Global Warming:
Physics and Consequences

by Tom Schneider

Global warming is happening and it is caused by humans burning fossil fuels.
Here are resources that demonstrate these facts and some of the effects it is causing.



Brief summary of the PHYSICS of what is happening
  1. When we drive a gas car or use electricity generated by oil, coal or natural gas the fuel burns and generates CO2.
  2. The amount of CO2 gas in the atmosphere is rising way beyond historic levels.
    NASA Carbon Dioxide LATEST MEASUREMENT
  3. The CO2 allows visible sunlight through the atmosphere.
  4. The visible and infrared sunlight heats up the earth.
  5. The heat is re-radiated as longer wavelength infrared light.
  6. Infrared light radiates into outerspace, cooling the planet.
  7. But infrared light it gets absorbed by CO2, trapping the heat.
  8. So the CO2 we are adding to the atmosphere does NOT allow the heat out as much.
  9. CO2 is called a "greenhouse gas" because it works like a greenhouse - heating up the container it is in. (But see real greenhouses)
  10. So the earth is heating up and it is our fault.
  11. The heat warms the oceans, causing more water in the air, leading to more severe storms which we are seeing.
  12. In some places the extra heat causes droughts.
  13. In Syria the extra heat caused a drought. The global-warming caused drought triggered the war. See: Researchers Link Syrian Conflict to a Drought Made Worse by Climate Change, by Henry Fountain March 2, 2015.
  14. Storm intensity has been shown to be increasing. See:
Consequences:
  1. Weather patterns change, many places will become drier but others wetter since heating the oceans causes more evaporation.
  2. Storms are already bad and getting worse.
  3. Wars are already being fought over resources.
  4. The pole ice caps are melting.
  5. Melting ice on land is causing the sea level to rise.
  6. The sea expands in the heat and raises the sea level.
  7. Coastal cities all around the planet are already in trouble and many will have to be abandoned.
  8. Species are migrating northward and many species are dying that cannot migrate.
  9. The permafrost in places like Siberia is warming up, releasing methane, another gas like CO CO2. If enough is released, it could cause run-away heating
  10. Many humans are already dying from the heat.
  11. My opinion: these changes could lead to human extinction.
    1. Civilization collapse
    2. Humanity will become fragmented
    3. Fragmented species are in danger of extinction
      Quantification of habitat fragmentation reveals extinction risk in terrestrial mammals Crooks et al. PNAS 2017.
    4. Here's an essay about Facing Extinction by Catherine Ingram
    5. The Future by Leonard Cohen

Interlude: How Science Works

I'm a published scientist (
> 60 papers in peer reviewed journals) so I know how science works. I am NOT a climate scientist. However, I have gathered on this page some information on global warming. Please read it to understand the physics. I dig into the original literature when I have time THAT IS HOW I KNOW. There is room for other points of view but the bulk of the evidence and so the bulk of the scientists who study climate FOR A LIVING FOR MANY YEARS is that global warming is happening, that we are the cause and it is a disaster for many species including us. Look around this page for more information. IN ADDITION I am sufficiently old enough living here in the USA to see that there used to be deep snowfall in the winters and now it's basically gone. No more digging snow tunnels in 5 foot deep snow drifts! That is my own evidence. If you are old enough you should be able to confirm it from your own experiences.

I generally trust the scientific papers of other scientists because I understand how peer review works. An editor gets a scientific paper and if it fits the journal and passes many ethics tests they usually send it out to two experts in the field. The experts evaluate the paper and tell the editor what they think. The editor may accept the paper, reject the paper or send it back for revisions (the usual case in my experience). When revisions are received, the process repeats and the editor may reject, have the previous reviewers look at the paper again, get new reviewers to evaluate the paper and ask again for further revisions. I have a paper that went through revisions for two years until the editors changed the rules of the journal and threw out our paper! After a paper is published there are two possibilities: 1) the paper is unimportant. In this case it does no good for the reputation of the authors. 2) The paper appears to be important. In this case other scientists will often be interested in using the ideas, methods or results in their own work. So many will first prudently try to replicate the results before applying them to their own projects. IF THEY REPEATEDLY FAIL EITHER THERE IS A MYSTERY TO SOLVE or if many people fail eventually THE AUTHORS WILL BECOME KNOWN TO BE CHEATERS. See the Schön scandal in which he replicated a graph and the noise was the same. So science has a natural feedback - if you cheat and lie about what is happening in nature you can get your career ruined.

The observed consistency of nature makes most scientists honest!


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Tom Schneider's Home Page
origin: 2017 Apr 08
updated: 2020 Dec 16