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.

Fires shown by red dots. In the western United States dry conditions and extreme heat are causing widespread forest fires. Terra satellite image taken on 27 August 2017. Click on image to enlarge or to source (then back-arrow to return to blog).

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.

Fires shown by red dots. Smoke obscures much of the Pacific northwest. Smoke haze captured by satellite on 5 September 2017 due to huge number of fires that have broken out during this very dry, very hot summer. Click on image to enlarge or to source.


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.

Click to access book on Amazon.

• 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.

CO2 concentration superimposed on global temperature change, from 1880 to 2015. The correlation after 1980 is particularly striking. Click to enlarge or to source, then back-arrow to return to writeup.

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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The Gray Nomad ….. think well and be informed
My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, Where is your God?……
Roaring deep calls to roaring deep at the thunder of your waterspouts; all your breakers and your rolling waves have gone over me.
Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
[From book of Psalms, chapter 42].

10 comments on “Climate change: Part 1”

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Thanks for a good blog

  2. Alireza says:

    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!

    1. Ian Palmer says:

      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.

  3. Dale Bryant says:

    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.

    1. Ian Palmer says:

      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,
      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!

  4. Karen Larre says:

    A very important topic and great information. Thank you, Ian!

  5. Julian Pfitzner says:

    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.

    1. Ian Palmer says:

      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?

  6. Patti says:

    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!

    1. Ian Palmer says:

      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.


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