This is post 1 of a 12-part “summer series” on Global Warming/Climate Change.
Part 1: Why I Write: How I became interested in the climate issue
Part 2: “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”? What do these mean, and what’s the diff?
Part 3: A Brief Guide to the Climate Debate: a look at the “Climate War” and who is saying what
Part 4: The Arguments: The most common arguments and responses
Part 5: On Our Watch: Science tells us that climate change is happening now
Part 6: Yep, We Did It: Science tells us that this climate change is from OUR activities
Part 7: What It Means to Missouri: How climate change will likely impact our region
Part 8: Save Money, Save the Climate!: Simple ideas that will save you money while reducing CO2 emissions
Part 9: It’s Our Choice: What we can do to limit further harm while adapting to the changes to come
Part 10: Leading the Charge!: Climate Change is happening. The United States can lead, or get left behind
Part 11: What if we don’t?: Geo-engineering the climate. What is it and why we don’t want to go there
Part 12: Final Thoughts. Ethical considerations
Post No. 1 in this 12 part series on climate change is my own story of how I became interested, and involved, in the climate change issue, ultimately leading me to me write this series of blog posts.
I remember when James Hansen from NASA testified to the U.S. Senate about the idea of "Man Caused Global Warming" back in the late 80s. It was a pretty big media topic back in the day.
The first thought that came to my mind was: "How could man possibly change the climate?" and I pretty much dismissed it. However, as I looked around at the vast and apparently endless blue skies, I heard a little voice in my head saying very quietly, “Why would James Hansen, the leading climatologist in the world, make this claim if he hadn’t studied it very carefully?”
Well, it didn’t seem like a big deal, so I put that thought out of mind for the next 15-plus years or so.
The idea came back into my thinking on a visit to Alaska 10 years ago to see my brother who is a wildlife biologist in Alaska. We toured a few of the glaciers on the Kenai Peninsula and saw how far they had receded from their positions many years ago. We also looked at the incredible "before/after” pics of the receding glaciers (see above pic and this link for more images of receding glaciers). I remember talking to the park rangers about this and they were sure convinced that the climate was changing—and fast! I recall one of the rangers telling me had noticed the glaciers recede even during his short 10-year career at the park.
When I asked the park rangers about the cause of the melting glaciers, they said something to the effect of: "Well, if you ask the climate experts, like the scientists at NOAA and NASA, they'll tell you that man's activities are causing this warming."
NOAA and NASA both accept the climate is changing and that man is causing it? These are the two of the top scientific organizations in the world and they both agree!
Hmmm. This is NOT what I had been hearing on the news.
The obviously receding glaciers in Alaska, the statements by the park rangers, and the NOAA/NASA statements really peaked my interest in the topic, so I started to look into it a lot more.
I read Dr. James Hansen’s "Storms of My Grandchildren" and “The Discovery of Global Warming” (the more than 100 year history of studying climate change) and about a dozen or so other books or reports on climate change, including Dr. Michael Mann’s recent book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars." I also read a bunch of articles from National Geographic, Discover and Science (and watched movies from the same sources). I've always been a science nut, so I enjoy reading those magazines anyways.
I even read some of the IPCC summary reports (IPCC = Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).
What I realized is that from a scientific perspective, the idea that man’s activities is causing the earth to warm and the climate to change, is extremely well established science—similar to the theory of gravity.
In fact, I could not find a single reputable scientific source that disputed this claim; nearly all of the sources I checked were in full agreement. From a scientific perspective, it's unanimous (among accredited scientific organizations).
Even the National Academies of Science, America’s highest authority on matters of science, agreed, issuing this statement in May 2010:
“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver. These conclusions are based on multiple independent lines of evidence, and contrary assertions are inconsistent with an objective assessment of the vast body of peer-reviewed science. Moreover, there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change will have broad impacts on society, including the global economy and on the environment. For the United States, climate change impacts include sea level rise for coastal states, greater threats of extreme weather events, and increased risk of regional water scarcity, urban heat waves, western wildfires, and the disturbance of biological systems throughout the country. The severity of climate change impacts is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades.”
But if the scientific community, including the U.S. National Academies of Science, was in such clear agreement, why the apparent “debate” on TV and other media sources? And why isn’t the government acting on this clear and obvious danger? Why aren’t we doing something?
And then there is the weather. Crazy isn't it?
I don’t know about you, but this is not the climate I grew up with. Yes, there were warm winters and springs, bad storms, floods, heat waves and droughts when I grew up, but not like we are experiencing today. Yes, this is an anecdotal claim based on personal experience, but unfortunately, it is supported with overwhelming evidence for increasing extreme weather events worldwide.
What is going on? What does this all mean? Why the controversy? Why the denial? What is going to happen? What can we do?
Here is what my own research of this issue has led me to: It’s real. It’s caused by man. Science agrees. It’s bad. We can fix it (and we have to).
I write because I hope to explore all of these questions, and more, over the hot summer to come (to be one of the hottest on record, I’ll bet).
I look forward to our online conversations about it.
Note to commenters: This is sure to be a controversial and highly debated 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.
I do work for a living, so my responses to comments will be based on my availability.
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 and accredited scientific organizations.