It seems that there are other factors involved in warming, but not every factor that I analysed was a big player in climate change.
Milankovitch Cycles seemingly only account for climate in the long term, climate change is often observed over 30 years (Met Office, date unstated), but these cycles operate over thousands of years, so temperature adjusts very slowly. They therefore cannot be held accountable for the recent warming, but can be if analysed over eras.
Solar Variation on the other hand contains much more plausibility, 11 years is well within the 30 years sampled when analysing climate change. There is evidence until the 1980s for their correlation with climate with noticeable events such as the Maunder Minimum and the correlation of wheat prices and sunspot quantity. But after this the trend breaks a little, as after 1987 sunspot numbers fall, but we experienced a warming.
One of the most exciting finds within my project was that another greenhouse gas is to blame for warming, methane. Microbes that break down organic matter are to blame for this. Cattle take responsibility for 75% of the livestock emissions, we are undoubtedly harming the planet by our addiction to meat, yet the uncertainty on this is great due to difficulties and variation alone. But vegetarians are also partly responsible, rice paddies account for 10% of the anthropogenic emissions, which could worsen with further warming. Collectively, we can see that expansion of the agricultural industry, alongside improved yields within it, is having a negative environmental effect. With increased population comes increased demand – and also more people breathing carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere. One of my further causes for concern is whilst energy companies are often keen to seek environmental concern for carbon dioxide related matters, they willingly let methane escape in to the atmosphere. Given that methane is 25 times stronger a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and that it may be responsible for twice what the IPCC predict, its certainly an integral factor within the current warming system, for they only observed a tiny portion of it that stays in the methane form during its cycle. It potential upon emission is much greater.
Aerosols similarly have the largest uncertainty of any climate factor and with many clean air acts coming in to power, the effect of any climatic change may be actually amplified by the removal of our pollutants and the associated decease in cloud cover could have catastrophic consequences. Again I see it not included in most of the IPCC models predicting change, I believe this is a terrible oversight as given the uncertainty, especially as aerosols have the potential to completely counteract global warming.
Throughout my project I have also referenced various other feedback effects. The release of methane from the permafrost is a particularly worrying one for me, given that twice the atmospheric concentration is locked up in it, it gives me great cause for concern as its a short term threat thats already started. Water vapour itself accounts for 60% of the greenhouse gas effect and as humidity rises with temperature, it becomes more prevalent in the atmosphere, amplifying the effects of warming. Similarly when ice melts it is able to reflect less light, increasing warming in an exponential fashion. Or even the production of methane from wetlands being increased by warming acting upon the microorganisms which produce it from organic matter. This is just the tip of the ice-berg as far as feedbacks are concerned and its already apparent the line of dominoes that fall with any adjustment to climate.
To focus on one solely wouldn’t show the whole picture – such as in the IPCCs verdict on methane. Small variables can be amplified by complicated feedback systems. There are many other factors at play other than carbon dioxide and the uncertainty is great in some of them. But it is important to note that any small change in climate could upset the system and have drastic consequences in climate, this doesn’t have to be in carbon dioxide, it could be in methane for instance. The related feedback systems could shift the climate dramatically. To ignore other factors would be a great risk, you have to appreciate every factor together and it is then that you realise that so many factors are at play, it is impossible to predict with any sort of certainty or how individual factors will interplay. Small influences collectively dictate our climate. Carbon dioxide is but a cog in a much greater machine powered by the Sun, the complexity of this natural system is much greater than any of man, and that is why we really pay the price for climate change.