global warming summary and questions

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This lesson will give you foundational information on global warming so you can think critically about this issue. At the end of this assignment, you will write a summary of the material.

(here are the questions for after you read below: Do you doubt or disagree with any of the evidence presented? Please explain.

After reviewing the evidence of global warming, summarize the two points that you found most convincing. )

Lesson 1 – The Earth’s Atmosphere and Global Warming


Welcome to Lesson 1

The illustration shown above compares the Earth’s atmosphere with our neighboring terrestrial planets, Venus and Mars. Mars has a very thin atmosphere and Venus has a very thick atmosphere. Notice the differences in carbon dioxide in the atmospheres among Mars, Earth, and Venus, and the temperature variations among these three planets. Mars is too cold to sustain life, and Venus, which contains 96% carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, is too hot to sustain life. That’s why Earth has been called the “Goldilocks Planet.” Its atmosphere is “just right.”

The Earth’s atmosphere is a layer of gases surrounding Earth, which is retained by the Earth’s gravity. It contains roughly 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, plus trace amounts of other gases, and water vapor. This mixture of gases is commonly known as air. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation and reducing temperature extremes between day and night.

Earth’s Secondary Atmosphere

Earth’s original atmosphere was primarily helium and hydrogen (heat from the still-molten crust and the Sun). About 3.5 billion years ago, the surface had cooled enough to form a crust, heavily populated with volcanoes that released steam, carbon dioxide, and ammonia into the air. This led to a thick “secondary atmosphere” which was composed primarily of carbon dioxide and water vapor, with some nitrogen. This secondary atmosphere had approximately 100 times more gas than the current atmosphere. It is believed that this atmosphere, caused by high levels of carbon dioxide, kept the Earth from freezing during that time.


Earth’s Current Atmosphere

Over the next few million years, water vapor condensed to form rain, and the oceans began to dissolve carbon dioxide. Approximately 50% of the carbon dioxide in the early atmosphere was absorbed into the oceans. Fossil evidence indicates that one of the earliest types of bacteria was the cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), which existed 3.3 billion years ago. These were the first oxygen-producing organisms. They were responsible for the initial oxygen content in the Earth’s atmosphere. Being the first organisms to carry out photosynthesis, they were able to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, playing a major role in oxygenating the atmosphere.

As more plants appeared, the oxygen levels increased and carbon dioxide levels dropped. Over time, excess carbon became locked within fossil fuels, sedimentary rocks (such as limestone), and animal shells. As oxygen was released by the plants, it reacted with ammonia to create nitrogen in the atmosphere.

Algae—the primary source of food for life in the ocean—continues to provide most of the oxygen for life on Earth.

Let’s go to the NOAA Portal to learn about the layers in the Earth’s atmosphere, which are characterized by how the temperature of the atmosphere changes with altitude.

Both the stratosphere and the troposphere have important direct and indirect effects on the well-being of humankind. In this century, it has become clear that humans are influencing the chemical composition of the troposphere and stratosphere in ways that can impact conditions at the Earth’s surface. As a result, some of the most challenging environmental issues of our time have arisen.

Let’s return to the NOAA Portal to learn about Ozone.

The hole in the ozone is located above Antarctica at the South Pole.

Preliminary reports show that the ozone hole in the stratosphere is beginning to heal, due in large part to the international efforts of governments and industry to stop the production of CFCs. This is encouraging news!

But the greatest environmental challenge lies before us. It is called global warming; this is the Greenhouse Effect that has been caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels.

To access more information on the ozone hole visit TheOzoneHole website.

This graph shows the increase in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere from 1870 (the beginning of the industrial revolution) to present.


1990 United Nations Global 500 Award Winner

Dr. Robert T. Watson

Dr. Robert T. Watson, a British-born chemist, has been a leader in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) atmospheric research programs since 1980. He has made major scientific contributions to the United Nations Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol agreements for the protection of the ozone layer. As a scientist, manager, catalyst, and spokesman, he continues to exert distinguished leadership in ozone layer research and international actions to increase protection of the ozone layer.

Dr. Watson received the United Nations Global 500 Award in 1990 for his contributions to the environment.

You will now have the opportunity to hear Dr. Watson, as he speaks about The State of the Planet 04 at The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Select “Read Transcript” or “Video” to hear Dr. Watson address the important issue of climate change. Take notes on important points Dr. Watson addresses in his presentation of The State of the Planet. You may want to refer to your notes as we begin to explore the effects of global warming around the world.

To learn about what is happening in the Earth’s atmosphere go to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Portal and click on Basic Information.

Polluting Nations: The United States is responsible for more greenhouse gas pollution than South America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, and Asia—combined.

The United States is responsible for 30.3% of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, yet the U.S. has not ratified the United Nations Kyoto Protocol that calls for countries to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide. This is because the U.S. government has determined there is scientific uncertainty regarding the causes of global warming.

Read more about international cooperation and the Kyoto Protocol at: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php

Lesson 1 – The Earth’s Atmosphere and Global Warming

Welcome to Lesson 1

The illustration shown above compares the Earth’s atmosphere with our neighboring terrestrial planets, Venus and Mars. Mars has a very thin atmosphere and Venus has a very thick atmosphere. Notice the differences in carbon dioxide in the atmospheres among Mars, Earth, and Venus, and the temperature variations among these three planets. Mars is too cold to sustain life, and Venus, which contains 96% carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, is too hot to sustain life. That’s why Earth has been called the “Goldilocks Planet.” Its atmosphere is “just right.”

The Earth’s atmosphere is a layer of gases surrounding Earth, which is retained by the Earth’s gravity. It contains roughly 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, plus trace amounts of other gases, and water vapor. This mixture of gases is commonly known as air. The atmosphere protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation and reducing temperature extremes between day and night.

Earth’s Secondary Atmosphere

Earth’s original atmosphere was primarily helium and hydrogen (heat from the still-molten crust and the Sun). About 3.5 billion years ago, the surface had cooled enough to form a crust, heavily populated with volcanoes that released steam, carbon dioxide, and ammonia into the air. This led to a thick “secondary atmosphere” which was composed primarily of carbon dioxide and water vapor, with some nitrogen. This secondary atmosphere had approximately 100 times more gas than the current atmosphere. It is believed that this atmosphere, caused by high levels of carbon dioxide, kept the Earth from freezing during that time.


Earth’s Current Atmosphere

Over the next few million years, water vapor condensed to form rain, and the oceans began to dissolve carbon dioxide. Approximately 50% of the carbon dioxide in the early atmosphere was absorbed into the oceans. Fossil evidence indicates that one of the earliest types of bacteria was the cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), which existed 3.3 billion years ago. These were the first oxygen-producing organisms. They were responsible for the initial oxygen content in the Earth’s atmosphere. Being the first organisms to carry out photosynthesis, they were able to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, playing a major role in oxygenating the atmosphere.

As more plants appeared, the oxygen levels increased and carbon dioxide levels dropped. Over time, excess carbon became locked within fossil fuels, sedimentary rocks (such as limestone), and animal shells. As oxygen was released by the plants, it reacted with ammonia to create nitrogen in the atmosphere.

Algae—the primary source of food for life in the ocean—continues to provide most of the oxygen for life on Earth.

Let’s go to the NOAA Portal to learn about the layers in the Earth’s atmosphere, which are characterized by how the temperature of the atmosphere changes with altitude.

Both the stratosphere and the troposphere have important direct and indirect effects on the well-being of humankind. In this century, it has become clear that humans are influencing the chemical composition of the troposphere and stratosphere in ways that can impact conditions at the Earth’s surface. As a result, some of the most challenging environmental issues of our time have arisen.

Let’s return to the NOAA Portal to learn about Ozone.

The hole in the ozone is located above Antarctica at the South Pole.

Preliminary reports show that the ozone hole in the stratosphere is beginning to heal, due in large part to the international efforts of governments and industry to stop the production of CFCs. This is encouraging news!

But the greatest environmental challenge lies before us. It is called global warming; this is the Greenhouse Effect that has been caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels.

To access more information on the ozone hole visit TheOzoneHole website.

This graph shows the increase in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere from 1870 (the beginning of the industrial revolution) to present.


1990 United Nations Global 500 Award Winner

Dr. Robert T. Watson

Dr. Robert T. Watson, a British-born chemist, has been a leader in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) atmospheric research programs since 1980. He has made major scientific contributions to the United Nations Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol agreements for the protection of the ozone layer. As a scientist, manager, catalyst, and spokesman, he continues to exert distinguished leadership in ozone layer research and international actions to increase protection of the ozone layer.

Dr. Watson received the United Nations Global 500 Award in 1990 for his contributions to the environment.

You will now have the opportunity to hear Dr. Watson, as he speaks about The State of the Planet 04 at The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Select “Read Transcript” or “Video” to hear Dr. Watson address the important issue of climate change. Take notes on important points Dr. Watson addresses in his presentation of The State of the Planet. You may want to refer to your notes as we begin to explore the effects of global warming around the world.

To learn about what is happening in the Earth’s atmosphere go to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Portal and click on Basic Information.

Polluting Nations: The United States is responsible for more greenhouse gas pollution than South America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, and Asia—combined.

The United States is responsible for 30.3% of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, yet the U.S. has not ratified the United Nations Kyoto Protocol that calls for countries to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide. This is because the U.S. government has determined there is scientific uncertainty regarding the causes of global warming.

Read more about international cooperation and the Kyoto Protocol at: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php

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