What is Global Warming
Fossil fuels are composed mostly of carbon. When they are burned this carbon is
released into the atmosphere, mainly in the form of carbon dioxide, CO2. We currently emit
roughly 5 billion tones of carbon into the atmosphere each year. As a result, there has
been a steady increase in global atmospheric levels of CO2. This increase in CO2 (along
with other gases including methane, ozone, and CFCs) presents a problem, because these
gases are "greenhouse" gases, that is they absorb infrared radiation (i.e.,
"heat") that is radiated out from the earth. Thus, heat that would otherwise be
lost to space is trapped in the atmosphere, leading to increased temperatures.
Climatologists have predicted that, as a result of increasing concentrations of greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere, the earth's temperature will increase by about 3 degrees Celsius
by the year 2030. This will result in significant changes in local climate, in some areas
leading to loss of arable land, and an increase in sea level with associated coastal
flooding. In addition, global warming may exacerbate the photochemical smog problem.
Hundreds of atmospheric scientists are employed worldwide to study the magnitude and
implications of this problem, and potential solutions.