Climate change revisited

September 17, 2014

sun heatOPINION By DR. RAY WEYMANN

In January 2010 I wrote an essay for CalCoastNews entitled “The Climate Change Challenge.” It is interesting but sobering to see in what ways the picture has and has not changed since then.

A good portion of my 2010 article was in response to misinformation from a local office seeker who repeated some of the most common myths about climate change. In perhaps the most discouraging way in which the situation has not changed, these same myths are continually being regurgitated. This, despite the growing evidence for a warming planet, the consequences of this warming, and the dominant role that fossil fuel emissions are playing in this warming. In the following, I have provided references to sources I have used, but in order not to interrupt the flow of reading, I have referenced them in the text as R1, R2 etc. and at the end of this essay provided the links to them.

There have been two significant changes over these four ½ years. First, the signs of a changing climate and more extreme weather events are becoming ever clearer. So too are the causes of these signs: the insulating blanket of greenhouse gases we have thrown into the atmosphere, primarily as a result of our dependence on fossil fuels, grows unabated. Second, while it is still almost an article of faith for current conservative political office holders to deny the scientific consensus concerning the severe risks of continued heavy use of fossil fuels, a growing number of prominent businessmen, former administration officials, mainstream media, and the insurance industry are recognizing these risks and speaking out publicly.

Let me consider these two items in turn: Hardly a day goes by without some new sign of a changing climate accompanying a warming world. Here are news items from just the past few weeks:

Health impacts

Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said there is “overwhelming” evidence that climate change endangers health. “Climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year from shifting patterns of disease, from extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and floods, and from the degradation of water supplies, sanitation, and impacts on agriculture.” (R1)

Food supply

The world is headed “down a dangerous path” with disruption of the food system possible within a decade as climate change undermines nations’ ability to feed themselves, according to a senior World Bank official. (R2)

Species extinction

The combination of climate change and destruction of habitat is already having a severe impact on wildlife and the situation will only get worse. A very recent report from the Audubon Society paints a grim picture for bird life in the U.S.

The numbers are stark. Of the 588 species Audubon studied, 314 are likely to find themselves in dire straits by 2080. Unless, that is, the oil boomers in the Bakken—and everyone else—start to consider the future. Unless we begin to reduce the severity of global warming and buy birds more time to adapt to the changes coming their way. (R3)

Floods

“In Indian-administered Kashmir, heavy monsoon rains led to surging floodwaters and the deaths of at least 175 people. Across the disputed border in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, the floods have claimed more than 60 lives, in addition to 131 in Punjab province. It is the mountainous region’s worst flooding in six decades…” (R4)

But it isn’t just India. Recent record floods have occurred in Detroit, the East Coast of the US, Japan and in Arizona and the incidence of such events in more than expected from natural variability.

Ice sheet melting and sea level rise

It is an observed fact that global sea levels are rising and at a rate that is now nearly twice what the historical average over the 130 years between 1870 and 2000 has been: (R5) The same link will show you the recent melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Glaciologists have recently concluded that continued melting of portions of the Antarctic ice sheets is irreversible. (R6) See also: (R7)

Commenting on this work, glaciologist Eric Rignot, who was lead author of one of the two ice sheet studies, said “All these studies clearly point toward an increasing contribution of ice sheets to sea level. What the layperson should get out of the recent news, however, is that ice sheet melting is a serious thing, there is no red button to stop it, we can slow it down or get it as fast as we can. Right now, we have chosen the latter”

Drought

Readers of this column do not need to be told of the severe drought facing most of California. But, as emphasized in a recent excellent report, drought involves more than just the total amount of rainfall. When record heat is added to lack of rain, soil evaporation increases adding to the dryness and exacerbating the heat. As the report notes, the average California 2014 temperature for the period January-June set an all-time record. As in the case of floods, we are now seeing the human fingerprint of these events. From drought expert Jonathan Overpeck of the University of Arizona: “We are fairly certain that the unusual warmth is mostly due to human-caused global warming.” (R8)

And, not coincidentally, the CO2 level in the atmosphere continues to increase rapidly (R9)—“The World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that the increase of atmospheric CO2 from 2012 to 2013 was 2.9 parts per million (ppm), the largest year-to-year increase in 30 years.”

The link between the increased CO2 present in the atmosphere and a warming, and thus changing, climate is not mysterious. The basic physics has been understood for over a hundred years: CO2 molecules intercept some of the infrared heat emitted by the Earth’s surface and returns a portion of it back to the surface. The more CO2 in the atmosphere, the larger the fraction of infrared heat returned to the surface. We have increased the amount of atmospheric CO2 by 40 percent since the start of the industrial revolution, much of that increase in the last few decades.

I have illustrated some of the recent effects of climate change not to “alarm” but simply to point out that climate change is happening now—it is not some speculation concerning a distant future. I mentioned above that one change is the growing awareness of the need to deal with climate change on the part of many who, by no stretch of the imagination, could be called “tree-hugging environmentalists.”

Here are some examples, all quite recent:

Former Treasury Secretaries, Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson—one a Democrat, the other a Republican, have spoken forcefully on this issue: Rubin states that “the costs of ignoring climate change are catastrophic” and concludes that “We do not face a choice between protecting our environment or protecting our economy. We face a choice between protecting our economy by protecting our environment − or allowing environmental havoc to create economic havoc.” (R10)

In a June 2014 opinion piece Secretary Paulson says, “There is a time for weighing evidence and a time for acting. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my work in finance, government and conservation, it is to act before problems become too big to manage… We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing more urgent as the risks go unchecked. He goes on to advocate a tax on carbon. (R11)

Four previous Republican EPA administrators serving Republican Presidents have also spoken out on this issue: They “have a message that transcends political affiliation: the United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally…and go on to state that “the costs of inaction are undeniable”. They also suggest that “A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.” (R12)

Increasingly, the insurance industry, both at home and abroad is recognizing the seriousness of this issue: In an article headlined “For Insurers, No Doubts on Climate Change”, we read “Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming. (R13)

I want to close with comments about “expertise” and “opinion”. If a licensed electrician comes to my house and says that some wiring is unsafe and that opinion is confirmed by another licensed electrician, I give those opinions more weight on that subject then I would from my dentist. If this were an opinion piece about the dangers of smoking, the need for sunscreen when being outside in the sun, or the benefits of exercise and a healthy diet, it would attract little comment, pro or con. We acknowledge that there are people whose training in specific areas has given them expertise and whose opinions we should give more weight to than those without such training.

My experience though, is that this is seldom the case when talking about climate change—and especially on the part of those who deny that human-caused climate change is occurring. They are all consider themselves “experts.” They troll through the more prominent denier websites and opine indignantly in the comments following the opinion piece. But they rarely understand the basic physical laws governing the climate, whether it is the laws of radiative transfer, thermodynamics or hydrodynamics. And they are rarely present when invited to come to talks by climate scientists who do have that expertise and where they can be shown the observations supporting the material I have described above.

We hear a lot of talk these days about “critical thinking”. That means discarding preconceptions based upon ideology, taking the time and making the effort to be exposed to the data and gaining some understanding of the basic science. For those who want an introduction to this topic by real climate scientists—with no ideological or financial axe to grind I recommend the booklet prepared under the auspices of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (R14). I especially recommend the excellent video with one of the authors, a past President of the American Meteorological Society (R15).

Ray Weymann is a graduate of Cal Tech and holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Princeton. He lives in Atascadero.

Links to references:

R1 http://who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/climate-health-risks-action/en/
R2 http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/climate-change-may-disrupt-global-food-system-within-a-decade-world-bank-says-20140827-108w8x.html – ixzz3BhY10o86
R3 http://climate.audubon.org/article/storm-gathers-north-american-birds
R4 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/09/08/kashmirs-epic-floods-link-india-and-pakistan-in-disaster/
R5 http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators/
R6 http://www.scmp.com/news/world/article/1511468/melting-west-antarctic-glaciers-irreversible-two-grim-studies-find
R7 http://www.latimes.com/science/environment/la-sci-0513-antarctic-ice-sheet-20140513-story.html)
R8 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/11/record-heat-extreme-drought-california/13904797/
R9 http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/09/09/3564900/wmo-climate-change-co2-report/
R10 http://www.rtcc.org/2014/08/04/robert-rubin-costs-of-ignoring-climate-change-are-catastrophic/R11 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/22/opinion/sunday/lessons-for-climate-change-in-the-2008-recession.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias&


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Old Salt

Dr. Ray Weymann like Al Gore

earns $$$$ for lecturing his Opinions concerning Global Warming…


Climate Change: Science, Impacts, Challenges, Solutions — Dr. Ray Weymann

PG&E Energy Education Center

San Luis Obispo, CA

During the course we will also explore the “sociological” and “psychological” aspects of the resistance that much of the public still has to climate change.

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/301578


Weymann also states: “In 7 billion years, the sun will be over twice as bright and the earth will be completely vaporized,” Weymann said, concluding the presentation. “Doesn’t that make all of your problems seem minor?”

– See more at: http://mustangnews.net/local-astronomer-talks-about-climate-science/#sthash.2srjpF5i.dpuf


2 Peter 3:10 (1611 King James Bible)

But the day of the Lord wil come as a thiefe in the night, in the which the heauens shall passe away with a great noise, and the Elements shall melt with feruent heate, the earth also and the works that are therin shalbe burnt vp.


That’s Global Warming for ya


Old Salt

Amended:

Copy and Paste again…


2 Peter 3:10 (1611 King James Bible)

10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.


That’s Global Warming for ya


ml1999

Decreasing sea ice? Not really.


Daily Mail UK Newspaper:


“Antarctic sea ice is INCREASING: Big freeze breaks records – but scientists claim the rise is caused by global warming


“Images suggest there is 7.7 million square miles of sea around continent”


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2756554/Antarctic-sea-ice-INCREASING-Big-freeze-breaks-records-scientists-claim-rise-caused-global-warming.html#ixzz3Dbh96v00


DROUGHT


California is a Mediterranean climate, we know that. We’ve put millions of people into a dessert climate, and then added 30-40 Million illegal immigrants, added thousands of golf courses, and now when it doesn’t rain for a few years, it is Global Warming?


zaphod

ignore the thickness and mean temperature of ice and only look at the extent of the ice ? summers are warmer and winters cold in extremes are symptoms of excess heat stored in the ocean conveyor. weather oscillating

is predicted by the smarter climate scientists. now you know.


DJ

Dr. Weymann,

Just so I understand what you are saying, if everyone in the world would cease to drive cars, fly in planes, or, generally, cease all burning of fossil fuels, the earth would cease warming? What would be the explanation for past cycles of earth warming, long before industrial burning of fossil fuels? I have not found much comparison of historic and current volcanic activity, which as you know has a very significant, long term effect on world climate.


And with all due respect to the past EPA Administrator who said, “A market-based approach, like a carbon tax, would be the best path to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions”. Really?! How can you, as a scientist who obviously truly believes fossil fuel burning is destroying the earth, buy into this statement for one second? Either man is the culprit, or he is not. How much money you can get out of him should have no bearing! This is just plain ugly, and one example why the EPA is not trusted.


I will give you another example to ponder. If Al Gore truly believed in his “Inconvenient Truth”, would he really be flying frequently coast to coast in private jets, or have one of his homes be one the largest private electricity users in his state? Or, would he set up a business to “sell” carbon credits and then lobby the world to buy in to it? Really? That is the action of a man who truly believes it is a global warming “crisis”?


There is a lot of distrust, on both sides. Either this is a “crisis”, or it isn’t. Us regular Joe’s do look at the people who are supposedly “in the know” for guidance. However, many times their lifestyles and actions do not reflect someone who truly believes it is a “man-made global warming crisis”. Rather, it appears it is a money making scheme for some, a religion for others, job security for still others. If I were to audit your lifestyle, would I find fossil fuel use? Would you justify it by saying, “yours is less than his”? Or, “I’ll stop when they make everyone stop”? Someone who truly believes this is a “crisis” does not require government to take action themselves. And they certainly don’t “buy” their way into an acceptable guilt reduction scheme so they can still contribute to “global warming” but feel better about it. That would be nuts if they truly believed there is a “crisis”. The only conclusion we regular Joe’s can have is, there is no “crisis”. What else are we to think, Doctor? Or is it your point, because we are not “experts”, we are not supposed to think? (I don’t believe you really meant it the way that sentence came out. At least I hope not.) But, it won’t matter that I grew up a member of the Sierra Club and probably live “greener” than most. By writing this, I will now be labeled, a “denier”. A fossil fuel loving earth destroyer.


ml1999

Touche. If he really does believe what he writes, then he should go along with the IPCC suggestion that the world build 1,000 nuclear power plants, which produce zero (0) CO2. Because there are no more rivers to damn, and coal is horribly filthy, and solar just isn’t there yet after 40 years of research and work.


zaphod

Ronald Reagan dumped the US lead in solar energy in 1980 can,t call to complain about it now.


ml1999

Ronald Reagan was out of the WH 25 years ago. What have we done since? Solar power doesn’t make economic sense.


Besides, solar power doesn’t work very well at midnight, or in Buffalo.


ml1999

References for the good doctor.


Climate Depot: Global Warming ‘Pause’ Extends to 17 Years 11 Months


http://www.climatedepot.com/2014/09/07/global-warming-pause-extends-to-17-years-11-months/


National Geographic: Has the Atlantic Ocean Stalled Global Warming?


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140821-global-warming-hiatus-climate-change-ocean-science/


ml1999

Rich in MB, notice the good doctor doesn’t address the fact that there has been no increase in warming for between 18 and 26 years? Go ahead, google it, good doctor. You claim that the evidence is more clear, when in fact the facts continue to debunk the Man Made Global Warming HYPOTHESIS.


achillesheal

Is the good Dr. educating the rabble out of the kindness of his heart, or does he somehow profit from the spreading the gospel of Climate Change.


Let’s do a quick Google search and see…..yep, founder of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team which matches queries from members of media and government to the appropriate University (see Grant generating) Climate scientist.


Surprise.


achillesheal

Global Warming, Climate Change or whatever handle they’ve branded it for today (depending upon whether it’s getting colder or hotter at the moment) is about big business and big money.


Climate Scientists get huge grants from government to arrive at predetermined conclusions. They study models that they perceive to be real, but are almost always wrong. Those who see the contradictions in their “work” are labeled deniers. Sounds like a religion to me.


Time to separate church and state.


Old Salt

DR RAY WEYMANN…

I’d say we are all experts when it comes to OPINIONS…smile….

I grew up on the Central Coast and have Scuba Dived in these waters since 1964 and I have NOT observed any “sea level rise” in the M.B. Bay or anywhere else…


Rich in MB

Dr Ray was wrong in 2010 and is even more wrong now, but like ISIS who blindly follows their religion, so do the MMGW Cultists. He can’t handle the Global Warming Pause….so he ignores it in the same way. What next, stoning and cutting off the heads of the “Denyers”?


The field of science will forever be damaged by this MMGW Hoax and just like Global Cooling in the ’70s, and the Low Fat Diet scam, MMGW will go the way of the Alar Scare.


Perspicacious

Best post in a long time anywhere!


Rich in MB

Thanks Amigo…


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