Are you sometimes feeling lost when it comes to Climate Change and Global Warming? Do you really understand what’s going on with the climate and foremost do you really believe in it?
The confusion is omnipresent and the debate raging. How not to be confused when the leader of one the most influential country in the world says « The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. » and I am not talking about the confusion regarding the mental abilities of this man, but the confusing on whether global warming is really happening.
How to find information and understand the multitude of scientific explanation surrounding this issue without being lost in translation when dealing with science?
I will try to shed some light over this debate and maybe trigger curiosity to find out more about this topic.
BUT FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?
On the journey of becoming a greenster it is important to be familiar with this topic, right?
So Climate Change refers to significant long term changes in the weather patterns, such as temperature, rainfall, snowfall, wind velocity or seasons. Each patterns has a fundamental role to play for each ecosystems on earth where life depends on them.
So is there any variations or fluctuations in the climate? YES!!!!! and the climate has ALWAYS been changing. You probably remember your natural geographic history classe with the dinosaurs ear, ice age periods, mass extinctions.… The earth’s climate has been cooler than it is now during various ice ages and it has been warmer than it is now for thousands of years.
Those variations have been caused by natural factors such as changes in volcanic eruptions, solar energy due to changes in the earth distance from the sun, or natural changes in greenhouse gas concentrations.
SO WHY ON EARTH PEOPLE ARE SO STRESSING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE?
That where Global Warming enters the picture. This however, refers to a rise in the global average temperature on earth which is caused mainly by the increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, essentially CO2. In fact this CO2 is very greedy, it builds a giant trap around the earth where the energy coming from the sun enters the atmosphere but struggles to find his way out, due to the CO2 keeping it for itself. This causes a greenhouse effect. This trap has the consequence of keeping earth/us nice and warm. Which is good to a certain extent but can have some dramatic effects on the balance that nature tries to maintain.
And the main problem is that we, humans (the apparently most intelligent species of all time), have started to alter the concentration of greenhouse gases during the last century with our industrial revolution (burning of fossil fuel, deforestation, industrialization…). That is on this particular point that people are fighting about.
Are we really responsible for creating this giant trap around the globe?
TO BE OR NOT TO BE? THAT IS THE QUESTION
Argument 1: But climate changed before!!!
True and false… As mention above, yes it has changed before but never as fast as in the last century, the rate of change is unpreceded in such a short period of evolutionary time, what happened? We are the prime suspects for speeding up the changes.
Argument 2: Earth naturally produces CO2 and human emissions are a tiny %
True and false … Trees respiration, roots respiration, animal respiration and even human flatulence (yes yes yes we ARE contributing to the greenhouses effect) produce CO2 at about 209 Gigatons a year. Man made greenhouse gases are about 8 Gigatons.
So yes it is tiny BUT nature also absorbs CO2, plants love it and the ocean is actually the lungs of our planet by absorbing most of the man-made CO2. This natural process counts for 212 Gigatons every year. Oh nature, you are such an amazing orchestra conductor!!!
So with an increasing demography, by burning fossil fuel (for transportation, electricity, heating or cement production), deforestation and industrial processes we upset this equilibrium and CO2 is increasing at a pace that nature didn’t find the way to counterbalance yet. We have reach 406 parts per million (ppm) in 2016 while the concentrations pre-industrial was 280ppm .
Now you might wonder how do we know ? Well it is because carbon is made of 3 isotopes the Carbon-14 (absent in fossil fuel), Carbon-13 and the one that nature absorbs the most Carbon-12, so when we burn fossil fuel (ancient plants) we see a decrease of C13.
Argument 3: There is no evidences that Global warming is happening or that CO2 causes any warming
Well yes there are……
In their quest of understanding the natural world, scientists use various tools, human records and also traces left by Nature where the past is engraved and waits silently to be revealed. Ice cores, coral, sediments or tree rings are the main story tellers of the past.
The concentration of CO2 can be extracted from air bubbles trapped in polar ice cores and therefore can be traced way before our industrial revolution, as explained in this article.
One side of the climate change debate is fed by the skeptical point of view where such proxies are considered unreliable. Ice cores have been used for over half of a century and have proven their robustness.
I invite you to watch Ice and The Sky, an amazing film from Luc Jacquet (also know for March of the Penguins) retracing the life of Claude Lorius, who was one of the first glaciologist to stress the world about global warming and CO2 emissions in the 1970s.
Now regarding the CO2’s compulsive trapping disorder, this has been proven since 1861. Satellites can measure the infrared radiation (aka. sun energy bouncing on earth), trying to escape to go back out of space, and confirm the effectiveness of the greenhouse effect. This is confirmed by the story unfold from nature where temperature and CO2 levels are racing against each other to create a positive feedback, where one can influence the other and enhance global warming. Click here and here for some interesting readings if you feel like reading about science today.
Argument 4: Weather station are poorly sited
True and false… Some are located in cities, near places where the concentrations of CO2 is obviously higher than in the Australian bush or on top of Mount Everest. However, there are also many more located in remote locations which provides the same results, the increasing CO2 level. The Mauna loa research station in Hawaii provides the longest continuous record of atmospheric CO2 and it is located 3400m above sea level in the middle of the pacific. Moreover, satellites also record the level in the different levels of the atmosphere, and the data confirm the increase of man-made CO2.
Argument 5: CO2 is good, it’s plant food! Nature loves Carbon-12!
True and then what?… Yes plants love CO2, it helps grows, it is a great fertilizer but then what? What about the side effects of global warming ? Climate change leads to increased drought events, storms… What about heat stress ? Did you know temperature can affect the post sex life of some species? Don’t worry I am not talking about humans but sea turtles! The eggs of the Olive Ridley sea turtle incubated at a temperature above 31° will produce only female, and below 28° only males, so increased temperatures can change the sex ratio of several species. Can you imagine a world without men??? I guess that could be another debate.
So it is important to understand that the way we live creates more and more CO2 and the earth is getting warmer since CO2 has a compulsive disorder of keeping us warm. Science tries to make sense of the world around us from evidences left by nature, and the ending of the story depends on who makes sense of the traces. Without this debate and the criticism over the scientific concepts, methods and communication, improvements cannot be made.
So is Climate Change fake news? Unless 97% of climate scientists on earth falsify their study and use fake methods, it seems like Summer is coming!!!!!
I will be posting on this blog twice a week, so if you want to learn more about renewable energies, follow me for my next post.
Top photo from Abraham Hicks. Illustrations made by the author of this blog.
Cook, J. (2010). The scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism. https://skepticalscience.com/docs/Guide_to_Skepticism.pdf
Cook, J. (2010) The scientific guide to the ‘Skeptics Handbook’. https://skepticalscience.com/docs/ScientificGuideSkepticsA5.pdf
Leroux, M. (2005). Global Warming-Myth or Reality? Springer Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/3-540-28100-2