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Animals at the extremes: Polar biology
The extreme challenges of life in the polar regions require the animals who make their habitat there to make many adaptations. This free course, Animals at the extremes: Polar biology, explores the polar climate and how animals like reindeer, polar bears, penguins, sea life and even humans manage to survive there. It looks at the adaptations to physiological proceses, the environmental effects on diet, activity and fecundity, and contrasts the strategies of aquatic and land-based animals in surv
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Financial methods in environmental decisions
This free course, Financial methods in environmental decisions, begins by introducing some of the tools that can be used to assess the benefits of investment decisions, including ways of assessing the ‘external costs’ – the wider costs and benefits to society as a whole – of environmental decisions. First published on Thu, 29 Nov 2018 as Author(s): Creator not set

Exploring philosophy: faking nature
Commercial exploitation of nature, such as mining, fracking, or generating hydro-electric power, often damages the way the natural environment looks. What if the environment could be restored to exactly how it looked before? Would that mean that no damage had been done, that the natural environment was as valuable as it had been before the commercial exploitation? This free course, Exploring philosophy: faking nature, examines ‘the restoration thesis’, and provides an insight into philosophi
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Animals at the extremes: The desert environment
Animal life has adapted to survive in the most unlikely and inhospitable habitats. This free course, Animals at the extremes: The desert environment, looks at the surprisingly diverse desert climates throughout the world and mammals, birds, lizards and amphibians that survive there. It splits these animals into three groups according to their strategy for survival: evaders, evaporators and endurers, then discusses how these strategies work on a biochemical and physiological level. Author(s): Creator not set

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Water in the UK
Water is arguably the most important physical resource as it is the one that is essential to human survival. Understanding the global water cycle and how we use water is essential to planning a sustainable source of water for the future. Globally, there are many areas that do not have enough water to support the current population adequately. Decisions will have to be made on the best way to use water in a world where there is climate change. This free course looks at Water in the UK where water
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An introduction to sustainable energy
The search for sustainable energy will dominate the twenty-first century. This free course, An introduction to sustainable energy, provides an introductory overview of the present energy systems and takes a brief look at where the world may find energy in the future - cleaner use of fossil fuels or renewable energy sources? First published on
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The science of nuclear energy
This free course, The science of nuclear energy, will delve into the science behind nuclear power and explain what happens inside a nuclear reactor and what it means for an element to be radioactive. It will explore some of the risks of producing nuclear power and examine the arguments for and against including it in future energy planning as well as looking at other potential future solutions. Author(s): Creator not set

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Eutrophication
Managing eutrophication is a key element in maintaining the earths biodiversity. Eutrophication is a process mostly associated with human activity whereby ecosystems accumulate minerals. This free course, Eutrophication, explains how this process occurs, what its effects on different types of habitat are, and how it might be managed. First published on Mo
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Conclusion

This free course provided an introduction to studying Science. It took you through a series of exercises designed to develop your approach to study and learning at a distance, and helped to improve your confidence as an independent learner.


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2.8 End of course question

Question 12

The writer and campaigner George Monbiot wrote the following (in The Guardian Weekly, 10 February 2000): 'Every time someone in the West switches on a kettle, he or she is helpting to flood Banglades
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2.6 An evolving consensus on attribution

The fact that the Earth really is warming up now commands near-universal support. However, it is one thing to detect a global warming trend that appears to be unprecedented in the past millennium (Subsection 2.2.2), and quite another to establish with a given level of confidence that it has been caused by (i.e. can be attributed to) human activity - specifically, the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and associated radiative forcing since pre-industrial times (reviewed in Secti
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2.5.1 Physical and weather-related indicators

The indicators collected in Table 4 have been observed to change over large regions of the Earth during the 20th century. According to the TAR, there is now a good level of confidence that what is being recorded is the result of long-term change rather than short-term natural fluctuations. As we noted earlier (Section 2.2.2), the most recent period of warming has been almost global in extent, but particularly marked at high latitudes. So are the changes in Table 4 consistent with rising tempe
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2.2.2 Temperature changes over the past millennium

One of the most striking images in the IPCC TAR is reproduced (in adapted form) in Figure 24. Together, these two temperature records tell a compelling story, crystallised in our earlier quotes from the SPM. So let's just pause to take a closer look at each of them.

Figure 24
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1.7 Summary

  1. Figure 12 summarises the ways in which the Earth's surface and atmosphere gain and lose energy. The main points are as follows:

    • A proportion (the planetary albedo) of the incoming shortwave radiation from the Sun is reflected (or scattered) directly back to space, mainly by clouds and the Earth's surface (especially snow and ice cover), but also by aerosols (e.g. dust, salt particles, etc.). Most of the rest is absor
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1.3.4 The role of convection in the atmosphere

We come now to our final refinement to the simple picture in Figure 7. Recall that the troposphere is heated from below, with temperature then falling with increasing altitude. This situation sets the scene for the onset of convection - the bulk flow or circulation of a fluid driven by differences in temperature. Convection in the atmosphere plays a vital role in two further mechanisms - quite apart from the emission of longwave radiation - whereby energy is transferred from the Earth'
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1.3.3 The role of clouds

We have already identified one role that clouds play in the Earth's climate: they are highly reflective (Section 1.2.1). At any given time, about half of our planet is covered by clouds; the sunlight they reflect back to space accounts for about 55% of the total planetary albedo. However, clouds also absorb and re-emit outgoing longwave radiati
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1.3 Energy flows within the Earth-atmosphere system

Before we focus on the enhanced greenhouse effect, we need to refine the schematic representation in Figure 7 and draw in some of the other processes that influence the Earth's temperature - not only at the surface, but also at different levels within the atmosphere.


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1.2.2 Bringing in the atmosphere: the natural greenhouse effect

As a dam built across a river causes a local deepening of the stream, so our atmosphere, thrown as a barrier across the terrestrial rays, produces a local heightening of the temperature at the Earth's surface.

(Tyndall, 1862, quoted in Weart, 2004)

Thus, writing in 1862, John Tyndall (Figure 6) described the key to our modern understanding of why the Earth's surface is so much warmer than t
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1.3.5 Corporate connections

As I mentioned in Section 2, what was happening in the factories of overseas contractors was said to have appeared remote to most, if not all, the chief executive officers of the clothing multinationals in the 1980s. Overseas contractors were selected on the basis of market price, quality and reliability, not on whether forced or child labour happened to be employed to stitch the product together. However, all that changed in the early 1990s when the geographical ties between the big retailer
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1.2.10 Summary

  • The shift of the world's manufacturing base from developed to developing economies in the 1970s heralded the beginning of a new global division of labour and the rise of global factories to produce for Western markets. The search for ever-cheaper labour sources undertaken by multinational firms established a new geography of low-cost manufacturing operations which, to this day, remains controversial.

  • The rise of subcontracting as the most flex
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