LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I had a good talk with a friend recently. I told him that I was really concerned about climate change, and why. In response, he said that the facts I shared were new to him. I suspect that more people need to know the facts and why appropriate action is required.
Here is a brief summary:
- A certain amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide or CO2) has been necessary to keep our world from freezing. For many centuries the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere was roughly 280 parts per million ppm) and was maintained at this level by Earth’s natural feedback system.
- Since the Industrial Revolution, increasingly large amounts of greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, have been released by the ever-increasing combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. Consider the many cars, trucks and semis crowding our highways, the large number of aircraft flights each day and the manufacturing and power plants that all release CO2. Earth’s feedback systems have been rendered inadequate to handle this load since there are not enough trees and other green plants to absorb and store this huge excess of CO2.
- At this time the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere is over 410 ppm. This is an increase of about 46% over historic levels and the concentration continues to rise at just over 3 ppm every year.
- This increased loading of CO2 has warmed our atmosphere significantly above previous temperatures. This has resulted in more evaporation of surface water from oceans, lakes and soils.
- Moisture in the air is also a greenhouse gas so evaporation increases even more due to the resulting increased temperature.
- The combination of increased atmospheric temperature, CO2 and moisture is changing Earth’s climate. The disturbance varies greatly from place to place. It is most prevalent in the Polar Regions where ice is melting far faster than predicted.
- Science has warned us of an increase in extreme heat, excessive rain, drought, unusual cold, unusual strong winds, forest fires and tornadoes. These are all due in part to the increased temperature plus the increased content of moisture in the air. One example of extreme weather was Hurricane Mathew, which caused great destruction and loss of life in the Southeast.
- The argument that bad weather has always existed and conditions are no worse than before has been adequately refuted in the September 2012 issue of National Geographic in its article “Weather Gone Wild.” Storms since 1980 resulting in damage in excess of $1 billion has definitely increased. Ongoing and increasing climate change is like being on a train headed for a washed-out bridge. Some passengers are very worried and are trying to get the train to stop ASAP, but the train just increases in speed. Meanwhile the train conductors tell the passengers not to worry!
- “Business as usual” is not an option. We must do all we can as voters to elect political candidates who understand climate change and who are committed to stopping it. It is mandatory for each of us to restrict our use of gasoline as in World War II with the slogan: “Is this trip necessary?” We can reduce the use of fossil fuels in heating our homes. We can install solar panels which have saved our family about 40% on our energy bill. The panels reduce the burning of fossil fuels that release CO2.
- It is important to learn as much as we can about climate change. Extensive information is available in these National Geographic articles:
“World Without Ice,” October 2011
“Weather Gone Wild” September 2013
“Good Gas, Bad Bass” December 2012
“Rising Seas” September 2013
“Cool It” November 2015
Another good source is CLIMATE CHANGE: PICTURING THE SCIENCE by Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe.