October 18th, 2013: Introduction to Climate Change
There is a major crisis underway called climate change. Unfortunately, many have failed to connect all of the dots, making it difficult for the average person to fully comprehend the issue. This post will lay out the facts and basic factors involved in climate change. Climate is the study of long lasting, large scale weather patterns on a statistical basis. With this in mind, no single event can be labeled as evidence for climate change. It is instead the observation of many significant events that indicate climate change, or global warming with respect to current trends.
Some have incorrectly claimed that the recent trends of warming have ceased over the previous 15 years. This is simply a mislead conclusion that ignores basic science. Surface temperatures are a very small portion of the global energy budget. In fact, more than 90% of all excess heat is absorbed into the oceans, lakes and surface ice. Recent studies have shown that although surface temperature increases have slowed, heating of the deep and shallow layers of the ocean have significantly increased. Here is a somewhat recent article that illuminates these observations (http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/deep-oceans-warming-at-alarming-rate-130711.htm). Since the atmosphere is buffered by oceans, the recent trend of slowing surface temperature increases are only temporary.
Surface temperatures are highly dependent upon large-scale weather patterns such as ENSO (el nino/la nina), atmospheric and ocean circulations. The Earth has a large reservoir of deep cold water and ice. These are constantly mixed with the excess energy trapped at the Earth’s surface due to greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases can be viewed as a lid on a pot of water on top of a stove. Energy is constantly emitted from the surface, mostly in the form of geothermal heat and some human contributions. Although the orbit of Earth plays a role in long-term changes between ice ages and warm periods, the current abundance of greenhouse gases is unprecedented.
Many support the idea that a global tax on carbon is an effective method for controlling climate change. This however would be like taking your foot of the accelerator in an attempt to stop a car from smashing into a wall. In addition, such proposals will only increase global suffering, civil unrest and reduce the work force necessary for properly mitigating climate change. To make matters worse, large deposits of methane hydrates are becoming unstable throughout the Arctic. The leeching of methane from the Arctic has significantly increased over the previous years, raising concerns that even a “small” release will drastically accelerate warming (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130724134256.htm). Since non-human contributions to the global carbon budget will at some point increase beyond human contributions, reducing carbon emissions beyond reasonable means would be pointless. To effectively mitigate climate change would require removing far more carbon from the atmosphere than can effectively be emitted over such short time-scale under current emissions (10 – 25 years).
The facts are that the technology required to mitigate climate change and its global effects currently does not exist. Problems arise because sequestering carbon from the atmosphere requires large amounts energy. However, all current forms of energy production create greenhouse gases and excess heat. The problem is not with surface or atmospheric albedo, but instead energy production. Energy is the key to all important aspects, clean water filtration, food production, access to resources, adaption, air conditioning, heating, ect. The only form of energy production capable of providing the necessarily “free” energy are high efficiency (>60%) solar cells. Unless funding and interest for this technology is drastically increased, the chances of surviving the effects of climate change over the next 100 years is near null.
Without a proper study of all aspects involved in climate change and effective mitigation plan, the effects of such will increase indefinitely. These include rising sea levels, large releases of methane, severe drought, excessive flooding, increased pests, starvation, large fires, stronger cyclones and dangerous heat waves. When combined with a large global population and lack of infrastructure to deal with these effects, it is clear that suffering will be unimaginable if a proper plan is not conceived soon.