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Global Climate Change Digest

A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999



Item #d96may1

"Public Expectation as an Element of Human Perception of Climate Change," M. Rebetez (Dept. Geog., Univ. Lausanne, BFSH1, Dorigny, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switz.), Clim. Change, 32(4), 495-509, Apr. 1996.

Human expectations regarding weather and climate sometimes lead to perceptions of climate change that are not supported by objective evidence. This paper analyzes two typical complaints about current climate in Switzerland (lack of snow in winter and lack of sunshine in summer), and demonstrates that a major problem of public perception of climate in the middle latitudes is the strong variability of climatic parameters. Suggests a means of presenting climatic data that would indicate this variability, help overcome confusion related to it, and stress the fact that short-term climatic extremes do not necessarily indicate a long-term shift in climate.

Item #d96may2

"The Sun and Climate," J. Lean (U.S. Naval Res. Lab., Washington D.C.; e-mail:, D. Rind, Consequences, 2(1), 26-36, 1996.

A review for non-specialists. The 11-year sunspot cycle causes a change of less than 0.1 C in the Earth's temperature, but what is known of solar behavior before 1979 suggests that other changes of possibly greater amplitude also occur. These long-term solar variations are incompletely understood, but could have contributed about 15% of the documented 0.5 C global warming since 1850. With the highest estimates of possible solar changes, the Sun could diminish the IPCC mid-range projected warming of 2 C by about 0.5 C.

Item #d96may3

"Remembrance of Things Past: Greenhouse Lessons from the Geologic Record," T.J. Crowley (Dept. Oceanog., Texas A & M Univ., College Sta. TX 77843), ibid., 2-11.

A review for non-specialists. For most of the last two million years, there is little evidence for global temperatures more than one degree higher than those of the present warm interglacial period. The possibility of an enhanced greenhouse effect thus comes at a time of high temperatures that are rare in the span of human history. Moreover, the concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are today as high as any that are known in the 200,000 years for which measurements are available, and we know that they played a significant role in climatic changes of the past. While questions remain regarding possible, ameliorating feedbacks from other elements of the climate system, all that is known from the record of the past confirms a direct connection between greenhouse gases and surface temperatures.

Item #d96may4

Two related items in Nature, 379(6565), Feb. 8, 1996:

"Satellite Confirmation of the Dominance of Chlorofluorocarbons in the Global Stratospheric Chlorine Budget," J.M. Russell III (NASA-Langley Res. Ctr., Hampton VA 23681), M. Luo et al., 526-529. The present concentration of ozone-destroying stratospheric chlorine is more than five times that expected from known natural emissions from the oceans and from biomass burning, yet the political sensitivity of the ozone depletion issue has generated a re-examination of the evidence. This paper reports a four-year global time series of satellite observations of hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride in the stratosphere, which shows conclusively that releases of CFCs—rather than other anthropogenic or natural emissions— are responsible for the recent global increases in stratospheric chlorine concentrations. The results implicate CFCs beyond a reasonable doubt as dominating ozone depletion in the lower stratosphere.

"There's Safety in Numbers," W. Brune (Dept. Meteor., Pennsylvania State Univ., Univ. Pk. PA 16802), 486-487. Discusses how the previous paper strengthens the already powerful scientific case that underlies the Montreal Protocol.

Item #d96may5

"Ozone Depletion: A View from the Grass Roots," N.D. Paul (Inst. Environ. & Biol. Sci., Lancaster Univ., Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK), Atmos. Environ., 30(14), i-ii, July 1996. (A contribution to the journal's "New Directions" section. Submissions, 1000 words or less, can be e-mailed to NEW.DIRECTIONS@UEA.AC.UK.)

A biologist decries the lack of understanding of the ecological effects of increased levels of UV-B. Without such information, how can scientists hope to continue to convince legislators (or themselves) that the only safe option is the no-risk strategy of phasing out ozone-depleting substances?

Item #d96may6

"Time to Champion Global Data," Nature, 380(6574), 467, Apr. 11, 1996.

An editorial on the need for enhanced monitoring of atmospheric and other types of geophysical data, and the current lack of resource commitment. A modest target would be a well-distributed network of 10 multi-instrumented geophysical reference stations, in operation three years from now.

Item #d96may7

"Climate Change Calls for Action Now," J. Houghton (Chair, Royal Commission on Environ. Pollut.), Chem. & Industry, p. 232, Mar. 18, 1996.

Outlines the message of the recent IPCC second assessment, and related conclusions of a World Energy Council study. The drastic reductions needed in CO2 emissions will require commitment from all sectors of society. The real challenge is to communicate that the switch to alternative forms of energy will take many decades, so action must commence now.

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