Annals of Global Warming: IPCC Special Report of Global Warming of 1.5°C

October 8, 2018

Are we doomed? This report is not optimistic — instead it quite starkly spells out the challenge that faces humans, as a total planetary population, if we are to have our species survive for another 100 years.

Cover of IPCC-CH report, Special Report of Global Warming of 1.5°C

Cover of IPCC-CH report, Special Report of Global Warming of 1.5°C

The language of the report is quite dry, as we expect from scientists. But the report, from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is really quite urgent. If the planet — meaning you and me — does not make dramatic progress in controlling carbon air pollution now, any child born now will face dramatic problems from climate warming.

From the executive summary of the report:

A. Understanding Global Warming of 1.5°C

A1. Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely
range of 0.8° C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence) {1.2, Figure SPM.1}

A1.1.
Reflecting the long-term warming trend since pre-industrial times, observed global meansurface temperature (GMST) for the decade 2006–2015 was 0.87°C (likely between 0.75°C and 0.99°C) higher than the average over the 1850–1900 period (very high confidence). Estimated anthropogenic global warming matches the level of observed warming to within ±20% (likely range). Estimated anthropogenic global warming is currently increasing at 0.2°C (likely between 0.1°C and 0.3°C) per decade due to past and ongoing emissions (high confidence). {1.2.1, Table 1.1, 1.2.4}

A1.2.
Warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to three times higher in the Arctic. Warming is generally higher over land than over the ocean. (high confidence) {1.2.1, 1.2.2, Figure 1.1, Figure 1.3, 3.3.1, 3.3.2}

A1.3.
Trends in intensity and frequency of some climate and weather extremes have been detected over time spans during which about 0.5° C of global warming occurred (medium confidence). This assessment is based on several lines of evidence, including attribution studies for changes in extremes since 1950. {3.3.1, 3.3.2, 3.3.3}

Who will respond to the call to arms? Who will read this report?

I’m providing links to the report here, and the complete press release. Read it here (or at the UN site linked) to get the facts, and to see just how much distortion gets introduced by anti-Earth, anti-science propagandists.

Here is the unedited press release from IPCC on this report:

2018/24/PR
8 October 2018
Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments

Incheon, Republic of Korea, October 8– Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday.

The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C was approved by the IPCC on Saturday in Incheon, Republic of Korea. It will be a key scientific input into the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December, when governments review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

“With more than 6,000 scientific references cited and the dedicated contribution of thousands of expert and government reviewers worldwide, this important report testifies to the breadth and policy relevance of the IPCC,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC.

Ninety-one authors and review editors from 40 countries prepared the IPCC report in response to an invitation from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) when it adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The report’s full name is Global Warming of 1.5°C, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C, or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5°C or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

Limiting global warming would also give people and ecosystems more room to adapt and remain below relevant risk thresholds, added Pörtner. The report also examines pathways available to limit warming to 1.5°C, what it would take to achieve them and what the consequences could be. “The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Co-Chair of Working Group I.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

“Limiting warming to 1.5°C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

Allowing the global temperature to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5°C would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5°C by 2100. The effectiveness of such techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development, the report notes.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C would reduce challenging impacts on ecosystems, human health and well-being, making it easier to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” said Priyardarshi Shukla, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group III.

The decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future, said Debra Roberts, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.

“This report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” she said.

The IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options.

The report was prepared under the scientific leadership of all three IPCC working groups. Working Group I assesses the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II addresses impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III deals with the mitigation of climate change.

The Paris Agreement adopted by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015 included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

As part of the decision to adopt the Paris Agreement, the IPCC was invited to produce, in 2018, a Special Report on global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. The IPCC accepted the invitation, adding that the Special Report would look at these issues in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Global Warming of 1.5°C is the first in a series of Special Reports to be produced in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Cycle. Next year the IPCC will release the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, and Climate Change and Land, which looks at how climate change affects land use.

The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) presents the key findings of the Special Report, based on the assessment of the available scientific, technical and socio-economic literature relevant to global warming of 1.5°C.

The Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (SR15) is available at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15 or www.ipcc.ch.

Key statistics of the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C

91 authors from 44 citizenships and 40 countries of residence
– 14 Coordinating Lead Authors (CLAs)
– 60 Lead authors (LAs)
– 17 Review Editors (REs)

133 Contributing authors (CAs)
Over 6,000 cited references
A total of 42,001 expert and government review comments
(First Order Draft 12,895; Second Order Draft 25,476; Final Government Draft: 3,630)

For more information, contact:
IPCC Press Office, Email: ipcc-media@wmo.int
Werani Zabula +41 79 108 3157 or Nina Peeva +41 79 516 7068

Notes for editors The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C, known as SR15, is being prepared in response to an invitation from the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2015, when they reached the Paris Agreement, and will inform the Talanoa Dialogue at the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24). The Talanoa Dialogue will take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement, and to inform the preparation of nationally determined contributions. Details of the report, including the approved outline, can be found on the report page. The report was prepared under the joint scientific leadership of all three IPCC Working Groups, with support from the Working Group I Technical Support Unit.

What is the IPCC?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies. It has 195 member states.

IPCC assessments provide governments, at all levels, with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies. IPCC assessments are a key input into the international negotiations to tackle climate change. IPCC reports are drafted and reviewed in several stages, thus guaranteeing objectivity and transparency.

The IPCC assesses the thousands of scientific papers published each year to tell policymakers what we know and don’t know about the risks related to climate change. The IPCC identifies where there is agreement in the scientific community, where there are differences of opinion, and where further research is needed. It does not conduct its own research.

To produce its reports, the IPCC mobilizes hundreds of scientists. These scientists and officials are drawn from diverse backgrounds. Only a dozen permanent staff work in the IPCC’s Secretariat.

The IPCC has three working groups: Working Group I, dealing with the physical science basis of climate change; Working Group II, dealing with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and Working Group III, dealing with the mitigation of climate change. It also has a Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories that develops methodologies for measuring emissions and removals.

IPCC Assessment Reports consist of contributions from each of the three working groups and a Synthesis Report. Special Reports undertake an assessment of cross-disciplinary issues that span more than one working group and are shorter and more focused than the main assessments.

Sixth Assessment Cycle
At its 41st Session in February 2015, the IPCC decided to produce a Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). At its 42nd Session in October 2015 it elected a new Bureau that would oversee the work on this report and Special Reports to be produced in the assessment cycle. At its 43rd Session in April 2016, it decided to produce three Special Reports, a Methodology Report and AR6.

The Methodology Report to refine the 2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories will be delivered in 2019. Besides Global Warming of 1.5°C, the IPCC will finalize two further special reports in 2019: the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Chanhttps://twitter.com/IPCC_CH/status/1049127236564082689ging Climate and Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. The AR6 Synthesis Report will be finalized in the first half of 2022, following the three working group contributions to AR6 in 2021.

For more information, including links to the IPCC reports, go to: www.ipcc.ch

Discuss away, comments are open.

More:

  • See the Tweet from IPCC, below


Annals of Global Warming: Octobers in the U.S. are 2°F warmer

November 2, 2017

Octobers are warming across the U.S. with the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since 1970, October temperatures have risen about 2°F. Warming throughout the fall is even stronger in some parts of the country, with the Northeast and the West warming the most. This warming can delay the start of some of the traditional cold season activities in cooler and mountainous climates, such as skiing. The warming trend also means first freezes occur later in the year, which can allow more insects to survive later into the year and make for a longer fall allergy season.

From Climate Central: Octobers are warming across the U.S. with the increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Since 1970, October temperatures have risen about 2°F. Warming throughout the fall is even stronger in some parts of the country, with the Northeast and the West warming the most. This warming can delay the start of some of the traditional cold season activities in cooler and mountainous climates, such as skiing. The warming trend also means first freezes occur later in the year, which can allow more insects to survive later into the year and make for a longer fall allergy season.

Since 1970, Octobers are 2 degrees warmer? No big deal?

See the caption. A lousy 2 degrees is a lot. It’s enough to:

  • Reduce the number of freezing days, allowing pine bark beetles in Colorado to escape death by freezing, and thereby kill more pine trees, faster.
  • Change October precipitation from snow, to rain. Rain instead of snow may cause regional flooding due to the rapid water dump; it may reduce snowpacks that provide water through the warmer months, effectively adding to drought threat.
  • Keep some prairie flowers alive longer, delaying migration of butterflies triggered by reduced food supply; ultimately this could cause butterflies and other migrating beneficial insects to migrate too late in the year.

No big deal, unless you live on Earth.

“What did you do when you learned CO2 was hurting the planet, Grandfather?” our grandchildren will well ask. Got an answer?

Shake of the old scrub brush to Climate Central’s Twittering, with a clever .gif.

Save


Carbon dioxide(CO²) emissions since 1820, Rosling visualization

February 23, 2014

Monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii (CDIAC)

Monthly average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii (CDIAC)

Gee, while we’re exploring Hans Rosling‘s and Gapminder’s videos at Vimeo, let’s take a look at the animated chart showing CO² emissions since 1820.

Anything we can learn there?

What did we learn?

  • CO² emissions from humans rose a lot after the start of the industrial revolution
  • When nations industrialize, CO² output rises dramatically (But, what’s with Brunei? Flaring of oil wells?)

What else?

More:

Use this quiz to introduce subjects such as global health, the effects of HIV, population growth and carbon dioxide emissions, or as starting point to discuss what development is. What do the indicators in these quizzes say about the world?

Gapminder quiz on global development: “About the Quiz/Teacher’s guide Use this quiz to introduce subjects such as global health, the effects of HIV, population growth and carbon dioxide emissions, or as starting point to discuss what development is. What do the indicators in these quizzes say about the world?”


Hans Rosling says “Don’t Panic!” Defusing the population bomb?

February 23, 2014

Yes, that famous Rosling guy with the bouncing bubble, animated charts from TEDS.

TEDS star Hans Rosling, not in over his head.

TEDS star Hans Rosling, not in over his head.

Why not panic?  Rosling’s group, Gapminder, explains:

The world might not be as bad as you might believe!

Don’t Panic – is a one-hour long documentary produced by Wingspan Productions and broadcasted on BBC on the 7th of November 2013.

The visualizations are based on original graphics and stories by Gapminder and the underlaying data-sources are listed here.
Hans’s — “All time favorite graph”, is an animating bubble chart which you can interact with online here and download offline here.

Hans presents some results from our UK Ignorance Survey described here.

Director & Producer; Dan Hillman, Executive Producer: Archie Baron. ©Wingspan Productions for BBC, 2013.    A DVD version of this film is available to order from Wingspan Productions.

Alas, we can’t embed the film.  You must view the video — for free — at the Gapminder site, here.


One more time: Basic climate science with Bill Nye

July 4, 2013

What year is this? 2013?

Shouldn’t the Sputnik Revolution in science education have obviated the need for this video, like 30 years ago?

One more time, the basics of climate change/global warming, with Bill Nye the Science Guy explaining; from the ClimateRealityProject.org:

climate change, CO2, global warming, science, Bill Nye, environmental protection, Clean Air, Air Pollution

More:

Newsweek, March 4, 1957,

Cover of Newsweek Magazine, from March 4, 1957; notice this concern about U.S. science competency came seven months before Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union. Science deniers then delayed action until after the Soviets demonstrated clearly that the U.S. was behind. (Image from Computer History.org)


Annals of global warming: NASA data show warming continues through 2012

January 16, 2013

This is a press release from NASA, presented here for the record, text unedited except for formatting where necessary, and the deletion of the press office phone numbers (I hope that’s not necessary, but earnest information seekers have links to get the information they seek).  Images are inserted from other, related NASA sites.

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

Leslie McCarthy
Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York
leslie.m.mccarthy@nasa.gov

Jan. 15, 2013

RELEASE : 13-021

NASA Finds 2012 Sustained Long-Term Climate Warming Trend

WASHINGTON — NASA scientists say 2012 was the ninth warmest of any year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the nine warmest years in the 132-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the hottest years on record.

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis Tuesday that compares temperatures around the globe in 2012 to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience warmer temperatures than several decades ago.

[Caption to video] NASA’s analysis of Earth’s surface temperature found that 2012 ranked as the ninth-warmest year since 1880. NASA scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) compare the average global temperature each year to the average from 1951 to 1980. This 30-year period provides a baseline from which to measure the warming Earth has experienced due to increasing atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. While 2012 was the ninth-warmest year on record, all 10 of the warmest years in the GISS analysis have occurred since 1998, continuing a trend of temperatures well above the mid-20th century average. The record dates back to 1880 because that is when there were enough meteorological stations around the world to provide global temperature data.
Data source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Visualization credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

› Download this video and related materials in HD formats

The average temperature in 2012 was about 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit (14.6 Celsius), which is 1.0 F (0.6 C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline. The average global temperature has risen about 1.4 degrees F (0.8 C) since 1880, according to the new analysis.

Scientists emphasize that weather patterns always will cause fluctuations in average temperature from year to year, but the continued increase in greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere assures a long-term rise in global temperatures. Each successive year will not necessarily be warmer than the year before, but on the current course of greenhouse gas increases, scientists expect each successive decade to be warmer than the previous decade.

“One more year of numbers isn’t in itself significant,” GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt said. “What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before. The planet is warming. The reason it’s warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that traps heat and largely controls Earth’s climate. It occurs naturally and also is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels for energy. Driven by increasing man-made emissions, the level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has been rising consistently for decades.

The carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 285 parts per million in 1880, the first year in the GISS temperature record. By 1960, the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, measured at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory, was about 315 parts per million. Today, that measurement exceeds 390 parts per million.

NASA map, global temperature anomalies averaged from 2008 to 2012 - Goddard Institute for Space Studies

This map represents global temperature anomalies averaged from 2008 through 2012. Data source: NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Visualization credit: NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

› Larger image
› Larger image (tif)
› Color bar scale (png)

While the globe experienced relatively warm temperatures in 2012, the continental U.S. endured its warmest year on record by far, according to NOAA, the official keeper of U.S. weather records.

“The U.S. temperatures in the summer of 2012 are an example of a new trend of outlying seasonal extremes that are warmer than the hottest seasonal temperatures of the mid-20th century,” GISS director James E. Hansen said. “The climate dice are now loaded. Some seasons still will be cooler than the long-term average, but the perceptive person should notice that the frequency of unusually warm extremes is increasing. It is the extremes that have the most impact on people and other life on the planet.”

The temperature analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea-surface temperature, and Antarctic research station measurements. A publicly available computer program is used to calculate the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same place during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period functions as a baseline for the analysis. The last year that experienced cooler temperatures than the 1951 to 1980 average was 1976.

The GISS temperature record is one of several global temperature analyses, along with those produced by the Met Office Hadley Centre in the United Kingdom and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. These three primary records use slightly different methods, but overall, their trends show close agreement.

For images related to the data, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/10wqITW

– end –

Related Links [from NASA]

› Goddard Institute for Space Studies GISTEMP Analysis
› Science Summary of NASA’s 2012 Temperature Analysis (pdf)
› NOAA State of the Climate Global Analysis: 2012
› Slides for Jan. 15 media teleconference (pdf)
› Download related multimedia in broadcast-suitable HD formats

More, and resources:


Annals of Global Warming: NASA film, Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle

March 5, 2012

NASA describes the film, “Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle”:

The past decade has been the hottest ever recorded since global temperature records began 150 years ago. This video discusses the impacts of the sun’s energy, Earth’s reflectance and greenhouse gasses on global warming.
Credit: NASA
Vital Signs of the Planet: Global Climate Change and Global Warming. Current news and data streams about global warming and climate change from NASA.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Piecing Together the Temperature Puzzle, posted with vodpod

More NASA climate films, here, at Climate Reel.


What were scientists saying about global warming in 1971?

November 3, 2011

What did scientists know and say about climate change and global warming in the 1970s?  I keep running into claims by modern climate change denialists that scientists in the 1970s firmly predicted a pending ice age.  This is usually posited to establish that scientists are fools, and that concerns about warming now are probably displaced because the same scientists were in error 40  years ago.

I worked in air pollution studies way back then.  That’s not how I remember it at all.  I remember great, good-natured debates between Ph.Ds in the Department of Biology at the University of Utah, and other scientists from other institutions passing through and working in the field with us.  Greenhouse effect was very well understood even back then, and the discussions were on the nature of just how much human pollution would affect climate, and in which way.

Savvy scientists then well understood that there were two competing trends in air pollution:  Greenhouse gases and particulates and aerosols.  Greenhouse gases would warm the climate, but they were offset by particulates and aerosols that reflect solar radiation back into space before warming can occur.  At least, back then, the particulates and aerosols counteracted the greenhouse gases.

Manhattan skyline enveloped in heavy smog, May 1973: Chester Higgins/NARA. via Mother Jones

EPA collection, Manhattan skyline enveloped in heavy smog, May 1973: Chester Higgins/NARA. via Mother Jones

Looking for something else, I took off my shelf a book we used as a text in air pollution courses at the University of Utah in the 1970s, Whatever Happened to Fresh Air? by Michael Treshow.  Treshow taught at Utah.  He was deeply involved in several research projects on air pollution.  He was also a great conversationalist and competitive tennis player.  His book was a good text, but he intended it to be read by lay people, especially policy makers, also.  It’s easy to fathom, intentionally so.

Here, below, is what Treshow wrote in the early pages about carbon dioxide as an air pollutant, in sketching the global problems of air pollution.  Notice that, while he makes note of the predictions of what would happen with uncontrolled particulate and aerosol pollution, he gives the science straight up, telling what pollution can do, depending on local circumstances and global circumstances.  Treshow notes the research that the denialists cite now, but he explains enough of the science so that any reasonable person should be able to see that, if one form of pollution is controlled and another is not, the effects might be different.

Michael Treshow:

Over the past several million years, the earth’s animal and plant life have reached a workable equilibrium in sharing this atmosphere and keeping the oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations in balance.  But man, by burning fossil fuels (particularly coal) at an accelerated rate and by removing vegetation at the prodigious rate of 11 acres per second in the U.S., may be upsetting this equilibrium.  Many scientists believe this carbon dioxide build-up is one of the major threats to man’s environment.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is occasionally regarded as an air pollutant for this reason, even though it is a natural and essential component of the atmosphere.  Certainly the present concentrations are not dangerous; but what would happen if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should increase appreciably?  What hazards would be imposed?

An increase in carbon dioxide would benefit the green plants since they need it for photosynthesis.  But what effect would it have on man and animals?  Or on the physical environment?  The main hazard lies in the effect that carbon dioxide has in absorbing the infrared radiation which normally radiates from the earth back to the atmosphere.  If the carbon dioxide content of the lower atmosphere were to increase, it would prevent the infrared heat absorbed by the earth from the sun from reradiating into the atmosphere.  Heat energy would accumulate and cause a general increase in the earth’s temperature.  Such an increase in temperature, often called the “greenhouse effect,” could cause the ice caps to melt, raising the level of the oceans and flooding most of the world’s major cities.

It is awesome to realize that sea level is actually rising.  It is now 300 feet above what it was 18,000 years ago, and is reportedly rising nearly nine inches higher each century.  Beaches are being wasted away and tides lap ever closer to the steps of coastal homes.  But is the displacement of our beaches more closely related to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations or to the normal warming process between ice ages?

Not everyone agrees that carbon dioxide is to blame.  Concentrations vary greatly around the world.  Near urban areas, where fossil fuels are burned, concentrations are high; over forested areas, where plants are rapidly removing the gas, they are low.  Concentrations also vary with the height above the ground, the latitude, whether over the ocean or land and even with the time of day and season of the year.  All of these variables make it difficult to agree on a reasonable average carbon dioxide concentration.

Despite some disagreement, it is generally conceded that carbon dioxide has been added to the atmosphere at an alarming rate during the past century.  Actual measurements show that between 1857 and 1956, carbon dioxide concentrations increased from an average of 0.0293 to 0.0319 percent; 360 X [10 to the 9th] tons of carbon dioxide have been added to the atmosphere by man during this period.  Upwards of a trillion tons will be added by the year 2000.  Such  a tremendous release of carbon dioxide would increase the atmospheric concentrations appreciably unless some mechanism is available to absorb the surplus and to maintain equilibrium.

Extensive measurements suggest that carbon dioxide concentrations near the earth’s surface have increased about 10 percent since 1900.  During this same time, fossil fuel consumption increased about 15 percent.  This is a remarkably, close, meaningful relationship.  The 5 percent difference is readily accounted for, since this much would be absorbed by the ocean or by rocks and living organisms, particularly plants, which absorb much of the surplus carbon dioxide.  In fact, green plants probably have the capacity to absorb and utilize far more carbon dioxide than man is likely to release.

Calculations presented by Gordon MacDonald of the University of California at Santa Barbara show that a 10 percent increase in the total carbon dioxide content theoretically should cause an increase of 0.4° F in the average temperature of the earth.  Although the carbon dioxide content is being increased about 0.06 percent each year by the combustion of fossil fuels, no temperature increase has been demonstrated.  Rather, the average temperature appears to be decreasing.  During the past 25 years, when the addition of carbon dioxide has been most rapid, the average temperature has dropped half a degree.

This temperature drop has been thought to result from the increase in the amount of submicron sized particulates which remain suspended in the atmosphere. These aerosols obstruct the entrance of the sun’s heat and light rays, thereby disrupting the earth’s energy balance.  The effect is one of less heat and lower temperatures.  Dr. William E. Cobb of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency predicts the possibility of another ice age.

Whatever Happened to Fresh Air, Michael Treshow, University of Utah Press, 1971, pp. 3-6.

What changed since then?  The Clean Air Act provided the legal drive to clean particulates and aerosols out of the air.  Alas, we did not then have good controls for greenhouse gases.  The success of the Clean Air Act, and similar laws worldwide, rather left the pollution field open for greenhouse gases.  Without pollution to offset the effects of GHG, warming became the stronger trend.

I think Treshow was quite prescient back then.  His work is still accurate, when we adjust for the events of history that came after he wrote the book.

Time Magazine cover for January 27, 1967, photo by Larry Lee. The photo shows a typical Los Angeles day at 3:30 p.m., with photochemical smog restricting visibility dramatically. Particulate pollution, and sulfates, added to the visibility problems, and made air pollution a greater health hazard. An accompanying story was titled,

Time Magazine cover for January 27, 1967, photo by Larry Lee. The photo shows a typical Los Angeles day at 3:30 p.m., with photochemical smog restricting visibility dramatically. Particulate pollution and sulfates added to the visibility problems, and made air pollution a greater health hazard. An accompanying story was titled, “Ecology: The Menace in the Skies.”

It’s popular among those opposed to the science of climate change to claim scientists don’t know what they’re talking about, because ‘back in the 1970s they predicted a new ice age, and they were wrong.’

Dr. Treshow’s book presents the state of the science of air pollution in the early 1970s. He didn’t “predict” an ice age. He noted that particulate pollution was a major problem, and that particulates and other pollution created a cooling effect that could offset and perhaps overpower the warming effects of CO2, as he discusses in the passage above. In lay terms, in a few brief passages, Treshow notes the conflicting results of different types of pollution.

CO2’s warming effects were well known, and acknowledged. If particulates and other aerosols won the battle to pollute the skies, the Earth would cool. If GHGs won the battle, the Earth would warm.

Claiming scientists “predicted” an ice age tells only half the story, and thereby becomes a grossly misleading, whole lie.

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Is global warming/climate change a problem? Get the facts

March 15, 2011

Want solid information on climate change (global warming) and the problems it poses?

Several opportunities present themselves, from the National Academies of Science, America’s premiere science advisory group:

America’s Climate Choices Final Report in Review

The final report of the America’s Climate Choices suite of studies is in the final stages of peer review and will be released this Spring.  An official release date will be announced as soon as possible.  The report is authored by the Committee on America’s Climate Choices, which was responsible for providing overall direction, coordination, and integration of the America’s Climate Choices activities.

Related Activities at The National Academies

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Warming World, a publication from the National Academies of Science

“Warming World: Impacts by Degree” Explains Findings of NRC Report

Emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels have ushered in a new epoch, beginning to be called the Anthropocene, during which human activities will largely determine the evolution of Earth’s climate. That’s one of the main conclusions from Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia (NRC, 2011) an expert consensus report released last July and published this year.  Now a new 36-page booklet based on the report, “Warming World: Impacts by Degree” is available to help policymakers, students, and the general public better understand the report’s important conclusions.

The report concludes that, because carbon dioxide is so long-lived in the atmosphere, increases in this gas can effectively lock the Earth and many future generations in a range of impacts, some of which could be severe. Therefore, emission reduction choices made today matter in determining impacts that will be experienced not just over the next few decades, but also into the coming centuries and millennia.  Policy choices can be informed by recent advances in climate science that show the relationships among increasing carbon dioxide, global warming, related physical changes, and resulting impacts. The report identifies (and quantifies when possible) expected impacts per degree of warming, including those on streamflow, wildfires, crop productivity, the frequency of very hot summers, and sea-level rise and its associated risks and vulnerabilities.

Order free copies of the booklet at http://dels.nas.edu/materials/booklets/warming-world.


Report Sets Research Agenda to Study Earth’s Past Climate

Without a reduction in emissions, by the end of this century atmospheric carbon dioxide could reach levels that Earth has not experienced for more than 30 million years. Critical insights into how Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and ecosystems would function in this high carbon dioxide environment are contained in the records of Earth’s geological past, concludes Understanding Earth’s Deep Past: Lessons for Our Climate Future, a National Research Council report from the Board on Earth Sciences that was released on March 1, 2011.

“Ancient rocks and sediments hold the only records of major, and at times rapid, transitions across climate states and offer the potential for a much better understanding of the long-term impact of climate change,” said Isabel Montañez, chair of the committee that wrote the report and a professor in the department of geology at the University of California, Davis. The research could also yield information on the tipping points for climate change–the threshold of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere at which abrupt climate change will occur.

The report sets out a research agenda for an improved understanding of Earth system processes during the transition to a warmer world. High-priority research initiatives include gaining a better understanding of the sensitivity of climate to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, the amount of sea-level rise as the ice sheets melt, and the resilience of ecosystems to climate change.


Webinar on Transportation and Climate Change

On Thursday, March 24 from 2:00-3:00 p.m., the National Academies Transportation Research Board will host the first of a 2-part webinar series that looks the threats of climate change to transportation facilities and operations and at resources for adapting. The cost of the webinar is $109 (the webinars are free to employees of TRB sponsors). To sign up and/or to learn more, please visit http://www.trb.org/ElectronicSessions/Blurbs/164935.aspx.

Also, you can always check out the website for the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC), a joint project of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council.


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