Climate 101

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Is the Rise in Global Temperatures Slowing Down?

An Economist article asks whether the flattening of the rise in world temperatures in the past decade, while carbon dioxide emissions were increasing, shows that the predicted rise of 4 to 6oC in this century is off base.

Response: No, unfortunately.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions do not heat the earth immediately. We are told that there is a 15-year time lag between their release and when temperatures begin to rise. So the leveling of world temperatures in the past decade makes perfect sense. In 1988 the economy contracted and for the next decade GDP was lower and so were CO2 emissions.

With CO2 emissions rising by 4 parts per million per year in the 2000s, it makes sense to expect a marked increase in  extreme weather by the mid 2020s and beyond.

Investors who wish to direct their energy portfolio into solar, wind, geothermal, grid, algae, batteries and other green technology, would be advised to lobby for a carbon tax to allow promising green upstarts to compete successfully against the aging fossil fuel industry.

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions

http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators#globalTemp

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

Who Says Humans Caused Climate Change?

Nearly all climate scientists who have published in peer-reviewed  mainstream  science journals), and all national science academies of industrialized countries agree that the warming of the Earth over the last 50 years is mostly caused by emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, oil, coal and natural gas.

There are scientists in other fields like physics, geography, and meteorology, who have said they are skeptical. Richard A Muller, a physicist at Berkeley said, “It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical.”

Muller considered himself a skeptic and accepted funding from the Koch brothers, (who helped fund the Tea Party) and other sources, to work with a team of scientists  at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project on the evidence of human-caused climate change.

In an op-ed entitled The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic  Muller explains their  conclusion that the average temperature of the Earth has risen 1.5oF over the last 50 years and “it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

They examined issues raised by skeptics, such as heat from cities, selection of data, quality of measurements, human error, solar variability, volcanic eruptions, and El Nino and they found that none of these things correlated with the pattern of rising temperatures and must be eliminated as causes of the warming climate.

Looking to the future, the Muller team predicted that Earth’s temperature will continue to rise by 1.5oF over the next 50 or even 20 years, depending on how much fossil fuel is burned.

Terrifying New Math

An article by Bill McKibben in Rolling Stones describes ‘Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is.’ The three numbers are 2oC, 565 Gigatons and 2,795 Gigatons.

Wildfires, droughts, floods and record-breaking heat waves are evidence of a warming planet resulting from increasing burning of oil, coal and natural gas. Yet governments have not come to any agreement for action that would reduce the use of these fuels. The only thing they have agreed on is that we cannot raise the temperature more than 2oC  [3.6oF].

Bill McKibben points out that burning fuels have raised the average temperature of the world by 0.8oC, causing much more damage than scientists expected. The oceans are 30% more acidic, a third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone and there is 5% more humidity over oceans. Many scientists have stated that the rise of 2oC is too much and will cause long-term disaster.

Nevertheless, if we take that 2oC rise as our bottom line, what that means in terms of additional warming gases is that we can pour no more than 565 gigatons  of CO2   into atmosphere by 2050 and have an 80% chance of staying under 2oC. World temperatures will rise another 0.8oC because of the CO2 that is already in the air now, so we are actually three-quarters of the way to the  2oC target.

Last year carbon dioxide emissions rose 31.6 gigatons. If we continue greenhouse gas output at this rate, we will be past that 565 gigaton allowance by 2028 and within the century,  temperatures will increase by 6oC  [11oF].

Coal, oil and natural gas companies and regimes have fuel reserves that they plan to sell. They borrow money against them and nations base budgets on them as they are considered an asset. If all the coal, oil and natural gas in the proven reserves were burned,  2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide would be released into the air. This is five times higher than 565, the amount that would be safe for humanity, according to scientists.   80% of fossil fuel reserves need to be kept under ground if we are going to avoid catastrophe.

McKibben says that if the fossil fuel companies were suddenly not allowed to use their fuel reserves, the value of their companies would plummet.  Instead of a value of $27 trillion, they would own $7 trillion in assets, on paper, of course.  So, the real difference is in the balance sheets of those who now own the reserves.

Politicians worldwide have bowed to the pressure to patronize, subsidize, and otherwise support fossil fuel companies.  “Alone among businesses, the fossil fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free.”   The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which asked the EPA not to regulate carbon, has a bigger    political spending budget than both the Republican and Democratic National Committees. The Chamber, which donates  90% to Republicans who consistently vote against laws to encourage carbon reductions and clean energy said, “populations can acclimatize [get used] to warmer climates…”

McKibben’s suggested solution is for a citizen directed campaign to change the laws. Specifically he suggests, “If you put a price on carbon, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets in the fight against global warming. “ Families’ budgets could be protected by returning the amount collected back to people who could then invest it in increasingly cheaper clean energy.

Read the whole article at:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719 – ixzz21NvQ3juO

 Beat the Heat

How hot do scientists think it is going to get in forty years?

80% of climate scientists who agreed to take an on-line poll said that by 2050 average world temperatures will be between 1 and 3oC higher than today, if energy policies do not change.  See graphs at skepticalscience.com

Temperatures will rise over the next few decades, even if we stop burning oil coal and natural gas now, because there is a lag time; it takes a few decades, for the emissions to warm up the Earth. So the sooner we transition to clean energy the more likely that we can keep the temperature from spiraling to dangerous levels.

However, market competition makes it difficult for industries to risk new technologies. Government regulations that require steadily increasing investment in clean technologies help level the competitive field.

A carbon tax, combined with tax reductions for individuals and businesses, has been working in British Columbia. An op-ed in the NYTimes calls it ‘an opportunity to reduce existing taxes, clean up the environment and increase personal freedom and energy security.’

Attendees at the Citizens Climate Lobby  conference, July 22-24 in Washington DC. asked members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors to the Save our Climate Act, HR 3242, (SOCA)  calling for a tax on carbon, with revenues returned to households.