Svante Arrhenius

The scientist who did pursue the idea was the Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius (see the sidebar). He considered the effect only of carbon dioxide, because he realized that the rapid industrialization of Europe, North America, and later of the whole world was based on the burning of coal. Combustion is a process that oxidizes carbon to carbon dioxide with the release of heat. Consequently, Arrhenius saw that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would inevitably increase over the coming century.

This was not the question he set out to answer, however. There was much debate at the time among members of the Stockholm Physics Society about the cause of ice ages. Arrhenius thought that changes in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide might be the trigger. This was remarkably perceptive, despite being incorrect. Scientists now link the onset and ending of ice ages with changes in the Earth's orbit and rotation (see "Milutin Milankovitch and his astronomical cycles" on pages 52-60). Over a much longer period, however, they do believe carbon dioxide may have played an important role in the regulation of the global climate.

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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