1. Climate change is not a hoax. It is real and is happening now. The global average temperature is steadily increasing and there is no doubt that the most significant cause of this warming is the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.
2. There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that emissions from fossil fuel combustion by humans have caused the CO2 level in the atmosphere to increase from its steady average at 275 parts per million (ppm) to over 400 ppm in the last 215 years. There is no mystery here. James Watt patented his steam engine driven by fossil fuel 246 years ago.
3. Forecasts based on fairly robust atmospheric models indicate that a 450 ppm CO2 level will correspond to a +2°C rise in temperature from that present prior to the industrial revolution. This is a very significant temperature increase that will cause enormous problems for Earth and its inhabitants: coastal flooding due to sea rise; an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms, which will cause droughts in some areas and extensive flooding in others; adverse effects on the reliability of food production; huge increases in human refugees from affected areas; and increases in disease propagation.
4. Sea level rise is caused by the melting of ice located at Earth’s poles and glaciers. We already have extensive data showing the loss of such ice. The Arctic is particularly sensitive because ice there forms on water. While Arctic ice was 6 feet deep in the mid-20th century, it now averages only 3 feet deep. Its areal extent is decreasing rapidly and indications are that the Arctic will be completely ice-free all through the year by 2033.
5 Greenland’s ice fields are melting rapidly. When all of this ice has melted, it will add 20 feet to sea level. Over 100 million people live no more than 3 feet above the current sea level.
6 Antarctica has the largest amount of ice. It too is melting. Somewhat confusing is that there are two different kinds of ice in Antarctica: ice that forms on water (sea ice), which is quite thin; and ice that forms on land, which is often kilometres thick. Sea ice can appear to increase in areal extent during a year and some have argued that this increase shows the warming trend is false. This is incorrect. When one accounts for the total volume of ice at Antarctica, one sees a steady diminution of its volume over time. Both poles are suffering warming trends and adding water to the sea.
7 There is no uncertainty about why CO2 levels in the atmosphere are increasing Earth’s atmospheric temperature. It is a well-known fact that CO2 is transparent to ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun, but
CO2 strongly absorbs infrared radiation that comes from Earth. CO2 permits energy to come through the atmosphere but prevents considerable amounts of energy from leaving. This has been known for decades. Also known is the amount of radiation that can be absorbed by CO2. Thus, by knowing the concentration of CO2 and the volume of the atmosphere, it is possible to calculate using well-known laws of physics how much energy will be absorbed by CO2 and retained as heat. It turns out that the 2 ppm increase in CO2 (from 398 to 400 ppm in 2014) captured an additional 380 billion megawatt-hours of energy over what was captured in 2013. This energy increase is more than 10 times the energy needed to melt the 300 m3 of ice that was observed to have disappeared in the Arctic in 2014.
8 Humans need to find an alternative energy source and do it quickly. Much of the known reserves of fossil fuel must never be burned or must be burned in a way that CO2 emissions will not occur. If we do burn them without emission controls, then Earth will spiral into a severely baked planet accompanied by catastrophic suffering of flora and fauna (including humans).
9 With our current rate of increase in CO2 emissions per year, it is clear that our atmosphere will contain 450 ppm CO2 by 2035 and 550 ppm (corresponding to a +3°C warming) by 2100. Something is urgently needed very soon.
10 A problem most people have with cutting back fossil fuel use is that they believe it will adversely impact our prosperity and economic growth. What they fail to understand is that our prosperity and economic growth are guaranteed to be horribly affected by continuing on our current road.
The only way to have our global civilisation remain relatively sustainable is for us to control CO2 emissions.
11 World leaders have met several times in recent decades to try to come to some sort of global consensus about what must be done by each country. Virtually all of them have failed because of lack of commitment to the agreements (Kyoto) or to watered-down commitments (Copenhagen). We are collectively running out of time.
12 In Paris, in December of 2015, there will be a meeting of over 200 United Nation’s countries trying to negotiate fair and on-going national commitments to stem increasing CO2 emissions. Most political and environmental experts say this is the last chance the world has to act in a manner that will effectively limit global warming to less than +3°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. Already negotiations are underway. Critical leadership is being found. The G7 nations agreed in June to end combustion of fossil fuels by 2100 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70% by 2050 compared to 2010 emission levels.
13. All governments must be committed to this action. All people must make sure their governments are held to high standards and ethical behaviour. This is the fight of our lives. It is also a fight for our grandchildrens’ lives.
Bruce R. Conard
BRConard Consulting, Inc