Climate Fact of the Week: July’s average temperature was the hottest on record for the contiguous United States, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. The last 12 months have been the hottest ever for the United States, with more than 27,000 high temperature records broken or tied so far this year.
Climate Quote of the Week: “This is worse than 2008—we’re in kind of a perfect storm scenario,” said Ana Puchi-Donnelly, senior agricultural commodities trader at London-based Marex Spectron. “We won’t really know until the whole crop is harvested. We’re talking about the worst drought in the last 50 to 70 years in one of the hottest years on record." Source: NBC News “Economy Watch”
Post No. 7 of this 13 part series on climate change will discuss how we know that we (humans) are changing the climate.
Previous and upcoming posts are listed below for reference. Past post titles will link to back to the original post.
- Why I Write: How I became interested in the climate issue
- “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”? What do these mean, and what’s the diff?
- A Brief Guide to the Climate Debate: The debate that isn’t
- Conversation with Dr. Michael Mann: Summary of my talk with renowned climatologist Dr. Michael Mann
- The Arguments: The most common arguments and responses
- On Our Watch: Science tells us that climate change is happening now
- “We Did It”: This climate change is from OUR activities
- What It Means to Missouri: How climate change will likely impact our region
- Save Money, Save the Climate!: Simple ideas that save money while reducing CO2 emissions
- Our Choice: What we can do to limit further harm while adapting to the changes to come
- Lead! Climate Change is happening. The United States can lead, or get left behind
- If We Don’t? Geo-engineering the climate. What is it and why we don’t want to go there
- Final Thoughts: Ethical considerations
“We Did It”
Suppose you are driving north up Highway 109 and you come across a car that has gone off the road and crashed into a tree. There aren’t any police cars there yet so you, being the good citizen that you are, pull to the side of the road, call 911 to report the incident, and walk over to the car—cell phone still in hand.
As you approach the car, you notice the driver slumped forward against the covered steering wheel—you also notice the deflated airbag. As you look around the interior of the car you breathe a sigh of relief as you confirm there are not any other passengers in the vehicle. The driver, a nice looking young man, is not bleeding and you don’t notice any injuries, but he is also not responsive to your attempts to get his attention. Apparently, he passed out when the car struck the tree and remains unconscious.
You check around the car again, this time a little closer, and then that you notice something on the floor behind the driver. Beer cans. A lot of beer cans. Then you notice the unmistakable smell of beer coming from the vehicle.
The police and ambulance arrive and take over. After the police ask you a few questions, you are back in your car continuing your trip home.
It is a couple days later when you learn the driver, an 18-year-old man, was unhurt. While you are happy that he was OK, you shake your head when you read that he was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Apparently his blood alcohol level was 1.5 times the legal limit of .040 and pictures of him drinking at a nearby party were showing up on his Facebook wall. You think about what might have happened if the car had hit another vehicle head-on instead of just going off the road—a road that your teenage children and their friends frequently drive on their way to and from school.
How did the police know accident was the result of an intoxicated driver instead of some other factor? It doesn’t take a super smart detective to know that the evidence was overwhelming. Empty beer cans, photographic evidence and most importantly, the blood alcohol level of the driver.
It is the same type of overwhelming and undeniable evidence that tells us that man’s activities are causing the earth to warm and the climate to change.
Instead of measuring the level of alcohol in the blood stream, scientists measure the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The current level of carbon in the atmosphere is 1.5 times higher than carbon levels over the history of man’s existence on earth.
That is the equivalent of being 1.5 times over the legal limit of alcohol.
We know that atmospheric carbon warms the earth – just like we know that alcohol causes intoxication. Both are testable, verifiable and proven.
And it’s not just the CO2 levels that implicate human activity as the cause of the current climate change. There are many other lines of evidence as well.
Think about these three facts for a minute.
- The carbon from every car, every factory, every coal plant that ever existed - is still in our atmosphere.
- Carbon causes the earth to warm
- The earth is warming - and has been for decades
The evidence that man is causing the current warming is so compelling that the US’s National Academy of Science, which is the “highest court in the land” on matters of science, issued the following statement in 2010:
‘The compelling case that climate change is occurring and is caused in large part by human activities is based on a strong, credible body of evidence, says Advancing the Science of Climate Change, one of the new reports. While noting that there is always more to learn and that the scientific process is never "closed," the report emphasizes that multiple lines of evidence support scientific understanding of climate change. The core phenomenon, scientific questions, and hypotheses have been examined thoroughly and have stood firm in the face of serious debate and careful evaluation of alternative explanations.
"Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems," the report concludes. It calls for a new era of climate change science where an emphasis is placed on "fundamental, use-inspired" research, which not only improves understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change but also is useful to decision makers at the local, regional, national, and international levels acting to limit and adapt to climate change.”
Saying that it’s “natural” is like saying the car crashing into the tree was natural. Sure the driver could have fallen asleep, which would be a “natural explanation”, and perhaps he did fall asleep. But we know, from evidence, that the accident was the result of a driver that was drunk– whether he was sleepy or not does not matter. He was drunk.
There are many myths being promoted about the cause of the current climate change. “It’s the sun”, “it’s not man”, “Co2 follows warming”, “it’s cooling”, are a few. Accepting these myths as true would be just like us ignoring the beer cans, the pictures of drinking activity and the driver's blood alcohol level in determining the cause of the car crash.
Frankly, it would be ignoring reality—and it would be criminal.
In the case of human caused climate change, WE ARE THE DRUNK DRIVERS– and we are not alone in our car.
We all have a choice:
We can have another drink and keep heading down the road, or ...
We can pull-over, take a walk and get some nice, clean, fresh air.
Before we decide, perhaps we might want to turn around and take a look at who is in the car with us.
Things we can do:
- Educate ourselves (recommended sources: NASA Climate, Climate Change Communication)
- Hold our politicians and govt officials accountable for adapting to and mitigating against climate change
- Work to get the corruptive influence of money out of our political system
The bad news: It's us. The good news: We can stop it.
Note: The next post “What Climate Change means to Missouri” discusses the implications of climate change on residents of Missouri and the lower Midwest.
Author's note to commenters:
This is sure to be a controversial topic and I’m OK with that. I only ask that you keep your comments civil, respectful, informed and related to the particular subject matter discussed. As you can see from the topic list at the beginning of this post, there are plenty to topics to be talked about over the summer.
I also ask that if you dispute a claim, that you provide a link to a reputable source supporting your claim.
Disclaimer: I am not a climate scientist, nor do I claim to have scientific expertise in this subject. Scientific claims made in these posts will be sourced only from highly respected scientific organizations.