The Mathematics of Climate Change

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It is sometimes tempting to ignore the huge impact on the everyday word that mathematicians actually have.  However there is scarcely an area of science which is not touched by mathematics and the models it produces.    Take for example a famous French Mathematician call Joseph Fourier,  in 1824 he coined the phrase the ‘greenhouse effect’  in order to describe certain observations he had documented.

Fourier calculated that the temperature of planet Earth was incorrect.  He used mathematics to prove that if the Earth was only warmed by the Suns Rays, then it should be considerably cooler than it was.  There was another factor effecting the overall temperature of the Earth, the phrase greenhouse effect is now part of everyday speech.  The warming, insulation effect of  greenhouse gasses has become possibly the most important challenge facing the human race today.   Without Fourier and the mathematicians who followed him then we would have little warning about the devastating consequences that face us unless we adapt a much more eco friendly way of living on this planet.

It might not look like the key to solving one of the Earths most pressing problems –

(Greenhouse Law for CO2) ∆F = α ln(C/C0)

But the Greenhouse Law developed from Fourier’s original findings is very valid today and forms the core of the studies of environmental scientists trying to study the causes and effects of climate change.   The law was discovered by a Swedish scientist called Svante August Arrhenius who started by developing a theory to explain the Ice Ages.

He spent his latter years working out the mathematical model that would describe our problem and perhaps lead to a solution.   By developing a formula to illustrate temperature change that is caused by the changes in the amount of Carbon Dioxide – he has illustrated the sheer scale of our issue.  The formula and the change in  CO2 that is required to modify the Earths temperature is core to our efforts.  This core  mathematical model of climate change will in the years to come touch all our lives.

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