Climate Change 101 Establishing Facts

Climate Change 101: Establishing Fact and Addressing Denial

There are few things more uncomfortable than listening to two people trying to debate climate change and the causes. This article is inspired by viewing a podcast that produced such discomfort. As is the case in most public disagreements, human beings’ ability to reason is often reduced to my dad said verses your dad said. One person says most scientists say this, and the other one says these scientists say this. The one who is correct is no better than the one who is incorrect having formed a strong opinion about something he cannot explain.  

Climate change for all the controversy is not a very complicated subject.  This article for most people is going to seem remedial, but it is intent on explaining the basic components of climate change which may help people identify and isolate the points of contention with deniers, or impart a functional understanding to people who are indifferent to it.  The second reason is it is foolish to endorse ideas to transition to renewable energy and not explain the reason for it definitively.  The aim of this chapter isn’t to “get people to believe in science”.  Believing in science is just as ignorant as believing in religion because you’re accepting an authority opinion without understanding why the opinion is true.  What is science?  Science is simply a record of observations.  A conversation with a climate denier is sharing the observations associated with climate change, not the promotion of study headlines.           

What are the basic facts?

Measurements of the global average temperature and atmospheric composition have been recorded since 1880 and 1958 respectively.  Through ice cores scientists are able to measure temperature and CO2 levels, but if you cannot explain these measurements in a way people can understand them, they don’t have to acknowledge them.  If unacknowledged, the record of direct measurements suffices.     

1: We know the global average temperature for the last 140 years definitively as well as parts per million of CO2 and other greenhouse gases for over 60 years. (1)

1: Nasa Earth Observatory. Article charts and explains temperature trend since 1880. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/DecadalTemp

2: We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas meaning it prevents heat from radiating back into space.

3: We know that burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere.

4: We know that decreasing vegetation such as logging increases CO2 levels as the carbon contained within living vegetation is released and CO2 isn’t absorbed through metabolic processes.

5: We know the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere in 1880 was 291ppm and today it is 414ppm. (2)  More importantly, we know the CO2 concentration by measurement in 1958 was 316ppm.  

2: Nasa Records of CO2 Emissions determined through ice core record pre 1950, post 1950 direct measurements. What’s interesting is this chart was created after 2007 and projected the global concentration to reach 404 by the end of 2018. Actual recorded concentration is 414. https://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelforce/ghgases/Fig1A.ext.txt References: 1850-1957: D.M. Etheridge, L.P. Steele, R.L. Langenfelds, R.J. Francey, J.-M. Barnola and V.I. Morgan, 1996, J. Geophys. Res., 101, 4115-4128,”Natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric CO2 over the last 1000 years from air in Antarctic ice and firn”. 1958-1974: Means of Scripps Institution of Oceanography Continuous Data at Mauna Loa and South Pole provided by KenMaarie (personal communication) 1975-1982: Means of NOAA/CMDL in-situ data at Mauna Loa and South Pole. (P. Tans and K.W. Thoning, ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/in-situ) 1983-2003: Global means constructed using about 70 CMDL CCGG Sampling Network station data. (P.P. Tans and T.J. Conway, ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/flask) 2004-2007: Global mean growth rates. (T. Conway, ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/trends) 2019 414.14 Record from Mauna Loa Observatory https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2

6: We know the global average temperature has risen by about 1 degree Celsius during the same time. (3)

3: Forbes, “Exactly How Much Has the Earth Warmed and Does it Matter?”, 9/17/2018, by Earl J. Ritchie. https://www.forbes.com/sites/uhenergy/2018/09/07/exactly-how-much-has-the-earth-warmed-and-does-it-matter/#526cd1a5c22c

7: We know through ice cores the atmospheric composition and global average temperature for the last 800 thousand years. The bubbles within the ice preserve the composition of the air, and the isotopes within the atoms of hydrogen and oxygen reveal temperature. (4)  CO2 levels from ice cores are easy for people to understand but understanding how temperature is measured through ice cores is probably beyond most people’s ability to explain.    

4: Scientific American “How Past Temperatures are Determined by Ice Cores”, by Robert Muvaney. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-are-past-temperatures/

8: CO2 has not exceeded 300ppm in 800,000 years. (5)

5: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. “800,000 Year Ice Core Records of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”, Dome C 800,000-year record: European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) members: D., M. Le Floch, B. Bereiter, T. Blunier, J.-M. Barnola, U. Siegenthaler, D. Raynaud, J. Jouzel, H. Fischer, K. Kawamura, and T.F. Stocker. Vostok 400,000-plus-year record: J.R.Petit, Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Geophysique de l’Environnement , Grenoble, France. https://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/trends/co2/ice_core_co2.html

Because of 1, 6, and 7 we know carbon dioxide has increased and the global average temperature has increased. Meaning global warming is happening. Because of 2,3,4, and 8 we know that human activity is the cause for the increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and the increase in the global average temperature. The climate denier is now forced to disagree with the facts and cannot simply choose to believe a different authority.

What is the dispute? If the dispute is with CO2 causing an increase in temperature, there are experiments an individual can be referred to that demonstrate this cause and effect relationship. More importantly, these experiments can be reproduced by the individual. (6) This is the first point that must be established with the climate denier. 

6: Myth Busters CO2 Experiment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPRd5GT0v0I

A climate debate begins with establishing CO2 increases temperature. 

In earth’s history absent the dramatic increase we see from human beings burning fossil fuels, the climate denier may bring up that throughout earth’s history temperature increases caused CO2 levels to rise.  The point is made to suggest that the temperature increase we see today is caused by something other than greenhouse gases and this is causing the increase in CO2 not human activity.  

As temperature increases, the mixture of melting ice into ocean waters pushes up deeper CO2 rich water.  The other aspect of temperature driving CO2 is warmer water holds less gases, which caused CO2 to leak from the oceans.  The most important aspect of distinguishing preindustrial from postindustrial temperature and CO2 is the amount of time it takes for the temperature to increase CO2, and the amount of CO2 released by oceans caused by temperature historically.  It requires at least 200 years with some studies claiming 400 to 1300 years to observe the effect of temperature increasing CO2 levels.  Meaning the nearly 1 degree C rise in temperature observed in the last roughly 150 years, wouldn’t contribute to rising CO2 levels for at least another 50 years and perhaps much later than that, if the temperature was driving CO2 levels. (7) Temperature is not driving CO2 levels because enough time has not elapsed with the increased temperature for that effect to have occured.  Oceans are presumed capable of absorbing about 30% of global emissions until near the end of century.  

7: Wendy Zuckerman 4/25/2011 “Warming Oceans Release CO2 Faster Than Thought”, The New Scientist. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20413-warmer-oceans-release-co2-faster-than-thought/

The most common climate denial point of reasoning in my experience is solar activity.  The simplest rebuttal is that today, solar irradiance is roughly the same as it was in 1880.  From 1930 until about 1960 the heat reaching earth from the sun did increase and temperature did reflect some of the trend.  However, from 1950 to 1955 solar irradiance peaked and had no impact on the temperature.  From the late 50s onward, solar irradiance has declined but despite this decline, temperature has risen steadily for the last 6 decades.  In the late 50s the global average temperature was about .2 degrees C above the pre industrial temperature. (8)  Today we are nearly 1 degree C above pre industrial temperature, with a first decreasing, then flat, and then decreasing amount of the sun’s energy reaching the earth.  

8: NASA, “Graphic: Temperature vs Solar Activity”. https://climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources/189/graphic-temperature-vs-solar-activity/

Once this fact is established the denier is a few facts away from being forced to acknowledge climate change. The next phase is to establish the human contribution to CO2 levels. The easiest way to articulate this is referring to motor vehicle emissions testing. CO2 levels are listed in the report. You have a clear and nearly undeniable link to CO2 emissions and human activity.

Human activity = CO2 = +temperature = ?

Before the implications of global warming can be considered the validity of measurements must be established. You cannot begin discussing the effects and potential effects of climate change until the denier understands how measurements are made and projected.

The easiest understandable record is the temperature record because everyone trusts the measurements of a thermometer. This is also the place where climate is distinguished from weather. We can state with supreme confidence that we know the global average temperature from 1880 onward. The global average temperature is an indication of climate, where measurements are made around the world and the average of these temperatures is the global average temperature. This is why the annual average temperature can decrease in one part of the world, but warming is still occurring because temperature increases are greater in other areas than the areas where a decrease is recorded.

We need to establish CO2 measurements as well as temperature predating recorded measurements. The understanding of CO2 measurements from ice cores is not something that is difficult to grasp. Anyone who has made an ice cube understands how air becomes trapped in ice. Air bubbles are trapped in the ice that preserve a record of composition from earlier periods. Comparing the ice cores to recorded atmospheric composition and temperature determines the accuracy of the findings.

A popular point of denier contention is that the Mauna Loa location where CO2 is measured is compromised because it is located on top of a volcano.  

1: The location was selected because there are 1000s of miles of oceans in every direction and Mauna Loa is elevated.  This makes Mauna Loa  an ideal location for measuring CO2 because of its distance from the industrial world which would compromise its readings.  For example, if it was located in New York, the measurements would be contaminated by local emissions. 

2: If the measurement was compromised by volcanic emissions measurements would fluctuate wildly.  Daily measurements wouldn’t fluctuate by tenths or hundredths of PPMs, it would fluctuate by 10s or 100s of PPMs.  

3: The measurements have been consistent for decades, and the increase in the atmospheric concentration CO2 corresponds to the increase in global emissions.   

The temperature record through ice cores is more difficult to explain and will not be grasped by most people who do not have a solid understanding of chemistry. It either has to be accepted on authority or not accepted.  Unless you have a firm enough grasp of physics to create an understanding in a person without an understanding of physics to understand how temperature is ascertained through ice cores.

We have established that human activity causes an increase in CO2, which causes a higher global average temperature. What does this mean?

Some effects are already observable in extreme weather, where we have weather events occurring where previously these events did not occur or did not occur with the intensity and frequency with which they are presently occurring: hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, droughts, wildfires, the reduction and depletion of water sources, among others. Climate change is a cause for many of these events by calculating the probability that they would occur with the frequency and intensity they are observed, without the influence of our warmer world. 

Currently, climate change is manageable and unperceivable to most of the population. When we are warning about climate change, we are focusing on what we can expect in anticipated CO2 emissions, temperature, and the consequences of a warmer world.

1: Human beings must reduce global emissions by 40 to 70% by 2050 to maintain CO2 concentrations below 480ppm, which should ensure a global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. (9) This scenario also requires the implementation of technology that does not exist in scale to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

9:  Carbon Brief “Degrees of Change: The IPCC’s Projections on for Future Temperature Rise. 4/15/2014. See chart on bottom of page. https://www.carbonbrief.org/degrees-of-change-the-ipccs-projections-for-future-temperature-rise

2: If nations deliver on their pledges to reduce greenhouse gases, CO2 levels are expected to reach 580 to 720ppm and a temperature increase of 2.3 to 2.9 degrees C by 2100.

3: If we do nothing 720 to 1000ppm and an increase of 3.1 to 3.7 degrees by 2100.

4: If we do nothing and emissions continue to increase at the present rate over 1000ppm and an increase of 4.1 to 4.8 degrees by 2100.

1: The first scenario is not only extremely unlikely, but probably unachievable by now. Let’s look at the trend: in the last 20 years we have failed to achieve a global reduction of emissions by even 1%, meaning there is no reason to believe we will achieve 40 to 70% in the next 30 years. Additionally, the scenario relies on carbon scrubbing technology that doesn’t exist in scale, strategy for application, or fulfilling a market need.  This scenario should be excluded as a possibility.  

2: If nations deliver on their pledges this is supposed to keep emissions below 720ppm. The United States has abandoned their pledges and refused to meaningfully participate in global conferences on climate change. Not only has the US abandoned pledges made under previous administrations, previous administrations and the present administration are promoting fossil fuel extraction, refinement, and distribution.

3 and 4: I am lumping together because they are basically the same scenario. If we do nothing emissions are going to rise at the present rate. There were a few years when the increase in emissions was reduced to a 1% increase in annual carbon emissions, but in the last few years annual increases returned to their average rise of 3%. (10) You see the infrastructure your tax dollars largely pay for, but this represents a very small percentage of energy used. Wind and solar represent only 8.4% of electricity generated in the United States, (11) and in a market with ever increasing demand for energy.  We’re not moving away from fossil fuel energy; we’re expanding our efforts to exploit it. (12) At best we’re looking at 3 and most likely we’re looking at 4 degrees warming by the end of the century.

10: Carbon Brief. “Analysis: Fossil-Fuel Emissions in 2018 Increasing At Fastest Rate for Seven Years”. By Zeke Hausfather. https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-fossil-fuel-emissions-in-2018-increasing-at-fastest-rate-for-seven-years

11: US Energy Information Administration 1.6% solar, 6.6% wind. https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3

12:  A few stories related to fossil fuel expansion from the present and previous US presidential administrations. A: New York Times, “Obama Shifts to Speed Oil and Gas Drilling in the US” 5/14/2011, by John M. Broder. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/us/politics/15address.html B: Independent “Trump Administration Reveals Plans to Open Protected Artic Land to Oil and Gas Development” Andrew Buncombe, 12/20/2018 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/arctic-oil-gas-trump-administration-alaska-wildlife-polar-bears-hunters-land-a8693611.html
The Guardian “Trump Condemned Over Plans to Allow Drilling Near National Parks”. Cassidy Randall, 9-14-2018 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/sep/14/conservatives-democrats-trump-drilling-national-parks C: CNBC “Oil and Gas Firms are Ready to Spend as Confidence Grows, Survey Says”. David Reid 1-21-2019. “85 percent of American executives questioned believed there were reasons to expect an increase in drilling in 2019.” https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2019/01/22/us-oil–gas-firms-ready-to-spend-as-confidence-grows-survey-says.html?fbclid=IwAR3L1531YIFTcBE1g-AJaWvA8GZyH5DvyV8-8nkvkTW9cTU-oOrNQ7b4gvI D: CNBC, “BP Has Discovered a Billion Barrels of Oil in the Gulf of Mexico”. Tom DiChristopher, 1-9-2019 https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2019/01/08/bp-just-discovered-a-billion-barrels-of-oil-in-gulf-of-mexico.html?fbclid=IwAR1M6dQkssvrp0F8ai0iwUeXqM7lztcauyxdTBwnq6vn01D-GLFTlACvOjI One thing to bear in mind as well, is oil demand is expected to increase for the next few decades regardless of what we do so exploration and exploitation of world resources is necessary as well as a bad idea in the absence of some great initiative to change energy demand.

For those who don’t trust the models we can forecast how we reach such a high concentration over the next 80 years using basic arithmetic.  Some may think it is redundant since we have models that plug in different variables to arrive at scenarios for the inputted values.  Individually, it is one thing to look at scenarios and trust the conclusions, and another thing to observe the trend, and with reasonable expectations of nothing changing projecting that trend into the future reaching the same conclusion as the models.    

1960 to 1969 CO2 increased by an average of .85 ppm per year.
1970 to 1979 CO2 increased by an average of 1.28ppm per year +.43 from previous decade avg.
1980 to 1989 CO2 increased by an average of 1.61ppm per year +.33
1990 to 1999 CO2 increased by an average of 1.5ppm per year -.11
2000 to 2009 CO2 increased by an average of 1.97ppm per year +.47
2010 to 2019 CO2 increased by an average of 2.4 ppm per year +.43 (13)

13: CO2 Earth “CO2 Acceleration” Mauna Loa Observatory Decadal Average Annual Growth Rates 1960 to 2019 https://www.co2.earth/co2-acceleration

We can use basic arithmetic to project the increase in concentration of CO2 based on the likelihood that nothing is likely to substantially change.  It’s likely nothing will change because the interests that direct public policy and decide production are not going to harm their own interests.  The estimates are conservative, but it serves as a basis for knowing what the CO2 concentration will be based on the historical trend.  The composition of the atmosphere consists of a lot of variables, where emissions alone do not dictate an increase in concentration. The composition of the atmosphere reflects an interaction between CO2 with the ocean, vegetation, and other ecological variables and processes I do not claim to be an expert on.  The trend in the CO2 concentration has been a steady upward climb since records began in 1958.   I am assuming the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will continue at roughly the same rate of growth observed in the preceding 5 decades.  New emissions feedback sources like melting permafrost can be added to the trend.   

I’m presuming the average per decade increase from the last 50 years will be the average per decade increase perpetually.  By adding the increase of the CO2 concentration to the annual average 5 decades (.43+.33-.11+.47+.43 = 1.55) and dividing by 5, this provides us with the average increase per decade .31 ppm for the next decade.  2010 to 2019 the average annual increase of CO2 in the atmosphere was 2.4ppm, so 2020 to 2029 should be an average annual increase of 2.71ppm.  There may be a hiccup for 2020 since the forced shut down of the world will lead to a reduction in the increase of the concentration, but probably will not disturb the overall decade trend by much. December 2019 the concentration of CO2 is 415.4 ppm.     

Decade /Per year average +.31 increase per decade./ Decade total Emissions./  Total

2020 to 2029/ CO2 increases by an average of 2.71 ppm per year./ 27.1ppm /+ 415.4 = 442.5                 

2030 to 2039/ CO2 increases by an average of 3.02 ppm per year/  30.2ppm/ +442.5 = 472.7

2040 to 2049/ CO2 increases by an average of 3.33 ppm per year/ 33.3ppm/ + 472.7 = 506

2050 to 2059/ CO2 increases by an average of 3.64 ppm per year/  36.4ppm/ + 506 = 542.4

2060 to 2069/ CO2 increases by an average of 3.95ppm per year/  39.5/ + 542.4 =581.9

2070 to 2079/ CO2 increases by an average of 4.26 ppm per year/  42.6ppm/ + 581.9 = 624.5

2080 to 2089/ CO2 Increases by an average of 4.57 ppm per year/ 45.7ppm/ + 624.5 = 670.2

2090 to 2099/ CO2 Increases by an average of 4.88 ppm per year/ 48.8ppm/ + 670.2 = 719

If the concentration of CO2 increases at the same rate we should reach 719ppm by the end of the century which corresponds to about 3 degree C increase, without taking into consideration the potential for an accelerated increase in CO2 concentration from a reduction in vegetation, permafrost melt, or warming oceans absorbing less CO2 towards the end of the century. 

Beneath the permafrost is ancient plant and animal material frozen in the soil which prevents it from decomposing.  Plants and animals release CO2 and methane during decomposition.  If the permafrost melts this buried organic material will decompose and release CO2 and methane into the atmosphere.  How much?  “1460 to 1600 billion tons of organic carbon.” Which means what?  That amount of carbon represents “nearly twice as much carbon stored in the atmosphere”.  Presently there are about 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere, so the permafrost contains the equivalent of 800 ppm of carbon (minus ocean scrubbing 30%). (14)

14: Andrew Freedman, 12/09/2019, “The Artic May have Crossed Key Threshhold, Emitting Billions of Tons of Carbon into the Air, in a Long Dreaded Climate Feedback”.  Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2019/12/10/arctic-may-have-crossed-key-threshold-emitting-billions-tons-carbon-into-air-long-dreaded-climate-feedback/?outputType=amp

How much permafrost is expected to melt between now and the end of the century?  The IPCC estimates that by mid-century 20 to 35 percent of permafrost will melt, and by 2080, as much as 50%.  This is an additional 160 to 280ppm of CO2 by midcentury, meaning in 30 years, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere could nearly double, and we could reach 700ppm by midcentury.  280ppm worth of CO2 from permafrost melt minus 30% ocean absorption =196 ppm.  2050 total 506ppm, 506 + 196ppm (35% permafrost melt) =786.  By 2080, if 50% of the permafrost melts, we should see a carbon concentration reaching 900ppm: 400ppm CO2 from 50% permafrost melt minus 30% ocean absorption = 280ppm.  624.5ppm plus 280ppm= 900.5ppm by 2080 (15)

15: https://www.wunderground.com/resources/climate/melting_permafrost.asp Source: Philippe Rekacewicz, 2005. “The Effect of Climate Change on Permafrost” 

For the skeptics, there are numerous videos online that verify the presence of methane beneath the permafrost.  Lakes above the permafrost line where the gas is visible beneath the ice.  The ice is cracked, and the methane is ignited to prove it is a combustible gas, and in others collected and measured.     

We should at least be thinking about 4 degrees by the end of the century.  We should understand why and we should understand how, and we should be able to articulate that simply when someone has a differing opinion. A person should be embarrassed to say they believe in climate change because most scientists say.  I’m not implying that if someone disagrees you go through the whole process, but you need to know each basic point.  Usually resistance to climate change comes in the form of a substance less statement.  You begin by asking what the person doesn’t believe and work from there.  I think the greatest issue with climate change isn’t that deniers don’t believe it, but they hate the people associated with climate change because they know it’s the promotion of opinions that people do not understand. 

We return to the simple things we know: human activity= +CO2 = +temperature = what?

A 4-degree warmer world is a world where the entire United States is incapable of growing food, consisting of deserts and areas uninhabitable due to extreme weather and flooding. There will be very few people living here. Not the United States only, but everything between the latitude of the northern United States to the southern tip of South America will be uninhabitable. Nearly everything in the eastern hemisphere will mirror the western hemisphere in that range. There are a few exceptions, a strip in Africa and two small portions of Australia, Southeast Asia, Europe below the UK, most of China, India, will be desert or uninhabitable due to extreme weather. Habitable areas will exist where food can grow in Canada, the UK, Russia, and western Antarctica. (16)

16: Big Think “What Will the World Look Like 4 (Degrees) C Warmer”, 5/22/2017, by Frank Jacobs. https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/what-the-world-will-look-like-4degc-warmer

The previously cited map forecasts this world where there is a civil migration and humanity carries on in a four-degree warmer world, which is unlikely for obvious reasons, but we’re not stopping at 4 degrees. “Chance of avoiding five degrees of global warming: negligible if the rise reaches four degrees and releases trapped methane from the sea bed.” (17)

17: “A Degree by Degree Explanation of What Will Happen When the Earth Warms”, 6/24/2019. http://globalwarming.berrens.nl/globalwarming.htm

A 5-degree warmer world is described as a world where “people have nothing to buy, because people have nothing to sell, because nothing can be produced”. There is no reason to believe human beings will simply migrate to areas sparsely populated today due to inhospitable winters. The greatest military force the world has ever known is going to do what? Liquidate its assets, distribute it to the population and the entire United States, Mexico, Central, and most of South America is going to move to Canada and West Antarctica? How about the nuclear powers of India and Pakistan, will they be welcomed into Russia? All of Africa will congregate into a unified country about 1/10th the size of the continent? A billion plus Chinese are going to move to Russia? The United States uses military force and the threat of force to serve its interests in the world. I don’t think we need to worry about what the climate will be in 2100 on the present trajectory. A confrontation caused by decreasing habitable surface area escalating into a nuclear war should render the species close to extinct prior to the end of the century, probably long before we reach 4 degrees.    

In consideration of how human civilization is organized, any scenario that requires a reduction in global emissions to ensure habitability of the planet is not realistic.  First, the threat that climate change poses to human civilization has been known about by policy makers for decades and by the fossil fuel industry for decades preceding.  Globally, we have failed to reduce emissions by even a single percent and have annual growth in emissions.  In consideration of the history and the interests that decide public policy, there is no reason to believe emissions will be significantly reduced.  Emissions reduction is paramount, but second or arguably more important to climate change, is promoting cooperation among nations, because gradual changes in hospitable and habitable areas will require human beings to peacefully redistribute themselves.  That should be an area of focus because that seems to be where we’re headed even if we take serious immediate action.  

Areas becoming uninhabitable doesn’t mean it’s too hot to live there, it also means you cannot live there because of extreme weather.  If Florida had multiple category 4 or better hurricanes every year, how many years would it take before no one lived in Florida?  What about an average of 3 a year?  I don’t know what the answer is, but could people live in Florida if 2 hurricane Andrews a year were guaranteed?  That doesn’t seem like it could be more than 30 years away.  I consider what we are experiencing today at about 1 degree C with an increased number of storms and an increased intensity of storms.  If we add another degree by 2050, more tropical storms will become hurricanes, and more hurricanes will become stronger hurricanes.  It isn’t inconceivable that people will not be living on the Florida coast 40 years from now.  If an area was impacted by a category 5 hurricane twice per year no one can live there, there isn’t even time to completely recover.  Property will become uninsurable and people will have to move.   

The climate denier objects on the basis that climate change is not caused by CO2, or climate change isn’t an issue.  Usually they will have some dubious authority who earns a living conducting biased studies funded by the fossil fuel industry or associated entities.  If you’re interested in climate change you should know the deficiencies of marginal theories, but whether you do, or whether you do not, you can begin the confrontation without being confrontational.  That has a lot to do with the inspiration of this article.  If you begin with the basic facts and explain why you understand that climate change is occurring, you can locate the points of contention and overcome his objections.  To deny climate change reduces to a distrust of thermometers, distrust of the heat trapping effect of CO2, distrust of human being’s ability to measure the concentration of CO2 in the air, and refusal to acknowledge how habitability is determined by climate.   

People trust thermometers so it isn’t difficult for a person to accept we have recorded nearly 1 degree C increase in the global average temperature from preindustrial times.

There are experiments an individual can view or perform to prove the heat trapping effects of CO2.  This is easily provable.

People trust CO2 sensors.  

What will a person dispute?  We know CO2 has increased by over 100ppm since 1958.  We know the world is roughly 1 degree C warmer since about 1880.  We know that carbon dioxide traps heat.  We know that burning fossil fuels increases the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  The only way climate change can be denied is if a person doesn’t trust thermometers or CO2 sensors.  Climate change is occurring and caused by human activity; Because human beings burn fossil fuels, fossil fuels emit CO2, CO2 traps heat, and we have observed a steady increase in the concentration of CO2 and a steady increase in temperature.

An increasing population, in a world where fewer areas will have adequate amounts of water to sustain populations, droughts affecting food production, land that can no longer sustain crops or livestock, nations that cannot sustain their populations, civil unrest, extreme weather causing areas to become uninhabitable, migrations, increased population density exacerbating climate change related stress on resources and opportunity, and conflict.  

Other tactics used by climate deniers is to project the position onto you that you deny natural disasters existed prior to climate change.  They attempt to use the death tolls of preindustrial natural disasters to suggest that comparing death tolls to modern natural disasters means the storms were of greater ferocity then, than they are today.  The obvious reason the death tolls were greater is because there weren’t the early warning systems that exist today.  There was no way to know if a storm was just a storm or if the storm was an approaching hurricane.

I was recently directed to a Tony Heller video on facebook and I broke the first 11 minutes of the video down point by point. (18)  It is really the lowest grade of disinformation I’ve ever encountered, so bad I would have trouble believing it if I wanted to believe it.  Aside from some of what I’ve already mentioned, a major point of emphasis was conspiracy theory supported by outright lies.  It was a conversation between Dennis Rancourt and Tony Heller, and it was primarily personal stories without sources that contradicted the points they were trying to make.  Rancourt discussed going to science conferences and asking other scientists what they thought about climate change.  Then he disparaged these unnamed figures saying “this isn’t even your field”, implying they shouldn’t have an opinion on the subject because it isn’t their area of study, while failing to acknowledge that he was asking someone their opinion on a subject he didn’t feel they were qualified to speak on, and the same criticism he applied to them applied to him.  

18: Dennis Rancourt and Tony Heller Agreeing on Climate, by Skype December 20th 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GC_6j6mn0qE My break down is in the comments on the video and includes citation in the comment if interested.  I only watched the first 11 minutes because I was refuting the video point by point as my comment reflects which is time consuming without the merit to justify the time invested.

Heller fabricated facts, claiming meteorologist William Gray lost his funding and was fired by Al Gore under the Clinton administration, when in fact, Grey was not fired and didn’t lose funding until 2005, which the dean of the school stated had nothing to do with his views on climate change.  He goes on to explain how different administrations have different priorities for funding research and this is true.  Where it falls apart for him is if the science was driven by government funding, then 8 years of George W. Bush and now approaching 4 years of Trump, you would see a greater divergence of opinion if research aims are tied to the positions of the white house.  We don’t see that.  

The previously mentioned points are part of a larger conspiracy theory where the economic elites are pushing climate change for some ends that are going to give them more power.  This is laughable for two reasons.  The first is the economic elites are the very people and entities who benefit from fossil fuel sales, so it makes no sense whatsoever that they would be pushing an agenda to limit their sales and profits which is the source of their power.  Second, and this can be applied to almost any politically oriented conspiracy theory, is that the people who benefit from this organization of civilization are not looking to change anything.  The way things are serve their interests which is why the “economic elites” tend to be conservative, because for them it isn’t broken so there is nothing to fix.  

Climate denial is probably much less of a problem than it was 5 or 10 years ago, but 40% of people still don’t believe climate change is caused by human activity or don’t believe it is a problem.  You’re not going to change these people’s minds by quoting a 350.org article that a study suggests human beings must address climate change in the next decade or face climate catastrophe.  You need to know your position thoroughly and understand the position of the denier to address his position when he makes a point.  If he says the sun is causing climate change, you have to address that point.  You cannot just say no climate scientists all agree it is CO2 and think you’re right because you have a better authority, because he doesn’t respect your authority the same as you don’t respect his.            

Anyone who understands the basics of climate change can prove it to anyone who trusts a thermometer and a CO2 sensor.  What is important is to understand your position, and to understand the position of the denier.   

60% of the American population believes climate change is manmade, occurring, and is a serious problem. (19)  The issue is greater than the 40% who do not, because what percentage of that 60% is voters, and what percent of that 60% place enough priority on climate change to not vote for a candidate that is indifferent to it or denies it is occurring?  I don’t know the proportion, and if it is accurately measurable, but a good portion of the 60% who acknowledge that climate change is man made and a serious problem, probably are not voting with climate change in mind.  

19: The Hill, “Poll: A Record Number of American’s Believe in Man Made Climate Change”. 7/11/2018, By Justin Wise. https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/396487-poll-record-number-of-americans-believe-in-man-made-climate-change

As with any polarizing issue in this country, change doesn’t come through holding a sign, shouting a slogan, or name calling.  It requires tactfully opening dialogue with people who do not believe in, and therefore do not understand your position.  Which is why I wrote this article.  This article doesn’t bring anything new to the discussion, maybe my nuclear holocaust predictions, but other than that, it is an attempt to clearly establish the basic facts and how those facts cannot be undermined even by alternate theories for the cause of warming.  Whether or not the sun is a driving factor, or increased volcanic activity, or whatever other alternate theories have been financed and disappearing, human beings contribute to carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide traps heat.  The other small contribution which probably isn’t novel, is using the data and basic arithmetic to generally confirm the conclusions put forth by scientific models.  It is one thing to read IPCC predictions that CO2 levels will exceed 1000ppm by the end of the century, and it is another to look at the numbers and understand how.  

Nearly every day I watch Democracy Now, despite seeing through their bias, and generally frowning on the positions and activity of the activist left.  Nearly every day (prior to covid) there are reports of protests around the globe who are protesting for action on climate change.  It’s no secret I don’t think there is much benefit from electoral politics right now.  One area where there could be benefit is if people understood something as simple as climate change, and not only are the basic components of climate change easy to prove and easy to understand, those who are uninterested or whose ideas about climate change are made up for them, are beginning to soften because they cannot ignore the effects.  I think about this often, but more so from a recent protest that took place in Spain, where climate activists were dancing against climate change.  It’s a good PR opportunity for DN to show how fun it is to be an activist.  For me it reinforced my usual thoughts, that you have not a great proportion of the population but a good sized group who is willing to march, hold signs, yell, dance in the street, and sometimes get arrested; but they are not willing to actively engage segments of the population who have a different opinion on climate change.  The reason is simple.  It feels much better to surround yourself with a group of people who have the same beliefs, than it does to have a conversation with someone who has a different opinion.  

Despite industry deciding which candidates the public can vote for, candidates cannot run on a position unless the population believes there is merit to that position.  If the politician is running on a platform of climate denial or indifference, he only does so because his constituents believe the position has merit.  While campaigns centered on persuading the population may not have an impact quickly enough for action on climate change, it will definitely have more of an impact than demonstrating.  

If you have 50 people in a group or network of groups you are better off having those 50 people attempting to persuade people of different opinions in areas that elect the climate denier and climate indifferent politicians, than you are holding a sign in the street.  One is fun, and one is hard, and the one that is fun is a personal priority which contributes little to nothing to the cause, and the one that is hard is a different kind of personal priority where the cause is prioritized and contributes to the cause.  

The approach is the approach of this book.  I know you have reasons for the positions you take, this is the position I take, here is why, can you tell me why this doesn’t make sense to you?

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