Climate Change

Climate change is arguably the most critical issue of our time and yet the public/government response is pretty much non-existent. I’m guessing most people acknowledge it exists and that we are causing it; but when it comes to actually trying to do something about it we seem to fall very short. It is no surprise that climate change is a symptom of many topics listed on this website such as: human psychology, economics, politics, consumerism, education, media, carnism, money, finance etc. So there are many areas of life that are leading an assault on preventing climate change from being recognised as the threat that it is.
We seem to want to put our faith in new technology arising that will magically solve all of our problems, however all the technology to deal with climate change is already available. It is just our current monetary, economic and political system that seems unable to account for climate change, as they are largely driven by profit based around debt, fossil fuels and growth (% change in GDP) as a measure of how well an economy is performing.

Basic science

Most climate change deniers base their conclusion on the fact that the empirical temperature data doesn’t show any warming in the short term. What they don’t seem to realise is that it doesn’t actually matter what the global temperature is in the short term, because there is basic physics that bypasses the need for empirical data.

The greenhouse effect (resulting from production of substances like CO2) heats up the physical environment… you can pretty much test this in a lab as it is based on really basic physical properties of light and gases. The Earth has billions of subsystems that humans don’t fully understand with positive and negative temperature feedbacks which will make any temperature predictions inaccurate. All you can know for sure if that CO2 concentrations are increasing, they will eventually get into the upper atmosphere via gaseous diffusion, and that will eventually causing global warming. If the oceans absorb CO2 in the meantime (or whatever other subsystems have an affect) which stalls temperature rises, is irrelevant, the end scenario is unavoidable.

When debating with someone on this it may be beneficial to get them to outline exactly what issue they have with climate change:
1. Humans produce the majority of CO2
2. CO2 concentration is highly correlated with global temperatures throughout history (…/icecore_records…)
3. There is a scientific process that is based on extremely basic physics called the greenhouse effect, making the correlation a very likely causation
4. The Earth is a complex system and has various negative feedback mechanisms that prevents temperature from changing rapidly on small timescales with a large change in CO2. And also has some positive feedback mechanisms once a certain point is reached.

A brief explanation of how the greenhouse effect operates:

The original research was done from the end of the 19th century through the first 4 decades of the 20th century. It started off as a problem in optics. Why do atoms in a gas emit light in spectral lines rather than a continuous spectrum? In the 1940s, the transistor was invented, based on quantum mechanics. Since CMU students spend a lot of time in laboratory re-doing the most important experiments in their fields, we students verified with our own 2 hands everything the professor told us.

It isn’t about computer models. It isn’t about stuff off the internet. It is about atomic physics. It is about the fact that 3 atom molecules have a vibration mode that 2 atom molecules don’t have. It is the bending mode of vibration. That is why carbon dioxide [CO2] has an absorption band in the infrared while oxygen and nitrogen are transparent to infrared.

In detail, a photon [particle of light] is emitted from the surface of the Earth and the Earth cools a little bit. Within a tiny fraction of an inch, the photon is absorbed by a CO2 molecule. The CO2 molecule re-emits the photon in any direction. This is called scattering. If the photon goes down, the Earth re-warms. If the photon goes up, it gets scattered by the next CO2 molecule. The more CO2, the more scatterings happen before the photon escapes into space.

John Tyndall measured the optical properties of CO2 gas in the year 1859. You can measure the optical properties of gasses yourself if you have the equipment and the expertise.

Sunlight is mostly visible light. Sunlight warms the ground. The ground radiates infrared. CO2 prevents the infrared from escaping into space. To get the numbers to work out, you have to consider the atmosphere to be made of layers. More CO2 adds more layers.

If there is too little CO2, the Earth gets too cold. This has happened before, about 700 Million years ago. The oceans froze almost to the equator. If there is too much CO2, the Earth gets too hot. This happened 251 Million years ago, the Great Death.

If that fails try talking about it from their perspective

I think the general consensus amongst the population is that global warming is happening, but there are still a fair amount that believe that it is not due to human activity. It is not possible to debate with these people on a scientific level, due to their mistrust of science and governments. Therefore I will try approach it from their realm of thought, which completely bypasses science.

Their thinking is that climate change is a liberal global conspiracy in order to suppress their standard of living, push through totalitarian policies, and extract more money from the population by paying for new technology and implementing additional taxes.

  • Profitability. The profitability of oil, far exceeds any profitability that can be gathered from solar panels, wind farms etc. Saudi Arabia is able to produce oil at $5 per barrel, and even at the low $30 price it hit recently, that is still 500% profit. Let alone at its peak of $140. Solar panels start generating a profit for the owner after 8 years or so, and are therefore terrible for short and long term profit.
  • Energy Price. Fossil fuels receive far more subsidies than renewables meaning they appear cheaper, when actually the energy produced by them would be more expensive if the subsidies were removed (especially at $40 per barrel which should be bankrupting most firms). This means renewables would most likely be far cheaper than fossil fuels.
  • Dependence on the system. Renewables such as solar panels allow households to have energy independence from the energy grid. This weakens the governments and corporations control over the consumers, which is the last thing they want.
  • Exploitation. I would be ignorant to say that people are not trying to significantly take advantage of global warming, but when did anyone ever pass up an opportunity to profit off of an apocalypse? Wars are some of the most profitable exercises, so why not global environmental destruction? Just because someone seeks to profit from it, does not necessarily mean that the problem has been faked for this purpose. Just because someone seeks to take even greater control of the planet through a disaster, doesn’t mean the disaster isn’t real.
  • Resources. Even if global warming is not caused by humans (which it is), another critical problem that humanity faces is the dwindling supply of resources. Therefore we must be far more conservative with resources that we do have, so that we do not run out of them in the near future.

Motivation to change

Title: Human activity causes climate change
Link Notes Type Interactive Graphs

Length Short
Complexity Beginner
Author Bloomberg
Description: Just in case you or someone you know isn’t quite convinced humans are causing climate change, these graphs based on a model from NASA will hopefully convince you or them.
Title: The complexity and interconnectivity of nature
Link 1 Link 2 Type Video

Length 5min
Complexity Beginner
Author George Monbiot
Description: Two videos showing how a small change in a variable within an ecosystem affects the rest of the ecosystem in large, complex and difficult to predict ways.
Link 1 – How wolves change rivers
Link 2 – How whales change climate

Religion can be a significant barrier to accepting climate change so I include a couple of links relevant to it below. It is important to recognise that, whether we like it or not, religion is a hugely dominant force in society. And when facing a catastrophic extinction event such as climate change we may need to focus on understanding religion in order to unite us on the values that we do share (i.e. wanting to exist and not watch our children die etc.) rather than attacking the values that we don’t share. Personally I think you have a much higher chance of convincing a religious person that climate change is real than convincing that their god isn’t real, and given the time constraints we have to act on climate change it may be a better use of time.

Title: Climate change and faith
Link Notes Type Video Lecture

Length 1h 22min
Complexity Beginner
Author Dr Katharine Hayhoe
Description: An interesting lecture where Katharine (an evangelical Christian and climate scientist) tries to bridge the gap between her profession and her faith showing that they do not contradict each other at all. The first part of the lecture covers some basic climate science whereas the second part focuses on the faith aspect.
The second part (on faith) is useful for those trying to convince others of climate change.
The Q&A session also has a few interesting points.

Global warming increases the minimum temperature that is used in a thermodynamic cycle. This lowers the Carnot efficiency of all thermodynamic cycles, meaning more fuel will need to be burnt in order to produce the same amount of power.

Merchants of Doubt (documentary) – A documentary that looks at pundits-for-hire who represent themselves as scientific authorities as they speak about topics like toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, climate change .

Climate Technologies

Batteries — why you should believe the hype
GreenWave ocean farming model

Making plastic from plants

Additional Links:
“Unstoppable” California Gas Leak Now Being Called Worst Catastrophe Since BP Spill
Richest 10 per cent ‘produce half the world’s CO2 emissions’

Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years
Coal Mining CEO defends financing harassment of climate scientists
$5.3 trillion of energy subsidies were given out in 2015 (6.5% of global GDP)
How the monetary system contributes to environmental destruction

IMF: Global Energy Subsidies at $5.3 trillion in 2015 (6.5% of global GDP)

If CO2 is so heavy, why doesn’t it sink and suffocate us?

What the earth would look like if all the ice melted (interactive map)
The 6 Biggest Threats to the Amazon Rainforest
Pope Francis opinion on climate change
How the media should be reporting on climate change (video)
Study confirms that huge CEO pay is the main contributor to climate change

Abuse of carbon credit scheme might have increased carbon emissions by 600 million tonnes

How garbage islands form in the ocean (video)

Air pollution contributes to more than 3 million premature deaths a year

MIT study warns of dangerous of geoengineering and weather modification


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