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Volume 22 Issue 1 (January 2012)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 44–45 | Full Text | PDF (97KB)


An Astrophysicist Looks at Global Warming

Richard D. Schwartz*

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Absent in much of the public debate on climate change has been discussion of the basic science behind it. This perspective discusses that science by comparison with the well-known laws of motion and gravitation. The basic science behind global warming is firmly established. The connection between observed temperature and atmospheric CO2 increase is much more than sheer supposition.

A great deal of confusion is present within the general public on the role of greenhouse gases in causing global warming. Even within the scientific community there sometimes seems to be a lack of understanding of the physics of greenhouse gas warming, especially among scientists who are not familiar with molecular physics. It is often assumed, especially within the general public, that global warming can be understood by supposition only. The reported correlation between the increase in global temperature and the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases is taken to represent the basis of the science.

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Manuscript received 23 May 2011; accepted 20 July 2011

doi: 10.1130/G129GW.1

* Deceased 28 July 2011 (corresponding e-mail: Thomas Crowley, ).
The author was professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He obtained a Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Washington in 1973 and published an analysis of global “dimming” using transmission coefficients obtained from astronomical data.