WILD, WILD WEATHER…..WHAT IS THE ANSWER? And WHY?

Psychological scientists are very interested in this particular brand of irrational thinking — especially the link between conspiratorial thinking and anti-science world views. These plots and conspiracies may seem laughable at first glance, but they are not inconsequential.At the very least, conspiracy theorists waste a lot of time and at worst, they pose real dangers to society. Just think of how many parents, alarmed by the bogus link between vaccines and autism, have left their children unprotected against serious disease.

More than 90 percent of climate scientists agree that the global climate is shifting, largely as a result of human activity. Scientifically, this is essentially a closed case. Yet conspiracy theorists continue to spin wild tales of government agents surreptitiously destroying thermometers and burying contradictory evidence. What are the motives of these climate deniers, who reject even overwhelming scientific consensus? Do they have a specific agenda having to do with the environment or economics, or are climate deniers the same people who fantasize about the second gunman on the grassy knoll? Says: Debbie Van Der Hyde “GreenBiz.com”.

You will judge yourselves, here it is:

While the rest of Earth swelters, might Europe and parts of North America freeze? Europe and parts of North America are kept milder than other northerly parts by warm water flowing north from the Caribbean in an ocean current called the North Atlantic Drift. If climate change broke this heating system, European temperatures could drop by up to 5°C or more within decades.

Some have even talked of a new ice age, of tundra spreading across the continent, while the film The Day After Tomorrow depicted the Earth plunging into a super ice age within weeks.

OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar. The world added roughly 100 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere between 2000 and 2010. That is about a quarter of all the CO₂ put there by humanity since 1750. And yet, as James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observes, “the five-year mean global  temperature has been flat for a decade.”  

 

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The mismatch between rising greenhouse-gas emissions and not-rising temperatures is among the biggest puzzles in climate science just now. It does not mean global warming is a delusion. Flat though they are, temperatures in the first decade of the 21st century remain almost 1°C above their level in the first decade of the 20th. But the puzzle does need explaining.

We are now faced with a similarly momentous challenge: global warming. The steady deterioration of the very climate of our very planet is becoming a war of the first order, and by any measure, the World is losing. Indeed (if we’re fighting at all) and by most accounts, we’re not—we’re fighting on the wrong side. The U.S. produces nearly a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases each year and has stubbornly made it clear that it doesn’t intend to do a whole lot about it. Although 174 nations ratified the admittedly flawed Kyoto accords to reduce carbon levels, the U.S. walked away from them. While even developing China has boosted its mileage standards to 35 m.p.g., the U.S. remains the land of the Hummer. Oh, there are vague promises of manufacturing fuel from switchgrass or powering cars with hydrogen—someday. But for a country that rightly cites patriotism as one of its core values, we’re taking a pass on what might be the most patriotic struggle of all. It’s hard to imagine a bigger fight than one for the survival of the country’s coasts and farms, the health of its people and the stability of its economy—and for those of the world at large as well.

If the vast majority of people increasingly agree that climate change is a global emergency, there’s far less consensus on how to fix it. Industry offers its plans, which too often would fix little. Environmentalists offer theirs, which too often amount to naive wish lists that could cripple America’s growth. But let’s assume that those interested parties and others will always be at the table and will always—sensibly—demand that their voices be heard and that their needs be addressed. What would an aggressive, ambitious, effective plan look like—one that would leave us both environmentally safe and economically sound?

One of the more conservative plans for addressing the problem, by Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala of Princeton University, calls for a reduction of 25 billion tons of carbon emissions over the next 50 years—the equivalent of erasing nearly four years of global emissions at today’s rates. And yet by devising a coherent strategy that mixes short-term solutions with farsighted goals, combines government activism with private-sector enterprise and blends pragmatism with ambition, the U.S. can, without major damage to the economy, help halt the worst effects of climate change and ensure the survival of our way of life for future generations. Money will get us part of the way there, but what’s needed most is will. “I’m not saying the challenge isn’t almost overwhelming,” says Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund and co-author of the new book Earth: The Sequel. “But this is America, and America has risen to these challenges before.”

No one yet has a comprehensive plan for how we could do so again, but everyone agrees on what the biggest parts of the plan would be. Here’s our blueprint for how America can fight—and win—the war on global warming.

First, Price the Sky!

The most important part of a blueprint to contain climate change is to put a charge on carbon emissions. As long as the sky is free, renewable energy will never beat fossil fuels. But put a price on carbon, and suddenly the alternatives look a lot better. The most feasible way to do this is through a cap-and-trade system that sets ceilings for carbon output and lets companies that come in under the limit sell credits to those that don’t, allowing them to keep polluting—a little. The effect is that overall carbon levels fall, and there is even money to be made by being greener than the next guy. That drives investment and research dollars into renewable energy and efficiency. “Cap and trade changes everything,” says Krupp.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was an early attempt at such a system, with the aim of having developed nations reduce their carbon emissions an average of 5% below 1990 levels by 2012. The accords were meant to drive cuts in greenhouse gases and promote investment in clean tech in developing nations through carbon trading. What probably doomed Kyoto was the absence of some key players. Large developing nations like China, India and Indonesia were excused from the treaty, since limiting their emissions was seen as likely to limit their burgeoning economies. The U.S., whose participation was necessary if the treaty was going to succeed, cited this perceived favoritism when it abandoned Kyoto altogether in 2001.

The insensitive planet

The term scientists use to describe the way the climate reacts to changes in carbon-dioxide levels is “climate sensitivity”. This is usually defined as how much hotter the Earth will get for each doubling of CO₂ concentrations. So-called equilibrium sensitivity, the commonest measure, refers to the temperature rise after allowing all feedback mechanisms to work (but without accounting for changes in vegetation and ice sheets). Carbon dioxide itself absorbs infra-red at a consistent rate. For each doubling of CO₂ levels you get roughly 1°C of warming. A rise in concentrations from preindustrial levels of 280 parts per million (ppm) to 560ppm would thus warm the Earth by 1°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which embodies the mainstream of climate science, reckons the answer is about 3°C, plus or minus a degree or so. In its most recent assessment (in 2007), it wrote that “the equilibrium climate sensitivity…is likely to be in the range 2°C to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. Values higher than 4.5°C cannot be excluded.” The IPCC’s next assessment is due in September. A draft version was recently leaked. It gave the same range of likely outcomes and added an upper limit of sensitivity of 6°C to 7°C.

A rise of around 3°C could be extremely damaging. The IPCC’s earlier assessment said such a rise could mean that more areas would be affected by drought; that up to 30% of species could be at greater risk of extinction; that most corals would face significant biodiversity losses; and that there would be likely increases of intense tropical cyclones and much higher sea levels. Says : Brian Walsh / Time Magasine

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