Scientists still uncertain about climate change outcome

Allison Smith

Weather patterns may be affected

For climate change to be stopped, there would have to be a global movement, said Ferenc de Szalay, a conservation professor at Kent State. He said he doesn’t think enough people would cut back on their own, but a national and global policy would have more of an impact.

“The bigger polluters have to basically be in on it,” de Szalay said. “Different countries contribute in different ways. We have a lot of automotive inputs, whereas China has a lot of coal inputs.”

Scott Sheridan is a geography professor at Kent State and teaches a class on climate change. He said one of the larger issues is the developing world’s use of fossil fuels has grown substantially and those countries’ population numbers are much larger than ours.

“It contributes somewhat,” he said. “It’s liable to be dwarfed by growing amounts of emissions elsewhere unless there’s some larger system in place.”

Every year, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere goes up 3.2 gigatons, de Szalay said. That’s 3.2 billion tons a year, or 32,210 Hummer H2, in our atmosphere.

“We add 6.9 gigatons through fossil fuel and deforestation,” de Szalay said. “We know that forests and oceans take up about 3.7 gigatons. Well, that means there’s a net input of about 3.2 gigatons, which is about what we’re seeing the global carbon dioxide levels go up. So it kind of correlates, all these pieces seem to fit together nicely.”

De Szalay said scientists dug out a three-kilometer-long ice core from a glacier in Siberia that has air bubbles dating back to 450,000 years ago. The bubbles show carbon dioxide levels much lower than what they are today.

This long term pattern hasn’t been seen in half a million years, de Szalay said.

“Most importantly, weather patterns are going to change. So where it’s wet now, it might get dry. Where it’s dry now, it might become wet,” de Szalay said. “Temperatures up in the poles are supposed to really shoot up, whereas temperatures in other areas might not change much. These models are guessing where the temperatures are going to go higher.”

De Szalay said the weather pattern changes push wind currents in different directions and changes where rainfall occurs.

“We’re expecting storm intensity, like heavy downpours, to occur more up where we are,” he said. “These freaky storms where all of the sudden you’ve got a ton of rain, they’ve always occurred, but they’re going to get more frequent in our part of the country.”

Contact features reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].