Global warming conversation questions
- Considering that the Earth has always warmed and cooled naturally, do you believe that human actions are mainly responsible for present-day accelerated global warming? Why/why not?
- What is the "greenhouse effect"? Can you explain how it operates?
- Are there any long-term climate changes apparent in your country?
- What are the potential consequences of global warming?
- Which is more dangerous to human life - spent nuclear fuel or carbon dioxide/global warming?
Effects of global warming
Global warming may have a number of effects. Read the effects and grade them as: Exceptionally serious, serious, or unimportant:
- More active weather systems. More energy in the atmosphere will lead to more active weather systems, with more frequent and more violent storms. More severe weather events such as storms, floods, heatwaves and hurricanes will be the result.
- Disturbed rainfall patterns. Rainfall patterns will be significantly disrupted with floods in some places and droughts in others.
- Acidification of the oceans. The ocean has a limited capacity to dissolve carbon dioxide before it ceases to absorb any more thus leading to further warming. This would also cause great damage to fish stocks.
- Tipping points/feedback loops. There are many possible tipping points and feedback loops. For instance, if global warming causes the northern permafrost to melt, this will release vast amounts of methane which will make the problem much worse.
- A rise in sea level. The most modest prediction of sea level rise presently predicted is 9-88 cm (3.5–34.6 inches). This small rise would cause significant disruption to coastal communities. There is a possibility, however, that the whole Greenland ice sheet would melt leading to a global rise of 7 m [23 ft]. There is even a possibility that the West Antarctic ice sheet could melt, raising sea levels by a further six metres (20 feet). Although the rest of the Antarctic ice sheet is considered to be stable, if the entire Antarctic were to melt, this would raise sea levels by 62 metres (203 feet).
- Spread of tropical diseases. As northern latitudes become warmer, previously rare tropical diseases will gain a foothold in more northern latitudes.
- Disruption of ocean currents. The disruption of ocean currents could shut down the Gulf Stream with unpredictable consequences.
- Habitat loss or change faster than animals can adapt. Temperature zones will move north and south too quickly for animals to follow or adapt to new habitats. The most extreme case is that of Arctic habitats which will leave animals such as polar bears with no place to go.
- Loss of mountain glaciers exacerbating summer droughts. Mountain glaciers act as natural reservoirs, releasing winter snow as meltwater during the summer. Global warming will disrupt this system in two ways: (1) More rain will fall instead of snow which will prevent the reformation of the glaciers. (2) The result of this will be more floods when it rains and droughts when it does not.
- There are three gasses mainly responsible for global warming. Carbon dioxide, water vapour and methane. Methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. A lot of methane is generated by rearing animals for meat. Should we all eat less meat?
- Producing energy through nuclear power produces much less carbon dioxide than burning coal. Is increasing nuclear power a good way to fix global warming? Why/ why not?
- Cars and industry produce the greatest amount of carbon dioxide - so is it good news for the environment when the price of oil goes up?
- What do you think of the suggestion that governments should put a heavy tax on oil and petrol so as to reduce demand for these products?
- What actions is your government taking to address the problem of global warming?
- What actions could we personally take as individuals to improve the situation?
- Are you personally taking any actions to reduce the problem?
These are some things we could do as individuals to help reduce global warming. Order them from most to least important.
- Recycle everything you can.
- Use less heating and air conditioning
- Use energy efficient light bulbs.
- Drive less and use more public transport.
- Plant a tree.
- Use less hot water.
- Switch off lights/appliances when they are not in use.
- Most of the extra CO2 present in the atmosphere was put there when the present industrialised countries were developing. Now these same countries want to ensure that developing countries do not put a lot more CO2 in the atmosphere while they develop their industries. What do you think about the fairness of this?
- What is the difference between the "greenhouse effect" and the "hole in the ozone layer"?
- Nuclear power stations produce nuclear waste which has to be stored for many generations and which may cause future problems. There are plans under way to collect carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power plants and store it - also, presumably, for many generations. Which is more dangerous - stored nuclear waste or stored carbon dioxide?
- The full report of the Intergovernmental Report on climate Change (IPCC) has many megabytes of data in its three thousand pages and an almost uncountable number of facts. In early 2010 one of these facts was found to be incorrect. The IPPC acknowledged the error and corrected it, but later other errors as well as input from non-scientific groups were discovered. What difference, if any, should that make to our acceptance of the report?