In something of an irony, in May 2016, Donald Trump, who has labeled climate change a "con job," a "hoax" and "bull ---t," applied to build a wall along a luxury golf course that he owns in Ireland that is threatened by rising seas caused by climate change.
The Republican Party Platform reads, in part, “Climate change… is the triumph of extremism over common sense… We support the development of all forms of energy… including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and hydroelectric… we support [fracking].” The platform’s support for renewable energy would be limited to private capital. Later, the platform reads, “The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC} is a political mechanism, not an unbiased scientific institution… We reject the agendas of both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement… We demand an immediate halt to U.S. funding for the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change…”
And we put these people in control of our government, to the ultimate detriment of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of my generation.
Earth’s climate achieved a balance shortly after the last ice age. How this happened is not rocket science. It’s basic chemistry, biology, and geology.
For eons, microscopic sea creatures busily absorbed Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the ocean when creating their tiny shells of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), which settled to the ocean bottom, were compressed, and became limestone. Meanwhile, termites in tropical regions were busily creating CO2. Volcanoes were occasionally spewing CO2, Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) and particulates into the atmosphere. Subduction of tectonic plates (slowly, to be sure) was sliding limestone on the ocean floor under continental plates where some was eventually spewed back into the atmosphere from volcanoes as CO2. The orogenies that built mountains (also slowly) occasionally exposed limestone to erosion, returning some CO2 to the air. Trees absorb CO2 from the air, die, rot, and return that CO2 to the air, unless they are buried for millennia and turn into peat and coal.
There are many natural sources of CO2. There are many natural sinks for CO2 and Earth had achieved something of a balance before we (humankind) began burning, in a century-and-a-half, fossil fuels that had been laid down (thereby capturing carbon) for millennia.
We have measured the amount of CO2 in the air, and have seen it increase steadily. We have measured this directly on top of a mountain in Hawaii since about 1958. There has been a steady rise from less than 320 parts per million to over 400 parts per million.
We have measurements from Antarctic and Greenland ice cores of CO2 in the atmosphere going back to at least 425,000 B.C.E.
We know the CO2 that comes from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas/methane) is demonstrably different from CO2 from current, natural sources. The simplest way to determine this is to look at the amount of Carbon 14 in the CO2. “Younger” CO2 has a large amount of Carbon 14. Carbon 14 has a half-life of 5,700 years, and does not exist in fossil fuels that are millions of years old… such as coal, laid down during the Carboniferous Period (c. 359—299 million years B.C.E.)
The correlation between rising atmospheric CO2 and rising temperatures has been measured and plotted since about 425,000 B.C.E. It’s a fact.
Earth is warming. That too, is a fact.
What is the source of the heat? The sun, only the sun, and nothing but the sun. And that will be the topic of the next post.
“Republican Party Platform 2016” downloaded 2016-08-07
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/donald-trump-12-outrageous-moments-article-1.2714391 [Accessed 2016-11-16]
I have been a student of weather and climate ever since I became a private pilot and realized that my ability to predict weather was a life-and-death matter on cross-country flights. I have read and studied many references since before “global warming” and “climate change” became issues.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a coalition of scientists assembled by the United Nations. They represent many countries and work mostly by email, but do get together occasionally to exchange ideas and drink, mostly beer. They publish massive reports.
The reports are very conservative in their findings, and they are quite clear about margins of error. They report most findings in terms of "how confident” and "how much," as in "low confidence that sea level will rise more than 15 meters by year 2100," or "high confidence that sea level will rise more than 1 centimeter by year 2050."
There are literally thousands of scientists who contribute to and review these reports before they are published. I cannot accept that there would be a conspiracy among this many people to provide false conclusions without someone blowing the whistle.
Further, IPCC people receive data from many academic institutions, worldwide. Much of that data is available if one looks for it. I've read and studied a lot of the raw data, and have reached the same conclusions as the IPCC. NASA and the European Space Agency have some pretty cool information from some incredible satellites, too. Much of that is on-line and searchable.
There are people, including scientists, who disagree with the IPCC's findings. I've read some of their positions, including peer-reviewed papers in reputable journals such as "Nature" and “Science”. On the other hand, I do not consider papers published by colleges and universities who claim to teach “a Bible-based understanding of the universe” to be credible, although I have read some. The Bible is not a science text. Some of the history it contains may have some association with reality. It contains (in the King James Version at least) some excellent poetry and clever aphorisms. But it is not a science text.
Most of the disagreements about global climate change seem to be in the noise. That is to say, someone will pick apart a minor point, often without showing how it fits in the big picture.
Nothing I have read or learned adequately counters several critical facts: the Earth has warmed in the past 150+ years; the only source of that warming is the sun; the sun's energy is (and long has been) trapped by greenhouse gasses (GHGs); there is no doubt that much of the GHGs in the atmosphere today have been created by humans burning fossil fuels; the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is higher today than it has been in several hundred thousand years (some suggest millions of years); the climate is incredibly complex and difficult to model *; the ocean has become more acetic; growing seasons and locations have moved northward in this hemisphere; one can no longer find real icewine because it's not been cold enough in wine country for about ten years **; and more.
Is climate change the only thing (or the most important thing) we need to worry about?
If I were to make a list of worrisome things, I'd include terrorism, overfishing, dead zones (usually in gulfs and bays at the mouths of significant rivers), Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, Kim Jong-un, rogue nations and Israel with nuclear weapons, Zika, residual radiation from Fukushima, the Congress of the United States, the two current presidential candidates, American television, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, college sports programs, fluoridated water, the racial divide in the US (in fact, perhaps I should say the Balkanization of America and the rest of the world), inequality of wealth and income, a rewrite of the Japanese constitution to permit aggressive military forces, refugees (worldwide), Mexican drug cartels, the spirit of indifference that has taken hold of so many people, the dangers that lurk in refrigerators and freezers, and more.
* To paraphrase a statistician whose name I've forgotten: "All models contain some error; some models are, however, useful."
** I read a recent article reporting that grapes, including grapes for icewine, are being grown in Siberia. Think about it.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.