Climate Change Denial is Not an Opinion but a Political Position Now

by Duane Nichols on July 8, 2018

To Deny Climate Change as a Political Position is Dihonest and Immoral

Essay by S. Tom Bond, Retired Chemist & Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

Once the earth was flat, it was obvious to everyone. And if you got to the edge you could fall off. Then some people began to take longer trips and no one ever found the edge of the earth. In time thoughtful types began to think more about this. When long sea voyages were undertaken, it became more of a problem. Why didn’t the ocean pour off the edge? Why does the hull of a ship begin to disappear as it sails away, more and more sinks out of sight until it is all gone? Finally deep thinkers realized the earth was a very large sphere. Common folk clung to the old idea for a long time, but eventually everyone came to understand.

Since the first campfires were employed to keep people warm, the fuel has produced copious amounts of gaseous waste which could be ignored, because it was transparent, colorless, odorless, tasteless, and ascended into the atmosphere so could be ignored. A couple of centuries ago steam engines began to do physical work with much the same result. The relatively small amount of ash was recognized and dealt with, but the volume of exhaust gas wasn’t even recognized, with the possible exception of a few who thought about the function of smoke stacks.

When fuel began to be used to generate electricity, and be used other processes, such as large scale making cement and steel, some engineers (thoughtful people) who understood the chemistry began to realize that 12 tons of carbon produced 44 tons of carbon dioxide! Carbon dioxide is produced by many non-human sources, but for 10,000 years has remained near 278 parts per million, but since the start of the industrial revolution that has gone up to over 400 parts per million, an increase of 44 percent. Some 80 ppm of this change has occurred in the last 60 years. That amounts to 230 billion (nine zeros) tons since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Thoughtful people, scientists, can calculate this quantity from the gasses trapped in ice cores. Such data is available for the last 800,000 years. Furthermore, carbon dioxide is soluble and 57 per cent of it has gone into the ocean. Scientists can calculate what fraction comes from fossil fuels by isotopes, too.

Although the idea of earth temperature and CO2 content of the atmosphere can be traced back into John Tyndall in the 1860’s, it was Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish Scientist, who first to spent time relating earth temperatures to carbon dioxide quantitatively. His first publication on the matter was published in 1896. So scientists (thoughtful, educationally prepared people) have been working on the connection for over 150 years. The understanding of greenhouse gas got its next boost in 1938 when Guy Callendar put together world temperatures and found a significant increase over the 19th century to that time. When he checked CO2, it had also risen by 10 percent in 100 years.

More serious research began after WWII. By the end of the 1950’s Gilbert Plass and others began to warn the U. S. government. Submarines operating in the Arctic Circle at the time took accurate readings of the thickness of the ice sheets above them. When the Pentagon released the data nearly 40 years later, it revealed a startling melting of the ice, on average a 40% thinning of 1.3m since 1953!

Very careful measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere began in the 1960’s, and showed an increase in only 2 year’s time. A separate climate science began in the 1980’s. It was approached from many angles. Now hardly a week goes by without a major study being published.

For those who can’t stomach the theoretical, there is plenty of direct evidence:
1. All-time high temperature records are right now being set all over the world

2. Sea level rise is affecting many people now

3. Big changes are occurring near the poles, also here and here.

4. Ocean circulation is critical for distribution of heat and climate, especially along the Eastern seaboard of the United States and Europe. It is being altered.

5. Permafrost, the constantly frozen area in the far north, is being altered. Methane gas is being freed; roads and houses are being destroyed and insects are becoming more abundant.

6. Dramatic effects on agriculture include fires, droughts, extra rain in the northeast due to movement of the jet stream, north migration of suitable areas for crops and even a move of the line between the dry West of the United States and the more humid area toward the east. The effect on California agriculture is particularly important.

Even more dramatic changes have occurred in the Middle East and Africa.

If you have your head up, and look around, you can’t miss the climate change and the havoc it is bringing. If your wealth depends on continuing the old ways, like fossil fuels businesses and farmers who are not well situated for what is coming, it is easier to understand the psychological basis for denial. But it is coming, and for society in general it is time to get busy and prepare! Politics can’t stop it.

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