Global Warming: What Is It?

By: Courtney Lassiter
By: Courtney Lassiter

To understand all this talk about Global Warming, you must first understand The Greenhouse Effect.

The Greenhouse Effect is the rise in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases in the atmosphere trap energy from the sun.

Gases like water vapor, Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide and Methane are examples.

Without these gases, heat would escape back into space and the Earth's average temperature would be about 60 degrees colder.

You've seen reports recently from scientists who say Earth is a few degrees warmer than it has ever been before. John All, a assistant professor at Western Kentucky University, has committed himself to studying Geology and Geography in hopes of finding answers.

All said we haven't been this warm in 300 million years.

He links some of the warmth to humans. Many scientists, including All, believe burning fossil fuels, population growth and deforestation are all ways humans increase the energy in our atmosphere. In fact, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has reached a deal with state Democrats on legislation that would make the state the first to impose across-the-board strict greenhouse gas emissions cuts on industry, energy plants and businesses. This comes after more than 100 Californians lost their lives to record heat this summer.

Many large cities are combating the issue a different way. Local officials in cities like Philadelphia or Chicago are minimizing the public health threat of heat by Heat Wave Response Programs.

Common examples of the best practices according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency are:

  • Activating telephone heat hot lines
  • Alerting neighborhood volunteers, family members, and friends
  • Providing public air-conditioned buildings and transportation to these facilities
  • Working with local aging agencies to educate at-risk individuals
  • Coordinating with local utility companies to ensure that service to residential electricity customers is not shut off during a heat wave.

    State Climatologist Dr. Stuart Foster studies heat and history. He said if we think we've been experiencing hotter summers than our grandparents, than that's completely wrong.
    His data can be found by going to, and according to his data in 1930 South Central Kentucky had a heat wave lasting several days. We're talking temperatures over 100 degrees.

    A Russellville Newspaper said it best when it quoted a Kentuckian's sarcasm about the heat.

    "If we got a tornado from South and a blizzard from North the temperature might drop a few points but at present we will be skeptical about any chance until we really see it."

    Although Foster agrees with the virtually universal consensus among scientists that climate change is happening, he says it could be apart of a cycle. Foster said even if humans aren't affecting Earth's temperature and atmosphere, society needs to be prepared when a heat wave occurs.

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