Study con­firms hu­mans caused cli­mate change

Sci­en­tists say in­dus­trial age trig­gered global warm­ing over last cen­tury

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­

Hu­mans have been caus­ing global warm­ing for 180 years, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­na­tional study in­volv­ing 25 sci­en­tists from around the world and Calvert County. The study, ti­tled “The PAGES (Past Global Changes) 2K project,” dis­pels the myth that cli­mate change is just a 20th-cen­tury phe­nom­e­non and ad­dresses the de­bate of whether man or na­ture caused cli­mate change.

“Enough peo­ple in the United States are ques­tion­ing whether hu­mans caused global warm­ing — this is a nice piece of ev­i­dence that we are,” said Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Science Ch­e­sa­peake Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­tory

Re­search As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor Hali Kil­bourne, who stud­ies pa­le­o­cli­mate, or cli­mate from a former pe­riod, com­par­ing records to un­der­stand how the cli­mate is chang­ing to­day and what could hap­pen in the fu­ture. Kil­bourne lent her ex­per­tise to the study dat­ing back to 2011.

Prior to the 1900s, di­rect mea­sure­ments of cli­mate were rare. To come to the con­clu­sion that hu­mans were re­spon­si­ble for the degra­da­tion of the cli­mate, the team stud­ied cli­mate re­con­struc­tions dat­ing back 500 years to iden­tify when the cur­rent warm­ing trend be­gan. Much to their sur­prise, they found the ear­li­est signs of green­house warm­ing dated back to the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion. It orig­i­nated in the Arc­tic and trop­i­cal oceans around the 1830s. Europe, Asia and North Amer­ica trailed, there­after.

“We are al­ready look­ing at a per­turbed sys­tem — we have to rec­og­nize that. Now we know there is an­other 70 years of warm­ing be­fore the 1900s,” Kil­bourne said, adding that the study con­firmed hu­mans caused the mod­ern warm­ing trend.

“Dur­ing the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, we as hu­man be­ings started to burn fos­sil fu­els. A clas­sic ex­am­ple is the in­ven­tion of the steam en­gine that ran on trains, steam boats and the mod­ern in­dus­trial fac­tory. Be­fore that, peo­ple made stuff in their homes,” ex­plained Kil­bourne.

Fos­sil fu­els are nat­u­ral fu­els such as coal or gas that are de­rived from the re­mains of past liv­ing plants and an­i­mals. When they are burned, car­bon diox­ide and other gases are re­leased into the at­mos­phere and re­tained, caus­ing the planet to warm. It is also re­ferred to as the green­house ef­fect.

Kil­bourne, who has been at the Ch­e­sa­peake Bi­o­log­i­cal Lab in Solomons since 2009, is tasked with giv­ing his­tor­i­cal con­text to the change­abil­ity of mod­ern cli­mate for the pur­pose of ed­u­cat­ing oth­ers on the pro­cesses caus­ing vari­a­tions in cli­mate both sea­son­ally and over an ex­tended pe­riod of time.

The method­ol­ogy used for this project in­cluded study­ing nat­u­ral records of tem­per­a­tures across all seven con­ti­nents and five oceans of the world. Tem­per­a­ture his­to­ries are pre­served in corals, sed­i­ment lay­ers, sta­lac­tites in caves, tree rings and ice cores. Like a ther­mome­ter, co­ral skele­tons can record the tem­per­a­ture of the on past en­vi­ron­men­tal changes and pro­mot­ing the syn­the­sis of sci­en­tific knowl­edge and data.

“The goal is to un­der­stand the cli­mate sys­tem. Th­ese data can help us to un­der­stand re­gional im­pli­ca­tions,” ex­plained Kil­bourne, re­fer­ring to the syn­the­sis of work on the cli­mate of con­ti­nents and the cli­mate of oceans. By un­der­stand­ing the earth’s past en­vi­ron­ment, sci­en­tists can bet­ter pre­dict fu­ture cli­mate and en­vi­ron­ment, and de­velop strate­gies for greater sus­tain­abil­ity.

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