Dec 14, 2022 10:36:55 AM
Ten Things You Might Not Know About Climate Change, But Should
Rob Motta & James White, Guest Columnists
3 min read
Myths and misconceptions about how mankind is affecting the climate have made it even harder to make the necessary course correction. Here’s what’s actually happening.
Biblical soaking? Thousand-year flood events have become almost commonplace in many parts of the U.S., as ferocious storms unleash several inches of rain, often following prolonged drought.
With devastating wildfires, floods, and storms striking the US, and United Nation reports warning of catastrophic consequences if we don’t act fast on climate change, it's important that we go forward with eyes open. Here are ten key takeaways:
- 97 percent of climate scientists agree climate change is human caused. Scientists have looked for other possible causes, but they just don’t add up to the warming we are seeing.
- The public doesn’t know that the scientists agree. Only about one in five people are aware of the very strong level of agreement among scientists that climate change is human caused.
- Impacts are big and will only get bigger if we delay. Heatwaves are increasing, forest fires are getting more violent, and sea levels are rising. And they will only get worse with every year we delay. There is no magic year when “it’s over”, but the impacts will increase dramatically with rising temperature.
- It’s never too late to start braking. Climate change is like riding in a car with your kids fighting. You get momentarily distracted, then suddenly realize the car in front of you has stopped. You know you are going to hit it. Do you brake or decide it’s not worth braking? While there will be an accident, it’s never too late to start braking.
- There are BIG delays in the system. It takes decades for the earth’s temperature to stabilize when we add more greenhouse gases. So, when we get tired of more powerful hurricanes, flooded cities and farms, intense forest fires, and perpetual drought, and finally act, things will continue to get worse for some time. You don’t live on planet “Instant Gratification.” We need to take action now for the kids of today, and tomorrow, even more than for ourselves.
- A polar vortex does not mean that climate change is not happening. The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the world. As the Arctic warms, the jet stream will slow down and “meander” more, reaching low down into the U.S., and high up into Canada. As a result, warmer temperatures will reach high up into the Arctic, and colder temperatures much closer to the tropics. Think polar vortex. This is all part of climate change.
- It’s not just CO2. CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas that you read about, but methane is also a concern and has risen more than CO2 since pre-industrial times. It is very potent at first but decomposes into CO2 over time. On average, it is about 28 times more potent than CO2. Methane is also more pervasive than CO2, and is released from livestock, manure management, agriculture, mining and landfills, as well as from oil and gas production.
- Changes might become quite abrupt. The Earth’s climate system doesn’t always change slowly over time. In the distant past, changes have sometimes been quite abrupt. While sea level is rising slowly now, it is possible that it could rise a foot or more per decade in the life of a child born today. Ice-free seas in the Arctic might trigger substantial changes in our weather patterns in a matter of years. Likewise, there is concern about the Gulf Stream slowing down and dramatically changing weather patterns. If you want time to react, don’t waste any more time to act.
- We can do it. The whole world acted as one to ratify the Montreal Protocol treaty in 1987. This helped close the hole in the ozone layer. We can act together again.
- How we can do it. Various ways exist, from regulatory (think fuel economy standards) to carbon pricing mechanisms, to carbon capture and storage. The important thing for us to do is to tackle climate change as a top priority.
Dec 14, 2022 10:36:55 AM · 3 min read
Rob Motta has worked on energy and environmental issues at the National Renewable Energy Lab and in private industry. He currently works on climate change communication at the University of Colorado. Jim White is the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina, and a noted climate scientist. He chaired the committee that authored the National Academy of Science report “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises”