North Texas Daily

New climate change data released

New climate change data released

New climate change data released
October 10
08:11 2013

Christina Ulsh / Senior Staff Writer

Extreme weather that causes floods and droughts is indicative of climate change, assistant geography professor Feifei Pan said.

According to a report released for policymakers on Sept. 27 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there is a 95 percent chance human influence, as opposed to natural occurrences, is the cause of climate change.

“The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased,” according to the IPCC report.

Climate change is the change in the earth’s temperature over an extended period of time. Pan said this change often refers to the increase in the average atmospheric temperature.

“When we talk about climate change, we’re talking about global warming,” Pan said. “When we talk about global warming, we’re talking about climate warming.”

This atmospheric temperature is taken annually. Temperatures are measured from locations across the world and averaged together to get this atmospheric temperature.

The IPCC relates this rise in temperature to greenhouse gases.

“Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system,” the IPCC reported. “Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.”

A greenhouse is a glass or plastic enclosure for a garden. The material allows for sunrays to come in and keeps the energy from leaving, Pan said. In the same way, greenhouse gases allow for solar radiation to penetrate the atmosphere but not leave it.

Increasing greenhouse gases increases the energy trapped on earth, which causes temperatures to rise. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

“This has nothing to do with a model, like people doing numeral simulation to predict climate,” Pan said. “This is based on data.”

These human influences are namely industrial. Factories and refineries use immense amounts of energy, UNT Sustainability Outreach Coordinator Nicole Cocco said.

Cocco said climate change, whether it is or is not real, is only a portion of the broader sustainability conversation. The sustainability department focuses on the holistic idea of sustainability, which can refer to interactions with people and global relationships as well as environmental endeavors.

According to the IPCC report, greenhouse gases exceeded the pre-industrial levels by about 40 percent for carbon dioxide, 150 percent for methane and 20 percent for nitrous oxide in 2011.

While industries have the largest influence on the environment, individuals can change minor parts of their daily routines to help sustainability.

Those wishing to improve environmental conditions can start with three easy steps, Cocco said.

  1. Reduce the amount of things that are purchased. This will lead to less waste. For example, opt to use reusable bags and don’t buy disposable water bottles.
  2. Use alternative forms of transportation to cut down carbon emissions. Carpool with classmates, bike to a destination if it’s close and use public transportation if it is available.
  3. Cut down meat consumption. The meat industry uses vast amounts of petroleum to package and transport its product. Cutting back on meat could mean having “meatless Mondays” or eating meat only on the weekends.

UNT has a greenhouse gas inventory it produces every year, which tracks the university’s emissions rate.

With this inventory, UNT is given a picture of what it needs to focus on in the realm of sustainability, which ranges from energy to commuting to waste reduction, Cocco said.

This inventory can be found here.

Graph shown indicates an observed change in precipitation over land. The map compares data from 1901-2010 to data from 1951-2010. Graphic courtesy of World Climate Change IPCC assessment report.

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