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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Climate Change-Still Disputable?

Our planet isn’t always at a suitable temperature. We are now in a major interglacial period, which occurs about every 100,000 years. But the issue of global warming surpasses these natural cycles.

Fluctuations in the Earth’s temperature are normal, said Professor Jack Looney, who teaches in the Environmental Earth and Ocean Sciences Department at UMass Boston, but human activities are abnormally affecting them.

“There have been cycles of global warming in the past and in this century,” said Looney. “Most scientists would agree that humans have done much to affect global warming.”

Naturally, the greenhouse effect is a good thing. When absorbed solar energy is radiated from Earth’s surface in the form of infrared radiation, the “greenhouse gases” of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases absorb the infrared (heat) radiation, causing a warming of the planet. Warming and cooling processes of Earth make it suitable for life.

Human activities, including (but not limited to) fossil fuel burning, deforestation, rice patty cultivation, agricultural practices, biomass burning, fertilizer consumption, and use of synthetic chemicals as chlorofluorocarbons are abnormally increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

Fred Mackenzie explained in his book, Our Changing Planet, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were at 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv) during the Eemian-Sangamon interglacial period, 125,000 years ago. During the following Wisconsin ice age, levels were at 180 ppmv.

Within the previous 300 years-to the year 2000-levels have risen to 370 ppmv, a 30% increase.

“Evidence does suggest that we are in a warming trend,” Professor Looney explained. “Sea level is rising, ocean temperatures are rising, Arctic and Antarctic glaciers are melting, weather patterns(especially storm patters/winds) are changing, carbon footprints are changing and the US Navy is predicating its planning for 2010-2020 on the sea level rising.”

ClimateChoices.org reports that in Boston, under projections of a higher emission scenario, rising sea levels and stronger storm surges will increase the threat of flooding to Faneuil Hall, the Garden, and the Aquarium (to list a few).

There are several ways to get involved to help combat global warming. In your personal life, trying to reduce the energy you use makes a small, but important, impact. Taking public transportation when possible and shutting your computer off at night are two examples of reducing your impact. On campus, check out the Sustainability Club and Masspirg. Both student run groups provide ways to help out (and you get to meet new people!)

Marcie can be reached at [email protected]