide the governments in the restrictions that should be imposed on emissions. However, it was deplorable to see that the action of forming some policy was taken after such a delay that the already emitted quantity of green house gases was posing inevitable threats to the global environment. Not only political leader, governments but also business organizations were asking for acute and precise assessment that can help on shaping better and effective policies.
The attempt of scientist to be precise was misleading. It can be understood by keeping in mind the studies that published from 1970s to the mid of 1980s. It was estimated that by 2100 the sea level might rise from a few tenths of a meter to few meters anywhere on the earth. When the IPCC’s report was published in 1995, the upper limit was dropped to half a meter. On the contrary the estimated range of level to which oceans can rise remained wide.
The rise would exceed a meter if polar ice sheets began to surge into the oceans in the next few decades. Most scientists had always considered that quite unlikely, but there were always some who argued that it was possible. The IPCC gave scant attention to such impacts that did not seem at least fairly likely to happen, even if they would be catastrophic in the event they did befall us.
All this was different from the impacts that were studied earlier such as in the earthquake zones the building codes of cities and the planning of evacuation plans for the benefit of those people who are living in nuclear reactors. On the other hand the IPCC was more concerned about the impacts that were more likely to happen as a result of global warming.
There was also bunch of conservatives who were favoring the global warming including few scientist and many conservatives who were sufficiently funded by right-wing private American institutes. A publication of Hoover Institute declared, “Global warming, if it were to occur, would probably benefit most Americans.” It was also estimated that the heating bills will be low, energy will be saved and more people will die of cold than of heat. A report by the Heartland Institute showed, “More carbon dioxide in the air would lead to more luxuriant crop growth and greater crop yields.” These statements were not supported by any hard analysis but they have some truth in them. Russians noticed that small amount of heat will be beneficial for the cold regions however the benefits were far less than the possible harms. In cold regions not only the crops but the whole ecosystem will suffer. All these reports and the teams of experts, scientists and economists working behind the screen were far away from the general public. People do not even know that so much has happened and how much progress has been made to tackle these issues. In the shape of a paragraph these news often reach to the general public where statements were usually balanced by a supporting and negating groups.
It was not until the dawn of consequences of global warming that the world at large started to realize the issue. Well-studied and sensitive groups like birds and butterflies made filed surveys in 1990s and discovered shifting range and even extinctions that could be predicted by the observation of global warming. In 21st centuries the experts started to evaluate the role of global warming in one or another disaster. It was found that the rich nations are also not safe due to the upcoming complexities. An unexpected and extraordinary heat wave killed thousands of [people in Europe in 2003. Moreover, the winter freeze remained failed in controlling the bark beetles that devastated millions acres of forest from Arizona to Alaska. The weak timber was left alone that was lately eaten up by the wild forest fire. Nobody has imagined such impacts and of course no one was ready for it.
A Danish political scientist Bjørn Lomborg wrote a best selling book encompassing one of the most skeptical works. He assembled under the title “Copenhagen Consensus” a panel of discussants who analyzed a number of approaches. Lomborg along with the panel recommended that people should use their money for immediate issues like malaria instead of spending on far-headed problems like global warming. They also suggested that the researches should address the green houses gases and efforts must be made to reduce the quantity of these gases in the atmosphere.
The international bodies and governments finale started to tae interest in the issue. The best effort come Economics of Climate Change from Stern Review in 2006. Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, compiled the report with a staff of 20 for the British government. They concluded that the21st century has global warming in the upper range of scientists’ hypothesis that will result in cutting the annual Global Domestic Product by 5 per cent. Other indirect effects may be raised to 20 per cent that is equal to the Great Depression of the 1930s or the damage caused by a world war. They also estimated the cost of preventing global warming that was 1 per cent of the annual Global Domestic Product. “Climate change,” Stern concluded, “is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen.”
Other ways of describing the climate change were also bring in like the threats to the security. For about fifty years forward looking military officers were working on figuring out what the climate change means to their responsibility. It was clear that in time of disaster army would be called to control the situation. “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its Implications for United States National Security” was a report commissioned by the Pentagon in 2003. As it was briefed to the press “mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world…. abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies.” The threat to global stability in the camouflage of terrorism was pointed out by the authors.
Notes: More recent researches and the progress in the field have been put in a different chapter and available at solarpowernotes.com global warming section.
The issue of global warming has been widely discussed by the scientist who revealed a long list of possibilities. No one can ensure that whatever has been given on the list will happen. However, without any disagreement the scientist believe that some of the possibilities are more likely to happen. There are also some predictions about which scientists have no doubt and claim that will affect us soon. For your convenience, here is a list of all that has been predicted.
The consequences are made upon the prediction of an increase of few degrees Celsius in the global temperature. It is only possible if human beings mange to control or prevent the emission of green houses gases and there level in the atmosphere may not go beyond the twice of pre-industrial level. In case strong and lasting actions are not taken the temperature will be double before the end of this century – the temperature which is not observed since the spread of agriculture on the planet. It is also crucial to see that the predictions earlier made started to occur by 2007. (For details see the IPCC impacts report or the popular account by Mark Lynas.)
- The first and foremost impact of the global warming will be the increase in temperature of the cold places especially during the time of winter. The hype in temperature will be beneficial for certain regions while posing threats to others. This will affect and probably change the patterns of tourism. The warmer winter will significantly improve the agricultural and health conditions of some areas. However the global impact will be harmful as food supply will decrease and mortality will increase due to severe and frequent heat waves during the summer season and several other effects. Those areas that will not be directly affected by the higher temperature will suffer from the outbreak of refugees and increase in the price of food.
- The levels of seas will continue to rise. When the planet was 3 degree Celsius warmer than now the sea level was above almost 5 meters than now. The places where people are living on coasts like Shanghai and New York will be the victims of the raised level. The change will be so slow that the upcoming generations will simply left the homes of their ancestors but the chance of sudden emergence of such results can not be completely wiped out. In additions emergencies can be created by the storms.
- The water patterns will go on changing. The changed patterns will lead to intensified cycles of water that will encourage severe droughts and floods. Less precipitation and increased warmth will lead the current regions of drought to more intense dryness where most of the existing wet regions will be wetter. The extremity of weather with the passage of time will be worst and more intense. Worst floods will be brought by sever rainfall. Water supply systems will be jeopardized due to the shrinking winter snow peaks and mountain glaciers.
- In the early decades of global warming will be beneficial for some managed forestry and agriculture but the ecosystems will be on the whole stressed. The range of the countless valuable species in the tropical seas, Arctic and mountain areas will shift. Those who cannot move with the wind will extinct. A number of pests and tropical diseases are predicted to move to the warm regions. Much of these have been already seen in a number of places.
- Those biological system that are independent of the climate changes will be affected by the increased level of carbon dioxide (CO2). The balance of harms and benefits is uncertain yet however some crops will be fertilized just like some invasive weeds. The oceans will be poisoned with acid, means will be more acidic, and pose threats to the coral reefs, and most probably inflict damage to the marine life especially fisheries.
- There will be a number of impacts that can not be predicted but that will target the human and natural systems of the planet. However, it is also seen that a number of climate changes have been well-adopted by the human beings and the nature.
The understanding of ecosystems and climate system is insufficient and there is possibility that the results will not be as bad as they are imagined to be. There are also equal chances that the results will be far worst than the predictions. The results will be worst if we will not take measures immediately to control the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere along with other greenhouse gases. We should focus to control the carbon dioxide from reaching the limit of twice industrial level. Under the “business as usual” if the discharge of harmful gases will continue the current calculations declare that the global temperature may increase to 5 degree Celsius by the end of this century. It will lead to the impoverishment and re-organization of many ecosystems that our civilization has survived. Although the public awareness has been increased but much is required to introduce at public level so individuals may understand their individual duty towards the betterment of their planet.