2016 is likely to be the first year in the past five million years that CO2 in the atmosphere will routinely and regularly exceed 400 parts per million (ppm). That record was broken in 2015, the first time in human history the level of CO2 has exceeded 400 ppm.
This record-setting performance can be credited in part to a strong El Niño condition in 2015. The El Niño worsened drought in some tropical regions. The stressed vegetation was less able to absorb CO2. This says a lot about the delicate balance of the natural carbon cycle.
Does this mean that the increase in CO2 was a natural phenomenon? Does it mean that we should ignore it, that we cannot do anything about it? No. Some of the responsibility for the drought can be laid at the feet of anthropogenic global warming. How much anthropogenic global warming contributes to modern extremes of weather, including the El Niño/La Niña cycle, is still being studied.
On the other hand we have a very good understanding of how CO2—a greenhouse gas (GHG)—contributes to global warming and subsequent climate change. We have a good understanding of the contribution of anthropogenic (human-caused) activities such as burning fossil fuels contribute to higher levels of CO2.
Both CO2 and average global temperatures are likely to be higher in 2016 than in the past century or more. We understand that “correlation does not always mean causation,” however in this case, direct causation can be drawn from CO2 and the “greehouse effect,” and from the burning of fossil fuels and the increase in CO2. All this will be discussed in future posts.
Do not forget that Trump labeled climate change a "con job," a "hoax" and "bull ---t." Do not forget that Trump said he would support “clean coal,” when there is no such thing as clean coal: coal produces between 200 and 250 pounds of CO2 per million Btu, more than any other fossil fuel*. Do not forget that the official position of the Republican Party Platform rejects both the Kyoto Protocol and the more recent Paris Agreement to control carbon emissions. And do not underestimate the harm that could be caused by a “climate change denier” and a “shill for the energy industry” as the head of the EPA.
And remember, it’s all about the children.
[References will be provided in future blog entries.]
*Petroleum coke, a byproduct of oil refining, produces about 225 pounds of CO2 per million Btu, However, the amount of “pet coke” burned is very small compared to the amount of coal burned.
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.
My electric bill was 50% higher than average last month. If you live in the US, especially in the southeast, southwest, or west, you’ve probably seen something similar: more need for air conditioning, and higher bills.
June of 2016 was the hottest month on record—ever—in many parts of the world, and for the globe, overall.
I’m not surprised that my electric bill was higher, despite conservation measures.
Still, there are people who deny that the climate is changing or that it is an important matter.
For example, the 2016 Republican Party platform reads, “Climate change is far from this nation’s most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it.”
Just what must Congress stop? The platform’s unsupported statement that “climate change” is “the triumph of extremism over common sense”? That’s how the statement reads grammatically. (And you thought in ninth grade that diagraming sentences was a useless tool. There will be more on that, in later posts.)
In simple terms, the Republicans want to shut off debate. Yes, they want to suppress freedom of speech and of scientific inquiry. And their statement that global climate change is not an important national security issue is a lie.
Climate change is a serious challenge to the national security of the United States (and every other country in the world). It is correct to say that the refugee situation in Europe is the direct result of climate change. It is correct to say that the war in Syria and the rise of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) is the direct result of climate change. It is correct to say that the spread of the Zika virus is the direct result of climate change. For my Georgia readers, it is correct to say that the success of peaches from South Carolina over those from Georgia is the direct result of climate change.
The “bottom line,” for those who think in absolutes, is that climate change is at the root of more national security issues than even you can imagine.
Yet the Republicans deny this.
A pull quote in the Republican Party Platform shows support for energy sources, but lists coal, oil, and natural gas above nuclear power and hydropower and does not mention wind, wave, solar, tidal, geothermal or similar sources. Yes, they’re in the fine print, but only if supported by private capital.
What’s wrong with that? A lot of things ranging from the “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) naysayers and Luddites, to the need for comprehensive, national planning and coordination rather than a patchwork of local and state regulations. While I support the notion of private capital developing such systems, I suspect that long-term energy independence will come only from national programs on the scale of the Manhattan Project or the building of the Hoover/Boulder Dam.
Please consider reading both parties’ platforms. Yes, the whole things. The Dem platform is only 51 pages; the Reps about 54. And please, read them with the thoughts of Peter Abelard in mind:
Doubt; question everything. Doubt leads to questioning; questioning leads to truth.
Distinguish rational proof and propaganda/persuasion.
Be precise with words and demand precision of others.
Be wary of error, even in the most sacred texts.
And let me add:
Think about it.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.