March 27, 2011

Global Warming

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a tweet by someone which claimed global warming to be a hoax. I felt kind of sad that there are many people like this who blissfully take the stand without knowing or having the inclination to know anything about climate and to make matters worse politicians try to politicize the issue instead of taking concrete actionable steps. I think there is a gap between what researchers know and what the general public knows. What is badly needed is the ability to transform the results from climate scientists and let the world know of things at large. In this post I try to do my two bit to transform some knowledge that I learned in the past one year. Please note that I am no climate scientist but I am a data miner by training and have been working with climate data to find systematic ways to mine information from it.

Climate prediction is an inherently hard problem because the Earth is not a simple linear stationary system. There are about 20 institutes all over the globe which run complex mathematical equations using laws from physics to generate the interactions between atmosphere, ocean, land surface and simulate the climate seen so far and make predictions on the future. These models inform the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about climate change. While these models may vary in their prediction of a regional phenomenon they all agree that the anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas(GHG) Emissions are causing the warming of the planet. To understand the seriousness of the issue look at the following plot. The average global temperature of the Earth was less than 0C until the year 2000 and in the absence of human induced GHG emissions the planet would have been cooling! However projections of climate show that the in the situation of the warming of the Earth the average temperature can increase upto 4C by 2100. That is a lot as it will cause the rise in sea level and change in precipitation patterns. The different colored lines show the different scenarios defined by IPCC of GHG emissions and for the past 10 years we have been living the worst case scenario.

On the same note I came across this article from Nature Into Ignorance on how the US Congress was poised to pass legislation that would overturn a scientific finding on the dangers of global warming.
To quote from Nature,
"It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long. Global warming is a thorny problem, and disagreement about how to deal with it is understandable. It is not always clear how to interpret data or address legitimate questions. Nor is the scientific process, or any given scientist, perfect. But to deny that there is reason to be concerned, given the decades of work by countless scientists, is irresponsible."

1 comment:

rshishir said...

geologically speaking, we are going through interglacial period (period between ice ages)...hence it's natural that the earth will get warmer.. no technology can stop it.. i do agree that the earth is getting hotter at a rate which it should not be ... my personal feeling is that climate change is an issue which is being overhyped. It may be a priority for scandinavian countries but not for a developing economy like India...