I am grateful to a dear acquaintance who requested a brief update on global warming. She wanted a current problem summary. I rise to the task and offer this one page overview. The following is a distillation of a year spent reading, studying and ranting. Statements footnoted with links.
Most all scientists will agree that:
1. Global warming is real; is made much worse by human civilization; and is accelerating.
Weather channel has the message http://climate.weather.com/video/?clip=11333
2. We can no longer fix it. We can only adapt, mitigate and suffer the consequences.
Adaptation: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptation_to_global_warming
Public Health perspective http://arjournals.annualreviews.org/doi/full/10.1146/annurev.pu.29.031708.100011
3. We have begun to act. But over the next few decades - if we do little or nothing - humans will go the way of the dinosaurs.
Given Continued Inaction, Climate Future of Hellish Wildfires http://forests.org/blog/2008/07/continued-inaction-and-climate.asp
Melting of methane ice triggered long-ago warming surge: study
Beyond the Point of No Return http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=7003&method=full
4. Actions taken now require 30 to 50 years for effects to begin — and thousands of years to completely revert to a healthy atmosphere.
How long will global warming last? http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=134
EPA U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory Reports http://epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html
5. Model scenarios do not exclude a prediction of horrible calamity. We do not know the time-line for anticipated changes. Farther out in time is much harder to predict.
Keep in mind these are pretty optimistic scenarios http://climate.weather.com/blogs/9_16231.html
How Bad? and When? Graph view: http://localsteps.org/howbad.html
Special Report on Emissions Scenarios http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Report_on_Emissions_Scenarios
The costs of inaction http://ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/rp/Climate-CostsofInaction.pdf
6. Climate change is dangerous because of “tipping points” - an important concept to know - where one event triggers another. Like connected, amplified teeter-totters. Science has a hard time with tipping points, because they lead to greater complexity and runaway impacts
Tipping points discussed http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/musings-about-models/
NASA says we are close http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070531073748.htm
Permafrost tipping point http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611154839.htm
7. Currently, scientists are disturbed to note the rate of change is picking up.
Research shows rapid changes in the past http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080619142112.htm
Oceans warmed 50% faster over the last 40 years to climate change http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/06/18/ocean-warming.html?dcitc=w01-101-ae-0001
8. For decades the fossil fuel industry has funded huge PR campaigns to discount the science and restrict legislative reactions that would stifle their business. These have been very effective. The Executive branch has actively suppressed government studies on global warming. Seemingly intelligent people will often deny brutal truths.
Naomi Oreskes video lecture about the organized campaigns to create public doubt and confusion about science. http://www.uctv.tv/search-details.asp?showID=13459
Dr James Hansen testimony before Congress http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TwentyYearsLater_20080623.pdf
- “The Manufacture of Uncertainty - How American industries have purchased “scientists” to undermine scientific verities when those verities threaten their profits.”
Scientists are far more concerned than is reflected by public opinion; they have very little voice in this issue, business has much. http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/exxonmobil-smoke-mirrors-hot.html
Exxon still funds denialist groups http://www.heatisonline.org/contentserver/objecthandlers/index.cfm?id=6962&method=full
Read the original Exxon memo http://research.greenpeaceusa.org/?a=view&d=4383
Systematic suppression of science - George Monbiot http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/04/10/the-real-climate-censorship/
“…the problem is not that people aren’t hearing about climate change, but that they don’t want to know. The professional classes have the most freedom to lose and the least to gain from an attempt to restrain it. Those who are most responsible for carbon pollution are - being insulated by their money - the least likely to suffer its effects. “
…we all have our self-justifying myths. We tell ourselves a story of our lives in which we almost always appear as the heroes. These myths prevent us from engaging with climate change…
…The most powerful story of all, endlessly narrated by the hired hands of the fossil fuel industry, just as it was once told by the sugar slavers, is that we are both all-important and utterly insignificant. We are too important to be denied any of the delights we crave, but too insignificant to exert any impact on planetary processes. We fill the whole frame of the story when it suits us and shrink to a dot when that scale is more convenient. We are capable of occupying both niches simultaneously…
…It is not just because (the movie) The Great Global Warming Swindle is at odds with the entire body of scientific knowledge on this subject that I have bothered to contest it. It is also because it is consonant with the entire body of human self-deception. We want to be misled, we crave it; and we will bend our minds into whatever shape they need to take in order not to face our brutal truths.
- George Monbiot 7-22-08
9. Europe and other nations seem to better understand the problem than the US. Most humans will not really get it until they feel the sea level rise and experience more storms, floods, heat waves, bio changes, crop losses, etc.
10. Dramatic and painful climate problems happening sooner will better work to stimulate change. Any changes made now are more effective than the same change enacted in the future. The longer we wait, the harder it gets. (8 years have been wasted)
Tracking Extreme Weather Events http://www.heatisonline.org/weather.cfm
Austrialia heat waves by 2010 http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/heatwaves_coming_climate_scientists_say_551103
11. Most adults alive today will see more and increasingly intense global warming problems; Children growing into a very unpredictable world will need all the preparation we can give them. Philosophically: we should learn the dangers, still enjoy life, educate the kids, and push change as fast as we can. No engagement is more important.
Spirituality and Hope http://www.ecologicalhope.org/
Spend 1% to halve greenhouse gas by 2050: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hfpZd7sSjQH6m99E7NkvDYVL-ywg
Vatican calls it a sin http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1289476/vaticanproclaimspollutionanew_sin/
Babtists on climate change http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/03/10/baptist.climate/
To stay fairly current, a minimal information task is to subscribe to an email newsletter like Grist’s http://www.grist.org/
For background see the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ - remembering that the science in that movie is now about 5 years old.
Prepared by Richard Pauli July 2008 email@example.com