Climate Change Decisions (Global Issue)
Some Climate Change Facts are Virtually Indisputable
We live in the Anthropocene age, where human impact drives the world and our own future in it. One effect is Climate Change due to increasing carbon dioxide concentration from burning coal, oil, and gas is causing sea level and temperature to rise.
We know the earth is heated by the sun’s white light and cooled by infra-red light leaving the earth. Since 1928 we have been able to measure how carbon dioxide, methane, etc. (gases that contain carbon) block infra-red cooling, thereby increasing atmospheric energy (e.g., wind speed, temperature, water content, storm size).
We also know with certainty that:
- Carbon dioxide has increased from 280 ppm, (the level it had for the last 10,000 years up to 1850) to 409 ppm in 2017.
- Temperature records have been kept for over a hundred years, so we know that the average worldwide temperature has risen about 1.6°F in the last 75 years. As of March 2017, NOAA reports the rise is 1.89°F. (1.8°F = 1°C)
- It is easy to measure the average sea level, so we know that the sea has risen over 8 inches in the last 100 years.
- We know that arctic ice is melting by just looking at satellite photos.
- Ice ages occur about every 100,000 years, so we are a long time from this normal extra cooling.
- Removal of carbon dioxide and underground sequestration is possible when the concentration of carbon dioxide is high, e.g., in flue glasses, but is extremely, probably prohibitively, expensive once it is diluted into the atmosphere.
When most of the Northern polar ice melts in summer, which results from a climate change warming of about 3.6 to 5.4 °F according to the experts, the sea around the world will eventually be about 1 to 3 feet (NOAA says up to 8 feet in worst case) higher than today by about 2100–in the lifetime of today’s children. The general opinion seems to be that when the global average temperature has risen by 3.6 °F, we have reached the “tipping point” for the Northern ice and it will virtually all eventually melt.
Antarctica has about 7 times more ice than the Arctic plus Greenland, but far less is known about its condition. West Antarctica is melting, while some parts of East Antarctica have seen roughly equivalent increased snowfall. Although not all the studies agree, most climate scientists argue that Antarctica is losing mass in a warming world according to NASA/Goddard and Scientific American.
The sun can sometimes get colder coincident with a decrease in sunspots beyond the normal 11-year cycle. This occurred most significantly during the late 17th Century, when virtually no sunspots occurred during the “Maunder Minimum“, creating noticeably colder conditions. However, there is currently no way to predict this phenomenon.
How Extreme Can Sea Levels Conceivably Get?
According to the scientists, at the peak of the last ice age about 25,000 years ago, sea levels fell to about 410 feet below current levels (human remains can be found in areas now far below sea level). As the world warmed, the sea rose to its current level by about 8,000 years ago. If human-created warming continues and we pass the tipping point, all the arctic ice (including the Greenland ice sheet) could eventually melt, and the sea around the world would be 24 feet higher. Ominously, If human-created warming continues and when all the Antarctic ice melts as well, sea level will be about 220 feet higher than today. The extent of overall Antarctic melting is not yet known.
This means that throughout our 5,500 years of recorded history, the weather and sea level have remained almost constant. We have been living in a “Goldilocks” weather era without realizing it, that now supports 7½ billion of us; a 4-fold growth in the last century. If we fall out of our Goldilocks zone at this population level, the consequences will be disastrous for huge numbers of people.
How Extreme Can Weather Get?
If you take an open pan of water and start heating it, you will notice that its movements get increasingly vigorous as it gets hotter. It is called convection heat transfer by which the fluid movement transfers the heat. The weather acts in a very complex version of this. The hotter the system, the more violent and extreme the movement from the norm. We will see heating effects as combinations of more violent storms, heavier rainfalls and flooding, bigger storm surges, coastline inundations, hotter weather, and more droughts. In some areas, it will mean rebuilding or moving; in some areas, there will be huge loss of life from crop failure, hunger, and disease; and in others mass migration, violence, and war.
The NASA Center for Climate Video Simulation shows its projections for this century in a visualization, predicting that the U.S. will get significantly warmer and snow in the Rockies will get less. Bill McKibben’s 2019 book “Falter” paints a future that should be of concern to us all, and especially worrying to younger readers.
Climate Change Decision-Making Today
Technologies to reduce carbon dioxide, methane, and similar emissions are becoming increasingly effective and affordable, competitive with fossil fuel. The coal, oil, and gas tycoons make profits in their lifetime from exploiting their resources immediately. But if the effects of warming are bad, they can easily afford a move to cooler and higher places along with the Oligarchy and most members of Congress. This raises the question: should those who will suffer least make the decision for all the rest who will suffer more?
An important consideration should be our descendants, who will need the petrochemical products made from coal oil and gas for hundreds or thousands of years, so leaving them in the ground for them is not a bad idea – some think it an obligation.
The big question then is how much should we spend on Climate Change “insurance” today to control climate versus gambling on the speed and extent of damage to ourselves, our children, and their children? We know that usually the earlier you buy insurance the better; eventually it is too late, and you cannot buy it! But we cannot rely on those who can afford to dodge the worst of the climate effects to make decisions for the People. The cost of insurance appears to be declining due to the lower cost of “green” energy production.
The dysfunctionality of the American Government on these issue is seriously affecting intelligent policy. (For example, our Federal Government, to the benefit of the carbon energy Oligarchs, imposed a 30% tariff on solar panels starting in 2018!) If the People rise to the challenge (many U.S. climate experts will probably participate with their views on all sides of the issues while the IQA evaluates submitted Initiatives) an Advisory Initiative can recommend climate decisions that the People really want, followed by a Direct Legislative Initiative to set the policies that our Government fails to address.Without nationwide U.S. direct initiatives, there is little reason or guarantee that the U.S. Congress and Executive Branch can shake off Oligarchic self-seeking to react in time to help the world avoid the worst scenarios.