Controlling Global Climate Change

AuthorArnold W. Reitze, Jr.
Page 463
Chapter 14:
Controlling Global Climate Change
§1. Climate Change Basics
e lowest layer of the atmosphere, known as the
troposphere, is approximately 78% nitrogen, 21%
oxygen, and 0.9% argon by volume. e remain-
ing 0.1% of the air consists of trace gases, mostly
greenhouse gases (GHGs), which absorb infrared
energy reected by the ea rth thereby warming the
planet.1 Water vapor in the air is the major GHG,
but it is not long-lived, and it does not appear to be
directly aected by human activities. As the atmo-
sphere warms, its water holding capacity increases,
which aects cloud formation. Clouds can both
absorb and reect solar and terrestria l radiation.2
e role of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in
eecting the formation of water vapor is an impor-
tant issue in climate change science that needs con-
tinued investigation.
GHGs are expressed as CO2 equivalents based
on their global warming potential (GWP), which
is determined by estimating the radiative force of
a gas and its expected residency time in the atmo-
sphere. CO2 is the most important of the minor
GHGs, and about 0.039% of the air is CO2. CO2
has a relatively low instantaneous radiative force,
but it remains in the atmosphere for 100 years or
more. e GWP of CO2 is denoted as 1, methane
is 21, nitrous oxide is 310, hydrouorocarbon-23
(HFC-23) is 11,700, HFC-32 is 650, HFC-125 is
2,800, HFC-134a is 1,300, HFC-143a is 3,800,
HFC-152a is 140, HFC-227ea is 2,900, HFC-
236fa is 6,30 0, HFC-4310MEE is 1,300, peruo-
romethane (CF4) is 6,500, peruoroethane (C2F6)
1. K W  ., A P IO  C
 (3d ed. 1998); T F Y, E C ,
 ().
2. W K. S, T C   W  ().
is 9,200, and sulfur hexaoride (SF6) is 23,900.3
e Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) publishes and updates the GWP of GHGs.
e weight of a GHG times its GWP gives its CO2
Photosynthesis is a process that uses atmospheric
CO2, water, and light to produce hydrocarbons
(HCs), free oxygen, and energy. Most of the HC in
living tissue dies and decomposes so that the car-
bon returns to the atmosphere as part of the earth’s
carbon cycle. However, over hundreds of millions
of years, organic material was removed from the
carbon cycle and stored in the form of fossil depos-
its such as coal, petroleum, and oil shale. For the
6,000 years prior to the development of the steam
engine in the 1780s, the average atmospheric CO2
level was about 280 parts per million (ppm). Since
then, humans have been combusting large quanti-
ties of fossil fuels that release this stored carbon to
the atmosphere.
John Tyndall (1820-1891) established that CO2
traps heat trying to escape from Earth. In 1896,
Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist, hypothesized
an increasing concentration of CO2 could increase
the average temperature of our planet. Around
1940, G.S. Callender reported that burning fos-
sil fuels could raise the CO2 level in the atmo-
sphere and that a doubling of atmospheric CO2
could cause the earth’s temperature to increase by
nine degrees.4 However, the greenhouse eect was
given little attention until 1957, when in Mauna
Kea, Hawaii, a location far from industrial pol-
lution sources, a steady rise in atmospheric CO2
3. U.S. EPA, I  U.S. G G E 
S: -, at ES- (), available at
climatechange /emissions/d ownloads09/GHG 2007entire_re-
port-508.pdf [hereinafter 1990-2007 GHG I].
4. F. P J. M, M  ().
Page 464 Air Pollution Control and Climate Change Mitigation Law
concentrations began to be observed.5 In 1998, cli-
matologist Michael Ma nn used tree ring, ice core,
and coral reef data to show a sharp increase in the
earth’s temperature in the past century; his nd-
ings are known as the hockey stick graph.6
e increase in the concentration of CO2 and
other GHGs, primarily methane (CH4), and
nitrous oxide (N2O), from anthropogenic sources
is believed to be mak ing the planet warmer.7 Pre-
cursor gases —carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen
oxides (NOx), and nonmethane volatile organic
compounds (NMVOCs) contribute indirectly to
global warming. Sulfate aerosols, which are small
particles or liquid droplets that often are produced
by SO2 emissions, can aect the absorptive charac-
teristics of the atmosphere and have a climate cool-
ing eect. Several classes of halocarbons containing
orine, chlorine, and bromine also are GHGs.
ese are known as chlorouorocarbons (CFCs),
hydrouorocarbons (HFCs), peruorocarbons
(PFCs), halons (which are halocarbon compounds
containing bromine), and sulfur hexauoride (SF6).
However, in the United States, emissions of CO2
are the most important GHG.8
In 2007, United States CO2 emissions were
6,085.9 mi llion metric tons (mmt), but only
578.7 mmt of methane (CO2 equivalent), 311.2
mmt of N2O (CO2 equivalent), and much smaller
amounts of the other GHGs were emitted.9 Since
1990, metha ne and nitrous oxide emissions have
decreased, but CO2 emissions have increased by
an a nnual average of 1.2 %. CO2 from non-com-
bustion sources accounts for only 4.6% of t he
GHG emissions; 79.2% of the GHG emissions
and 94.4% of the total CO2 emissions are from the
combustion of fossil fuels.10 us, fossil fuel com-
bustion control is the focus of GHG control in the
United States. Electric power generators produced
41.71% of the CO2 in 2007; the transportation sec-
5. S, supra note 2, at .
6. Bret Schulte, Turning Up the Heat, U.S. N  W R.,
Apr. 10, 2006, at 35.
7. See, e.g., F. Sherwood Rowland, Atmospheric Changes Caused by
Human Activities: From Science to Regulation, 27 E L.Q.
1261, 1287 (2001).
8. 1990-2007 GHG I, supra note 3, at ES-2.
9. Id. at ES-1 & 2. CO2 equivalent emissions were changed by
EPA on April 15, 2009, to 7,150 mmt. Andrew Childers, U.S.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2007 Slightly Higher an First
Reported, EPA Says, 40 Env’t Rep. (BNA) 868 (Apr. 17, 2009).
10. 1990-2007 GHG I, supra note 3, at ES-5.
tor produced 32.9%.11 Since 1990, GHG emissions
increased 17.1%.12
Predictions concerning global warming usually
are based on global climate models, which began to
be used to study climate change in the 1970s. e
early climate models were limited in their ability to
detect climate change unless large changes in the
input data occurred.13 Modeling the biosphere is
still an evolving science. e atmospheric science
components are better understood than the role
of the oceans. Knowledge concerning the oceans’
ability to absorb, release, and redistribute heat is
still evolving. us, the ability to accurately predict
temperature change is limited by both the quality
of computer models and the data used in them. An
important issue involves the assumptions used con-
cerning the eects on cloud cover and water vapor
due to changes in CO2 emissions and their eect on
climate. Another aspect of climate modeling where
models produce divergent conclusions involves the
role of carbon “sinks,” which is a natural way that
CO2 is removed from the atmosphere.14
e quality of models has improved as they have
become more rened and complex. e Goddard
Institute for Space Studies’ Model, known as the
geiss Model E, has 125,000 lines of computer code,
and a single run of the model on a supercomputer
takes about a month. It is one of about 15 major
climate models.15 While there are many models,
the U.S. National Assessment of 2000 based its
projections on two models: the Canadian Climate
Center model (CCCM) and the Hadley Centre
Model (HadCM2). ese two models are claimed
to have produced higher values than other mod-
els that could have been selected.16 In April 2005,
however, a NASA-led research project, involving
measurement of ocean temperature using 1,899
sensors deployed in the seas worldwide, found that
for every square meter of surface area the planet is
absorbing almost 1.0 watt more of the sun’s energy
11. Id. at ES-8, tbl. ES-3.
12. Andrew Childers, Draft EPA Report Finds U.S. Emissions of
Greenhouse Gases Increased in 2007, 40 Env’t Rep. (BNA) 476
(Mar. 6, 2009).
13. O C P, T FY  U.S. G C
R P (1997) 12 [hereinafter O C
P]; T M. L.W, T S  C C:
G  U.S. P 23 (Pew Center on Global
Climate Change 1999).
14. See Robert C. Barnard & Donald L. Morgan, Global Warming:
Signicant Shortcomings of Computer Climate Models, 31 ELR
10432 (Apr. 2001).
15. Elizabeth Kolbert, e Climate of Man-II; Annals of Science, N
Y, May 2, 2005, at 11.
16. M, supra note 4, at 208.
Controlling Global Climate Change Page 465
than it is radiating back to space. is large energy
imbalance is close to the 0.85 watt per square meter
energy imbalance that is predicted by supercom-
puter simulations.17 Computer models predict a
faster warming in the future, with a temperature
increase of 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius (°C) by the
year 2100.18
e Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) model-based projections of global
average sea-level rise at the end of the 21st century
(2090-2099) range between 0.18-0.38 meters and
0.26-0.59 meters.19 A 20-inch sea-level rise (50.8
centimeters) would double the global population
at risk of storm surges to more than 90 million
without adjustment for the world’s population
growth.20 A one-meter rise would inundate much
of Bangladesh as well as other coastal areas world-
wide. A two-meter rise would put the cities of
Lagos, Nigeria, and Shanghai, China, below water
and ood 20% of the populated area of Egypt. It
also would ood the Republic of Maldives in the
Indian Ocean and the Pacic atoll island nations
of Tokelau, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands.21 e
projected impact of global warming includes an
increase in the intensity and frequency of storms.
e social and economic impact of hurricanes has
increased because of more development and more
people living in vulnerable areas. While models
have improved, EPA is concerned that existing
models do not allow the prediction of impacts out
to 2050 that will help local air quality planning.
In the fa ll of 2008, EPA was seeking bids from
the private sector to engage in research eorts to
improve long-term models.22
e global atmospheric concentration of CO2 in
pre-industrial times was about 280 ppm; in 2009,
it was 384.8 ppm.23 A nnual growth in CO2 emis-
sions during the 1990s averaged 0.9 ppm per year;
17. Data From Space, Oceans Validate Global Warming Timeline,
W. P, Apr. 29, 2005, at A13.
18. Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change
2007: e Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policymakers 2, 5,
13 (Feb. 5, 2007).
19. Id. at 13.
20. E O   P, O  S 
T P, C C S  K
 () [hereinafter C C].
21. James E. Neumann et al., Sea-Level Rise & Global Climate Change
3 (Pew Center on Global Climate Change 2000).
22. Agency Spurs Development of Local, Long-Term Climate Change
Models, 19 C A R. (Inside EPA) 20 (Sept. 4, 2008).
23. CO2 Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge Natural Laboratory,
Recent Greenhouse Gas Concentrations,
pns/current_ghg.html (last visited Aug. 3, 2009). See also Bert
Bolin, e Carbon Cycle, B 47 (1970).
from 2000 to 2007 the growth in CO2 emissions
was 3.5% per year.24 In 2001, the National Research
Council concluded that GHGs were accumulat-
ing in the atmosphere as a result of human activ-
ity that are likely to cause surface and subsurface
ocean temperatures to rise, but there is uncertainty
concerning the magnitude of future warming and
whether some signicant part of these changes
reect natural variability.25 In 2007, the increase in
atmospheric CO2 was 2.2 parts per million (ppm),
which is above the 2.0 ppm average annual increase
for the previous decade.26
e U.N.’s IPCC in 2001 stated that global
warming is occurring and that humans are a cer-
tain contributor to global climate change.27 e
IPCC released its report on April 6, 2007, accom-
panied by claims that the scientic assessment was
softened at the insistence of the governments of
China and the United States. Among its ndings
are a predicted increase in water runo in high lati-
tudes and water shortages in wet, tropical areas. It
projected an increase in air pollution and in infec-
tious disease incidence due to global warming. It
says: “No one on Earth will escape the impacts of a
warming planet.” A study by the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pub-
lished January 26, 2009, reports that the impact
of CO2 emissions is largely irreversible and will
continue for more than 1,000 years after emis-
sions have stopped.28 Another government report
released June 16, 2009, concluded the nation is
now experiencing the eects of climate change.29
Most of the observed increase in global averaged
temperature since the mid-20th century is very
likely due to the increase in human-caused GHG
concentrations in the atmosphere.30 On February
2, 2007, the United States Government announced
24. Dean Scott, Global Carbon Concentrations Accelerating at Almost
Four Times Growth Rate of 1990s, 39 Env’t Rep. (BNA) 1967
(Oct. 3, 2008); Leora Falk, CO2, Methane Concentrations Increased
in 2007, NOAA Index Shows, 39 Env’t Rep. (BNA) 853 (May
2, 2008).
25. N R C, C C S, A
A  S K Q  ().
26. Scott, supra note 24.
27. I P  C C (IPCC), C
C : S R  (Robert T. Watson ed.
28. Andrew Childers, NOAA Study Finds CO2s Impact on Temperature,
Rainfall Largely Irreversible, 40 Env’t Rep. (BNA) 224 (Jan. 30,
29. Oce of Science & Tech. Policy & NOAA, Global Climate
Change Impacts in the United States, http://www.globalchange.
gov/publications/reports/scientic-assessments/us-impacts (last
visited July 29, 2009).
30. IPCC, 2007: Summary for Policymakers,
(last visited Feb. 26, 2009).

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