What’s Happening With Our Climate?

In 1988, NASA reported that global warming was occurring due to increased concentrations of various gases in the atmosphere, mostly increased CO2 (carbon dioxide) generated by industrialization. Overwhelming agreement has been reached among climate scientists with NASA’s 1988 report; and international agreements have been entered into among countries to limit emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

On November 6, 2012 Donald Trump tweeted that climate change was a Chinese hoax designed to force U.S. industry to be less competitive. He called it a hoax in other tweets on 12/6/2013, 1/25/2014, and 1/29/2014. More recently, in 2016, his spokesperson Kellyanne Conway denied these tweets and said the he believes climate change is naturally occurring. Few scientists support this view because the data below doesn’t match up with the data of the measurements of natural causes (earth’s orbit, movement of the earth’s crustal plates, volcano activity, solar radiation, and Southern oscillations of El Niño.) Read Merchants of Doubt by Erik Conway and Naomi Oreskes to understand the motivations of professional climate change deniers. (Two of the earliest deniers had previously lobbied Congress denying that tobacco caused cancer.)

What specifically is happening?

  • The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing – 411 ppm (parts per million) which is 108 ppm higher than 100 years ago (131 ppm higher than 1000 years ago.) 411 ppm is the highest in 650,000 years.
  • Global temperatures is rising – 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880; and 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have happened since 2001.
  • Global sea level is rising – ~7 inches in the last 100 years.
  • Flooding in coastal cities is increasing, affecting 50% of the world’s population.
  • Oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb more C0 Today ocean pH is around 8.1, a 25% increase in acidity over the last 200 years (when it had been steady for 300 million years at 8.2.)
  • Deserts are expanding, and droughts are increasing. The Sahara expanded 10% since 1920.

What causes global warming?

  • Many of the gases in the atmosphere hold heat and radiate it at the earth’s surface as argued by scientists since Joseph Fourier in 1824.
  • Lab tests verify that carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH3), nitrous oxide (NO2), and water vapor (H20) radiate heat to the earth’s Surface more than the other gases.
  • 55% of the sun’s energy hits the earth’s surface as measured by NASA. Additional heat is radiated to the surface that has been absorbed from now increasing concentrations of the above “greenhouse gases.”
  • Human activity from industrial processes through heating homes to driving cars increases the concentration of the greenhouse gases so temperatures rise.
  • Sea levels rise as increasing temperatures melt glaciers and the polar ice caps.
  • If greenhouse gas concentrations get high enough the earth will become uninhabitable.

About half of the world’s people live within 50 miles of an ocean – many in the 75% of the world’s mega cities that are on the coast. Sea level rise is the biggest short term threat because so many of these cities are at or below sea level. U.S. coastal cities already at risk include Boston, New York, New Orleans, Charleston, and Miami. A Union of Concerned Scientists report estimated that a “three-foot increase in sea level would threaten 128 coastal Department of Defense installations in the United States.” In fact, back in 2011, the National Academy of Science published National Security Implications of Climate Change for U. S. Naval Forces. Our navy takes climate change seriously. The rate of sea level rise increased 30% from 0.1 inches per year in the 1990’s to 0.13 today.

Today we are seeing increases in coastal flooding, water shortages, desertification, and extreme weather events. Unchecked, the trend will lead to massive droughts, floods, famines, and population migrations. There is no easy way out. We must cut back emissions of greenhouse gases. It will be costly in the short term but cost effective in the long term. We would do well to remember that we had to create the Super Fund (to finance cleanup and restoration of chemically contaminated industrial sites) the last time industry didn’t consider the long term implications of their activity.

The problem must be attacked on every front – not just the obvious increases in renewable energy sources and fossil fuel efficiency. Often underestimated, conservation and energy efficient construction can play a major role; and some states are already moving to change building codes for new construction.

Ninety percent of emissions come from the largest industrial countries; and emissions continue to grow. International cooperation and massive government intervention are essential to stopping the trend before damage is irreversible. Before objecting to government involvement, please recall that Nixon created the EPA, Reagan signed off on Super Fund, and Bush signed off on the bailout — the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. What is Washington waiting for? Perhaps we need a NCCA (National Climate Change Administration) to insure that things get done right. Our country, the second largest emitter (creating about 20% of the total), should rejoin the Paris Agreement immediately.

What do you think?

Reference links: https://waynenjdems.org/climate-change-reference-material/

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