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WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
• The situation is worse than we thought.
• Between 70 and 90% of coral reefs expected to die off, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
• Individuals can do something about it.
• Being aware of what we eat, where it comes from, how we travel, how we heat our homes, can impact energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.
• Drastic action is required but will require global political engagement.

Melting polar ice caps – Warming temperatures, scientists say, are melting the polar ice caps and raising sea levels. Click on image to enlarge or to source, then back-arrow to return to blog article.

NEW IPCC REPORT OUT IN OCTOBER 2018. I live in the southwest USA. Seeing more pine trees killed by pine-bark beetles is sad. The huge numbers of wildfires in the west got to me this past summer. Hearing about the terrible droughts now in Australia is dwpressing. And hurricane Michael which smashed the Florida coast two weeks ago made me cry.

This new IPCC report grabbed my attention because it says the situation is worse than we thought. It also says we as individuals can do something about it.

Wildfires – Many scientists believe the increase in wildfires in the Western United States is partly the result of tinder-dry forests parched by warming temperatures. This photo shows a wildfire as it approaches the shore of Bass Lake, California. Click on image to enlarge or to source.

 

 

FIRST BULLET SUMMARY. The following bullets are taken from a report by Matt McGrath of BBC, 8 Oct 2018.
• There’s no doubt that this dense, science-heavy, 33-page summary is the most significant warning about the impact of climate change in the last 20 years.
• The report points out the differences between allowing global temperatures to rise towards 2 degrees C above pre-industrial times, or keeping them nearer to 1.5 degrees. Note: global temperature has already gone up close to 1 degree C.
• A half a degree doesn’t sound like much but whether its coral reefs, crops, floods or the survival of species, everyone and everything is far better off in a world that keeps it below 1.5C.
• By 2100, global mean sea level rise will be around 10 cm lower for warming of 1.5 degrees compared with 2C. This could mean up to 10 million fewer people exposed to the risks of rising seas.
• Similarly, when it comes to heat waves, in a world that’s warmed by up to 1.5C, about 14% of the population are exposed to a heat wave every five years. That increases to 37% of the population at 2C.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Drought – In the coming decades climate change will unleash megadroughts lasting 10 years or more, according to a report by scholars at Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey. Click on image to enlarge or to source.

• A key point of the IPCC report is that successfully limiting climate change to 1.5C is not just by cutting emissions or making lifestyle changes or planting trees – it is doing all of the above at the same time.
• The report says that carbon [GN: carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses] will also have to be sucked out of the air by machines and stored underground, and that these devices exist already.
• Billions of trees will have to be planted – and people may have to make hard choices between using land for food or using it to plant trees to suck up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
• Regarding the energy we buy, we need to be putting pressure on policymakers to make options available so that we can use renewable energy in our everyday life.
• Cutting energy demand by using less energy is a highly effective step. This makes it personal – e.g. keeping the thermostat lower in winter in our houses.
• Being aware of what you eat, where it comes from, and thinking about how you travel, can impact energy use. [GN: Livestock-based food production causes about a fifth of all greenhouse gas emission. And raising chicken, pork or eggs causes ten times less greenhouse gas emissions than what is required to produce beef. A plant-based diet, such as vegetarian, causes even less greenhouse gas emissions.]

Mountain glaciers – The snows capping majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, once inspired Ernest Hemingway. Now they’re in danger of melting away altogether. Studies suggest that if the mountain’s snowcap continues to evaporate at its current rate, it could be gone in 10 years. Here, a Kilimanjaro glacier is viewed from Uhuru Peak in December 2010. Click on image to enlarge or to source.

SECOND BULLET SUMMARY. The following bullets are adapted from a CNN article by Brandon Miller and Jay Croft, 8 Oct 2018.

• Governments around the world must make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to avoid disastrous levels of global warming.
• The planet will reach a crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

• Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C. While technically possible, this would require widespread changes in energy, industry, buildings, transportation and cities.

ITS HAPPENNING NOW.

Deforestation – Deadened pine trees, caused by pine beetle attack, in central British Columbia. [GN: I’ve seen many pine trees killed by the bark-beetle in Colorado as well as New Mexico.] Click on image to enlarge or to source.

• The window on keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C is closing rapidly and the current emissions pledges made by 190 signatories to the Paris Agreement do not add up to us achieving that goal.

• We are already seeing the consequences of 1 degree C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes. Even if warming is kept at 1.5 degrees C, the impacts will be widespread and significant.

• More frequent or intense droughts, such as the one that nearly ran the taps dry in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as more frequent extreme rainfalls such as in hurricanes Harvey and Florence in the United States, are expected as we reach the warming threshold.

• Coral reefs will also be drastically affected, with between 70 and 90% expected to die off, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Extreme weather – The planet could see as many as 20 more hurricanes and tropical storms each year by the end of the century because of climate change. This image shows Superstorm Sandy bearing down on the New Jersey coast in 2012. Click on image to enlarge or to source.

OTHER WARNINGS RELATED TO THE IPCC REPORT.
• Science shows the world must wean itself of fossil fuels, but much of the global economy depends on it, making an overnight transition impossible.
• The world needs rapid deployment of renewable energy (solar and wind). Renewable energy will need to provide 70% of global electricity by 2050. Coal use in power stations will need to disappear.
• The Paris commitments of 2015 by 190 countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions won’t stop temperatures rising to 3 C by 2100. Worse — the USA has promised to bail out of their Paris commitment.

NEGATIVE EMISSIONS. One key issue will be negative emissions, which are large scale carbon-scrubbing technologies that can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There are two main ways of removing carbon from the atmosphere: increasing natural processes that already do this [like planting more trees], and experimental carbon storage or removal technologies [like injecting carbon dioxide into underground strata that have been depleted of oil].

OVERALL PERSPECTIVE. The two solutions for global warming are (1) reducing the amount of greenhouse gases being emitted, and (2) reducing the amount of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that already exists. These will require considerable political engagement globally. Despite the dire warnings of the IPCC report, there is no indication such cooperation will be doable, particularly given the Trump administration’s stance on this issue.

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POST-SCRIPT. For those with an analytic mind, here is a graph that shows the BEST result – if we acted now on greenhouse gases and if we acted strongly. The x-axis is increasing time from left to right. In 2018, we’re at the vertical line. The dotted line trending down represents immediate, drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Even if this is done, the temperature (red line) still increases past 1.5 degrees C but later rolls over and maybe even drifts downward (red shaded area).

If the world doesn’t act now and act strongly… the red-line temperature will head up out of the graph to 2 degrees C, and our troubles will be much worse.

This chart from the IPCC shows how global temperatures would respond to a sudden and drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Even with immediate action, global temps will still overshoot the goal of 1.5C, but could reduce back to the target over time. Click on image to enlarge or to source.

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PS: I write blogs about Inspiration and Hope, Health and Hiking, and Science and Energy.
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The Gray Nomad ….. Think well and stay informed
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And God said See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the land, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. To all the animals on the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the ground, to everything in which there is the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food. And it was so. God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good and He approved it completely.

(Genesis chapter 1, Amplified Bible).
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12 Responses to Climate Change: Part 5. New IPCC report – scary or not?

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  2. Again we hear the warning from concerned scientists, who have done their work well. Makes you wonder how any prudent politician could ignore these warnings. Boggles my mind. Thanks Ian for reminding all of us of our responsibilities.

  3. Hi Ian,
    As you have already mentioned, many parts of Australia are drought-affected this year. In your and my home state of South Australia it has been the driest year for as long as many farmers in the Mid-North can remember.
    However, although it has been a painful and costly transition, South Australia is leading the way with sustainable energy with many wind-turbine “farms” being established together with solar establishments of huge proportions and a super-battery at Jamestown (your home town, for the information of your readers). Controversially, to reduce carbon emissions, the Port Augusta coal-fired power station was decommissioned a couple of years ago. This was partly responsible for the extended statewide power blackout that sent South Australia into panic mode after about seven electricity towers collapsed near Melrose following the wildest storm that I have ever experienced.
    Environmental sustainability is becoming a hot topic, and a national research centre is being established in Adelaide, South Australia to combat the huge issue of food waste which amounts to about $20 billion dollars every year. My son Toby – a school teacher – has established a War on Waste program at his school with the construction of a chicken run, school vegetable garden, worm farm and instructions to his students to bring their lunches in re-usable containers. The amount of waste in that school has been reduced dramatically. This was featured on ABC TV last year. He is now intending to take a year off from class teaching and write curriculum for environmental sustainability and eventually visit schools to educate the students to consider the impact of their daily actions.
    Our oceans are being choked by plastic and it has been proven that about 80% of seabirds tested have ingested plastic in various quantities. There must be global co-operation on this issue of waste and reduction of carbon emissions, and immediate action or future generations will be living in a wasteland.

    • Bob, thanks for your comment, especially for your Australian perspective. The state of South Australia is apparently in the cross-hairs of climate change and sustainability. I enjoyed the personal story of your son Toby and his efforts. Dr John Korstad teaches a course in Sustainability and would be willing, I am sure, to share his experience with Toby if he would like to (he has taught this for at least 2 years). Just let me know and I will connect them up.

      • I REALLY like what Bob wrote and what his son (Toby) is doing! 🙂 We are trying to reduce food waste, increase recycling of everything possible, promote using reusable containers, composting with vermiculture, and more practical sustainable practices on the Oral Roberts Univ. campus. My email is jkorstad@oru.edu in case you or Toby wish to discuss anything. Best wishes, John

    • Hi Terry. Dr Curry seems to emphasize the uncertainty in the IPCC predictions. As a physicist, I learned that uncertainties (error bars) are important. I don’t know what the error bars are, frankly, for severe weather predictions, but I’ve heard that these are large and therefore the most uncertain. Turning now to data: there is no question that global temperature is increasing, and there’s no question its man-made (see the correlation between increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere and rising temperature from a previous blog of mine). There’s also no question that global warming is causing Arctic and Antarctic ice to melt. As well as glaciers to melt. And sea levels to rise. And more forest fires in western USA. That’s all data, not predictions. My view is its better to act now per the IPCC recommendations rather than take a chance that we won’t be affected much at all as per Dr Curry. She’s a very brave lady to hold that position.

      • While you say that “there is no question that [global warming] is man-made,” there are, in fact a significant percentage of scientists who dispute that it is “man-made” or to what degree it is man-made – not the majority, but a significant percentage of reputable scientists. I think that is Dr. Curry’s main point, as well as others who question man-made global climate change. The issue is further complicated by virtue of the politicization of the subject. It has become almost a religious issue such that it cannot be publicly challenged with derision and ridicule.
        As you may recall, when you and I were youngsters, there was another similar type of scare message on the horizon – the “population bomb” and the inability of the world to support the exponentially growing population on earth. There were articles and books about it – scientists had their calculations. And while we have not eliminated hunger in the world, we have done more to feed the people on this planet than ever before. So will global climate change alarmists face the same end?
        While I am neither a global warming advocate nor a global warming denier (I tend toward the latter a bit, though), I recognize the God-given mandate to care for this planet. But in caring for the planet, we need to care for the people on the planet as well, if not more-so. In advocating against fossil fuels, we can constrain access to abundant energy for people, especially those in third world areas, so much so that they starve. I think it is clear in scripture that we are mandated by God to care for people (our neighbor) as much or more-so than the planet, although we should do both. We Americans tend to forget that there are people on earth who depend on fossil fuels for their sustenance. We should probably focus more on doing our part to help our neighbor (i.e., feeding the poor) than doing our part to constrain our carbon footprint.
        I have one more pair of questions for you and your readers: “Carbon dioxide makes up less than 5% of the earth’s atmosphere. By a large factor, water vapor is the most abundant and prolific greenhouse gas. Why all the fuss about carbon dioxide when it is such a small percentage of the problem?” I am not a climatologist, but, as an engineer with a bit of scientific background, it appears to me that water vapor (including cloud cover) is, by far, the greatest factor to consider in the global climate change debate since carbon dioxide pales in comparison to the amount of water vapor in our atmosphere. And the second part – “If more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is good for plant life, won’t plants proliferate more if we produce more carbon dioxide; and won’t that proliferation of plant life help balance the system and reduce the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere?

        • Hi again Terry. This is Ian. I asked a colleague in Australia to reply to your questions above, and here it is. These statements are from Julian Pfitzner in Adelaide, who has studied Global Warming for over 10 years. His website is http://jppf.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/climate-change-the-science-2/

          Reply from Julian Pfitzner:
          The percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 0.04%. It is often suggested that this can surely have little effect on the earth but in fact it is because of this, and the greenhouse effect, that the earth has the liveable climate we all enjoy. Without this amount of carbon dioxide the average global temperature would be about 15 degrees Centigrade lower and we would be in what has been called “snow ball” earth. In the past 100 years the percentage of carbon dioxide has increased by about 40% and this excess carbon dioxide is having a deleterious effect, climate scientists are saying.

          The atmosphere can hold up to 4% of water vapour but it can be as low as 1% in places such as the poles. It varies enormously across the earth at different places and at different times. Water vapour is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and is an effective greenhouse gas but it stays in the atmosphere for a short period time of usually only in the order of days, while carbon dioxide and methane will stay in the atmosphere for much longer periods of time, from years to centuries. The point is that we cannot do much to affect the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, 90% of which comes from evaporation of the oceans, but we can slow down the increase of carbon dioxide in the air, if we decide to. Increased water vapour is considered a feedback process: warmer air can hold more moisture and will cause more evaporation leading to a greater greenhouse effect leading to a warming of the air leading it to hold more moisture etc. Some scientists suggest that this water vapour feedback is most likely responsible for a doubling of the greenhouse effect when compared to the addition of carbon dioxide on its own.

          Yes, carbon dioxide is good for plant life but excess carbon dioxide can be harmful for some plants. However records have shown that the carbon dioxide level (expressed as parts per million) just keeps increasing. If increasing carbon dioxide had stimulated plant growth and had balanced the system we should have seen some evidence of this by now but the increased emissions of carbon dioxide seem to be overwhelming the Earth system. One Australian scientist has proposed that we grow massive sea-weed or kelp farms in the ocean (and by ‘massive’ he means hundreds of square kilometres) in an attempt to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Another suggestion is to grow huge amounts of algae. So plants may help but it would need a huge, coordinated, global effort since it appears that a balancing of the system will not occur naturally.

          In responding to some of Mr Brown’s other comments I would add the following: He says that a significant percentage of scientists dispute that global warming is “man made”. According to peer reviewed articles the percentage is about 3% and we can agree or disagree that this is significant. It is important to see who these scientists are. Some are not climate scientists, some do no original research in the area and so are rarely published. Nevertheless genuine climate scientists should be given every chance to have their views peer reviewed, published and discussed. The number of unqualified people with extreme and uninformed opinions on this matter have made some media outlets a bit cautious about giving sceptics a hearing. The subject of Climate Change has been politicised, certainly in Australia, where the present Prime Minister brought a lump of coal, carefully varnished so as not to appear dirty, into the Parliament to laud its importance. This government is closely tied to the mining industry and , in particular to the Minerals Council. The Prime Minister’s chief of staff was second in command at the Council and his Environment Minister worked as a lawyer for the Council. I think that the US President has made similar appointments. So ideology plays a part as does money, as usual, but climate change is not a religious issue it is a scientific issue.

          Our God-given mandate to care for the planet has the inevitable consequence of caring for the people because we all need a healthy planet.Continuing fossil fuel burning will, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the IPCC, cause such damage to the Earth’s systems, as the climate change, that millions, perhaps billions, of people will be adversely affected. Rising seas, stronger storms, longer heatwaves, greater desertification, more bushfires, melting glaciers-this is the future we are facing. These events are more likely to cause starvation, it seems, then a lack of “access to abundant energy.” I’m not sure how many people on Earth “depend on fossil fuels for their sustenance”. Most people depend on good soil, steady rain and a reliable climate for their sustenance rather than fossil fuelled energy. I believe that our best strategy to help our neighbours is to constrain our carbon footprint. Some years ago I said I was prepared to spend more for electricity if that was what was needed to bring in renewable energy. Now it is clear that renewable energy, with storage, is cheaper, cleaner and better for the environment and my electricity costs are going down in the state of South Australia which has closed its last coal-fired power plant and is on track for 75% renewable energy in two years. In 2017 there were more investments in renewable energy around the world than in fossil fuel energy. No-one In Australia or overseas wants to invest in a potentially huge Australian coal mine because they fear it will become a stranded asset. It will take some time but fossil fuelled power plants will become a thing of the past through pure economics.

          It seems to me that more and more people are now accepting that the climate is changing but some are still questioning to “what extent is it man-made”. Dr Gavin Schmidt in the New York Times addresses this question in a column entitled “How Scientists Cracked the Climate Changes Case” and subtitled “The biggest crime scene on the planet is the planet. We know the earth is warming, but who or what is causing it?.” Dr Schmidt is the Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He treats the issue like a crime scene investigation and tells how scientists have done the necessary detective work. He discusses many possible causes of climate change and the effects these causes should have. Only one cause increases cooling in the upper atmosphere and warms the surface. This is what has been observed and only increases in carbon dioxide is what would cause this change. Near the end of his column he states that “scientists have concluded that the current warmth is impossible to explain without human contributions. It is on a par with the likelihood that a DNA match at a crime scene is purely coincidental…. The forensics have spoken and we are to blame.”

          I am occasionally asked what it would take to make me change my mind. My answer is that I would change my mind if over 90% of climate scientists came out to say that they had been wrong with respect to the importance of carbon dioxide concentration. I wonder what would have to happen to change Mr Brown’s mind. Would he want to wait until there is an increase of 1.5 degrees Centigrade in average global temperatures from pre-industrial levels. Or would an increase of 2 degrees be enough? What if it is too late by then?

          Enough said. Probably this has been too wordy but I hope it has, at least partly, addressed the questions. To me, climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time since it will affect, I believe every human being now on the planet and those in decades to come.

          Cheers,
          Julian Pfitzner

          • Julian,
            Thank you for your well presented response. There was one aspect of your response that caught my attention when, near the end, you asked what it would take to change my mind on the issue. Human opinion is a very complicated thing to understand, and it is sometime difficult to define why you believe something. Belief is often driven by human fears and other emotions, worldviews, etc. as well as observable data or the correct interpretation thereof.

            As I implied in my post, I am not an activist for or against the issue of Global Climate Change, but I am suspicious of the claim that Global Climate Change as being significantly caused by man. I will try to list my reasons for my position as succinctly as I can:

            1) I vaguely recall first hearing about the man-made global warming issue when reading a magazine article in the late 1990’s or shortly after 2000. I don’t recall what magazine it was, but I remember reading it with some level of concern about the issue upon first discovering it. At the time, it was only known by the name “global warming.” I also recall that the primary culprit at the time was leaking refrigerants from our earthly air conditioning systems. I don’t recall it being attributed to carbon dioxide. Some time later (six months to a year), I read another article that claimed that scientists had discovered that there was global warming on Mars, also. I recall that article alleviating my fears to a large degree because, I thought, global warming on Mars could not be man-made.

            2) From 2000-ish to 2010, the global warming issue was not a primary issue in my life. Around, 2010, the global warming e-mail scandal hit the news and it was presented as somewhat of a “cover-up.” I would define that event as the second in my life that further alleviated my fears about the issue and, even though the scientific community tried to explain it away, I did not believe their explanations.

            3) The 97% consensus claim of scientists is suspect. There are several articles and lectures that challenge that percentage and how it was derived. There is one particular website alone that claims to have signatures on a Petition from 31,487 signatures of scientists (more than 9,000 of whom held PhD’s in the scientific field) who claim that global climate change is not the result of man-made carbon emissions. The Petition states, in part, that “… there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” Perhaps that is only 3%, but 31,487 is quite a large number.

            4) This point is more an emotional one, but I see a bit of hypocrisy on the part of some who promote the man-made global climate change message – one in particular being Al Gore. It was mentioned in a newspaper article about ten years ago that Al Gore, while he promoted the idea that man-made global climate change was a grave danger to the earth and its inhabitants, also was flying around the world in private jets and owned multiple large homes which had heating / cooling / lighting bills that were multiple times the average in the U.S. When confronted with the hypocrisy, Mr. Gore’s spokesman publicly stated that Mr. Gore was converting his homes to renewable energy. If Mr. Gore and others like him really believed their own message, would they not live in modest homes with renewable energy sources and drive Prius cars. On a similar note, Mr. Gore have become very wealthy promoting this message. Any time there is a spokesperson for a cause and they are obviously hypocrites, but they have become very wealthy, I am suspicious of their message. While I may tend to give some credibility to the scientific community, Al Gore and the likes of him have no credibility in my mind. Being an engineer by profession, I tend to give scientists more credibility, but have worked in the profession for almost fifty years, I have seen my share of biases and prejudices in science. As I mentioned in my previous post, in my earlier years, there was the population bomb scare. Subsequently, there was the Y2K scare. Both of those scares fizzled. I cannot prove one way or the other if the global climate change move will fizzle or not, but I am suspicious of its claims. I believe that there are scientists and laymen alike that sincerely believe it to be a serious problem in the future. But I also believe that there are some that promote it for personal gain. I can see where some scientists feel they must promote it in order to obtain governmental or educational grant money. Within my peer group of engineers and scientists, it seems that about half of the ones I have discussed this issue with are not convinced and half are convinced. Among those that are convinced that the issue is a real danger, they are generally not open to discussing it without getting angry. One guy a couple of years ago told me that he sent out an e-mail to all of his contacts instructing them not to send him any e-mails that deny man-made global climate change.

            That is a summary of where I stand on the issue and, to the best of my ability to explain – why I believe what I believe. It is not a dogmatic belief, though. I do tend to live a pretty modest life (for an American). I don’t have exorbitant energy bills and I drive typical late model small engine Chevrolet and Ford cars that get 25 to 40 MPG. My wife kids me because I have replaced all of the light bulbs in our house with LED lighting. And a few years ago, I met with a solar energy company to explore photovoltaic panels on my house, but I was told I had too many large shade trees that would render them ineffective most of the day.

            What would make me change my mind? I think that if I saw some hard data that would prove the deniers were wrong or if a significant percentage of the deniers came out and acknowledged that they were wrong. The data that I have seen has been contradictory (that is, the data from the deniers contradicts those of the promoters). I have changed my mind on many things in my life. It is an interesting question to pursue and ponder – what makes us change our minds on an issue. But I would say that if I did change my mind on it, it probably would not change my behavior.

            I stated in my post that “it has become almost a religious issue…” You responded that climate change is not a religious issue, but then at the end of your post, you claimed it was “the greatest moral challenge of our time…” That sounds almost religious to me. And we both agree that it has become political. And both of those elements cloud the issue.

            Thanks,

            Terry

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