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No math needed: A look at global warming by the numbers

April 22nd, 2009

By Laura Elizabeth May
Green Right Now

One degree Fahrenheit.

On average, that’s how much the Earth’s temperature has increased over the past century, according to a report by the EPA. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that during the 21st century the global temperature will increase by 2-6° C.

To the average person, one degree might not seem like a problem. But to scientists studying the climate, it is cause for concern. At this rate of warming, climate changes would occur faster than any of the climate changes over the past 10,000 years.

The warming of a few degrees would lead to more frequent droughts and heat waves; it can also cause an increase in rainfall and change the strength of storms. While some areas of land might benefit from the increased rainfall, others will be devastated by lack of rain.

Lately, some scientists have revised their projections on when global warming will spell the end of the Arctic ice cap. Now, some feel that the ice could be gone within five years, which could trigger a “tipping point” with the oceans warming and rising, and the Earth’s ability to reflect sunlight greatly impaired. In a recent Newsweek interview, Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu defined “tipping point” as the point where “no matter what humans do, it’s out of our control.”

Some scientists suggest that the rise in ocean temperatures has led to the increased intensity of hurricanes. There is no way to definitively prove that this is directly related to the rise in global temperatures. However, in 2005 the Science journal released a study regarding hurricane strength and the connection to global warming. The study showed as the storms were becoming more intense, the global temperature was also increasing. The study is quick to point out that Hurricane Katrina and other damaging hurricanes can not be blamed on global warming. However, there appears to be a connection emerging.

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