American Meteorological Society: Unequivocal Evidence that Earth is Warming, Sea Levels Rising, Snow, Glaciers and Artic Ice Shrinking due to Human Activities

by on August 30, 2012 · 20 comments

in Energy, Environment, Health, History, Popular, World News

By the American Meteorological Society / AMS / Adopted August 20, 2012


This statement provides a brief overview of how and why global climate has changed over the past century and will continue to change in the future. It is based on the peer-reviewed scientific literature and is consistent with the vast weight of current scientific understanding as expressed in assessments and reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Although the statement has been drafted in the context of concerns in the United States, the underlying issues are inherently global in nature.

 How is climate changing?

Warming of the climate system now is unequivocal, according to many different kinds of evidence. Observations show increases in globally averaged air and ocean temperatures, as well as widespread melting of snow and ice and rising globally averaged sea level. Surface temperature data for Earth as a whole, including readings over both land and ocean, show an increase of about 0.8°C (1.4°F) over the period 1901-2010 and about 0.5°C (0.9°F) over the period 1979–2010 (the era for which satellite-based temperature data are routinely available). Due to natural variability, not every year is warmer than the preceding year globally. Nevertheless, all of the 10 warmest years in the global temperature records up to 2011 have occurred since 1997, with 2005 and 2010 being the warmest two years in more than a century of global records. The warming trend is greatest in northern high latitudes and over land. In the U.S., most of the observed warming has occurred in the West and in Alaska; for the nation as a whole, there have been twice as many record daily high temperatures as record daily low temperatures in the first decade of the 21st century.

The effects of this warming are especially evident in the planet’s polar regions. Arctic sea ice extent and volume have been decreasing for the past several decades. Both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have lost significant amounts of ice. Most of the world’s glaciers are in retreat.

Other changes, globally and in the U.S., are also occurring at the same time. The amount of rain falling in very heavy precipitation events (the heaviest 1% of all precipitation events) has increased over the last 50 years throughout the U.S. Freezing levels are rising in elevation, with rain occurring more frequently instead of snow at mid-elevations of western mountains. Spring maximum snowpack is decreasing, snowmelt occurs earlier, and the spring runoff that supplies over two-thirds of western U.S. streamflow is reduced. Evidence for warming is also observed in seasonal changes across many areas, including earlier springs, longer frost-free periods, longer growing seasons, and shifts in natural habitats and in migratory patterns of birds and insects.

Globally averaged sea level has risen by about 17 cm (7 inches) in the 20th century, with the rise accelerating since the early 1990s. Close to half of the sea level rise observed since the 1970s has been caused by water expansion due to increases in ocean temperatures. Sea level is also rising due to melting from continental glaciers and from ice sheets on both Greenland and Antarctica. Locally, sea level changes can depend also on other factors such as slowly rising or falling land, which results in some local sea level changes much larger or smaller than the global average. Even small rises in sea level in coastal zones are expected to lead to potentially severe impacts, especially in small island nations and in other regions that experience storm surges associated with vigorous weather systems.

Why is climate changing?

Climate is always changing. However, many of the observed changes noted above are beyond what can be explained by the natural variability of the climate. It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide. The most important of these over the long term is CO2, whose concentration in the atmosphere is rising principally as a result of fossil-fuel combustion and deforestation. While large amounts of CO2 enter and leave the atmosphere through natural processes, these human activities are increasing the total amount in the air and the oceans. Approximately half of the CO2 put into the atmosphere through human activity in the past 250 years has been taken up by the ocean and terrestrial biosphere, with the other half remaining in the atmosphere. Since long-term measurements began in the 1950s, the atmospheric CO2 concentration has been increasing at a rate much faster than at any time in the last 800,000 years. Having been introduced into the atmosphere it will take a thousand years for the majority of the added atmospheric CO2 to be removed by natural processes, and some will remain for thousands of subsequent years.

Water vapor also is an important atmospheric greenhouse gas. Unlike other greenhouse gases, however, the concentration of water vapor depends on atmospheric temperature and is controlled by the global climate system through its hydrological cycle of evaporation-condensation-precipitation. Water vapor is highly variable in space and time with a short lifetime, because of weather variability. Observations indicate an increase in globally averaged water vapor in the atmosphere in recent decades, at a rate consistent with the response produced by climate models that simulate human-induced increases in greenhouse gases. This increase in water vapor also strengthens the greenhouse effect, amplifying the impact of human-induced increases in other greenhouse gases.

Human activity also affects climate through changes in the number and physical properties of tiny solid particles and liquid droplets in the atmosphere, known collectively as atmospheric aerosols. Examples of aerosols include dust, sea salt, and sulfates from air pollution. Aerosols have a variety of climate effects. They absorb and redirect solar energy from the sun and thermal energy emitted by Earth, emit energy themselves, and modify the ability of clouds to reflect sunlight and to produce precipitation. Aerosols can both strengthen and weaken greenhouse warming, depending on their characteristics. Most aerosols originating from human activity act to cool the planet and so partly counteract greenhouse gas warming effects. Aerosols lofted into the stratosphere [between about 13 km (8 miles) and 50 km (30 miles) altitude above the surface] by occasional large sulfur-rich volcanic eruptions can reduce global surface temperature for several years. By contrast, carbon soot from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels warms the planet, so that decreases in soot would reduce warming. Aerosols have lifetimes in the troposphere [at altitudes up to approximately 13 km (8 miles) from the surface in the middle latitudes] on the order of one week, much shorter than that of most greenhouse gases, and their prevalence and properties can vary widely by region.

Land surface changes can also affect the surface exchanges of water and energy with the atmosphere. Humans alter land surface characteristics by carrying out irrigation, removing and introducing forests, changing vegetative land cover through agriculture, and building cities and reservoirs. These changes can have significant effects on local-to-regional climate patterns, which adds up to a small impact on the global energy balance as well.

How can climate change be projected into the future?

Factors that have altered climate throughout history, both human (such as human emission of greenhouse gases) and natural (such as variation of the Sun’s energy emission, the Earth’s orbit about the Sun, and volcanic eruptions), will continue to alter climate in the future. Climate projections for decades into the future are made using complex numerical models of the climate system that account for changes in the flow of energy into and out of the Earth system on time scales much longer than the predictability limit (of about two weeks) for individual weather systems. The difference between weather and climate is critically important in considering predictability. Climate is potentially predictable for much longer time scales than weather for several reasons. One reason is that climate can be meaningfully characterized by seasonal-to-decadal averages and other statistical measures, and the averaged weather is more predictable than individual weather events. A helpful analogy in this regard is that population averages of human mortality are predictable while life spans of individuals are not. A second reason is that climate involves physical systems and processes with long time scales, including the oceans and snow and ice, while weather largely involves atmospheric phenomena (e.g., thunderstorms, intense snow storms) with short time scales. A third reason is that climate can be affected by slowly changing factors such as human-induced changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, which alter the natural greenhouse effect.

Climate models simulate the important aspects of climate and climate change based on fundamental physical laws of motion, thermodynamics, and radiative transfer. These models report on how climate would change in response to several specific “scenarios” for future greenhouse gas emission possibilities. Future climate change projections have uncertainties that occur for several reasons — because of differences among models, because long-term predictions of natural variations (e.g., volcanic eruptions and El Niño events) are not possible, and because it is not known exactly how greenhouse gas emissions will evolve in future decades. Future emissions will depend on global social and economic development, and on the extent and impact of activities designed to reduce greenhouse gas and black carbon emissions.

Changes in the means and extremes of temperature and precipitation in response to increasing greenhouse gases can be projected over decades to centuries into the future, even though the timing of individual weather events cannot be predicted on this time scale. Because it would take many years for observations to verify whether a future climate projection is correct, researchers establish confidence in these projections by using historical and paleoclimate evidence and through careful study of observations of the causal chain between energy flow changes and climate-pattern responses. A valuable demonstration of the validity of current climate models is that when they include all known natural and human-induced factors that influence the global atmosphere on a large scale, the models reproduce many important aspects of observed changes of the 20th-century climate, including (1) global, continental, and subcontinental mean and extreme temperatures, (2) Arctic sea ice extent, (3) the latitudinal distribution of precipitation, and (4) extreme precipitation frequency.

Model limitations include inadequate representations of some important processes and details. For example, a typical climate model does not yet treat fully the complex dynamical, radiative, and microphysical processes involved in the evolution of a cloud or the spatially variable nature of soil moisture, or the atmospheric interactions with the biosphere. Nevertheless, in spite of these limitations, climate models have demonstrated skill in reproducing past climates, and they agree on the broad direction of future climate.

How is the climate expected to change in the future?

Future warming of the climate is inevitable for many years due to the greenhouse gases already added to the atmosphere and the heat that has been taken up by the oceans. Amelioration might be possible through devising and implementing environmentally responsible geoengineering approaches, such as capture and storage measures to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. However, the potential risks of geoengineering may be quite large, and more study of the topic (including other environmental consequences) is needed. The subject of geoengineering is outside the scope of this statement (for more information see AMS Statement on Geoengineering).

In general, many of the climate-system trends observed in recent decades are projected to continue. Those projections, and others in this section, are largely based on simulations conducted with climate models, and assume that the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere will continue to increase due to human activity. Global efforts to slow greenhouse gas emissions have been unsuccessful so far. However, were future technologies and policies able to achieve a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions — an approach termed “mitigation” — this would greatly lessen future global warming and its impacts.

Confidence in the projections is higher for temperature than for other climate elements such as precipitation, and higher at the global and continental scales than for the regional and local scales. The model projections show that the largest warming will occur in northern polar regions, over land areas, and in the winter season, consistent with observed trends.

In the 21st century, global sea level also will continue to rise although the rise will not be uniform at all locations. With its large mass and high capacity for heat storage, the ocean will continue to slowly warm and thus thermally expand for several centuries. Model simulations project about 27 cm (10 inches) to 71 cm (28 inches) of global sea level rise due to thermal expansion and melting of ice in the 21st century. Moreover, paleoclimatic observations and ice-sheet modeling indicate that melting of the Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets will eventually cause global sea level to rise several additional meters by 2500 if warming continues at its present rate beyond the 21st century.

Atmospheric water content will increase globally, consistent with warmer temperatures, and consequently the global hydrological cycle will continue to accelerate. For many areas, model simulations suggest there will be a tendency towards more intense rain and snow events separated by longer periods without precipitation. However, changes in precipitation patterns are expected to differ considerably by region and by season. In some regions, the accelerated hydrological cycle will likely reinforce existing patterns of precipitation, leading to more severe droughts and floods. Further poleward, the greater warming at high latitudes and over land likely will change the large-scale atmospheric circulation, leading to significant regional shifts in precipitation patterns. For example, the model simulations suggest that precipitation will increase in the far northern parts of North America, and decrease in the southwest and south-central United States where more droughts will occur.

Climate-model simulations further project that heavy precipitation events will continue to become more intense and frequent, leading to increased precipitation totals from the strongest storms. This projection has important implications for water-resource management and flood control. The simulations also indicate the likelihood of longer dry spells between precipitation events in the subtropics and lower-middle latitudes, with shorter dry spells projected for higher latitudes where mean precipitation is expected to increase. Continued warming also implies a reduction of winter snow accumulations in favor of rain in many places, and thus a reduced spring snowpack. Rivers now fed by snowmelt will experience earlier spring peaks and reduced warm-season flows. Widespread retreat of mountain glaciers is expected to eventually lead to reduced dry season flows for glacier-fed rivers. Drought is projected to increase over Africa, Europe, and much of the North American continental interior, and particularly the southwest United States. However, natural variations in world ocean conditions at decadal scale, such as those in the North Pacific and North Atlantic basins, could offset or enhance such changes in the next few decades. For the longer term, paleoclimatic observations suggest that droughts lasting decades are possible and that these prolonged droughts could occur with little warning.

Weather patterns will continue to vary from day to day and from season to season, but the frequency of particular patterns and extreme weather and climate events may change as a result of global warming. Model simulations project an increased proportion of global hurricanes that are in the strongest categories, namely 4 and 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, although the total counts of hurricanes may not change or may even decrease. Some regional variations in these trends are possible. Simulations also indicate that midlatitude storm tracks will shift poleward. Interannual variations of important large-scale climate conditions (such as El Niño and La Niña) will also continue to occur, but there may be changes in their intensity, frequency, and other characteristics, resulting in different responses by the atmosphere. Heat waves and cold snaps and their associated weather conditions will continue to occur, but proportionately more extreme warm periods and fewer cold periods are expected. Indeed, what many people traditionally consider a cold wave is already changing toward less severe conditions. Frost days (those with minimum temperature below freezing) will be fewer and growing seasons longer. Drier conditions in summer, such as those anticipated for the southern United States and southern Europe, are expected to contribute to more severe episodes of extreme heat. Critical thresholds of daily maximum temperature, above which ecosystems and crop systems (e.g., food crops such as rice, corn, and wheat) suffer increasingly severe damage, are likely to be exceeded more frequently.

The Earth system is highly interconnected and complex, with many processes and feedbacks that only slowly are becoming understood. In particular, the carbon cycle remains a large source of uncertainty for the projection of future climate. It is unclear if the land biosphere and oceans will be able to continue taking up carbon at their current rate into the future. One unknown is whether soil and vegetation will become a global source rather than a sink of carbon as the planet warms. Another unknown is the amount of methane that will be released due to high-latitude warming. There are indications that large regions of the permafrost in parts of Alaska and other northern polar areas are already thawing, with the potential to release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere beyond those being directly added by human activity. The portion of the increased CO2 release that is absorbed by the world ocean is making the ocean more acidic, with negative implications for shell- and skeleton-forming organisms and more generally for ocean ecosystems. These processes are only now being quantified by observation and introduced into climate models, and more research is required to fully understand their potential impacts. As impacts of climate change are of regional and local nature, more research is also required to improve climate projections at local and regional scales, and for weather and climate extremes in particular.

Final remarks

There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking. The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities. This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research. The observed warming will be irreversible for many years into the future, and even larger temperature increases will occur as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere. Avoiding this future warming will require a large and rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions. The ongoing warming will increase risks and stresses to human societies, economies, ecosystems, and wildlife through the 21st century and beyond, making it imperative that society respond to a changing climate. To inform decisions on adaptation and mitigation, it is critical that we improve our understanding of the global climate system and our ability to project future climate through continued and improved monitoring and research. This is especially true for smaller (seasonal and regional) scales and weather and climate extremes, and for important hydroclimatic variables such as precipitation and water availability.

Technological, economic, and policy choices in the near future will determine the extent of future impacts of climate change. Science-based decisions are seldom made in a context of absolute certainty. National and international policy discussions should include consideration of the best ways to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. Mitigation will reduce the amount of future climate change and the risk of impacts that are potentially large and dangerous. At the same time, some continued climate change is inevitable, and policy responses should include adaptation to climate change. Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.

[This statement is considered in force until August 2017 unless superseded by a new statement issued by the AMS Council before this date.]

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Mary Cairns August 30, 2012 at 10:07 am

As a retired meteorologist who grew up in and now reside back in Point Loma/OB, I am pleased to see the informational statement from the American Meteorological Society posted here. I have also been a member of AMS since the mid-70s, and this is a non-profit society with over 12,000 members worldwide. Informational statements are intended for the public to provide education on a number of topics. This Climate Change statement is a revision of one issued several years ago, and has been updated with the latest findings. The statement revision has been conducted over the past year, with input from AMS members and approved by the President and the AMS Council. I hope readers find the statement informational!


avatar Mike Haseler August 30, 2012 at 10:30 am

Watch The Boy that Cried Warming and then tell me you still believe all this baloney!


avatar Ian Orchard August 31, 2012 at 3:02 am

I got to about 4 minutes into The Boy… before the first alarm bell went off. A helluva lot of science is not directly testable but that doesn’t stop working hypotheses from being being accepted.
In the example thrown in at about 3.30 about hot/cold weather more/less hurricanes being ‘untestable’ shows a fundemental misunderstanding about climate change. There are many testable hypotheses put forward on the subject that have stood the tests of review and they are the foundations of the predictions. Like the heat absorbing qualities of CO2 and its role in keeping the earth from being a frozen snowball. Hypothesised in the 1800’s and undergrad science now. Or the isotopic constituence of atmospheric CO2 matching the expected values given the tonnages of fossil fuel being consumed. To argue that this or that aspect needs more work or that something else could cause the observed changes is invalid unless you can explain EVERY aspect of the changes. For a random example, a claim that cosmic rays are causing rising temperatures must also explain away the known values of heat absorbing by the atmospheric CO2.
Re the hot/cold weather argument, that’s a long-refuted red herring. The abnormal cold weather was observed to be caused by the warmer Arctic ocean disrupting the circum-polar winds that normally keep frigid air locked over the Arctic. The abnormal snow dumps were partly caused by warmer oceans increasing the amount of water in the atmosphere, hence more rainfall when it does rain and deeper snow when it snows. We had similar problems in the southern hemisphere from cold air leaking out of Antarctica. There are endless other examples, but you have to do some homework on the Internet. Try it sometime


avatar john August 30, 2012 at 11:12 am

I think too much time is being spent trying to debate man’s influence on all this and more time needs to be spent looking at why the present philosophy on how to stop it has been such a dismal failure. Yes, it has, global greenhouse gas emissions have not only risen since Kyoto was implemented, the rate of increase has risen as well. The mindset has been “well even if the science is wrong, doing something, anything, can’t hurt, can it?”? yet actually it can. Lopsided schemes with “climate justice” and “carbon equity” in mind only lead to corporations channeling capital toward developing countries where they can get away with things they can’t get away with in the industrialized world. Their corrupt leaders look the other way and even facilitate conventional pollution that would be unheard of in the US or Europe. The UN doesn’t seem to mind that fact, both for reasons of corruption and their long held mission of improving conditions for third world masses, which actually facilitates climate change by industrializing huge populations.
It’s time to think with our heads, not our hearts. It’s said the “haves” are the ones who’ve done the most damage but the effect of Kyoto and most other schemes seems to be making the “have nots” into “haves”. Whether this was by accident or intent, we need to review these policies pronto or we’ll have started a trend we can’t stop.
It’s going to be a difficult process, we don’t seem to mind making sacrifices in the industrialized world but the third world is just trying to feed themselves and stay alive. They aren’t going to power villages in Africa with solar arrays on mud and straw huts, that’s for sure.


avatar allthink August 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

“They aren’t going to power villages in Africa with solar arrays on mud and straw huts, that’s for sure”.

Why not?


avatar john August 31, 2012 at 11:13 am

Why aren’t you using a solar array for your power needs?

If you and most Americans can’t afford the capital outlay, why would you expect people living in mud and straw huts to? They don’t even usually own the land their homes are on.


avatar Christopher Dotson August 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Nice to see how the debate is changing, and interesting to see how the denial gives way to other forms of skepticism.

Kyoto protocols were never “implemented”, especially as American’s rejected even thinking about the consequences at the time. Back then, the debate was whether or not climate change was real and, today, in the face of mounting evidence the detractors now “advance” their argument with further debate over the source being natural or man made. At least more folks now admit to the climate change reality.

Of course third world countries – and more and more Americans- will use more solar, as we make it more available. Even nomads in the Sahara will utilize alternative energy sources and technology. arrays are being installed on wide varieties of devices just like we see growing all around us in OB. did anyone see the scooter array? We know why alternative energy hasnt been further developed and adopted, so we dont need “more time” to evaluate the “philosophy” – its about cheap oil. Just like the scooter concept, massive change due to innovation happens when the tools are widely available for people to use on a daily basis, and even though nobody can predict the future there is no doubt solar will play a big role during upcoming transitions away from increasingly “expensive” fossil fuels. But the cost of remaining oil- addicted extends far beyond the price at the pump, an argument which becomes clearer the farther we continue along our present path. Much of the debate time is spent simply trying to raise the caution flags and educate people, and responding to detractors.
Even folks who never travel across aa codes can now see evidence of climate change, and that is part of education process.
Anyone regularly travelling abroad over the past thirty years has witnessed less and less ice pack, for example, Hudson Bay. Of course, satellite imagry has been documenting these changes more dramatically.

But at least the denial has finally evolved and changed course from “it can’t happen” to “who caused it”. Sooner or later we will work together to solve more important questions.


avatar john August 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm

“we have no idea how to solve this” would have been much more honest and to the point.


avatar JEC September 1, 2012 at 9:13 am

Thinking is limited to information at hand – seems your information is out of date.
News – many African countries, though poor by western standards, jumped over telephone land lines and now have extensive cell systems. Or the soccer ball generator – that’s right, a soccer ball designed by science students to HELP people – an hours worth of kicking provides 7 hours of electricity to run laptops or similar electronics. And yes, solar is being installed. Though African has one of the highest concentrations of hydro-electric potential on the planet, those efforts are very expensive and take years compared to the near instant power provided by PV panels. Humans with vision can get things done if those without vision get out of their way.


avatar john September 1, 2012 at 9:23 am

can you show me evidence of Africans making significant use of solar energy as part of their infrastructure?


avatar JEC September 1, 2012 at 11:32 am

The world continues to change around us – Rwanda has banned plastic bags, while we still struggle – go figure. No solution? Some very smart well motivated people have spent a great deal of time trying to define the problem. Most of it – the worst part – has been figured out, to the agreement of most. DDT killed the birds – we stopped DDT and the birds have recovered. CFC’s destroyed the ozone, we stopped CFC (mostly) and the ozone layer stopped disappearing. In LA the smog was (literally) killing people – shut down one oil fired power plant in Sunland and 40% of the smog disappeared. Point – solutions are at hand – some have already been started. But people resist change. Have you heard the one about how humans cannot live without oil? My grandparents were born into a life without oil. Humans can and will live without oil, again. We can start simple – stop burning stuff. Especially for transportation. Our economy is languishing – a drift without a sense of direction. Taking on the challenges of climate change – changing our ways could create a new economic focus – in some places it already has – Hemlock Corp, Clarksville Tn, Sunpower Richmond Ca. just to name a couple. Oh I have been told and read reports that a number of regions in central African nations use solar panels to power their state of the art communications systems and for drinking water systems.


avatar Ian Orchard September 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm

” Have you heard the one about how humans cannot live without oil? My grandparents were born into a life without oil. Humans can and will live without oil, again. We can start simple – stop burning stuff. Especially for transportation. ”

The problem is going to be the magnitude of the change. Our ancestors used horses rather than tractors, but if we are to replace modern tractors with horses, we’ll need more land than the entire USA to grow the horse feed, let alone anything for the humans. We are in for a massive massive global dislocation.

The other salient point my brother just pointed out is that the US Dept just passed $16 trillion. Debt that either has to be (a) repaid or (b) will have to be inflated out of existence. If you have a problem envisaging a trillion, think of a million seconds =12 days. A billion seconds = 32 years. A trillion seconds = 32,000 years. Brace yourself for (b). At a time when we are franticly trying to restructure civilization.


avatar john September 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm

“My grandparents were born into a life without oil. ”

Yeah and killed whales to light their homes. You can’t live in the past.

I looked into the “Sockket” as expected a lot of pipe dreams but you can’t buy one for yourself or to even donate. Why is that? Likely because they actually distributed some prototypes and saw what happened when you give a child a new ball. In one hour flat he’s destroyed it, lost it, or had it stolen from him. They claim it doesn’t require inflation. With the weight of the internal hardware this surely results in a ball that doesn’t bounce- nobody’s going to play with it because it doesn’t behave like a soccer ball they’re used to. If they do play with it I bet the life span is measured in minutes from the abuse to the mechanism, just like the gear boxes in windmills. No doubt the manufacturing emissions and byproducts just from making them contribute more to GGE than this could ever save. It was a cute idea, not a solution. Oh and it’s got lots of plastic in it. AKA oil.

I’m left with your assurances Africans really are incorporating solar technology. Technology we can’t afford here except in limited novelty use. Like the solar ventilation system I recently spent a month building into my Honda Passport. (unlike the junky $20 ones auto parts stores sell, this actually works, entailing cutting a slot for a blower in the body under the rear window frame and bolting a 12w panel to the middle of the roof)

What’s troubling is you and those you raise this point to: “The UN is both pursuing industrializing huge populations and trying to curb a problem caused by human industrialization” when you respond to it with cute little fantasies about soccer balls or solar powered scooters it gives the impression climate change was never the issue you were about and it was only a political platform. Which is okay if curbing climate change really was the result of all the finger pointing and doom and gloom scare talk.

You seem unconcerned that all of this is just giving the other 80% of the world the ability to ruin the planet the same way our grandparents and their children did- accelerating climate change, and the raw stats on GGE back that up.

Since you are well versed on environmental issues I’d like to ask a question about an issue which is symptomatic of this kind of dilemma, of how we really need to think things through when pursuing legislative solutions: “Shipbreaking” is a well known environmental disaster going on in Indian Ocean coastal waters and it hurts the people of these impoverished nations the most. Did it just happen or was there a cause?


avatar Mike September 1, 2012 at 11:57 am

The problem is not global warming. The problem is politics because climate change is polarized down political lines. There will never be a public consensus because this issue was never, not once, taken to that public without a politician leading the way.

The science behind global warming is mixed so thoroughly with political BS that it could be caused by hot air from Washington and we’d give away our car for a jackass.

Sorry. Just the way I see it.


avatar JEC September 2, 2012 at 9:52 am

Ok John – my reference – to my grandparents had to do with change – my grandmother came to the US in the steerage section of a square-rigger – took a wagon train to Nebraska and built a sod house. Some years later she returned to Denmark – on a 747. A bit of change there, don’t you think. We once lived without depending on oil – we will do it again. While some people can only imagine was has been – others can see a new future – It’s not going backward, but looking forward. We have technological solutions to most of what troubles us (except nuclear waste) – what we don’t have is the body politic to embrace a future. Regarding your focus on Africa – why do you care? What’s it to you? I have friends and associates who have been there recently – colonial troubles abound but they do it with smart phones and on the internet powered by solar panels. And they didn’t do it because of climate change they did it because they could. Your polemical stance might preclude any understanding – that and the fact we all commit enough typos to make our phrases a bit twisted. The U.N. – IS – what? The UN is industrializing – anything? You think so? I do not believe they have the capacity to fix their own building. And the straw man you set up – “…when you respond to it with cute little fantasies about soccer balls or solar powered scooters (not me) it gives the impression climate change was never the issue you were about and it was only a political platform. Which is okay if curbing climate change really was the result of all the finger pointing and doom and gloom scare talk.” Some people are scared, I guess. And to point a finger all we have to do is look in a mirror. If all we see out there is cynical political motives; if we truly distrust each other to that degree – then John I think you have had it – we are screwed. Get a gun and kiss off your kids future. But some people are really trying – they are not scared stiff – they are looking and yes I think you and I and most others agree the most difficult problem is political – we need new life support systems (please don’t mis read that – think what keeps us alive, water, sewers, energy, food, housing, transportation, medicine – our life support systems) and to create these requires steering this ship of state – the Coal Mine owners will not be leading this charge. Enjoy


avatar john September 3, 2012 at 3:26 am

I’m pretty sure if my only power requirements were charging my smartphone I could get by on a solar cell about the size of the phone itself.
“to point a finger all we have to do is look in a mirror”
Not me, I have a Citizen Eco-Drive, it’s solar! Didn’t your friends tell you?
I’m not going to badger you or force the discussion, my points were made and IMO left on the table so there isn’t much more to say. Just look at what’s been done since 1998 and wonder why GGE rose so dramatically.
Though I would point out a “strawman” could not be possibly constructed of examples you and the other reader furnished for me, it would have to be something I introduced myself.
Have a nice day.


avatar Frances O'Neill Zimmerman September 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Printing this report was a genuine community service. Thank you!
Excuse me, what are those figures on what part of the world generates the most carbon emissions? It’s us — the USofA — followed by industrialized nations of the West. Soon China will be a major polluter of the planet and Africa may follow. We are smart: we can make appropriate changes and if we do, the entire world will benefit.
Summer 2012 in San Diego whispers to the relevance of this important subject — six weeks of airless hot and humid days AND nights, even at the coast. Arguing about the scientific validity of obvious climate change is like dancing on the head of a pin: we need to start to change our ways.


avatar john September 12, 2012 at 2:18 am

Umm, you’re about a dozen years in the past with your facts:

9 billion VS 6 billion metric tons per year.

“Soon China will be a major polluter of the planet”

Jay Leno’s writing staff pays good money for stuff like that I hear. :-)

Frances, it’s not just their greenhouse gas emissions, 90% of their internal waterways are non potable. Most of their country is covered with a thick brown cloud of particulate emissions, remember Los Angeles in the ’70’s? They wish their air was half that clean.
WE have changed our ways, or at least have made huge strides towards doing so.
At this point you have to really think through the policies being proposed , if they are more of the same all we’re going to be doing is pushing the problem to a place where we cannot control it.


avatar Ian Orchard September 12, 2012 at 6:39 pm

John: has anyone checked to see what proportion of the drop in pollution is a consequence of the closure of factories and the inevitable constraints on the workers left jobless? Are we just exporting the pollution to China, India, etc?

How long will the 1% take to realise that while they’re making obscene amounts of money now, the exporting of jobs will derail the economy as too many of their customers can no longer afford to buy their stuff. Or don’t they care as long as they can fly from enclave to enclave, while the house gingers(*) bow and scrape, grateful that they have a job at all.

(* I gather Americans are extraordinarily sensitive about that word even when used in the original context. See Tim Minchin’s “Prejudice” on You Tube)


avatar chris dotson September 12, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I wouldnt say that since it isnt true. Sounds like u have researched some pet projects and decided to give up on our grndkids. Pity, since we need everybody to take action and to overcome the naysayers and those aiming to distract U.S. from the task at hand.

The world will change and the US standard of living is no longer something we should be exporting (never should have been but nobody listened to the tree huggers, except the tree huggers).

We are betting on innovation and for those like yourself to realize the basic need for food, fresh water and the like to force real changes. The folks most interested in building the green economy have already begun! Others will see the opportunities and other countries will adopt and adapt, and so should the naysayers and pessimists.

Rather than roll over, y’all should join U.S.!


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