Friday, February 1, 2013

Climate Change and Climate Forcing- the basics

Climate change is a natural occurrence which has been observed throughout our time here on Earth. The natural variability of our climatic systems is based on many parameters. These include volcanic activity, slow changes to the Earth’s orbit, axial tilt and axial rotation; known as the Milankovitch cycles and changes in solar output. Natural variations in carbon dioxide are also an important additive. CO2 is a natural "Greenhouse Gas" which hinders some solar radiation from escaping back out to space. The realationship between CO2 and temperature is well established science and without these natural CO2 levels it is probable that Earth would be more like Mars- freezing and uninhabited due to a runaway albedo effect.

Luckily for us though, intelligent life has thrived here on Earth. But with intelligent life comes the ability to alter our planets natural climatic systems. With the dramatic increase of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels accompanied with the destruction of much of our rainforests; we as a global nation are at a critical point in the Earth’s history.

We now face a time where natural climatic variation has been overtaken by the effects of anthropogenic climate change (or climate forcing) and at an unprecedented rate. It is this rate of change that is undeniable, undisputable and available for us all to see. Continuous and updated data is provided by several governmental and nongovernmental bodies, including our friends at NASA. From reconstructed temperatures using ice core data and real time analysis of current and past atmospheric CO2 levels, it can be clearly seen that since the industrial revolution levels of CO2 have increased dramatically. The current concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is 394.42 ppm as of October this year (see: .This is the highest level in 400,000 years of available C02 data- regardless of natural climate variations.

Some people may deny climate change is happening, but this too is natural. After all, most scientific theories have faced the burden of human scepticism, including evolution and the positioning of our Earth in the solar system. Luckily these things have been accepted (mostly) over time.

Unfortunately, anthropogenic climate change may not award us copious amounts of time to debate and watch it unfold.

The message is out there: our planet is changing in ways and at rates never seen before. It's time to face up to it.

Further reading:

Milankovitch Cycles:
Greenhouse effect:

Special thanks to NASA’s Climate Department; find them on facebook here:; or alternatively their website:

Image courtesy of FOTOLIA/KWEST

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