10. What Do You Think?

What Do You Think About Global Climate Change?
2014-03-18. Scientists Sound Alarm on Climate.  Excerpt: ...a committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, ... will release a stark report Tuesday on global warming. The report will warn that the effects of human emissions of heat-trapping gases are already being felt, that the ultimate consequences could be dire, and that the window to do something about it is closing. “The evidence is overwhelming: Levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising,” says the report, which was made available early to The New York Times. “Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.” ...the report contains no new science. But the language in the 18-page report, called “What We Know,” is sharper, clearer and more accessible than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date. And the association does not plan to stop with the report. The group, with a membership of 121,200 scientists and science supporters around the world, plans a broad outreach campaign to put forward accurate information in simple language. The scientists are essentially trying to use their powers of persuasion to cut through public confusion over this issue. Polls show that most Americans are at least somewhat worried about global warming. But people generally do not understand that the problem is urgent — that the fate of future generations (not necessarily that far in the future) is being determined by emission levels now. Moreover, the average citizen tends to think there is more scientific debate about the basics than there really is. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/18/science/scientists-sound-alarm-on-climate.html. Justin Gillis, New York Times.

2014-01-06. Suburban sprawl cancels carbon-footprint savings of dense urban cores.  Excerpt: According to a new study by UC Berkeley researchers, population-dense cities contribute less greenhouse-gas emissions per person than other areas of the country, but these cities’ extensive suburbs essentially wipe out the climate benefits. Dominated by emissions from cars, trucks and other forms of transportation, suburbs account for about 50 percent of all household emissions – largely carbon dioxide – in the United States. ...Interactive carbon footprint maps for more than 31,000 U.S. zip codes in all 50 states are available online at http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/maps.... http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/01/06/suburban-sprawl-cancels-carbon-footprint-savings-of-dense-urban-cores/. By Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley News Center.

2013-10-07.  How to Slice a Global Carbon Pie?   Excerpt:  ...the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change... report released in Stockholm on Sept. 27 was their fifth since 1990, .... In its draft form, the fought-over paragraph declared that, to have the best chance of not exceeding the international target for global warming of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, society can burn no more than about 1 trillion tons of carbon, in the form of fossil fuels, and spew the resulting gases into the atmosphere. More than half that carbon budget has been used already. ...At the rate things are going, we will exceed the budget in 30 years or fewer. .... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/08/science/how-to-slice-a-global-carbon-pie.html. Justin Gillis, The New York Times.

2013-03-13.  The Price of Carbon | Movie hosted at The Climate Reality Project. Excerpt: Movie about huge hidden costs of fossil fuel based energy systems and the rationale for including such costs in the "price of carbon."  .... See full article at http://climaterealityproject.org/the-price-of-carbon/.

2013-01-05.  Pulling Carbon Dioxide Out of Thin Air | Anne Eisenberg, The New York Times. Relevant to GSS Climate Change chapter 10. Excerpt:  …a Canadian company …Carbon Engineering … plans to build a complete pilot plant by the end of 2014 for capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere…. …the oil industry … buys the gas to inject into oil fields to force out extra oil. ...The recovered carbon dioxide may be sold one day, not only for enhanced oil recovery, but also to feed algae to produce biofuel. It may also be sequestered in places like unmineable coal seams and oil and gas reservoirs, says a new Energy Department report. Gas capture would be extremely important in developing a rational price for carbon emissions, said Dr. Fox of the British mechanical engineering society. “Whatever it costs to take it out of the air and store it away,” Dr. Fox said, “that’s the price polluters would pay if they want to put carbon into the air.” … Another advantage of direct air capture is geographic flexibility. “It doesn’t matter where you take the carbon dioxide out,” he said, since the gas is mixed evenly in the earth’s atmosphere. “You could have air capture machines in the Australian desert to account for New York City car emissions.” …. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/business/pilot-plant-in-the-works-for-carbon-dioxide-cleansing.html

2012-12-05. American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting—Union Frontiers of Geophysics Lecture - Professor Sir Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor to the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

Highlights: we're probably not going to hit the 2°C target, and we can't even rule out a 5°C world. Research suggests that every 1C warming increases the risk of extinction for 10% of all species. Even if that's a 4-fold overestimate, it's still a profound result. Events that are already occurring at only 0.8°C above pre-industrial: wildfires, more intense hurricanes, droughts, the July 2012 Greenland melt, accelerating polar ice loss, arctic sea ice decline, ocean acidification, etc. It seems that even 2°C isn't "safe". There is a new understanding of aerosol forcings, which might increase the total anthropogenic radiative forcing from previous estimate ~1.6 W/m^2 to something more like 2.1 W/m^2. The last part of the talk is about finding ways to build a broad coalition of support for improving the efficiency and robustness of our infrastructure while we simultaneously try to decarbonize and feed more people with increasingly less food productivity. Sir Robert Watson also spoke at a session "The Anthropocene: Confronting the Prospects of a +4°C World." That is a 12 minute talk, starting at about 1hr 3min into the recording.

2012 November.  Climate Change—Do the Math. This movie has recent climate change impacts on humanity, and a comparison of the cost of addressing climate change compared to the costs we currently incur every year to continue using fossil fuels.

2012 Oct 18. A Rogue Climate Experiment Outrages Scientists. By Henry Fountain, The NY Times. Excerpt: A California businessman chartered a fishing boat in July, loaded it with 100 tons of iron dust and cruised through Pacific waters off western Canada, spewing his cargo into the sea in an ecological experiment that has outraged scientists and government officials… The entrepreneur, Russ George, calling it a “state-of-the-art study,” said his team scattered iron dust several hundred miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii, in northern British Columbia, in exchange for $2.5 million from a native Canadian group. The iron spawned the growth of enormous amounts of plankton, which Mr. George, a former fisheries and forestry worker, said might allow the project to meet one of its goals: aiding the recovery of the local salmon fishery for the native Haida. Plankton absorbs carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas, and settles deep in the ocean when it dies, sequestering carbon. The Haida had hoped that by burying carbon, they could also sell so-called carbon offset credits to companies and make money.... 

2012 July 19. Global Warming's Terrifying New Math | by Bill McKibben, Rolling Stone magazine. Excerpt: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe. Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation…. Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees [C] …the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries … that act like fossil-fuel companies…  the fossil fuel we're currently planning to burn… is … 2,795 [gigatons] – is higher than 565. Five times higher. …If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today's market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you'd be writing off $20 trillion in assets…. Read the full article: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719

2012 Jun 07. Warming nears point of no return, scientists say. By David Perlman, SF Gate. Excerpt:  The Earth is reaching a "tipping point" in climate change that will lead to increasingly rapid and irreversible destruction of the global environment unless its forces are controlled by concerted international action, an international group of scientists warns. Unchecked population growth, the disappearance of critical plant and animal species, the over-exploitation of energy resources, and the rapidly warming climate are all combining to bring mounting pressure on the Earth's environmental health…scientists from five nations, led by UC Berkeley biologist Anthony Barnosky, report their analysis Thursday in the journal Nature….

2012 Apr 12. Fuel to Burn: Now What?. By Jad Mouawad, The New York Times. An article relevant to GSS Energy Use chapter 3. Excerpt: The reversal of fortune in America’s energy supplies in recent years holds the promise of abundant and cheaper fuel, and it could have profound effects on what people drive, domestic manufacturing and America’s foreign policy.  …High energy prices led to a wave of successful oil and gas exploration in North America, including in fields that were deemed uneconomical only a few years ago. Using techniques like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, oil companies are tapping into deeply buried reserves in shale rocks and in the ocean’s depths. …Ed Morse, head of global commodity research at Citigroup and a longtime energy analyst, says North America has the potential to become a "new Middle East." "The reduced vulnerability of North America — and the world market — to oil price spikes also has deep consequences geopolitically, including the reduced strategic importance to the U.S. of changes in oil- and natural gas-producing countries worldwide," Mr. Morse said in a recent 92-page report called Energy 2020.  …The glut of natural gas supplies ... has effectively put an end in the United States to any new investment in coal plants, which produce much more emissions. But it also makes the economics of alternative, noncarbon energy sources like wind power or solar power difficult to justify without public support and subsidies.  …Natural gas prices have fluctuated wildly in recent years, rising to $14 for a thousand cubic feet from $2 within a few years. The current glut, however, has driven prices back down again, to near $2 for a thousand cubic feet. …Shipping costs may be lower, particularly if transportation companies shift their fleets to natural gas-powered or electric vehicles. …. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/11/business/energy-environment/energy-boom-in-us-upends-expectations.html?_r=1&ref=businessspecial2&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120411

2012 Mar 18. Focus on technology overlooks human behavior when addressing climate change. University of Oregon Media Relations.  Excerpt:  Technology alone won't help the world turn away from fossil fuel-based energy sources, says University of Oregon sociologist Richard York. In a newly published paper, York argues for a shift in political and economic policies to embrace the concept that continued growth in energy consumption is not sustainable….
…"In terms of governmental policies, we need to be thinking about social context, not just the technology," York said. "We need to be asking what political and economic factors are conducive to seeing real displacement. Just developing non-fossil fuel sources doesn't in itself tend to reduce fossil fuel use a lot — not enough. We need to be thinking about suppressing fossil fuel use rather than just coming up with alternatives alone."…

2012 February 28. Belief in Global Warming on the Rebound: National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change.  By Christopher P. Borick and Barry Rabe, Issues in Government Studies No. 44, The Brookings Institute.  Excerpt: As 2012 begins, a growing number of Americans believe global warming is occurring. This is one of the key findings from the latest National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change (NSAPOCC). [PDF of full paper].

2012 Feb 15.  Leak Offers Glimpse of Campaign Against Climate Science.  By Justin Gillis and Leslie Kaufman, The NY Times.  Excerpt:  Leaked documents suggest that an organization known for attacking climate science is planning a new push to undermine the teaching of global warming in public schools, the latest indication that climate change is becoming a part of the nation’s culture wars.
The documents, from a nonprofit organization in Chicago called the Heartland Institute, outline plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet….

2012 January 27.  Climate Change Debate Brewing in American Classrooms.  By Sam Favate, Wallstreet Journal Law Blog.  Excerpt: …State boards of education in Texas and Louisiana have established standards to require the presentation of climate change denial as a valid scientific position, while legislators in Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Kentucky have introduced bills to mandate equal time for climate change skeptics’ views in the classroom….
…While courts have held that some criticism of evolution in public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state, deniers of climate change argue that they are simply pushing academic freedom….
…In many ways, the fight over this is just beginning, since new national science standards for grades K-12 are due at the end of the year, and are expected to include climate change. That’s expected to increase resistance at the local and state levels in some areas. The legal fight — at the legislative and judicial levels — will surely intensify….
(See also Oregon Public Broadcasting report: http://news.opb.org/article/climate_change_the_new_battlefield_in_science_education/)

2012 Jan 9. Real-World Learning Through Solar Power. NSTA Reports—Lynn Petrinjak. Schools across the country are turning to solar power as a way to simultaneously conserve energy and excite students about science. In Massachusetts, Diversified Construction Services, LLC, is erecting Solar Learning Labs (SLL) at 12 schools with support from a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Department of Education. …“We’re trying to connect the curriculum to as pragmatic a situation as possible,” says Nick Young, superintendent of Hadley Public Schools in Hadley, Massachusetts. He anticipates about half of the district’s 300 middle and high school students will participate in courses using the SLL program. “This is a higher-end kind of program. It’s a way to connect to advanced subject matter. It’s a great opportunity for [self-motivated] students to be validated, and the hands-on application will appeal to some different learning styles, too.” During the installation of the solar panels, science teachers worked with Diversified. “It’s a school-based project. There’s an educational component built into construction,” explains Young. Although the panels will produce electricity on-site, Young admits it will be a “very modest amount.”

2012 Jan 6. The Technology Path to Deep Greenhouse Gas Emissions Cuts by 2050: The Pivotal Role of Electricity. By James H. Williams et al. Science. Abstract: Several states and countries have adopted targets for deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but there has been little physically realistic modeling of the energy and economic transformations required. We analyzed the infrastructure and technology path required to meet California’s goal of an 80% reduction below 1990 levels, using detailed modeling of infrastructure stocks, resource constraints, and electricity system operability. We found that technically feasible levels of energy efficiency and decarbonized energy supply alone are not sufficient; widespread electrification of transportation and other sectors is required. ...This transformation demands technologies that are not yet commercialized, as well as coordination of investment, technology development, and infrastructure deployment.



[This was chapter 9 in original GSS series.]

Archive of Past Articles for Chapter 10

Apps for Climate:

Climate Change Education.org

Climate Communication
– Making Science Heard and Understood. This is a a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the scientific understanding of Earth systems and global environmental change, funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the ClimateWorks Foundation. A project of the Aspen Global Change Institute.

Climate Stabilization Targets: Emissions, Concentrations, and Impacts over Decades to Millennia (2011). Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (BASC). National Academies Press.

Do the Math

“Earth: The Operators’ Manual” is an uplifting antidote to the widespread “doom and gloom” approach to climate change. Host Richard Alley leads the audience on a one-hour special about climate change and sustainable energy.

Offsetting your carbon (or climate) footprint allows you to become part of the solution to climate change by supporting the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions equal to your carbon footprint.

See more on carbon offsets.

"Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization" by Lester R. Brown. A book about how to build a more just world and save the planet from climate change in a practical, straightforward way. Available for purchase and free download.

Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says from Skeptical Science.

The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism by John Cook, from Skeptical Science.

Volcanoes--do they emit more CO2 than humans? See also article: Volcanic Versus Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide

Young Voices on Climate Change - videos (3-6 minutes each) present positive success stories of youth, 11-17, finding local solutions to the global warming crisis, reducing the CO2 emissions of their homes, schools and communities. The videos document win-win scenarios such as four Florida middle school girls who do an energy audit and save their school $53,000. Produced and directed by author/ illustrator Lynne Cherry, co- author of How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming. http://YoungVoicesonClimateChange.com.