Causes of Shortterm climate change

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued new reports in 2007 which revealed that concentrations of some greenhouse gases have increased dramatically as a result of human activities, mostly starting with the early industrial revolution around 1750 and accelerating in the late industrial revolution around 1850. The greenhouse gases that show the most significant increases are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most significant anthropogenic greenhouse gas and is produced mainly by burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gasoline. The atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have increased from a pre-industrial revolution level of 280 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere to a 2005 level of 379 ppm, far exceeding the natural range (180-300 ppm) measured over the past 650,000 years, but CO2 levels have been higher in the geological past for reasons related to global volcanism, supercontinent cycles, etc., that operate on longer time scales than the changes measured since the industrial revolution. Despite significant variations on a year-to-year basis, the rate of CO2 increase in concentration in the atmosphere has been in acceleration over the past 10 years.

Methane in the atmosphere has increased in concentration from a pre-industrial revolution value of about 715 ppb to 1,774 ppb in 2005. Methane is produced predominantly in agricultural production and also in burning fossil fuels, and the rapid increase in atmospheric methane is, like carbon dioxide, well beyond the natural range (320-790 ppm) of the past 650,000 years. Nitrous oxide is released by agricultural activities and is a greenhouse gas. Its concentration has increased in the atmosphere from a pre-industrial revolution level of 270 ppb to 319 ppb in 2005.

It has been estimated that the total increase in heating of the atmosphere due to anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gases since the start of the industrial revolution in 1750 is greater than other effects, and the rate of warming the planet is now experiencing is faster than any other experienced in the past 10,000 years. Radiative forcing is the net change in downward minus the upward irradiance at the tropopause,


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Time (before 2005)

Atmospheric concentration of CO methane, NO during the past 10,000 years (IPCC2007)

caused by a change in an external driver such as a change in greenhouse gas concentration. The radiative forcing caused by the change in CO2 between 1995 and 2005 is estimated to be about 20 percent, the largest amount in the past 200 years. The way to counteract this is to enforce climate treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for a reduction in CO2 emissions through the installation of scrubbers and other cleansing technologies on factories and power plants and increasing the fuel efficiency of cars.

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