Facts to Ponder about Climate Change

by Duane Nichols on April 21, 2013

Facts to Ponder about Climate Change

By Paul Brown, Morgantown, WV, April 20, 2013

Definitions: Climate is not weather. Weather consists of specific meteorological events, like combinations of precipitation, wind, and temperature that are described as pleasant sunny days, nor’easters, hurricanes, etc. They are short-term, local, described by numbers. Climate is a statistical description of weather over larger time periods or geographical regions, such as tropical climate, El Niño, or droughts. It’s described by averages, trends, and degrees of fluctuation.

Meteorologists (weathermen, forecasters) are not climate scientists, and have little to no training in climate science. Some of them, and people who profit from maintaining the status quo, are the most vehement deniers of climate change.

Climate change is a trend in climate over long periods such as decades, centuries or longer, such as glaciation or global warming. Some glacial-interglacial transitions have occurred very fast, in less than a human lifetime. This has been clearly established by analysis of ice cores going back tens of thousands of years. These very rapid transitions are probably caused by feedbacks, where a change causes more change, going faster and faster to a new stable condition.

Global warming is an increase in surface temperature of our whole planet. It has been thoroughly documented over seasons, years, decades, even millennia. It has occurred in the past, always associated with an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps some of the heat that is radiated by the planet. In the past, global warming has caused CO2 release, starting a feedback process where CO2 causes warming, which causes more CO2. Today, man-made CO2 release was the initial process, leading to warming, and feedback once again. Another feedback is due to decreasing capacity of oceans and forests to absorb CO2 and recycle it to plant mass and oxygen through photosynthesis.

The current global warming is caused predominantly by human combustion of fossil fuels, aggravated by changes in land use, deforestation, particulate pollution, and other human degradations of the environment. There is a near-perfect correlation between rising CO2 and global temperature since before the industrial revolution. Other factors which could influence global temperature, such as amount of sunlight, are not significant in comparison. This is definitely not a normal fluctuation.

Global warming is causing climate change, which can be different in different parts of the world, including longer and more frequent heat waves, droughts, shifts of wind patterns, and even local cooling. It also brings with it more variable weather, with wider swings of temperature, wind, and precipitation, causing more incidents of violent weather and related damage. The United States is one of the most seriously affected countries.

We once had the opportunity to act upon scientific recommendations, beginning in the 1980s, to reverse global warming. Scientists are now in agreement that very serious global warming is unavoidable due to lack of action to prevent it, such as the elimination of carbon combustion, improvement of CO2 removal and heat reflection from the Earth, and the social and political changes needed to bring these about. Many scientists now agree that feedbacks will cause global warming to increase regardless of what we do, although it may still be possible to limit the extent.

Changes in weather are causing ice to melt all over the world, except for part of Antarctica, drying up water sources for regions that depend on mountain snow and ice melt for water – including the Rocky Mountain states. Another feedback is resulting from the loss of reflective ice, meaning less sunlight is reflected into space and more is retained as heat. The cold, fresh water from melting ice is changing ocean and air currents and contributing to global sea level rise, which is also due to expansion of warming ocean water. Sea level rise is already affecting many coastal communities in the US.

Damage from violent storms has increased disastrously in the US and elsewhere, redefining flood plains and affecting insurance costs. Drought and desertification are increasing rapidly and crop and livestock yields are declining seriously around the world, including the US. With decline in usable runoff countries are using up ground water faster than it can be replenished. The Ogallala aquifer, the largest in the US, used to irrigate much of the western plains, will be dried up in a few years.

Contrary to speculation, increased temperatures and CO2 will cause food production to decline, not increase.

It may still be possible to limit global warming to a tolerable level through the measures mentioned above and a drastic drop in per capita consumption and family sizes, but scientists agree these can only be achieved through honest scientific education, universal human rights, and democratic consensus on national and world economic and social policies that will result in sustainability – within the next few years. Instead, those changes which are occurring are almost all going in the wrong direction.

As food prices go up and water becomes scarcer, social unrest is increasing in many places, and giant corporations are gobbling up farmland and water sources in order to lock in enormous profits as these necessities for life become scarce. Western powers are monopolizing these resources, as they have done with oil, and the US military is using force and threats more and more to help corporations steal vital resources from weaker nations. Our country is now the most dangerous rogue nation in history.

At home, as our unsustainable economy dies, unrest increases, the police are now militarized, the military is acting against US citizens on US soil, and legislation has been enacted to enable our government to spy on us, deprive us of our constitutional rights, detain us without trial, and torture and kill us, with drones if necessary. As unrest grows, so does repression, causing more unrest, in another feedback. In a world of diminishing resources and worsening inequality, it is unlikely that civilization as we know it can continue.

Premature deaths due to global warming are approaching hundreds of thousand per year around the world, climate change refugees now exceed a million, and these numbers are expected to rise faster and faster as global warming accelerates.

The seas are dying, because of warming, overfishing, pollution, and loss of coral habitat. Increased CO2 concentration is turning the oceans acidic, preventing normal development of the shells of many organisms. On land, air and sea, such factors are contributing to the fastest and potentially the most extensive mass extinction known to paleontologists. Humans depend on this complex ecosystem that is crashing, and the fate of our species is uncertain.

NOTE: Paul Brown is a retired professor at West Virginia University. He is author of Notes from a Dying Planet, 2004 – 2006, available from Amazon.com. Events and research findings related to the topics in this article can be found in articles cited by his free e-news daily listings, Esamizdat. Send emails to subscribe or unsubscribe to pbrown4348@comcast.net. His wife, Deborah Dupre, is a freelance human rights journalist whose articles appear in internet sites Before It’s News and Examiner. Her articles document the declining human rights situation around the globe, especially in the United States, many of which are related to the topics in this article.

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