Only recently, within a few decades, have we realized that humanity significantly influences the global environment. In the early 1980s, atmospheric measurements confirmed basic concepts developed a decade earlier. These basic concepts showed that human activities were affecting the ozone layer. Later measurements and theoretical analyses have clearly connected observed changes in ozone to human-related increases of chlorine and bromine in the stratosphere. As a result of prompt international policy agreements, the combined abundances of ozone-depleting compounds peaked in 1994 and ozone is already beginning a slow path to recovery. A much more difficult problem confronting humanity is the impact of increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on global climate. The processes that connect greenhouse gas emissions to climate are very complex. This complexity has limited our ability to make a definitive projection of future climate change. Nevertheless, the range of projected climate change shows that global warming has the potential to severely impact human welfare and our planet as a whole. This paper evaluates the state of the scientific understanding of the global change issues, their potential impacts, and the relationships of scientific understanding to policy considerations.
- Global climate change
- Greenhouse gasses