Models And Regulation

The perception of the complexity of the atmosphere and climate change has grown over time. Scientific models used to study these phenomena have evolved with a corresponding increasing rapidity as research continues. Weather has played a strategic role in conflict throughout history. The value of information about the weather was appreciated when it was critical in the success of the Allied Forces D-Day invasion of Europe in 1944. After that, meteorology gained in its value as a matter of strategic interest to security forces. It was the incidental observations of meteorologists that led to the development of climate change as a research topic in its own right.

Since meteorologists observed a correspondence between atmospheric CO2 levels and mean global temperatures, scientific information has been critical in the modeling and understanding of the interaction between human activities and the climate. That the climate does change has always been observed, as has the impact of human activities on the atmosphere, if only at a local scale. The issue now is that of scale in the question of global human activities and global atmosphere and climate changes. It is the position of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning institution known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which provides peer-reviewed scientific information on climate change, that anthropogenic emissions are having an impact on global climate patterns.

Established in 1988 prior to the Toronto Conference, the IPCC provides peer-reviewed scientific information to the public which may be used in formulating policies and regulations. Emerging regulations rely on the acceptance of scientific opinions such as that expressed by the IPCC. The IPCC has concluded that without any change in practices, and based on current models, the current trend of increasing greenhouse gas emissions may increase the mean global temperature by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C by 2100 compared to the temperature in 1990.

In its 1989 Report to Congress: The Potential Effects of Global Climate Change on the United States, the U.S. EPA Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation notes that its report relies on scenarios that are based on information at a certain point in time, and assumes that carbon dioxide levels will have doubled and the climate will have stopped changing, neither of which are realities. This increasing rate of change has already appeared in the complexity of scientific modeling. The capability of regulating such increasing rates of change in the traditional manner has been limited. At the same time, some debate the desirability of regulating changes.

The variety of chemicals now produced and used and the resulting atmospheric emissions add to the complexity of atmospheric models. Contributors to the greenhouse effect include emissions of atmospheric CO2, methane, CFC/NOX, and SO2. Increasing amounts of these gases and particulate matter in the atmosphere is linked to the warming trend in mean global temperatures. The links are still being researched, as the effect of each of the atmospheric components is different. For instance, CFCs and CO2 remain in the atmosphere up to 100 years, while methane breaks down in 10 years, and SO2 in a week. They also occur in different proportions and the chemical reactions they induce are different.

Commercial usage of CFCs has declined, and so has SO2, which also causes acid rain. Each of these emissions and related products and processes are all susceptible to regulation.

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