There has been consensus among scientists for years that global warming is a serious problem and that it is caused by human activity. This page contains links and scientific information on global warming.

Global warming is a real and serious threat. As the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased, land and ocean temperatures have increased.

An increasing rate of warming has taken place over the last 25 years, and 11 of the 12 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 12 years.

Sea ice has been rapidly melting, and the lowest levels of sea ice on record have occurred in recent years.

Global warming could cause large fluctuations in climate, causing certain species of plants and animals to become extinct.

There is evidence that melting glaciers caused sea level to rise in the past, and the rise in temperatures we are seeing now could cause a dangerous rise in sea levels.

For more statistics and information on global warming, see the EPA’s Frequent Questions, National Geographic’s explanation, or the Alliance for Climate Education’s website.

For in depth information, watch video lectures from University of Chicago course on climate change, use online climate models or read Professor David Archer’s textbook Understanding the Forecast

The science

Global warming refers to an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans over time. This temperature rise is the result of an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide and aerosols, in our atmosphere.

When sunlight strikes the Earth’s surface, some of it is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation or heat. Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation and trap the heat in the atmosphere. Normal amounts of gases are what keep the Earth warm and habitable. However, the build up of gasses beyond the normal levels and at a rate that the environment cannot alleviate, is what causes global warming. Surface air temperatures and sub-surface ocean temperatures are rising and are expected to continue to rise.

Learn the basics with University of Michigan scientist and ELPC adviser Knute Nadelhoffer in this video:

For an excellent overview of the basic science and effects of global warming, visit the Pew Center’s website.

You can also visit RealClimate.org – a blog maintained by climate scientists, or the read the frequently asked questions page maintained by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The effect

Global warming is a serious threat to our economynational security and public health.

An increased global temperature will shift ecosystems. Glaciers will retreat, altering water supply for habitats and millions of people. Global warming is already affecting how some people live, from “climate refugees” in Bangledesh to an Alaskan village that was forced to relocate.

Plant productivity and vitality will change, destroying fragile ecosystems. The record highs of atmospheric gases are the result of burning fossil fuels, clearing of land and agriculture activity. According to most experts, the sharp increase of dramatic warming in the past 50 years is attributable to human activity. In the United States, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, resulting from petroleum and natural gas, represents 82 percent of our total human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Global warming is more than just glaciers and polar bears. The Great Lakes is the largest freshwater body of water on the planet, the single largest source of surface fresh water in the world. Scientists estimate that the lakes are warmer and water levels are declining, with no end in sight.

The problem

Air pollutionThe Midwest is at the center of our global warming problems and can be at the center of our solutions.

Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin account for 20% of the carbon pollution in the United States with only 5% of the world’s total pollution. The Midwest alone is responsible for more global warming pollution than most countries across the globe except for China, India, Russia and Japan. There are several factors that make the Midwest critical to global warming solutions:

  • The Midwest has the largest concentration of old, dirty coal plants that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide which cause global warming.
  • As the hub on the United States transportation industry, the crossroads of America has developed a heavy carbon burden.

The solutions

Clean technologies mean a cleaner world for all. Not only do modern technologies reduce carbon pollution, they reduce other harmful pollutants that poison our lakes, make our land infertile, and harm human health. By reducing global warming pollution, we help to make our energy and transportation systems more efficient, protect our forest ecosystems, wildlife and biodiversity, and improve our air quality and protect peoples’ health.

We need the political and economic capital to make clean energy decisions happen today. For example, renewable energy, such as wind and others, currently supplies about 2% of the region’s electricity supply. We have the technology to meet 20% of our energy supply needs through clean, renewable energy. The result – a 51% reduction in carbon dioxide – is a larger reduction than proposed by the Kyoto Treaty.

Clean car technology can produce more efficient, less polluting cars that get bGlobal Warming Basicsetter mileage and create needed manufacturing jobs. We have the technology to clean up dirty diesel trucks and use cleaner fuels – but we can only achieve success by avoiding roadblocks and creating policies that reduce pollution.

It is our moral imperative to address our carbon consumption for today’s world and generations to come. With current technologies, policies and personal actions we can take a huge take step forward in securing our energy future with homegrown business and innovation while protecting our natural resources.

Federal legislation

In June of 2009 the House of Representatives successfully passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a comprehensive plan to transition America to a clean energy economy and reduce carbon pollution. Now it is time for the U.S. Senate to draft their version of national energy and climate legislation. Please urge your Senators to write legislation that expands and improves the House version of the bill. Read a summary of the American Clean Energy and Security Act here.