Thoughts on Climate Change

One universal characteristic of people, even highly educated individuals, is that we tend to prefer simple and uncomplicated answers, even to problems that are anything but simple.

That’s one of the reasons why getting people to understand the danger of global warming and climate change is so difficult, and when you add in the problem that the effects of what world industries and what billions of people choose to do today won’t fully impact the world ecosphere for years, if not for decades or generations, the difficulty becomes much greater.

The heat waves the U.S. is experiencing right now are the result of “normal” summer weather patterns boosted by years of underlying incremental changes, and these changes have impacts in all sorts of interlocking changes. There have been literally thousands of studies confirming these effects, and essentially no reputable ones refuting the overall trend, yet people see all those numbers and throw up their hands.

The article here [ https://www.tomorrow.io/weather/blog/global-warming-status/] [brought to my attention by a reader] presents those interactions without presenting the myriad of numbers and calculations behind the descriptive analysis. But the numbers do exist, supported by thousands of studies over years. Despite claims to the contrary, there’s no reputable evidence against global warming or against the human contribution to it.

Yet, accurate as I believe the article to be in general terms, there are always outliers that climate deniers will cite, using hard numbers for a specific instance. For example, the vast majority of glaciers in the world are shrinking, but there are a handful that are increasing. Antarctic ice shelves are crumbling in overall extent, but inland build-up of Antarctic ice is increasing in some areas because warmer ocean air around the Antarctic holds more moisture that turns to snow in colder areas.

People also rely more on personal experience and anecdotal evidence than on statistics. But anecdotal evidence and experience only persist as long as individuals live. I can personally testify how the importation and stockpiling of massive quantities of water by the Denver Water Board fueled runaway growth in the Denver Metro area, with a resulting local micro-climate that is far more humid than the dusty plains where I grew up [which are now damper and hotter wall-to-wall suburban houses]. But there are fewer and fewer of us who can testify to those times, and if there’s no one left to relay those stories and you don’t trust statistics and records, the actual facts get ignored… or ignored even more.

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on Climate Change”

  1. John Prigent says:

    All undoubtedly true. But it’s also undoubtedly true that we have had warmer periods before as well as colder ones. Not so very long ago in geologic time the site of my home was under yards of ice, and even more recently in historic times Eric was proclaimng a new green home for his followers – their farms are still emerging from the ice that subsequently buried them in a cooler spell. Some scientists say we’re still in an inter-glacial period, others that the Ice Ages are over. While others point to changes in our sun’s radiation to account for both heating and cooling. All I can say is that most of them are headline-chasing, but I can’t tell which are actually worth listening to.

    1. But, except for huge meteors crashing into Earth, we’ve never had this rapid a change in climate. And 99% of all climate scientists agree there is rapid global warming. Given how much study has already taken place, I’ll go with the consensus.

      1. Lourain says:

        The key is the rate of change. Of course the Earth has seen climate change before. The difference here is the rate at which the change is occurring. And, of course, that human civilization will have to make some uncomfortable adjustments to adapt to these changes.

        And climate change is happening, whether people acknowledge it or not, Nature doesn’t give two hoots about your opinions, people.

  2. Tim says:

    The rate of change is however still long in today’s immediate culture. Where I live in Suffolk, England the sea rise is now estimated to rise by 1.2m by 2100. That will inundate a great deal of coastline and spring tides will become a serious problem.

    But I will be long gone by then as will my sons.

    I am reminded of Capability Brown in the C18 who created great gardens for the wealthy. But he and his clients never saw the beauty of the great oak avenues. I doubt we have such a mindset today, especially with increasing global population and no wish to tackle that issue through disincentives to having large families. The greater the population, the worse the environmental impact. And the greater the pressure on resources, the greater will be the need to tackle the problem now and not to wait to plan for the future.

    It will take many more wild fires, Siberian winters, serious water shortages and flood events for anything tangible to be done, I fear.

    1. Joe says:

      You do realize that that 1.2m of sea rise won’t happen on the 1st January 2100… right?

  3. MRE says:

    One of the issues that makes dealing with global warming so intractable is that it can provide politicians with an infinite mandate. I had similar concerns with how 9/11 excused all authoritarian behavior in the name of preventing “Terror.” I think this is why so many right wing politicians do their utmost to marginalize the issue, because beyond the direct cost to their donors of making an industry less damaging to the environment, they feel that *any* issue can be reduced to an environmental issue and then that can be used as a political bludgeon. I believe the science, but I also think politicians are more than happy to use the crisis to advance far less important goals. And to be fair, the right happily used the excuse of fighting Terror to accomplish any and all policy issues they could remotely link to that threat.

    However, the economist in me asks two questions: (1) how much are we willing to pay to prevent global warming at the margins? And (2) how much are we willing to *force* others to pay?

    Because unless my math is wrong, China and India will be some of the major producers of environmental damage shortly. And China at least has little interest in actually doing anything that might stymie their economic growth.

    So beyond being a good example and perhaps inventing technologies that can be adopted by these developing countries rather than the more damaging ones, is there a real way to stop environmental degradation without resorting to coercion or truly huge bribes? And if there isn’t, is that where environmental politics is going to inevitably lead? Because I think US politicians suspect the screaming over American contribution to environmental decay is mostly a political tool rather than an attempt to address the actual problem—which would take a far more comprehensive and globally totalitarian approach.

    1. Daze says:

      How much are we prepared to pay? Well, it turns out that we globally were prepared to pay trillions of dollars in just one year to deal with an acute crisis like Covid, and to make rules that the behavioural economists said would cause riots – the sorts of sums and changes that we’ve been told were impossible to consider for mitigation of the chronic climate crisis. Now we have to apply that sort of ‘can-do’ thinking for the longer term.

    2. Joe says:

      We could ban buying stuff from China & India… That would move industry back here where it can be regulated.

      1. MRE says:

        Barring war or catastrophe I can’t think of any time in history were trade was successfully regulated like that (not counting eras before modern transportation obviously). And it wouldn’t work. China and India are so big they can act as their own markets, just like the US did during the 20th century. They are going to modernize and produce stuff, nothing can stop that, so it’s how to minimize that impact. And any regulation that hurts US business to help the environment will have to be put in place knowing that it won’t be enough and it will disadvantage them to other big countries who ignore those same laws.

        1. Joe says:

          China is indeed working to become its own market, and has the middle class to support it, thanks to their sales to us.

          India? Not yet, AFAIK. If we stopped buying from them, it’d take them a lot longer to get there.

          I’m not convinced that regulation to help the environment would hurt US business in the long term. In fact it might boost it, in that the US could then export the novel technologies it created to solve those problems. It would however cut profit margins today, and that’s all US businesses care about. But boosting their immediate profits simply moves the costs to the rest of society which will pay in burned down or flooded houses, new pandemics, dead agricultural fields, etc.

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