Global Climate Change


I try to present facts and logic and solutions rather than just opinions.

Please send any feedback or more items to me.

What is Global Climate Change ? section
Is it real ? section
Effects of Global Climate Change section
How to fight Global Climate Change section
How to adapt to Global Climate Change section
What do "Climate Change Deniers" say ? section




What is Global Climate Change ?


  1. It is man-made changes in global climate, including temperature and precipitation (rain, snow) and storm activity.

    This means:
    • Warmer (on average) in some places, colder (on average) in other places. But the overall planetary average will be warmer. Perhaps up to 11°F warmer from 2012 to 2100.
    • Higher sea levels, due to melting glaciers, and expansion of seawater in general (water expands as it gets warmer).
    • Changes in rainfall and snowfall patterns; more in some places, less in others, timing changed in some places.
    • Changes in storm activity (especially hurricanes); more in some places, less in others, generally stronger (warmer air holds more moisture; warmer ocean water provides more power for hurricanes), timing changed in some places.


  2. It is not just "warming".

    Saying that it is just "warming" leads some people to say "heck, it wouldn't be so bad if it was a bit warmer around here".

    Saying that it is just "warming" leads some people to put out graphs showing that last winter was colder than usual, so "global warming" must be a hoax.

    Saying that it is just "warming" leads some people to say that the Earth has always gone through colder and warmer cycles (quite true), so "global warming" must not be "man-made", and thus is a hoax.


  3. It is long-term, not just "weather".

    Some people say that last month was colder than usual, so "global warming" must be a hoax. But you can't pick out one variable, or one location, or one time-period, and draw conclusions from it.

    From Professor Tony Eggleton on Ockham's Razor: climate generally is the average of weather over periods of 30 years or more.

    Cartoon


Freya Roberts' "IPCC: Six graphs that explain how the climate is changing"
Jeff Masters' "Landmark 2013 IPCC Report"
Shaun Chamberlin's "The climate science translation guide"
Wikipedia's "Climate change"
Wikipedia's "Global warming"
Phil Plait's "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars"



Summarized from interview of Elizabeth Kolbert (MP3) (author of "The Sixth Extinction") 2/2014:
Climate change is just one way humans are changing the environment rapidly. The changes include:
  • Climate change.
  • Habitat destruction.
  • Surface changes (construction, farming, paving, mining).
  • Slaughter of animals for food or parts.
  • Crowding out by 7 billion humans.
  • Pollution.
In the past, events (such as massive asteroid impact) have caused rapid changes that most existing species just were not capable of adjusting to, quickly enough. Human industrial civilization is doing that now; we're "in" such an event right now.
Book review by Al Gore





Is it real ?


Well, since you and I aren't climate scientists, we can't really know for sure, can we ? The data is large and complex. The Earth has natural cycles, the Sun has cycles that influence the Earth, the Earth's orbit varies. There are events such as El Nino, and La Nina, and volcanic eruptions, and solar flares, and jet-stream movements. Hurricanes, and semi-permanent dust storms (in Mongolia and central Africa). And there is human activity: burning fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial emissions, aerosol gasses, nutrients into the oceans. Much of the evidence involves projections and computer models (see Scott K. Johnson's "Why trust climate models? It's a matter of simple science"), using imperfect data, and making assumptions about future economic growth and other factors. Weather is chaotic (small change in initial conditions creates large change in results); I'd guess climate is less chaotic, but still has some vestige of that.

Maybe this is a situation where we have to trust the experts. It would be nice if we didn't have to trust anyone, but sometimes it's unavoidable. When you get treated at a hospital, you're trusting a lot of experts: doctors, pharmaceutical companies, etc. When you drive your car, you're trusting a lot of experts (designers, mechanics) that the car has been designed and built and maintained properly, and won't kill you.

And the experts seem to be in consensus (it's never going to be 100%) that global climate change is real and caused by human activity.
UCS's "Scientific Consensus on Global Warming"

Experts aren't always right, and they can be paid off. But if you consult with a lot of different experts, you increase the chances of getting the right answer. And if you try to pay off a lot of people, some of them will blow the whistle.

In general, experts (with credentials and degrees and experience in the field) tend to be right, and unknown people yelling "it's all a conspiracy" tend to be wrong. But there are no guarantees.

It's pretty unlikely that some unknown guy waving a piece of evidence has hit on some fact or argument that the experts don't know about already. They're well aware of the natural cycles, the historical records, the past mistaken theories and studies.

Al Gore on reddit 11/2012:
> For people who may be skeptical about global warming,
> what is the one undeniable scientific fact that you
> feel backs it up the most effectively?

There are at least 15 deeply researched separate lines of evidence that all confirm man-made global warming. They are all consistent, each with the others. Every National Academy of Science on the planet agrees with the consensus. The Academies describe the evidence as "indisputable". Every professional scientific society in every field related to climate science and earth science also agree. And 97-98% of climate scientists worldwide most actively publishing also agree. Animals and plants also agree -- in that they are moving their ranges by latitude and altitude to find climate niches similar to the ones in which they evolved. Even if you leave climate science completely out of it and just measure extreme temperatures, the statistical record of global temperatures shows that three-standard-deviation events have increased from 0.25% of the time (from 1951-1980) to 10% of the time now. There is as strong a consensus as you will find in science, with the possible exception of the existence of gravity.

Science or Not's "Established scientific models are supported by multiple independent lines of evidence"



Some "sciences" are not exact:

"Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe".

[Many gross generalizations in the following, and much room for debate:]

  1. Some sciences are mature and involve well-defined, repeatable situations. Perhaps these include:
    • Physics.
    • Chemistry.
    • Biology.
    This is not to say that those sciences are "complete", or everything in them is known (far from it), or that they aren't complex.


  2. Some sciences are less mature and involve many variables, including mass human activity, natural processes over long periods of time, etc. They may lack good historical data, good current instrumentation, etc. Perhaps these include:
    • Economics.
    • Political science.
    • Sociology.
    • Psychology.
    • Meteorology.
    • Climate science.
    These still are "sciences" (they use the scientific method, observation, testability, logic, etc). But the data and instruments and principles are partial or unclear, so they have to speak in terms of probabilities, long-term averages, several alternative outcomes, etc. And they may never be able to give specific answers, if the underlying mechanisms involve many variables and are extremely sensitive to small changes in those variables. Meteorology may never be able to answer "exactly how much rain will my backyard get tomorrow ?", no matter how many instruments are installed and how well the principles are understood.


  3. Some other things maybe aren't really sciences, or are hard to classify. They may not use the scientific method, experimentation, etc (except at the edges, or in instruments), or may be more descriptive, or just "bodies of knowledge". But they may identify underlying mechanisms, or investigate "why". Perhaps these include:
    • Self-consistent frameworks:
      • Mathematics.
      • Logic.
    • "Applied sciences" that try to use standard rules to get desired results:
      • Computer science.
      • Civil engineering.
      • Electrical engineering.
      • Psychiatry.
      • Medicine.
    • "Descriptive", or "bodies of knowledge":
      • Anthropology.
      • Archaeology.
      • Geology.
      • Geography.

Perhaps many people have trouble accepting climate science because it gives answers that involve long-term averages and probabilities, when people have been conditioned by modern physics and chemistry etc to expect instant, specific, push-button answers.



The up-side: even if somehow the experts are all lying or wrong, and GCC is not real, or is not man-made, most of the things we'd do to fight GCC are good things to do anyway ! Why not reduce pollution, change to greener energy, conserve energy, make our cars and houses and appliances more efficient, recycle, get off oil and coal, walk or bike more instead of driving ? All good things to do, for reasons other than fixing GCC.



A few exceptions to this: if carbon and CO2 are not a problem, then investing in carbon-sequestration technology is a waste. So if GCC is wrong, then carbon tax or cap-and-trade should be applied to pollutants other than carbon: mercury, sulfur dioxide, mine tailings, water pollution, etc.

From "The Planet Fixers" panel 8/2011 with Tom Brokaw:
Brokaw: Let's say all the theories and all the facts about climate change are wrong. What's wrong with going to another way of living? What's wrong with getting ourselves off an oil diet of some kind? What's wrong with having more efficient transportation or better food production? What's wrong with lowering the chances that we're going to have infectious diseases? It's another way of looking at all of this. We only have this one precious planet, and we have to be aware that we are the stewards of it.

From Tim O'Reilly in Edge.org's "2012: What is your favorite deep, elegant, or beautiful explanation ?":

We don't need to be 100% sure that the worst fears of climate scientists are correct in order to act. All we need to think about are the consequences of being wrong.

Let's assume for a moment that there is no human-caused climate change, or that the consequences are not dire, and we've made big investments to avert it. What's the worst that happens? In order to deal with climate change:

1. We've made major investments in renewable energy. This is an urgent issue even in the absence of global warming, as the IEA has now revised the date of "peak oil" to 2020, only 11 years from now.

2. We've invested in a potent new source of jobs.

3. We've improved our national security by reducing our dependence on oil from hostile or unstable regions.

4. We've mitigated the enormous "off the books" economic losses from pollution. (China recently estimated these losses as 10% of GDP.) We currently subsidize fossil fuels in dozens of ways, by allowing power companies, auto companies, and others to keep environmental costs "off the books," by funding the infrastructure for autos at public expense while demanding that railroads build their own infrastructure, and so on.

5. We've renewed our industrial base, investing in new industries rather than propping up old ones. Climate critics like Bjorn Lomborg like to cite the cost of dealing with global warming. But the costs are similar to the "costs" incurred by record companies in the switch to digital music distribution, or the costs to newspapers implicit in the rise of the web. That is, they are costs to existing industries, but ignore the opportunities for new industries that exploit the new technology. I have yet to see a convincing case made that the costs of dealing with climate change aren't principally the costs of protecting old industries.

By contrast, let's assume that the climate skeptics are wrong. We face the displacement of millions of people, droughts, floods and other extreme weather, species loss, and economic harm that will make us long for the good old days of the current financial industry meltdown.

Climate change really is a modern version of Pascal's wager. On one side, the worst outcome is that we've built a more robust economy. On the other side, the worst outcome really is hell. In short, we do better if we believe in climate change and act on that belief, even if we turned out to be wrong.



Excellent list of the arguments against GCC, and the rebuttals:
SkepticalScience's "Global Warming & Climate Change Myths"

An excellent way to judge if something is "real": does the insurance industry take it seriously ?
Allie Wilkinson's "Climate change is big business (for the insurance industry)"
Joseph Stromberg's "How the Insurance Industry Is Dealing With Climate Change"

Another way to judge if something is "real": does the military take it seriously ?
Timon Singh's "15 US Military Leaders Say Climate Change Is a 'Threat To National Security'"









Effects of Global Climate Change


  1. Temperature changes will affect insect and plant distributions.

    This leads to changes in the locations of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, and tick-borne and bacterial diseases. The diseases may be reduced or eliminated in some areas, increased in some areas, and introduced into some places that have never had them before.
    Rebecca Morelle's "Malaria 'spreading to new altitudes'"

    This also leads to changes in the growth and locations of various plant species. Growth of important crops such as corn might be increased or decreased in various areas. Growth of invasive species might be increased or decreased in various areas. Plant diseases (caused by molds, fungi, etc) could have different patterns.

    And this also leads to changes in the interactions between birds or insects, and plants. Maybe an insect pest will be able to move into an important crop area, where it never could survive before. And the reverse is possible: an insect pest or beneficial insect could be wiped out in some places. Maybe the migration of a bird or hatching of an insect, and the flowering of a plant, will no longer be synchronized.

    These changes may not be predictable. And it's not a case of all of the plants and insects in an ecosystem just shifting 30 miles north or something. A small change in temperature could make a species shift its breeding season or flowering time, putting it out of sync with its traditional prey or predators or food source. Major extinctions could result.

    These changes may be far more rapid than natural changes (such as CO2 changes) in the distant past, making it much harder for adaptation (evolution) to cope with them. Major extinctions could result.


  2. Temperature changes will affect man-made facilities.

    It may get colder in places where houses have been built with less insulation, because winters were mild. Or warmer in places where houses were built without air-conditioning.

    If frost-lines shift, this may damage pipes that were built assuming they would never freeze.


  3. Temperature changes will affect humans.

    From "The Planet Fixers" panel 8/2011 with Tom Brokaw:
    Katharine Hayhoe: People are very sensitive to extremes, both cold and hot. We know that the world's high-temperature extremes are increasing, while some of our cold-temperature extremes are decreasing. Back in 2003, Europe experienced a huge heat wave. The death toll from that event reached 70,000 people in three weeks. We've had similar heat waves in Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest. In the future, we will see those heat waves recurring more and more frequently. By the end of the century, if we continue on our current path, we could see heat waves like the one in Chicago in 1995 occurring three times every summer.

    Heard on NPR "Talk of the Nation" program 7/18/2012:
    Today, more people die from heat-waves than from all other weather events (hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, etc) combined.

    DoSomething.org's "Facts About Heat Waves"


  4. Higher sea levels will affect man-made facilities.

    All of our coastal cities and port facilities have been built to assume a certain average sea level, which now will be changed. The costs of moving or rebuilding major port cities such as New York, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, etc could be enormous.

    Some of our coastal cities already are pumping water constantly to keep the ocean out; this problem will get worse for those cities, and affect cities where it hasn't been a problem. New York is fighting seawater intrusion into subways and basements. New Orleans pumps water out 24/7 to stay above water. Chicago floods on occasion. All of these will get worse.

    Many of the "mega-cities" of the world, especially in Asia, are coastal or river cities, barely above current sea-level, and some vulnerable to flooding from increased rainfall too. From "Save our cities" article in 17 Mar 2012 issue of The Economist magazine: Guangzhou China, Seoul South Korea, Nagoya, Bangkok Thailand, Manila Phillipines, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, Jakarta Indonesia, Dhaka Bangladesh, Kolkata Bangladesh, Chennai Bangladesh, Mumbai India.

    Sea Level Rise Maps

    Major industrial facilities that require lots of cooling tend to be build on coastlines, and have been built to assume a certain average sea level. This includes nuclear power plants.

    Higher average sea levels also mean higher extreme sea levels, when there are hurricanes or storms or tsunamis. If a nuclear plant was built to assume the worst-case water level (maybe seasonal high-high tide plus wind-driven plus tsunami) would never exceed N feet, and now it's going to be N+5 feet, that's a problem. [An increase in average sea level can be multiplied to make a much larger increase in coastal wave size in a storm. Waves get amplified when they travel from deep water to shallow water. Water moves from mid-ocean to pile up against coasts.]

    Houses have been built assuming certain sea levels, and the existence of barrier islands and protection from reefs. In the USA, people have been moving from the center of the country to the coasts for decades now. The impact when sea levels rise will be very costly.

    Coastal houses can be affected by rising water-table levels, too. If sea-level rises, maybe the land water-table rises, and suddenly your house's foundation is sitting in water. And it might be salty water.

    Flooding that overwhelms sanitation systems often causes epidemics (cholera, typhoid).

    John Timmer's "Business as usual + sea level rise = losses of up to 9% of global GDP"
    Lori Montgomery's "In Norfolk, evidence of climate change is in the streets at high tide"


  5. Precipitation changes.

    From "The Planet Fixers" panel 8/2011 with Tom Brokaw:
    Rajendra Pachauri: Farming is another big consideration. There are about a billion people, largely in the developing world, who are dependent totally on rain-fed agriculture. With changes in precipitation levels and the availability of water, their livelihoods and their ability to stay on the soil that they've been tilling will be affected badly. What are they going to do? They're going to stream into towns and cities to pick up any kind of job that they can get. There will also be illegal immigration. These problems will not remain confined to certain parts of the world; they are going to become global problems that could rise to the level of a crisis.

    Paraphrased from Michael Lemonick interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air", 14 Aug 2012 (podcast):
    If GCC causes your area to get the same annual amount of rain, but get it in a much shorter period in much bigger storms, that's a problem.

    Major mountain ranges (Sierra, Andes, Himalayas) have less snow and ice on them, so the snowmelt runoff is less, or the runoff starts sooner and ends much sooner than usual.

    Fresh water supplies might be affected by saltwater intrusion into aquifers.


  6. Temperature and precipitation and sea-level changes will affect agriculture.

    From Mark Hertsgaard's "How To Feed the World After Climate Change":

    Consider corn. The major crop (by volume) grown in the United States, corn does not reproduce at temperatures higher than 95 degrees. During the 20th century, Iowa experienced three straight days of 95 only once a decade. But by 2040, if greenhouse gas emissions remain on their current high trajectory, Iowa will experience three straight days of 95-degree heat in three summers out of four, professors Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University and Donald Wuebbles of the University of Illinois have calculated.

    ...

    ... feeding the world under climate change will require a broader strategy, grounded in two imperatives. On the one hand, we must rapidly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, to avoid facing unmanageable amounts of future climate change. On the other, we must prepare our agricultural sectors for the climate impacts already "in the pipeline", which will be severe enough.

    The currently dominant system of industrial agriculture is a loser on both fronts. It emits enormous amounts of greenhouse gases, partly because it consumes huge quantities of oil - to power farm equipment, manufacture fertilizer, and ship food through global networks. Meanwhile, its preference for monoculture rather than diversity makes it extremely vulnerable to hot and volatile weather, as well as to the uptick in pests and diseases such weather will bring.

    Paraphrased from Michael Lemonick interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air", 14 Aug 2012 (podcast):
    Sometimes GCC may result in longer growing seasons for crops, which would seem to be a good thing. But if it also gives you more frequent serious droughts during that longer growing season, that's very bad.

    "Ninety percent of the world's food is derived from just 15 plant and 8 animal species."

    Changes can affect size and configuration of deserts.

    Much agriculture, such as rice cultivation, is done in river deltas and other sea-level coastal areas. When the sea rises, these areas move or disappear. The good soil may end up undersea.


  7. Temperature and precipitation changes can cause increased wildfires.

    ScienceDaily's "More Large Forest Fires Linked To Climate Change"


  8. Ocean acidification.

    This is killing coral and affecting other things.

    From Lisa-ann Gershwin on The Science Show 7/2013:

    When I began writing this book, ... I had a naive gut feeling that all was still salvageable and that by really 'getting it', we would still have time to act. I even thought that we could hand our children a better world, with all the perks we enjoy plus a bit of extra wisdom gleaned along the way.

    But I think I underestimated how severely we have damaged our oceans and their inhabitants. I now think that we have pushed them too far, past some mysterious tipping point that came and went without fanfare, with no red circle on the calendar and without us knowing the precise moment it all became irreversible. I now sincerely believe that it is only a matter of time before the oceans as we know them and need them to be become very different places indeed. No coral reefs teeming with life. No more mighty whales or wobbling penguins. No lobsters or oysters. Sushi without fish.

    In their place, we shall see blue-green algae, emerald green algae, golden algae, flashing blue algae, red tides, brown tides, and jellyfish. Lots of jellyfish. The seas were dying for us to notice their distress, but we collectively chose to overlook the red flags. ...

    Throughout the history of life on Earth, major macroevolutionary events, such as mass extinctions and periods of intense evolutionary diversification, have been linked to global-scale changes in environmental conditions. Even relatively small changes in climate have driven major ecosystem change through sea-level fluctuations leading to the opening of straits or the emergence of isthmuses. Today's overfishing, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions are comparable to the intense global warming, acidification, hypoxia, and mass extinctions through history ... all at once.

    It is unlikely that all life in the oceans will disappear, or that photosynthesis will simply cease; it is, however, likely that our marine ecosystems will undergo radical simplification. This is already occurring in many locations around the world. Diatoms are being out-competed by flagellates. Large copepods are being replaced by small copepods. Fish-dominated systems are flipping to jellyfish-dominated systems. High-energy food chains are being replaced by low-energy food chains. ...

    By fishing down our food webs and initiating trophic cascades, we are removing the large predators - the things with teeth. Ocean acidification is dissolving the hard parts of corals, molluscs, echinoderms, and crustaceans, sparing only the soft squishy species. And hypoxia is killing off even the species we can't bring ourselves to care about.

    Jeremy Jackson has been quoted a lot lately in the popular press for his view that we are creating a 'rise of slime'. And he appears to be right. For a glimpse of what our oceans may look like in the future - and maybe not all that far, in my lifetime and yours - jellyfish evolved in a world devoid of predators, and their only competitors were each other. Long before plants and animals became abundant, the seas were anoxic or hypoxic. ...

    ...

    The ancient seas were dominated by flora and fauna similar to those that today's seas appear to be shifting toward. No spectacular coral reefs. No vast filtering mussel beds. No sharks slicing through the water, just jellyfish, lots of jellyfish. It might seem outlandish and farcical to think that jellyfish could rule the seas, but they've done it before, and now we have opened the door for them to do it again. Jellyfish are weeds. They are opportunists, and when they have the opportunity, taking over is probably, to some extent, just what jellyfish do.


  9. Changes to weather patterns.

    Changes in ocean currents and jet streams could cause major changes to weather or climate in various places. For example, if the Gulf Stream changes, Britain could become a lot colder.

    Paraphrased from Michael Lemonick interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air", 14 Aug 2012 (podcast):
    Melting ice near the poles leads to warmer air masses near the poles, which may change jet-streams and other large drivers of weather patterns.



  10. Positive-feedback loops.

    Melting the tundra releases CO2 and methane, which increases warming, which melts more tundra. As Arctic ice melts, water that was below the surface becomes exposed to the sun and absorbs more solar energy, which leads to warmer oceans, which melts more ice.


  11. GCC will not cause the end of the Earth, or the end of the human race.

    The Earth and the human race are very adaptable; they'll survive. But GCC may cause changes that are painful and costly and undesirable.


The Onion's "Advanced Alien Civilization Discovers Uninhabitable Planet"











How to fight Global Climate Change


  1. Emit less carbon.

    Best way to get there: add incentives to the market. Revenue-neutral carbon tax. Gasoline tax. Make drilling and mining operations pay for environmental damage they do. Stop subsidizing fossil fuels and big agriculture. Then let market forces push companies to develop better energy sources, more efficient appliances and vehicles, etc. Let market forces push people to consume smarter and less, while maintaining their standard of living.

    Tax carbon emissions, tax other pollution, eliminate agricultural subsidies that encourage use of (fossil-fuel-based) fertilizers and pesticides, eliminate subsidies that encourage drilling and mining of fossil fuels. Make agricultural operations pay for pesticide and fertilizer runoff that damages the environment.

    Increasing conservation and reducing waste are by far the easiest and quickest ways to emit less carbon. You could cut the carbon emissions from your car in half today by calling your neighbor and arranging to car-pool to work and school and stores. You could decide to take fewer airplane trips, walk or ride your bike whenever possible, etc. Small changes that add up: dry laundry on clothesline instead of in a dryer, drive slower and more smoothly, improve weatherstripping on your doors and windows.

    Mark Hertsgaard's "Sun Food vs. Oil Food"
    Jeffrey Leonard's "Get the Energy Sector off the Dole"
    Matthew Yglesias's "Raise the Gas Tax!"
    Ryan Carlyle's "If All U.S. Cars Suddenly Became Electric, How Much More Electricity Would We Need?"

    But: The Economist's "The fuel of the future, unfortunately"

    See my Why carbon tax is better than cap-and-trade.


  2. Reduce other contributors to GCC.

    Desertification and land-clearing release carbon from the soil and surface. We should preserve jungles and forests and grasslands, and roll back deserts.


  3. Geo-engineering.

    For example, deliberately release SO2 or synthetics into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight.

    We only have one Earth, so if something goes wrong, we're in big trouble, maybe worse than the effects of GCC.

    How do you "un-tip" a tipping-point ? If mile-thick ice on Antarctica has melted or slid into the ocean, dumping some chemicals into the atmosphere or ocean isn't going to rebuild that ice in a hurry. If ocean-currents have shifted, how do you shift them back ? If polar bears have gone extinct, how do you revive them ? If permafrost or tundra has melted, I don't think you can just freeze it again and everything is back to the way it was. If invasive species have moved north into lakes and rivers and forests, will they leave when temperatures drop ? If they've wiped out native species, those species probably won't come back.

    What happens if, say, China injects something into the atmosphere that turns out (via changed rainfall patterns or something) to save 50 million lives in China but kill 50 million people in India ? War ? What happens if China tries method A to cool the Earth, USA tries method B, Russia tries method C, India tries method D, and they interact in some unexpected way ?

    GCC is more than just "warming", so any geo-engineering solution would have to produce more than just "cooling". It would have to reverse changes in ocean acidification, species extinction, sea-level rise, insect and crop and disease ranges, precipitation patterns, ocean current patterns, jet-stream patterns, etc.

    Apparently there is a "termination effect": if we inject something into atmosphere to suppress warming, then someday STOP injecting it, temperature suddenly rises much faster than it would have done otherwise. Which is bad: less time for species and humans to adjust.

    Michael Specter's "The Climate Fixers"
    Scott K. Johnson's "Reversing climate change even more difficult than it might sound"
    Scott K. Johnson's "Geoengineering, through the eyes of the IPCC"
    Wikipedia's "Climate engineering"
    Steve Connor's "Plan to avert global warming by cooling planet artificially 'could cause climate chaos'"


Fighting Global Climate Change would create jobs. Jobs developing renewable energy, jobs fighting pollution, jobs making more efficient appliances and vehicles, etc. Jobs !

From "The Planet Fixers" panel 8/2011 with Tom Brokaw:
Rajendra Pachauri: If we just started by addressing the enormous amount of waste in the world, we wouldn't need to make huge sacrifices. We would actually be able to improve our living standards because we would have less waste to manage. We can do things in a much smarter way without having to live in caves or wrap ourselves in sheepskin.

Will Oremus on how New York City could cut emissions by 90 percent
Sanjay Kapoor's "On Climate Change, Obama Should Steal a Page from Walmart"

Article by Matthew Yglesias about fossil fuel subsidies
Brad Plumer's "IMF: Want to fight climate change? Get rid of $1.9 trillion in energy subsidies."

A response I gave to someone:
I think the pollution and climate change and environmental damage and wars caused by fossil fuels are bad things. A change to renewable energy would fix much of that. The best way to effect that change would be to change the economic incentives. Right now, we subsidize fossil fuels (and some renewable energy). I think we should get rid of all of the subsidies (on both types), and charge fossil fuels for the pollution and climate change and environmental damage and health damage they do. The best way to charge for it is a carbon tax. Maybe it will have to be phased in over 10 or 20 years; I don't know.

From Changesurfer Radio interview of Shaun Chamberlin:
Possible responses to climate change:
  • Denial: go on as usual with no change. Result: we start hitting runaway climate change in 2016 ?


  • Apocalyptic: Bible says end time is near; bring it on !


  • In Carl Munson interview, SC adds:
  • Hitting the wall: acknowledge these problems exist, but try to deal with them through existing ways of thinking and free market mechanisms. Won't work.


  • Impossible dream: science will come up with some technical solution, so we can carry on as usual with no change. Won't work.


  • Transition: instead of relying on governments or nations to solve the problem, or relying on individual actions, we need new ways of thinking, such as community actions (local food, etc), positive changes in lifestyles.






De-growth or anti-capitalism:

Some people say that the very nature of capitalism requires continual, unlimited growth. And thus we must change to some form of socialism to fight climate change. I don't agree.

Definitions:
  • Socialism:
    The means of production, distribution, and exchange is owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

  • Capitalism:
    A country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
    Private ownership of capital.

Choices:
(Mostly from Richard Smith's "Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?".)
  • Herman Daly and the anti-growth "steady-state economics" school:
    Capitalism can be reconstructed so that it stops growing quantitatively (or even contracts) but continues to develop internally.


  • The pro-growth "green capitalism" school led by Paul Hawken, Lester Brown, Frances Cairncross - which today includes Nicholas Stern, Paul Krugman and others:
    Capitalism could grow more or less forever but that growth could be rendered benign for the environment by imposing carbon taxes, by forging a "green industrial revolution" to "decouple" growth from pollution ("dematerialization") and by relying on consumer demand to pressure industries to go green.


  • A post-capitalist eco-socialist economy:



Richard Smith's "Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?" says "ecologically suicidal growth is built into the nature of any conceivable capitalism".

But I think capitalism CAN be regulated to become "steady-state" or "green". The criticisms of that are based on assuming unfettered, unregulated capitalism, and/or by assuming hard distinctions between labor and owners etc, and/or by assuming changes from today's situation to a new regulatory framework would be sudden and drastic. Sure, elements within capitalism are driven to maximize growth. That doesn't mean all of capitalism is unworkable and can't be regulated.






How to adapt to Global Climate Change


Even if we somehow started today doing everything to fight GCC, we're on an unstoppable progression of GCC for the next 50 years or so. So what can we do to adapt to GCC ?

  1. Start pulling back from the coasts.

    Stop federal and state flood insurance for coastal areas, or greatly increase the rates.


  2. Prepare for rising sea levels, more extreme weather, etc.

    Harden or move power plants and other industrial plants that are vulnerable.


  3. Get away from mono-culture agriculture.

    If only a few varieties of corn (or wheat, or soybeans) are grown in the USA, and the climate changes in a way that greatly affects their yield, the whole world is in big trouble. We should start diversifying now.


The Onion's "Bloomberg Proposes NYC Climate Change Protection Plan"











What do "Climate Change Deniers" say ?


From WasabiBomb on reddit:
The Five Stages of Climate Change Denial:
  1. Climate change isn't happening.

  2. Okay, climate change is happening, but it's due to the Earth's natural cycles.

  3. Okay, climate change is happening, it might be due to human activity, but it's generally a good thing.

  4. Oh, all right, climate change is happening, it's probably due to human activity, but it's not going to be as bad as the scientists suggest.

  5. Climate change is happening, it is caused by human activity, it's a really bad thing, but there's very little we can do about it and there are lots of other bad things we should worry about first.
Sean Carroll on deniers

  1. It's a hoax to make climate-scientists rich.

    I had no idea there was so much propaganda around the idea that scientists are getting rich off climate-change research. A Google search for "money spent research climate change" shows the first 50 or more results are all sites claiming this. It looks like an orchestrated campaign.

    Will take me a while to look at this, but at first blush it looks like critics are lumping in all kinds of things: govt subsidies to alternative energy, money spent for pollution reduction such as controlling coal plant emissions, unspecified "foreign aid". I don't consider money for alternative energy or pollution reduction to be "climate change research". I'd guess that "foreign aid" goes for rainforest preservation or something, not into the pockets of scientists.

    And the critics seem to mention future big numbers that have no relation to the issue, to scare people. They mention that someone estimates a cap-and-trade system might trade $126 billion of permits a few years from now. Well, that's not money paid to researchers, or to governments, or taxes extracted from taxpayers or corporations. I'm not sure how to think of that number, but I think it's mentioned to scare people.

    I don't think climate scientists are getting billions of dollars for climate research. They're just using data from weather satellites and stations, and running computer models. Any serious money would be going into launching satellites or building super-computers, not going to the scientists themselves.

    Probably most climate scientists could make a lot more money working for insurance companies or banks or other corporations, doing flood risk analysis or crop forecasts or market forecasts or something. Or selling out and working for oil companies, making anti-GCC propaganda.

    Now, I could see serious money being spent on pilot projects to fight global climate change. Such things as carbon-sequestration schemes for coal power plants. Other things, such as green-power subsidies and grants for new-design nuclear power plants, serve multiple purposes (reducing pollution, reducing dependence on foreign oil, increasing safety) as well as fighting GCC. But even there we're talking a few billions for a major carbon-sequestration or nuclear project, less than we spend in a month in Afghanistan or Iraq.

    Al Gore:

    Apparently a lot of people think Al Gore is whipping up hysteria to get rich: The Telegraph's "Al Gore could become world's first carbon billionaire".

    I don't see it that way: Gore believes GCC is real, and is putting his money where his mouth is to help fight it. And he's investing in renewable energy, which is good for many reasons, not just fighting GCC.

    According to Wikipedia's "An Inconvenient Truth", Gore's interest in GCC dates back to a 1967 course he took at Harvard, and 1981 Congressional hearings he initiated. AP article says Gore joined venture capital firm KPCB to invest in "green energy" in 11/2007. So his interest in GCC far predates his business involvement.

    According to Wikipedia's KPCB page, "Gore stated that every penny made from his investments were put in a non-profit to spread awareness of climate change." But AP article says "Gore said he'll donate 100 percent of his salary as a Kleiner Perkins partner to the advocacy group ..." which is not the same thing as "every penny made from his investments".

    Another article: John M. Broder's "Gore's Dual Role: Advocate and Investor".

    And the GCC critics seem to ignore the tons of profits and subsidies the fossil-fuel and power companies are fighting to protect, by denying GCC. Those companies are financing campaigns and lobbying politicians to sow doubt about GCC. They're producing propaganda and feeding it to GCC-critics.
    Harassment of climate change scientists
    Plot idea
    Right-wing science


  2. It's a hoax to raise our taxes and make the government rich.

    Well, if the government insists on grabbing more tax money from us, would you rather have them tax (discourage) income or tax (discourage) pollution and excess consumption and waste ? See my Consumption and Energy page.

    If you're really against higher taxes, and in favor of smaller government, you should favor cutting military/intelligence/security spending; that's taking up to 40% of the federal budget (if you include VA and interest on debt from past military spending). That's where the big money is.

    Taxes related to fighting GCC (carbon tax, or cap-and-trade) can be made revenue-neutral (no additional tax income to the government) by offsetting them with income tax rebates. Same amount brought in by GCC tax paid out by income tax rebates. See my Consumption and Energy page.

    Revenue-neutral: "We're going to reduce your income tax by $1000, and increase taxes on your gasoline and fossil electricity by $1000. Then it's your choice if you want to keep using same amount of gasoline and fossil electricity, or less, or more."


  3. It's a hoax to boss us around: take away our SUV's and incandescent lightbulbs. It's those one-world Commie liberals at it again.

    A bit of paranoia here. And those who can't win the argument based on facts and logic resort to name-calling.

    Fascinating study: "Merchants of Doubt" by Naomi Oreskes. Some points gleaned from Richard Fidler interview of Naomi Oreskes 2012:
    The strategy of "selling doubt" traces back to the 50's, when three prominent physicists (Frederick Seitz, William Nierenberg, and Robert Jastrow) gathered in the George C. Marshall Institute. They worked to fight any limitation of personal freedom by government, since they thought any limitation was a slippery slope leading to Communism. And they saw "Reds under the bed" everywhere.

    So they became "serial contrarians" against any science that might lead to government regulation. They were paid by the tobacco companies to deny that cigarettes caused cancer. Later, they were paid to deny on DDT, acid rain, the ozone hole, now on Global Climate Change.

    They operated on the principle "if you can't win the debate because the facts are against you, win by stringing out the debate, sowing doubt, delaying, saying the jury is still out, etc".

    The logical flaw is that, for example, cancer is a bigger "limitation on your personal freedoms" than any government regulation of tobacco could be. The effects of Global Climate Change would be a bigger "limitation on your personal freedoms" than imposition of a carbon tax would be.

    Also, by producing secondhand smoke or chemicals that cause GCC, your behavior is "limiting the personal freedoms" of other people. What gives you the right to do that ?

    The longer we delay before fighting GCC, the more likely it becomes that the effects of GCC will "limit your personal freedoms", and the more likely that we'll have to resort to extreme measures that even further "limit your personal freedoms".
    From interview of Naomi Oreskes:
    As far as we know, none of the players in our story did anything illegal, and it was all done quite openly. The men in our story had dedicated their lives to science and technology in the cause of defending the U.S. against the Soviet threat. When the Cold War ended just a few years later, they just couldn't lay down their arms. So they found a new threat in environmentalism, which they worried would lead to excessive government regulation of the marketplace, and put us on the slippery slope to socialism.

    ...

    A key tactic used by the Merchants of Doubt was to invoke the ideals of fairness and balance to persuade the media to give equal time to their views. Even the great Edward R. Murrow fell prey to this tactic, giving the tobacco industry equal time to argue that the facts regarding the harms of tobacco were not established. Murrow's death from lung cancer a few years later was both tragic and ironic, for during World War II Murrow had been an articulate opponent of meretricious balance in reporting. Murrow was not ashamed to take the side of democracy, and felt no need to try to get the Nazi perspective.

    It seems that balance has often been interpreted as giving equal weight to both sides in an argument, rather than giving accurate weight. If 99% of scientists agree that tobacco is harmful, and 1% think the jury is out or hold an alternative theory, then it's fair to acknowledge the 1%, so long as you make it clear that they are only 1%.
    From interview of Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway:
    The contrarians we studied -- who systematically sought to undermine the scientific evidence of the harms of tobacco, acid rain, the ozone hole, DDT and global warming ...

    ... they camouflaged a political debate as a scientific one, doing serious damage along the way both to individual scientists and to the credibility of science writ large. Even when their claims were shown, in some cases, to be demonstrably false, they declined to acknowledge this, often repeating refuted claims as if they were true. And the press continued to quote them, continued to treat them as real experts.

    One might argue, of course, that the contrarians of Merchants of Doubt really did believe that they were right and everyone else was wrong. Indeed, this is what we argue. [They] shared the conviction that environmental threats were being exaggerated. By offering a 'calmer' view, they believed that they were helping to prevent heavy-handed government interference in the marketplace, and ultimately in our private affairs.

    These political convictions -- forged in the Cold War -- were so strongly held, that they blinded [them] to the mounting scientific evidence that acid rain, the ozone hole, second-hand smoke, and global warming were real problems, doing real damage. They also led to behavior that can only be explained as following the tenet -- for which communists had been routinely excoriated in the Cold War -- that the ends did justify the means.
    From Wikipedia's "Merchants of Doubt",
    Seitz and Singer helped to form institutions such as the Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute and Marshall Institute in the United States. Funded by corporations and conservative foundations, these organizations have opposed many forms of state intervention or regulation of U.S. citizens. The book lists similar tactics in each case: "discredit the science, disseminate false information, spread confusion, and promote doubt".

    The book says that over the course of more than 20 years, Singer, Seitz, (and a few other contrarian scientists) did almost no original scientific research on the issues which they debated. They had once been prominent researchers, but by the time they turned to the topics presented in Merchants of Doubt, they were, the authors state, mostly attacking the reputation and work of others. On every issue they were opposed to the scientific consensus.

    The Guardian's "Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks"
    The Guardian's "Fox News found to be a major driving force behind global warming denial"


  4. Those leaked emails from scientists in England prove GCC is a fraud.

    Paraphrased from Michael Lemonick interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air", 14 Aug 2012 (podcast):
    Those emails revealed frustrated scientists talking harshly in private about critics, and the emails sound bad when publicized. But multiple commissions have investigated the emails and the science done by those scientists, and in every case have concluded "the science is not in question". Nothing in the emails says anything like "GCC is a fraud, we're fooling the public, etc". Mostly they say "why are the critics getting away with their lies, how can we get the public to pay attention to the truth".

    From Wikipedia's "Climatic Research Unit email controversy":
    "Eight committees investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct."



  5. You're a hypocritical liberal if you say GCC is real, but you still use fossil fuels.

    That's like saying "It's hypocritical to say we should improve the healthcare system, but you still use it".

    It's fine to advocate for national policy changes, while still having to live within the current environment of policies and markets. Sure, you should try to minimize your use of fossil-fuels, try to minimize garbage and pollution, etc. But you can't live completely on hydro power if the local grid is running on coal power. You can't drive a hydrogen car until the cars and stations are available. You can't stop government subsidies to fossil fuel companies by some change in your personal life.


  6. It's an attempt to give away our national sovereignty: make a one-world government.

    Part of a recurring campaign by extremists. None of their past stories (Hillary Clinton signed document to let China take any USA assets they wanted, Obama planned to outlaw sale of ammunition, Obama about to declare martial law, Obama going to sign some UN treaty to register and seize all guns, etc) have turned out to be true. All false.

    And I can think of far more likely ways to give away our "sovereignty". Military alliances such as NATO. Intelligence alliances that support drone strikes, rendition for torture, secret prisons. Dreaming up GCC would seem to be a pretty weak and indirect way to do it.


  7. Environmentalists are "extremists" who want to kill the American economy.

    There's nothing "extreme" about wanting clean air and water and land and food, wanting us to stop having wars over oil, wanting us to stop making species extinct so there's something good left for future generations.

    And there are plenty of job-opportunities in developing more efficient appliances and vehicles, cleaner energy, reducing waste, caring for the environment. It doesn't have to be an economic negative, but it does have to be an economic CHANGE. And some people just don't want any change. Either they're making money off the current situation, or they're scared of change in general.

    For example, our drinking-water systems are so old in many places that we waste 1 in 6 gallons of clean drinking water we create. (Some towns or cities have pipes dating back to the Civil War; some have wooden pipes in some places. Average age of a water-pipe in Washington DC is 78 years.) We should fund new jobs to fix those systems, which would reduce the energy consumed to supply water.

    Think of the jobs that would be created to build new power-plants and decommission old coal power-plants. Jobs to upgrade the electric grid. Jobs to install solar panels and wind-generators.

    Taxes related to fighting GCC (carbon tax, or cap-and-trade) can be made revenue-neutral (no additional tax income to the government, little additional burden on the economy) by offsetting them with income tax rebates.

    If we do things smarter and more efficiently, we can use less energy and have a better economy and better lives. One small example: using LED bulbs means less energy used, better health (because of less pollution), less climate change, better economy (healthier workers, money put into more productive uses), even better standard of living (LEDs are more flexible, smaller, and give less heat than incandescents).

    Past predictions of disaster
    Eric Holthaus's "U.N. Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy"


  8. Show me a healthy and strong economy that doesn't offer cheap energy..

    Our energy only appears to be cheap because many of the costs of it are shifted elsewhere. Onto the environment, the climate, our health, our military, our politics.

    Many European countries put very high taxes on fuel, yet have strong economies and some of the highest standards of living in the world.

    Many modern economies thrive more on knowledge work or services, rather than manufacturing or energy. Industries such as finance, education, healthcare, software, entertainment, media/publishing, information technology are not driven by the price of energy. Of course, energy is important to many other industries: transportation, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, etc.


  9. Renewable energy is failing and being abandoned.

    First, do you agree that GCC is real and a problem ? Even if renewable energy was a hoax, GCC would be a problem, and we should address it. And renewable energy is not the only way to fight it.

    Second, renewable energy is not "failing". Some common claims:



  10. Renewable energy is risky and unproven, and changing to it might drive the American economy off a cliff.

    We wouldn't change overnight; new infrastructure and tax regimes would be rolled out and phased in over decades.

    Renewable energy technologies have been in development for decades, and have been deployed commercially in some countries for many years now. Germany gets 20% or more of its energy from renewables today. Many countries are deploying wind-power, geothermal, tidal, solar. In USA, many power companies are deploying solar panels on telephone poles. Solar PV still is improving rapidly, getting cheaper and more efficient. Companies are exploring ocean-current power. Far from being on the "bleeding edge" and taking risks, the USA is lagging behind other countries. They are gaining the experience, and will reap the jobs and money from the new technologies if we do little.
    Scotland aims for 50% renewable power by 2015


  11. If USA makes changes, and other countries don't, it will just hurt USA's competitive position, so USA shouldn't do anything.

    USA is biggest consumer in the world, so even if only USA changes, that will have big effect on the problem. And fixing the GCC problem is beneficial to people in the USA (health, energy prices, impacts on coasts and agriculture, etc).

    In past, USA has acted to prevent other countries from fighting GCC; maybe it's time USA got out front and led for a while.

    If USA commits to new energy technologies and efficiency technologies earlier than other countries, USA has chance to become world leader in ownership of those new technologies. By dragging its feet, USA is ceding that technology leadership to China and Germany and others.


  12. SkepticalScience's "Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says"


  13. Some guy with a PhD says GCC is wrong.

    A degree in some other subject does not make you qualified to evaluate climate science in any depth, and does not make you "as good as" a climate scientist. There are real climate scientists, who have studied that field specifically, earned degrees in the field, done research in it, and worked in it for years or decades. There are real degrees in that field. For example, see Iowa State University's "What is Climate Science" or Scripps PhD program in Climate Science.

    Barry Brook's "So just who does climate science?"

    Paraphrased from Michael Lemonick interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air", 14 Aug 2012 (podcast):
    The consensus that Global Climate Change is real and human-caused is strongest among scientists most familiar with the topic and working in the field: climate scientists. The (relatively few) scientists who say there are serious doubts or that it's a hoax are working in other fields, and on GCC frequently do not know what they're talking about.

    Paraphrased from Michael Lemonick interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air", 14 Aug 2012 (podcast):
    > About half of meteorologists think GCC is wrong or a hoax.

    Meteorology is not the same as climate science.

    And some polls show half of population of USA think Evolution is false. So polls and percentages don't tell you much about what actually is true.

    Phil Plait's "Why Climate Change Denial Is Just Hot Air"
    Phil Plait's "Marco Rubio: Another Senator Who Doubts Global Warming"




  14. Here's 10 pages of charts and text about how the "experts" are wrong about CO2.

    Sorry, I tend to believe the thousands of smart people who have degrees in climate science and have spent their entire careers studying this, using the some of the best computers, satellites, space missions and detailed data in the world. I doubt they're unaware of some data or argument that you have come up with.

    Please go back to the Is it real ? section of this page, to see more about why I believe the experts.

    Experts aren't always right. But individual non-experts cherry-picking the data for ideological reasons almost always are wrong.

    From Michael Lemonick interviewed by Nick Pinto:
    The truth is, climate-skeptic arguments are very persuasive. They're simple, they're resonant, and they make good common sense. Some people who write about climate get angry about these arguments and dismiss them as ignorant and stupid and deliberate attempts to mislead (which they are, in many cases).

    But what I try to do is think about the average person I talk to in a given day and what their understanding is. When someone raises those arguments to me, I don't say "That is so stupid! You are so ignorant! Shut up!" What I try to say, and what I say in the book is, "That's a really good point. That makes lots of sense. The sun gives us all our warmth, that's the first place you'd look if things are warming up or cooling down. Great point, scientists think so too. They went and looked at it, and got the data, and this is what it shows: It turns out not to be true. But good thought!"



  15. Global temperature didn't rise, or went down slightly, in last decade.

    Paraphrased from Michael Lemonick interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air", 14 Aug 2012 (podcast):
    No one said the temperature would go up constantly and consistently. There are major natural cycles, such as El Nino and La Nina, that still go on despite GCC. So you can't just pick one piece of data and use it to say something about GCC.

    Peter Gleick: "Global Warming Has Stopped"? How to Fool People Using "Cherry-Picked" Climate Data
    Chart


  16. Human beliefs were wrong in the past, so maybe we're wrong about GCC now.

    "The earth is the center of the universe, the earth is flat, cigarettes do not cause cancer. All cases where the dumb public knew by simple observation and were told it is too complex for their simple minds so trust us BLINDLY. To me it's easy: present the data, assumptions and model and if it is correct it will hold up and if not it will not."

    Those examples of historical fallacies are not the same as today's situation with GCC. We have tons of real data about climate. Sure, every detail is not understood. But it's far from the situation where people had no data, and assumed the earth was flat.

    The data HAS been presented, to climate scientists in many international conferences, and apparently it DID "hold up". I think it is so complex that presenting it to the public would be futile. You're welcome to subscribe to climate science journals and see if YOU can understand it. I'm sure I wouldn't be able to; I even get confused trying to understand books about how the global weather systems work. It's complex.

    Re: "in the 70's, scientists said an ice age was coming":
    SkepticalScience's "What were climate scientists predicting in the 1970s?"

    My response to "no one knows the exact causes and/or cures of GCC, [so we should ignore it]":
    Sure, no one knows EXACTLY every detail of the causes or effects; few real public-policy issues have that kind of exactness. Only theoretical science or mathematics can get EXACT. We make decisions all the time based on partial evidence. Climate-change has better evidence and consensus than most other public-policy issues (healthcare, war, taxes, etc) do.



  17. We can't even forecast tomorrow's weather accurately; why should we believe climate forecasts ?.

    I think predicting GCC is different from predicting tomorrow's weather. Sure, there are a lot of variables, so tomorrow's specific weather forecast often is wrong. But if asked to predict AVERAGE weather for a place over the next few weeks, the forecast of the AVERAGE would be very good.

    Same with GCC. If asked to predict exactly which place would be warmer/cooler or have more/less rain in a specific future year, the scientists couldn't do it. But if asked to predict the GLOBAL AVERAGES in 20-year chunks, for example, they'd be very good at it.


  18. Scientists aren't sure EXACTLY how bad GCC will be, so we should do nothing.

    Forecasts for the next 35 or 85 years range from "bad" to "horribly bad", and forecasts after that may have to start with "disastrous" and go up from there. Sure, there's a fair amount of uncertainty. But we make big decisions all the time based on partial evidence. Climate-change has better evidence and scientific consensus than many other public-policy issues do.


  19. It's impossible for our tiny human activities to affect the enormous Earth.

    Well, there are some seven billion of us humans, consuming some 100 million barrels of oil per day, running power plants and ships and trains and cars and home heaters and air-conditioners 24/365. Agriculture uses about 150 million tons of fertilizer each year, uses about 2.5 million tons of pesticides and herbicides every year, and produces millions of tons of plant and animal waste each year. Total solid waste (including sewage) produced worldwide is about 4 million tons per day. We use and discard so much plastic that tiny fragments of it are found in every drop of ocean water these days. We build dams and canals that change the behavior of enormous watersheds for decades or centuries. We drain aquifers that take centuries to recharge. When a sewer system in a major city breaks down, we pump millions of gallons of raw sewage into a river or ocean each day. Human activity emits some 35 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. The numbers are big.

    Industrial fishing has wiped out incredibly large stocks of fish that once seemed inexhaustible. Humans wiped out immense herds of buffalo and immense flocks of passenger pigeons in USA.

    And a small change to a biological or atmospheric system can have big effects. Send some tons of CFC molecules up to the upper atmosphere, and they stay there for decades or longer, disassembling millions of tons of ozone molecules (ozone hole). Add a few invasive, predatory fish to a lake or river, and they multiply and eat everything.

    It takes only a day for a group of humans to cut down a stand of trees that took 200 years to grow. We produce radioactive waste that takes thousands of years to decay.

    Also, we are living on the surface of the Earth, which is a thin layer, mostly covered by water. And the atmosphere and oceans very efficiently take anything we dump into them and distribute it everywhere.

    Many geologists now call this era the "Anthropocene", because the effects of human activity will be preserved in the geologic record (rock layers, etc) for millions or billions of years. Wikipedia's "Anthropocene"

    Yes, humans can have a big effect on the Earth.


  20. Temperatures and CO2 levels have been higher at times in the past.

    True, but not while humans were in existence. And now the climate is changing faster than it's ever changed before. And it's changing while we have 7 billion (soon to be 9 billion) humans to feed, most people living in coastal areas, the environment already stressed by pollution and overuse, and critical infrastructure built in coastal areas assuming previous sea level. Important crops may be severely affected.


  21. We've had "ice ages" in the past.

    Never has the climate changed so rapidly as it is today, in more ways than just temperature. If change is slow, species can adapt, move, etc. Evolution works. But when change is rapid, things just die.

    Never have we had so much human infrastructure, and national boundaries, and inflexibility, during a major climate change. "The Earth" may not care much if sea level rises 10 feet, but a billion people may have to move or starve as farm fields and aquifers and coastal cities are flooded. "The Earth" may not care much if patterns of rainfall and insects and diseases change, but humans and human constructs certainly will be greatly affected.

    Never has the human race been so numerous, and pushing the limits of resources so hard. If conditions change rapidly, we may see mass starvation, mass migrations, wars, etc. What happens if crop yields fall 50% in USA ? Sure, maybe land in Canada or Russia will become more fertile in exchange. Does that mean: no problem ? No, it means: catastrophe.


  22. Anger.

    I think much of climate-change denial is part of the general know-nothing anger movement (angry white males, anti-free-trade, Tea Party, etc). It comes from declining standards of living in the USA.

    Things used to be good for everyone, even low-skilled workers. USA was the only country standing after WW II, unskilled jobs were plentiful, people had pensions and houses and prospects and big cars and cheap gasoline. Moon landings.

    Then came assassinations, Viet Nam war, Watergate, energy crises, foreign competition, widening gap between rich and poor, jobs eliminated by automation or moving overseas, loss of big low-skilled industries such as textiles, automaking, steelmaking, assembly-line work, light manufacturing, etc.

    So people in the USA are scared, losing jobs and houses and money, and lashing out at anything and everything. They want the old situation back. They want it all back: tax cuts, good jobs (big military spending, big domestic spending), white people in charge again, feelings of safety and security. Anyone in authority who doesn't pander to them is a target. Any official line or policy becomes subject to conspiracy theories. NAFTA, 9/11, global climate change, etc.
    Simpsons

    Semi-related discussion from a reddit thread 4/2011:

    USA to foreigners: Do you really hate us ?

    Scottish guy: No, we don't. We like the US and normally consider you to be our friends. But sometimes, when a friend is acting a little too much like a douche (you know, has had a few too many beers and starts being rude to people at a party, or, as in the case of the US, starts invading other countries in violation of international law and throwing the marines at anyone who looks a little uppity), we believe that its a good thing to quietly tell him that it might be time to go home and sleep it off.

    Canadian living in the US: We don't hate you. We worry about you. You guys used to be full of really great ideas. You helped launch the world into a new technological era. You put a man on the moon. But ever since the Cold War ended you have been so paranoid, arrogant, and anti-intellectual that we don't know what to do any more. So we laugh, make fun of you, and hope you don't turn bi-polar and start nuking everybody.

    European: This pretty much sums up the attitude of most non-American Westerners towards the US of A: America really, really should be the greatest country in the world, achieving amazing things, but it seems like you're pissing away your time, your money and your energy arguing over little things, believing stupid things, and ignoring the big things.

    From an American:
    America has rested on its laurels for a little too long. They're getting a bit funky and rotten under there but we still think they're as spring-time fresh as the day they were lain upon our nation's brow. The boomers grew up with the belief that America was the be-all and end-all of countries. That it was the best of all worlds. They forgot that being the best didn't just happen. It took work. (And, you know, not being within bombing range during WWII. That helped.) It's like being a supreme athlete. You can win a bunch of gold medals but if you don't keep training, keep working, keep achieving, you're going to wind up a lard-ass out-of-breath wad of crap with a shelf full of dusty trophies. A has-been. A "once was." An echo. A ghost.

    America is losing its edge because it assumes it doesn't have to work to keep it. That it can sit around on the couch yelling and shouting and get the same respect it got when it was out running laps and working out. Respect is earned and it must continue to be earned. It's not something anyone is entitled to.

    America could be the best again. But maybe, just maybe, it's someone else's turn. Maybe other countries can learn from us, take the best bits of what we were, and do their best not to make the same mistakes.

    Being the best isn't a lifetime achievement. It's more like a lease that has to be renewed regularly.


  23. It can't be real because, if it is, it's too expensive to deal with.

    Well, spending money up-front to reduce GCC might be cheaper than losing or relocating all of our major port cities. Think of a Katrina-NewOrleans situation in every one of our port cities. Or having people starve because crop yields have fallen 50%, due to temperature or rainfall or pest changes.

    Much of the money "spent" to reduce GCC wouldn't be "lost". It would be spent to replace oil-spending or coal-spending with spending on wind or solar or other energy. Or spent on improving energy efficiency, conservation, recycling. Those could be net savings, over the long term. And much of that money would be spent on salaries to Americans to do the work. Jobs !

    From "The Planet Fixers" panel 8/2011 with Tom Brokaw:
    Katharine Hayhoe: What we have to realize is that it is fundamentally a myth that we have to choose between the planet and better lives for ourselves. Having a better environment with cleaner air, cleaner water, and more natural resources available to us benefits all of us. So it isn't "Help the planet or help ourselves"; it's "Help the planet and help ourselves".



  24. It's a hoax to make us pay more for gasoline and electricity.

    Many of the policies needed to fight GCC will indeed raise gasoline and (in the short run) electricity prices.

    But those prices are not the full total of what we're paying today. A lot of the (too-high) taxes you pay today go to support those low energy prices. Some of your taxes go to:
    • Military and intelligence and foreign aid to protect our access to oil.
    • Subsidies to build power plants.
    • Low-cost leases for mining and rights-of-way.

    Some other costs you are paying, that really should be reflected in energy prices:
    • Higher healthcare costs (and worse health, shorter life) due to pollution.
    • A damaged environment due to mining and pollution.






Much of the fear and doubt about GCC has been orchestrated and paid for by big energy companies, including Exxon. They invested in think tanks, experts, PR to "sell doubt". Instead of paying to prove GCC true or false, or to study the effects or solutions, they worked to muddy the waters.
The Carbon Brief 4/2011
Richard Fidler interview of Naomi Oreskes 2012

One problem with climate-change denial: it's almost entirely a negative activity. Deniers aren't adding to our knowledge, doing new science, coming up with new facts or new technologies. They're just doing anything they can to obstruct scientists or those who promote public policy changes. It's similar to conspiracy-theorism: throw allegations and doubt and roadblocks, without ever developing a single clear new fact. It's also similar to religion versus science: what new knowledge has religion ever contributed ? All it does is try to deny or obstruct science.

What deniers will say eventually



Paraphrased from a podcast about a Yale study by Anthony Leiserowitz 5/2012:

72% of all Americans think GCC should be a priority or high priority for Congress and President.

Breakdown by party; what percent think GCC should be a priority:
  1. Democrats: 84%.
  2. Independents: 68%.
  3. Republicans: 52%.

There are "six America's" on this issue:
  1. "Alarmed": 12%. Firmly convinced it's happening, human-caused, urgent, they're taking some action, want to know what they can do to help.
  2. "Concerned": 27%. Convinced it's happening, human-caused, but more of a distant threat. Do something, but not high priority.
  3. "Cautious": 25%. Fence-sitters, not sure if it's happening, not sure if human-caused.
  4. "Disengaged": 10%. Heard of it, but don't know anything about it.
  5. "Doubtfull": 15%. I don't think it's happening, but if it is it's probably not human-caused, don't think we can do much about it. Not paying much attention to it, not a priority.
  6. "Dismissive": 10%. Firmly convinced it's not happening, not human-caused, hoax, conspiracy.
Category 6 gets lots of attention because they're the loudest, and the media likes a fight.
Right-wing science



A response I gave to someone who said "you sound like a preacher":
I'd say there are a couple of thousand climate scientists who have worked for decades on the climate change issue. Since us laypeople aren't smart enough or willing to earn the degrees needed to understand all of the data and models and details ourselves, yes, we either have to trust them or not. It's not like a preacher, who has ZERO evidence to support his claims that God exists. The climate data is there, it's just VERY complex.

You just don't want to accept the expert's results; I'm not sure why. Is it because you've decided to oppose anything you don't understand, or you oppose anything that might possibly cost you money, or you're angry and want to lash out at anyone in authority, or you're angry that science has shown your religion to be false ? I'd guess most climate change deniers are in one or more of those four areas.



Paraphrased from Brian Dunning's "Skeptoid #309 - The Science and Politics of Global Warming" (podcast):

How did scientists get off on the wrong foot when explaining Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) to the public ?

The first most people heard of the subject was either when the Kyoto treaty was signed, or when Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" came out. Bad ways to explain a topic to the public: here's a treaty that will be enforced on you, or here's a very polarizing figure as spokesman.

...

Some people claim AGW is now "known" to be a long-debunked hoax, or fraud, or a conspiracy. To correct this perception, see latest scientific consensus at IPCC, click on the latest Assessment Report, read "Summary for Policymakers". You may or may not agree with it, but after reading, you will know that climate scientists don't consider AGW to be debunked or fraud or a conspiracy.

John Ashton on NPR's "Science Friday", 1 Feb 2013:

... a mistake that I think the climate community has made over the years, which is to talk about this predominantly as an environmental issue and a science issue. It's not, except in any trivial sense. It's an issue to do with security and prosperity.

If we want to offer a global population growing to nine billion people by the middle of the century a prospect of food security, water security and energy security, we've got to do something about climate stress, because otherwise, it's going to amplify those other insecurities.

These are absolutely fundamental national interests, and at the moment, there are very few countries, very few societies where we're talking about climate change in that kind of national interest kind of way. ...

... as a sort of friend of America, if you like, for me, everything that has been wonderful about America in recent generations has come from the notion that we can use reason and science to understand the human condition and to improve it.

In other words, America had, for a long time, a political system which, I suppose you could call a reality-based system. Let's understand reality. Let's use science to understand reality and improve reality. And, indeed, that's the legacy of the Enlightenment.

We have that in Europe as well, and it's something which, in some of the other emerging economies, is now coming into place. My impression is that that is coming under more strain in this country than it's come under for a very long time, because there are people who say, actually, you know, building upon reality is not the only way to make the choices that we face.

And that fills me with alarm, because I think it means that the only way to come out in the right place on climate change in America is to win that deeper struggle, which is really not a political struggle. It's a cultural struggle. And that means that the forces of the Enlightenment have to rally around and defend the reality-based approach to making the choices that we face.



Stupidity:
Wind energy







Climate Change Skeptic Comic (18 pics)
Wikipedia's "Climate change"
Wikipedia's "Global warming"
SkepticalScience



Please send any feedback to me. If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !

Last update: March 2014.







Bookmark and Share

Home       Rants and Reasoning    Site Map

Privacy policy