Ask Dr. Global Change
Global Change: General
Is Global warming real?
Last updated 29 June 2005
Originally answered 19 March 2001
Is global warming a real issue that we should be concerned with or is it hype?
The threat of global warming is a real issue. It is clear from long-term temperature records that the world is warming. It is becoming clear that human activities, mainly burning fossil fuels and deforestation, are part of the cause of this warming. Since these human activities are expected to continue into the foreseeable future, scientists predict that the earth will continue warming. The debate among scientists who study climate centers around questions like: How much warming? How fast will the earth warm? What will be the regional and seasonal patterns of the warming? What will be the impact of the warming on natural ecosystems and people?
If we can reliably and accurately answer these sorts of questions, we can then make policy decisions to minimize the risk posed by the potential impacts. The controversy, and battles, over global warming arise because these specific questions are not easy to answer, and the policies often have large costs associated with them. Many argue that the costs of taking action is less than the cost of inaction, while groups that might incur the costs of action argue that the uncertainties are too great to make policy changes.
Here are some sites that are good sources of general information on climate change:
- A Closer Look at Global Warming. (dated 2003). From the National Academies.
- Climate Change 2001: Synthesis Report. From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- Global Warming. From the Environmental Protection Agency. Includes Global Warming and Our Changing Climate -- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (2000) [2.2 Megabytes, PDF].
- Global Warming: Frequently Asked Questions (2005). From the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- A Paleo Perspective on Global Climate Change. From NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center
- Global Warming FAQ . From NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
- Common Questions about Climate Change. Publication of the United Nations Environment Programme and World Meteorological Organization. It was published in 1977, but is still a good introduction to the science of climate change.
- Greenhouse: Questions and Answers. From the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO; Australia).
- Understanding Greenhouse Science. Frequently Asked Questions. From the Australian Greenhouse Office.
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Science of Climate Change. From Environment Canada.
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What is global change?
Last updated 01 November 2004
Originally answered 1 November 2004
What is the definition of “global change?”
According to the U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990, global change is defined as:
“Changes in the global environment (including alterations in climate, land productivity, oceans or other water resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems) that may alter the capacity of the Earth to sustain life.”
The U.S. Global Change Research Act of 1990 is the public law that established the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the U.S. Global Change Research Information Office (GCRIO).