During the initial Republican debate last week the moderator asked the candidates for a show of hands of how many believe in human-caused climate change. This is what happened …
None, not one, was prepared to back science.
Mountains of very robust observational evidence and literally millions of scientists within every single nation state on the planet did not cut it for them … (insert your epic facepalm here).
Personally, like you, I don’t “believe”, but rather I accept the prevailing scientific consensus. This is not an acceptance that is blind faith, we can eaisly go check the data ourselves.
Let’s take a very brief tour through the basics.
CO2 is a Greenhouse gas
You are no doubt familiar with the term “Greenhouse Gas”, but what exactly does that term mean?
The sun rather obviously warms the earth. As the energy from the sun strikes the earth, some of the energy is retained and some is reflected back out into space. It is this energy balance that is influenced by our atmosphere. No atmosphere would result is the average surface temperature of -18 C. Because we have water vapor, CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone, we have an average temperature of 15 C.
Well because those specific gases absorb the wavelength of radiation that the planet reflects and so that alters our energy balance and results in us retaining more energy.
Yes, but why?
If a gas in composed of molecules with just one atom, for example argon, or is composed of molecules with two atoms of the same element such as N2, or O2, then they balance the electrical charge when they vibrate and so those molecules do not absorb infrared thermal radiation. If however a gas has molecules composed of three or more atoms, for example H2O or CO2, then the electric charge distribution is not asymmetrical and so it interacts with electromagnetic radiation. This means that it absorbs and emits thermal radiation.
You can, if curious, keep digging into this topic, leaning more and more. The Wikipedia article that describes it can be found via the following link and is a very good primer on the topic.
None of this is a new insight …
- Here is the 1896 paper by Svante Arrhenius that lays out the details of how CO2 within the atmosphere influences the global temperature
OK, let’s move on to the next big ticket item.
We have been rapidly increasing CO2 since the industrial era
We have been pumping out vast quantities of CO2, so much so, that precise measurements within our atmosphere since the 1950s reveals that we are in the process of literally terraforming our planet into a far hotter place.
This is not speculation, nor is it a guess. We know, because we have precise measurements.
Here is the keeling curve that is measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory. The image captures the full record of daily measurements …
Permit me to place that rising curve, which is commonly called the keeling curve to honour the guy who discovered it, into some context.
We can look far further back over 800,000 years by also using measurements taken from the tiny bubbles of atmosphere trapped in ice core samples. This reveals that this really is us and is not normal …
To go check those measurements, to understand how it was and is being measured, and to appreciate who looks after it all, and lots more, go here.
The Ocean absorbs most of the excess CO2 so why worry?
We should indeed worry because not only are we warming our admosphere, we are also warming our oceans in a very measurable way.
Since 1955 there has been 345 (± 2) zettajoules of energy poured into the global oceans. This warming of our oceans will have a profound impact upon both the oceanic ecosystems and also our climate.
I can continue on like this
I don’t need to because by now you get the picture. We are not dealing with speculation or opinion. Instead we have hard cold facts that simply do not care what you believe or do not believe. It is what it is no matter how many choose to actually accept or reject it.
Do all those Republican candidates truly reject the rather robust cold hard facts??
Instead, what we have are people who are so desperate for power that they demonstrate a willingness of pander to the raw stupidity and ignorance of their team, and so they take this stance for votes.
Unfortunately for them, reality is not something we get a vote on. When the devastation via their inaction becomes apparent they will be reviled, hated, and despised. History will not be kind to them.
What is now happening is that we have set the entire planet on a new course. As it adjusts and moves to find a new energy balance we will face unprecedented change that will devastate billions of lives and unless we take meaningful action, it will happen way too fast for us to be able to adapt. Rapidly rising sea level will swamp costal cities, more intense storms will occur, heat beyond the ability of humans to adapt or survive in is coming.
This is not a certainty, just a probability. We still have choices. While it may indeed be too late to avoid consequences, we can still strive to slow things down and buy ourselves time to adapt.
It is literally the greatest challenge our species has ever faced, and so the GOP “solution” is to deny it even exists and simply bury their heads in the sand.
They might indeed argue vigorously that it is all a hoax, especially when funded and fuelled by oil and gas interests, but this is an argument they can never win. That argument is not with you and me, but rather the laws of physics. That’s never are argument that can be won.