Global Climate Change: Preparing for Kyoto

By Hammitt, James K. | The Quill, November 1997 | Go to article overview

Global Climate Change: Preparing for Kyoto


Hammitt, James K., The Quill


Global climate change issues will be making headlines and leading newscasts again late this year. Politicians, environmentalists, corporation reteleucrats and test spokesmen all have climate change messages. Each of those sources' versions is tied to an agenda. Anticipating a world summit meeting on the issue, Harvard's Jim Hammitt updates his NewsBackgrounder offering journalists analytical tools for looking at the science and the policy of global climate change.

The nations of the world are expected to sign a new agreement in Kyoto, Japan this December to add teeth to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). Signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, the FCCC calls for "stabilization of greenhouse-gas concentrations ... at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system."

Although recent research on climate change and policy have led to substantial improvements in understanding the issues, neither the appropriate level of greenhouse concentrations nor a suitable policy to obtain it has been identified. Primary areas of disagreement include:

The likely magnitude and consequences of global climate change if no significant mitigation is undertaken.

The relative benefits and costs of preventing or slowing climate change.

The allocation of responsibility and mitigation costs across countries.

The chance that human actions will alter global climate is one of the most serious environmental risks. The probability of significant change is difficult to assess, but most scientists who have studied the issue believe that continued emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other "greenhouse gases" into the atmosphere will increase the average air temperature at the Earth's surface and modify other aspects of climate. Changes in temperature, precipitation, and storm patterns are likely to differ between regions, seasons, and even between daytime and nighttime. The consequences for humans and wildlife are equally uncertain, although it is likely that some changes will be harmful and others beneficial. As both humans and ecosystems might, to some extent, adapt to otherwise harmful changes, the rate of change could be as important as its ultimate magnitude. In this NewsBackgrounder; I briefly describe the risk and suggest a way to frame the policy issue.

The Enhanced Greenhouse Effect

In addition to its primary constituents, nitrogen and oxygen, the atmosphere contains a number of gases that ee present in only tiny proportions. Among these minor and trace gases, water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), and ozone are important in shaping the Earth's climate. These gases allow the sun's visible, ultraviolet, and near-infrared radiant energy to penetrate to the Earth's surface, but trap the outgoing infrared radiation emitted by land and ocean, thus containing this energy within the Earth system. Without an atmosphere, the temperature at the Earth's surface would average 320 C lower than its current 150 C (590 F, about the annual average at Santa Barbara, CA and Charlotte, NC). At this temperature, water would freeze and life as we know it could not exist.

There is no doubt that C02, water vapor, and other trace gases keep the Earth's surface warmer than it would otherwise be. That is not at issue. The debate concerns the enhancement of this "greenhouse" effect by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) released through human activities. The major enhanced GHG is C02, which is released primarily through combustion of fossil fuels, with additional amounts from deforestation and cement production. Significant additional contributions to the greenhouse effect are due to methane, produced by sheep, cattle, and other ruminant (cud-chewing) animals, termites, rice paddies, landfills, leaking natural-gas pipelines, coal mining, and other sources; nitrous oxide (from agriculture and combustion); and various chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and related industrial compounds. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Global Climate Change: Preparing for Kyoto
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.