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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Thanks for a good blog
Thanks for sharing Ian. Great job!
Climate change is directly proportional to human population growth in the past century! Our population grows substantially and people become rich. World rise in consumption and population will eventully lead to many new challenges such as hunger, clean water,….
I think what’s best is to think about how to control population, and efficiently use our resources, to save the Earth!
Hi Alireza, You make an excellent point about growth in population and consumption, and the idea about controlling population. I just read today that over the past c. 20 years China has controlled their population, but now face the economic challenge of too few young people having to support too many older (retired) people.
Another scientist/engineer like you has some believable views on climate change in one of his books. Gregg Braden has some data and views on this subject, and I wish I could remember which of his books contained this. I will find it. His view was that man isn’t the sole cause of these changes, but that the Earth goes through unavoidable cycles. I believe the cycles he refers to are every 5,250 years. The Mayans, Incas and other past intelligent civilizations have known about this. Thanks for sharing your views and data on this, Ian.
Hi Dale, here is my reply to the statements by Gregg Braden: There have been geological cycles of global warming — four global warming events over the past 400,000 years, each associated with an increase of CO2 concentration. So these natural global warming events occur about once every 100,000 years. During these cycles the CO2 concentration ranges between 180 and 280 ppm. For more details, see my earlier blog, http://www.iandexterpalmer.com/wind-energy-fossil-energy/
In contrast to the geological cycles, the current global warming event is only about 100 years old and the CO2 has risen to about 400 ppm. That is higher than all the four previous geological cycles which each lasted about 100,000 years. Something else must be going on, and yes it’s the man-made industrial revolution. Which is where the accelerated burning of fossil fuels has pushed up the CO2 concentration to a record high. This past 100 years is called the Anthropocene age, meaning man-influenced. The seriousness is amplified because the current 400 ppm is higher than its been in the past 400,000 years. We are pushing the earth where it has not gone in almost half a million years!
A very important topic and great information. Thank you, Ian!
An excellent blog, Ian. The topic is somewhat contentious but only to a relatively small group of people. The scientific consensus is strong but not 100%. I like your reference to house insurance. In Australia about 1 in 100 houses will be badly damaged by fire in any given year but most of us insure against this relatively rare occurrence. We could all build another home but there is no Planet B. If we despoil this one there is nowhere else to go. Common sense suggests that we must make every effort to keep this planet suitable for human habitation. To do otherwise is folly.
Your comment about there being no Planet B is a good one. However, I think a lot of folks haven’t grasped the severity of the future effects of global warming. The hurricanes and forest fires are visible, but don’t hurt much unless you are in the area. Rising sea levels are hard to evaluate unless you live at a low-lying seashore. How can folks better grasp the long-term effects, and the need to act now?
Thank you for posting this subject on your blog, Ian! It is so difficult for me to understand the thinking of non-believers when evidence is in front of them as is the research by numerous scientists across the Globe! I esp appreciate the book reference as well! Thank goodness that some are taking it into their own hands from Jerry Brown to Michael Bloomberg and the mayor of Pgh. I’m sure there are others who are transforming cities and states. I think it is time to take this question to the top: What harm is there to give the benefit of the doubt and do everything we can to protect our planet, conserve our natural resources and utilize what God gave us for free – like wind and air? What a gift to give our children and future generation–a green and beautiful planet, colorful coral reefs and fresh air to breathe!
Thanks for your thoughts Patti. I have a friend who has taken a stance like you suggest: he says even though there are some uncertainties in predictions of climate change, better to take action now than wait too long and carry the risk that climate change might not be able to be turned round.