Climate Change – Its Real!

It seems to me….

We have to face the reality of climate change. It is arguably the biggest threat we are facing today.” ~ William Hague[1].

The major issues of climate science are settled. There no longer can be any question as to whether the cause is anthropomorphic: humans are the major cause of global warming resulting in a wide range of disruptions to the Earth’s ecosystems. Climate change also constitutes the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century threatening to undermine the gains of the last half century – it is climate change, uncontrolled urbanization, and poverty from human activity that create environments suitable for zoonotic pathogen emergence.

While any single weather-event cannot conclusively be considered a harbinger of climate change, our planet is experiencing an increasing cascade of non-normal weather and climate incidents. 16 of the 17 warmest years in the 136 years of recorded weather data have all occurred since 2001 with 1998 being the only exception. Since 1980, ice in the Artic during summers has decreased by 50 percent; year-round sea ice is only 25 percent of what it was at that time. Similarly, many of Antarctica’s oceanfront glaciers, about 10 percent, are retreating considerably more rapidly than predicted. Coral reefs have declined by 40 percent since 1970. The effects of global warming are ubiquitously apparent to anyone who cares to look.

There are partisan differences over a number of concerns but one of the most significant anxieties is the threat from global climate change. Nearly eight-in-ten Democrats (77 percent) view global climate change as a major threat compared with just 26 percent of Republicans.

Liberals believe global warming is caused by increased production of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas…). The U.S. is a major contributor to global warming as it produces 25 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide. They believe laws reducing carbon emissions in the U.S. are urgently needed and should be enacted immediately to save the planet. Most reputable scientists support this theory.

Blue states held by the Democrats are increasingly shifting to clean energy like solar and installing policies that wean the energy system off carbon. In the era of climate change, with the mounting pressure of increased natural disasters, something must give.

Conservative, on the other hand, believe changes in global temperature are natural over long periods of time and that science has not shown that humans can affect permanent change to the earth’s temperature. Proposed laws to reduce carbon emissions will do nothing to help the environment and will cause significant cost increases for all. This theory has very little support within the scientific community.

Red states held by the Republicans are deeply entrenched in carbon-based energy systems like coal and oil. They consequently deny the science of climate change, are trying to resuscitate the dying coal industry, and recently have begun to open coastal waters to oil drilling.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which reflects scientific opinion on the topic, stated in the forward to its 2013 report, “the science now shows with 95 percent certainty that human activity is the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century[2]”. Additionally, several analyses of scholarly publications verify widespread consensus among climate scientists on this point[3]. Research since release of that report has only served to strengthen certainty in its conclusions.

Members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) found 93 percent of members with a PhD in Earth sciences (and 87 percent of members overall) say the Earth is warming primarily as a result of human behavior. Those who continue to claim the Earth’s warming stems from natural causes or that there is no evidence of warming obviously have little understanding either of the issue or the pending impact verified by scientific environmental findings.

Research findings on climate are influenced by the best available evidence. There is a need to understand that the Earth is warming due to human activity; that climate scientists have a firm understanding of climate changes and need to be trusted regarding the basic causes of those changes. Information provided by climate scientists regarding the causes of climate change has been full and accurate; they rarely are influenced by considerations such as career interests or political leanings. Climate scientists understand how climate changes must be addressed and should have a major role in climate policy decisions. That said, scientists and engineers must acknowledge part of the responsibility for the failure to sufficiently refute populous-driven acceptance of widely entrenched false narratives within our communities. We remain isolated within our perspective tribes listening only to the echo-chambers of preferred ideological-driven beliefs. Influential scientists and engineers need to be more aware of the psychological, social, and cultural factors that affect how people understand and use information.

Critical changes have been delayed too long to avoid major environmental impact. The more quickly carbon emissions are reduced, the more limited that impact will be. Not only is there is much that can be done, there is much that must be done.

Power plant emissions (34 percent of total carbon emissions) historically constitute the major source of atmospheric carbon. Restrictions can make a significant difference in the quantity of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) released. Reliance on both solar and wind power must be expanded while drastically reducing our dependence on fossil fuel energies such as coal mining, offshore oil and gas drilling, and hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas.

International agreements (49 percent of emissions) limiting carbon emissions can make a substantial difference in climate change. One of the most important, The Paris Agreement (Accord de Paris), is an accord within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020. Unfortunately, while one of the original supporters of the agreement, the U.S. under Trump has withdrawn its support. This potentially disastrous decision must be reversed.

CO2 production within the transportation sector last year reached its highest level since the 2008 economic downturn and now accounts for 37 percent of U.S. energy consumption emissions. Tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks can make a big difference in addressing climate change and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards would have important climate benefits, would be achievable, and should have little or no downside for consumers. Federal action is necessary as fuel efficiency, alternative vehicles, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to progress without federal action. Tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks could make a substantial difference as would having a higher percentage of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road.

Corporate tax incentives encouraging businesses to reduce their carbon footprint have been demonstrated to encourage businesses to reduce carbon emissions caused by their actions. Penalizing carbon emissions through a carbon fee is one of the most powerful incentives governments have to encourage companies and households to pollute less by investing in cleaner technologies and adopting greener practices. Similarly, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 renewed a number of tax credits, including those that had expired at the end of 2016, for residential energy efficiency. Either cap-and-trade programs or carbon taxes can work well as long as they are designed to provide a strong economic signal encouraging a switch to cleaner energy. A carbon tax has one key advantage: it is easier and quicker for governments to implement. It also can be very easily implemented in just a few months by relying on existing administrative structures for taxing fuels. More time would be required to develop regulations necessary for cap-and-trade which are more susceptible to lobbying and loopholes and require establishment of an emissions trading market.

Even individual efforts to reduce personal “carbon footprints” during daily life activities can have a significant positive effect.

Climate change is detrimental to the environment and very likely will negatively impact animal life (74 percent probability), damage forests and plants life (74 percent), produce more droughts (73 percent), more severe storms (74 percent), and damage to shorelines from rising sea levels (74 percent). These effects are seldom covered by the national media which does not take the threat of climate change sufficiently seriously.

The probability of environmental catastrophes – global warming, deforestation, ocean acidification, biodiversity extinction… – is rapidly increasing. The reality of climate change and sustainability, slowing global warming, and solving climate change is a large problem requiring comprehensive solutions. It involves changing the way the economy works and shifting to fundamentally different clean energy sources including electric vehicle adoption and solar roof installation.

There is much that can be done to mitigate possible catastrophic impact. A range of policy actions exist that can make a “big difference” in addressing the major adverse effects of climate change including: power plant emission limits, international agreements about emissions, tougher vehicles fuel efficiency standards, and corporate tax incentives to encourage businesses to reduce emissions.

The reality of significant negative effects from global warming is no longer subject to debate. The best time to have initiated corrective action is unfortunately now in the past. There isn’t any additional time to waste – it now is time for less talk and more action.

That’s what I think, what about you?

[1] William Jefferson Hague, Baron Hague of Richmond, PC, FRSL, is a British Conservative politician and life peer.

[2] Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, 2013. Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_ALL_FINAL.pdf, 2013.

[3] Funk, Cary, and Brian Kennedy. The Politics of Climate, Pew Research Center, http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/04/the-politics-of-climate/, 4 October 2016.

About lewbornmann

Lewis J. Bornmann has his doctorate in Computer Science. He became a volunteer for the American Red Cross following his retirement from teaching Computer Science, Mathematics, and Information Systems, at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, CO. He previously was on the staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Stanford University, and several other universities. Dr. Bornmann has provided emergency assistance in areas devastated by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. He has responded to emergencies on local Disaster Action Teams (DAT), assisted with Services to Armed Forces (SAF), and taught Disaster Services classes and Health & Safety classes. He and his wife, Barb, are certified operators of the American Red Cross Emergency Communications Response Vehicle (ECRV), a self-contained unit capable of providing satellite-based communications and technology-related assistance at disaster sites. He served on the governing board of a large international professional organization (ACM), was chair of a committee overseeing several hundred worldwide volunteer chapters, helped organize large international conferences, served on numerous technical committees, and presented technical papers at numerous symposiums and conferences. He has numerous Who’s Who citations for his technical and professional contributions and many years of management experience with major corporations including General Electric, Boeing, and as an independent contractor. He was a principal contributor on numerous large technology-related development projects, including having written the Systems Concepts for NASA’s largest supercomputing system at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. With over 40 years of experience in scientific and commercial computer systems management and development, he worked on a wide variety of computer-related systems from small single embedded microprocessor based applications to some of the largest distributed heterogeneous supercomputing systems ever planned.
This entry was posted in AAAS, Accord de Paris, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Antarctic, anthropogenic, Arctic, Automotive, Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, CAFE, Cap-and-Trade, Carbon, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Tax, Carbon-Based, Change, Clean, Climate, Climate Change, Climate Change Conference, CO2, Coal, Coal, Coal Mining, Conservative, COP21, Coral, Coral Reefs, Corporate Average Fuel Economy, Disaster, Disease, Drought, Drought, Drought, Droughts, Ecology, Ecosystem, Electric, Electric Vehicles, Energy, Environment, Environment, EVs, EVs, Fire, Fires, Floods, Floods, Forest, Fossil Fuel, Global Warming, Global Warming, Government, Greenhouse, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Hurricane, Hurricane, Hybrid Vehicles, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, liberals, Methane, Oil Shale, Paris Agreement, Pathogen, Pathogens, Petroleum, Power, Power, Renewable, Shale, Solar, Solar, Solar, Storms, Transportation, Trump, United Nations, United Nations, Vehicle, Vehicles, Weather, Weather, weather, Wildfires, Wildland, Wind, Wind, Zoonotic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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