Climate Changes in 2017

I’ve been collecting a number of stories on climate change and decided now is an opportune time to post some. With Donald Trump set to become the next President of the United States, it’ll be interesting to see how his administration deals with these issues.

First is a story from PhysOrg, asking, how fast will we need to adapt to climate change? It considers how people should respond to various rates in the rise of sea level. Obviously, if the sea level were to rise one foot per century, we’d be less worried than if it were to rise one foot per decade, right? If so, then it would be helpful to know how quickly the sea level will rise over any given period of time.

I thought this was a surprisingly good article because it focused more on practicality than politics. It didn’t blame human activity or foster hysteria, but attempted to consider how we should respond to real changes, and that’s something I agree with. Researchers considered three different scenarios: what would happen if land were developed in an area that would eventually flood due to sea level rise, or if the land were zoned to prevent development in those areas where sea level rise is expected, or if  dikes and seawalls were constructed so that development in flood zones could safely continue.

Assuming imminent sea level rise, each scenario offers advantages and disadvantages associated with costs, and the study examines these. The best approach seems to be contingent upon economic costs and who is paying for it. Will the development, protection and any damage be paid for by the owners, insurance companies, tax payers or charitable groups? The study doesn’t offer a solution, but explains that the answer depends on the rate of sea level rise.

My only contention is whether or not the data regarding sea level rise can be trusted enough to be helpful, and how involved the government should be.

On October 26, 2016, the Huffington Post posted an article titled, “Glacier’s Rapid Retreat Should Be ‘Alarm Bell to Everyone’s Ears’”. The Huff Po tends to be an alarmist site, warning us of impending doom and gloom, and this article represents that tone very well.

The article explains how new data shows glaciers in a western Antarctic region are growing thinner and retreating faster than ever! Sound the alarms and move to higher ground, quickly!!!

According to the data, one glacier, called Smith’s Glacier, is retreating at an unprecedented rate of 1.24 miles per year (since 1996). Dr. Eric Rignot of the University of California at Irvine said, “The fact that this is happening even in the cold Antarctic should ring like an alarm bell to everyone’s ears.” Continuing, he said, “And we may have to convey that message 1,000 times before anyone hears it.”

However, if we read on, we learn there’s no reason to panic. It turns out there’s a second glacier, called Pope’s Glacier, that is retreating at a more reasonable rate of 0.31 miles per year. And better yet, a third glacier- Kohler’s Glacier- actually ADVANCED 1.24 miles since 2011. So, the overall retreat of the glaciers is minimal, and the claim that Antarctic glaciers are retreating at a record pace is deceiving. Further, the study goes on to explain why Smith’s Glacier is melting as fast as it is: apparently, when the glacier detached from the bedrock beneath, the shape of the underlying bedrock created a cavity, allowing warm ocean water to melt the glacier.

I think we can sleep easier tonight.

Then there’s another alarmist article from Huff Po in October, declaring that the planet just crossed another major carbon milestone. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the average global CO2 levels for 2015 surpassed 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time. This is considered a climate change ‘touchstone’, but isn’t thought to be a tipping point. Yet the article claims the uptick is happening at an alarming rate.

The rate increase was larger than the rate from 2013 to 2014, and some experts fear we’ll soon cross the 2-degree Celsius threshold, considered the “point of no return.” And, according to Ralph Keeling from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, “It already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year – or ever again for the indefinite future.”

But is such alarm warranted? Well, it turns out that the increase in CO2 is partly due to last winter’s El Nino, which caused droughts, thus reducing the degree to which forests contribute to absorbing CO2. Typically, CO2 in the atmosphere begins to drop in June as trees begin to absorb it, and then increases in October when trees lose their leaves. Therefore, we can expect to see these numbers drop beginning in June.

Back in 2013, Keeling predicted we’d see a monthly average of 400 as early as May of 2013, but that number wasn’t reached until April 2014, so I’m not willing to put a lot of faith in him, and I’ll certainly be watching to see where the numbers go this summer.

But, seriously, why is such a trend alarming in the first place? Even if we’ve seen an increase in CO2 every year since 1958, why is that a problem? The earth has always experienced changes in climate, and scientists tell us that the earth experienced CO2 levels well over 3,000 ppm between 200 and 150 million years ago, and exceeded 6,000 ppm between 600 and 400 million years ago. Life on earth flourished during these periods, so it’s fascinating to witness the panic these people are instigating.

I’ll close with a more encouraging post, which, oddly enough, comes from the Huff Po. President Elect Trump recently met with Princeton Physics Professor, William Happer, who says (gasp!) global warming is good for mankind.

Happer explains that “CO2 is not a pollutant and it is not a poison and we should not corrupt the English language by depriving ‘pollutant’ and ‘poison’ of their original meaning.” And I concur. CO2 is a natural, necessary ingredient on earth and should be treated as such.

It’s worth noting that Happer has the necessary credentials be an authority on climate change; he’s published over 200 papers in peer reviewed scientific journals and boasts consulting experience in both government and industry, and has been involved in other areas of research.

Happer recognizes the corruption within the industry, noting that the establishment attacks those who question the consensus. “CO2 is absolutely essential for life on earth,” he says. He acknowledges that the sea level may be rising, but it’s been doing so since the end of the last ice age, and it’s not going to stop by limiting emissions. To think otherwise is “a dangerous illusion.”

He makes the brilliant point that we should focus on real issues, like damage to the land and waterways caused by strip mining, rather than reducing our carbon footprint.

Of course the Huff Po mocks him, particularly his claim that children are being “force-fed propaganda masquerading as science.” The author also finds it disgusting that Trump has added “climate deniers” like Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson to his administration, and laments that Trump has labeled climate change a hoax. The Huff Po encourages going to “war” against Trump and his administration, so I’m eager to see how that unfolds.

Personally, I find the Trump administration’s picks to be very encouraging, and I hope they slow down or reverse the hysteria caused by the climate alarmists.

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