Climate change: Part 1
• Climate change versus hurricanes and forest fires.
• A new book on climate change.
• What causes climate change?
• Can we predict climate change effects?
• Should the USA buy insurance against climate change?
Just to clarify: this blog and (I hope) the next one will center on Science and Energy.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS CONTROVERSIAL, but recent events in September of 2017 force us to think about it once again. I’m referring to hurricane Harvey which went through Houston and hurricane Irma which hit Florida, both causing billions of dollars of damage within the past month.
BUT I’M ALSO REFERRING TO FOREST FIRES which are raging across the western part of the USA. Until this week there were about 40 of them. Many of these fires were started by lightning strikes.
As stated here: Particle pollution from wildfires, long known for containing soot and other fine particles known to be dangerous to human health, is much worse than previously thought, a new study shows. Naturally burning timber and brush from wildfires release dangerous particles into the air at a rate three times as high as levels known by the EPA.
A NEW BOOK ON CLIMATE CHANGE HAS JUST COME OUT, called Climate of Hope. The book gives the data behind climate change. It goes on to take a different look at how the USA needs to deal with climate change, when the US federal government is stymied due to political ideologies. In my opinion, this book offers sensible and practical solutions on a city-by-city basis, rather than waiting for the federal government to act.
In this Part 1, we excerpt from the book’s pages on data and facts in regard to climate change, as follows:
• The greenhouse gases capture some of the sun’s radiation energy as it passes through. Without such gases the earth would be like the moon (253F in daytime, -243F at night). And unlivable.
• Water vapor captures 60% of the solar energy, carbon dioxide (CO2) is next, methane (natural gas) is third. This stored energy in the atmosphere drives the entire weather cycle: winds, cloud creation, hurricanes, heat waves.
• Burning fossil fuels (e.g. coal), cutting down forests, and degrading soils increases the CO2 in the atmosphere (see graph below). This causes the atmosphere to retain more energy, and has two effects: (1) it causes temperatures to rise – hence global warming, (2) it makes the atmosphere more energetic, just like heating a pot of spaghetti sauce makes it bubble more.
• The overwhelming consensus of scientists who study this agree that current levels of man-made greenhouse pollutants are large enough to seriously disrupt the climate, and that these effects can already be measured.
• HOW THE CLIMATE ALTERS IS COMPLEX AND DIFFICULT TO PREDICT. Climate is a linked system, where one change can produce numerous reactions. A warmer atmosphere can mean more droughts. But it can also mean more water evaporates from the oceans, which can mean more snow in Canada, and stronger hurricanes in the Caribbean. [IDP: the recent forest fires and hurricanes in the USA seem to support such changes.]
• Climate change dissenters think we shouldn’t take any action to reduce the risks because we can’t predict how big the changes will be or how soon they might arrive. But of course we buy fire insurance even though our house may never burn down.
• [IDP: A 10-year drought occurred in parts of Australia about 15 years ago, and everyone I talked with over there came to believe in climate change. Hurricane Sandy, the second costliest in US history with $75 billion in damages, devastated New York and New Jersey in 2012 (Hurricane Katrina in 2005 cost $108 billion). As a result, the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, became a believer in climate change. Probably a lot more people living in Houston and Florida are now believers.]
I also found this quote in my research: A 2012 prediction by the National Hurricane Center states that due to global warming the number of future hurricanes will “either decrease or remain essentially unchanged” overall, but the ones that do form will likely be stronger, with fiercer winds and heavier rains. Wow….right on the money!
IF ANYONE SERIOUSLY DOUBTS GLOBAL WARMING, see the graph below, which shows a close correlation between carbon dioxide levels (the primary greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere and average global temperatures in recent years. I cannot think of any other explanation for this graph, other than made-made greenhouse gases causing the heating of our planet. I discussed this graph in a previous blog.
For more details on global warming caused by human activities, you can read an excellent article by two Australian colleagues, Julian Pfitzner and Mark Schubert (click here).
CLIMATE CHANGE: PART 2 WILL BE COMING SOON. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your opinion on climate change….please add a comment in the Comment box at the bottom of this page.
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