How Can We Stop Global Warming?

 

Strange Facts and Questions about Global Warming ACADEMIA and the CLIMATE EMERGENCY ITS THE LIFESTYLE, NOT THE SCIENCE Sceptics and Deniers Contact the Author, Michael Tuckson References and Acknowledgements Short CV For Beginners and the Bewildered COPENHAGEN and  AFTER BLOG WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW My Sitemap
 

 

stopglobalwarming-newstrategies.net

An Independent, Global and Flexible Approach: This site has no national, political or scientific sub-theory bias. It is regularly Updated and Improved.

 

Introduction for Beginners and the Bewildered 

 

(Updated 17 January 2010)

 www.stopglobalwarming-newstrategies.net

 

Dr. Michael Tuckson

 

See also.....Summary in Easy English that is shorter and more direct.

 

Leading deniers, funded by the coal and oil companies or anti government, anti-science ideologues, argue in one direction while scientists argue both sides of the case. Deniers are rarely practicing scientists, and hardly try to learn. The online comments columns are full of scientific rubbish written by people who are paid to do so or those that have fallen under their spell. The latest science that shows ice sheets melting is more frightening than before and implies that it will be very difficult to stop the ocean rising several metres at least. Tens of metres are likely and storms and droughts will become more deadly. Leading deniers either care nothing for their grandchildren or are rather ignorant of the future. Actually denialism is nothing to do with science, but is all about a false understanding of how to defend deniers' wealth and lifestyle. Although they believe that they can keep their lifestyle by refusing to change, they would be able to have a longer-term effect by adaptation to new forms of energy and using less livestock products. We can only survive if we overcome denier influence and power.  

  

Everest then and now

                                             Everest then and now

 

Climate change is certainly not an easy topic, so don’t be surprised if you feel uncertain or confused. Even with a multi-disciplinary professional background, it has taken me many months full time to get to the stage of being able to write this introductory website. Moreover, not only do the scientists and strategists keep coming up with new information and ideas to challenge us, but others are trying to white-ant or deny the whole process, attempting to show that white-anting is part of science. So beginners need to be able to distinguish real science and strategic debate, that will always include dispute and a few that are devious, from those trying to stifle it. If you compare science with business for example, science comes out squeeky clean.

 

 Science and Denial

 

In comparing science and denial, apart from examining the logic and evidence, it is worthwhile to look at the consistency in the aim of the argument. Scientists and most human affairs strategists go back and forth, looking at pro and con, admitting gaps and weaknesses, while deniers always argue in one direction, i.e. against the mainstream, both in science and in human affairs. They tend to be certain and often angry, even displaying very poor grammar, and nearly always making serious scientific errors. Don't be fooled by their claims to be sceptics. In nearly all cases this is just a front word for denial. While the senior deniers (I won't call them leaders) who are virtually never climate scientists, work in so-called think tanks funded by the fossil fuel and tobacco companies, millions of others have been persuaded by them.

 

Many deniers are now employed by one sub-global mega-media owner in Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the Australian, among many other outlets. Could this man be the main reason that civilization will be destroyed? Can anyone help him learn, or will the newly aware masses using the internet and community interaction eventually sap his power? 

 

 

Polar Bear

Photo: Jan Martin Will

 

Senior deniers appear to have low right brain capacity, and a materialistic mental set, a short-term view of the world and perhaps low empathy for their children and grandchildren. The right brain supports the immagination, creativity and integration. Deniers block out opportunities to learn climate science as they cannot face change. Real scientists must have a sceptical bent as part of their objectivity. The denier 'sceptics' have a habit of always being sceptical, except about their own efforts. Peter Stott et al’s paper (see References and Acknowledgements ) is a great example of balanced science, comparing the strengths and weaknesses of their own work. A critique is hardly necessary as they do it themselves. By the way, “et al” doesn’t mean that al Gore is one of the authors. It means there were a few or many other authors. 

 

Science First - the Latest Science

 

At the beginning we must study climate science rather that the change strategies, as the latter depend on the former. And because the latest science is almost always the most accurate, we must be up-to-date. This is a major problem for big governments. In contrast to the island nations and African governments who tend to be more up to date, G20 governments, excepting Brazil, are using science that is about five years old, seemingly as it requires less action, but possibly also because bureaucracy and the deniers' lobby hinder analysis. Far from being vilified, as some are doing, these poorer governments should be thanked for drawing the media attentive mass’s attention to 1.5 degrees, i.e. 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. In the graph below I have plotted the main temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations under discussion. The older science, notably some of that of the IPCC in 2007, suggested that average global temperature of 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels was safe, while more recent science suggests a lower figure. Some scientists have championed 0.5 degrees. We are now at about 0.8 degrees so in all probability we will have to try to go down again. This will be very difficult so it is certainly best not to go up in the first place. Given that at 0.8 degrees it has been estimated that 300,000 are dying annually from climate change due to global warming, it is only the blatantly immoral who do not question this temperature. 

 

Temperature - Carbon Dioxide Relationship 

You may have read of carbon dioxide concentrations associated with these temperatures: 450ppm with 2 degrees, and 300 ppm with 0.5 degrees. We are now at about 0.8 degrees and 387 ppm. The future associations are rough hypotheses.  Although the temperature aims are less uncertain than the CO2 concentrations, the problem is that they cannot be so clearly related to emissions. It takes a few years for these alternatives to be evaluated scientifically. In the end the evidence will tend to favour one or the other temperature or concentration, tending towards a scientific consensus. We can be fairly confident that the consensus temperature aim will tend to fall below 2 degrees. Most of the government pronouncements and discussion in the media ignore some of the best latest science, making strategies appear out-of-date, if not fatal. When mass media readers compare strategies based on 2 and 1.5 degrees or even 0.5 degrees without realizing the difference, confusion reigns. At the moment, post-Copenhagen, the combined declared strategies of all nations almost guarantee global warming eventually out of human control rising through 2 degrees possibly up to catastrophic six degrees above pre-industrial levels and beyond. Note that these temperatures are global averages. Towards the poles the rises are much greater and less near the equator. But what is important is the climate change and sea level intrusion that they lead to. 

 

Apart from carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gases (GHGs) include methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons (a type of halocarbon) and low level (tropospheric) ozone. Two others are perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. High level (stratospheric) ozone keeps out ultraviolet light if not holey. The concept of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) includes the influences of all these gases except ozone.

 

The Climate Changes

 

Global warming can cause changes that could be reversible and some that are essentially irreversible for hundreds if not thousands of years. For example, it is easier to reverse GHG concentrations than temperature and ice melt. This is made more ominous by the fact that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now and heat stored in the oceans will cause more atmospheric warming without our adding any more GHGs. Warming induced processes in geographical elements of the earth such as forests or ice sheets tend to reach tipping points in which the form of change alters and often quickens.  Some tipping points are reversible and some are not.

 

Eventually global warming and climate change could get out of human control through surface Earth system feedback. Although, nearly all of the warming over the last few decades is due to humans, and thus it is technically possible that we could stop it, at a small temperature range that is not yet well known, especially if emissions are reduced to some extent but not enough, feedback processes could become important. Feedback processes vary in importance and speed (Hansen et al, 2008). The first feedback that has long been occurring, and thus is regarded as fast, is that warming due to human pollution that causes the ocean temperature to rise thus causing more evaporation which produces more water vapour that warms the planet further. The second feedback, also fairly fast, is that warming is causing sea ice to melt which means less radiation is reflected back into space by the ice, thus causing more warming. The third feedback is slower but is more important (Lenton et al 2008) that warming leads to the degradation of tropical and temperate forests causing release of further carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These are called "positive" or amplifying feedbacks as warming results in more warming. Many other feedbacks can be found in the sub-page called Surface Earth System Feedbacks.

 

Learning from Earth History

 

Earth history is an important guide to the future as we find repeated evidence that GHGs are closely related to temperature and sea levels. But it is also known that small changes in the Earth's orbit around the Sun, and the tilt of its daily spin axis cause small changes is the location and seasonal distribution of the sunlight reaching Earth. These changes occur in regular cycles that explain the regular cycles of ice ages, but the changes are extremely small, far too small to explain the size of the ice sheets over North America and EurAsia and do not explain the global coverage of the ice ages. However, feedbacks caused mainly by carbon dioxide derived from the breakdown of natural biological matter and ice sheet reflection of sunlight, as well as water vapour, do explain the size and the coverage. Now however, humans are causing the rise in carbon dioxide and other GHGs that so far dominate these natural effects. If we let it go too far, however, nature will take over again. If we go back about 120,000 years to the last interglacial when the temperature was about 1 degree warmer than now, the sea level was 4-6 metres higher than today (Hansen, 2009).  See sub-page Emissions, Concentrations and Temperature.  

 

The main ice age cycles, in which major ice expansion and sea level rises and falls take place, occur about every 100,000 years. This can be seen for comparatively recent times back about 1 million years. If we study older sedimentary rocks further back in time such cycles are more difficult to distinguish but still occur. On top of these "short" cycles are imposed longer cycles of roughly 100 to 150 million years that are caused by continental drift or plate tectonics. When the continents start to abutt against each other the ocean sediment and some of the oceanic crust in folded and partly melted. As a result carbon dixide is emitted by volcanoes and similar vents. This causes long term warming and any ice near the poles is melted and sea levels rise, sometimes covering large areas of continents. Mountains are pushed up and begin to weather to soil and erode. This results in large river plains nearby on which swamp forests use up carbon dioxide and deposit plant matter that sinks to form peat, then brown coal, and perhaps black coal if it gets deep enough. Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolved in sea water at first raises ocean acidity but eventually over millions of years this carbon is used by microscopic floating plants (phytoplankton) and becomes more sediment, sometimes oil or gas. Bicarbonate ions (HCO3) that come mainly from the erosion of limestone, are taken by groundwater flow and rivers to the sea where they are used by organisms to form new limestone.  And so, as the carbon dioxide is used up, the Earth's surface cools again, less water vapour is formed by a cooling ocean and eventually cools so much that ice glaciers begin to form and reflect the sunlight so contributing further to cooling. In the Carboniferous and Permian periods about 300 million years ago the glaciers covered a large proportion of the Earth's land surface.

 

As well there is evidence for cosmic ray cycles of the order of 100-150 million years that appear to correlated slightly with the temperature cycles and thus it seemed could have helped initiate them through influence on clouds, along with plate tectonics. But recent studies of cosmic rays shows that they have virtually no influence on clouds. All the time the Sun has been heating up slightly as well as probably undergoing its small 11 year cycles, but over each long tectonic cycle more carbon dioxide tends to be buried in sediments than is outgassed by volcanoes and other vents, so over the long term the Earth so far is cooling. In the next billion years however the Sun will get the upper hand and we will be roasted and consumed by an expanding red star.

 

Thus we have seen two quite different causes and timings for climate change from which we can learn. At the moment however, humans are dominating nature by excavating and burning fossil fuels and limestone. If they/we do not stop this activity they/we will destroy themselves in a cataclism similar to that which has occured during some of the hottest times in Earth's history when methane was released by shallow sea sediments.

 

Going up and Down

 

Given that temperature, now at a rise of 0.8 degrees and 387 ppm, will inevitably rise more than 1 degree above pre-industrial levels and higher than 400 ppm CO2 before we stop the rise, we will have to try to not merely stop the rise, but lower at least concentration back to at least less than 387 ppm eventually reaching about 300 ppm, just above pre-industrial levels. Thus we have to not merely stop emitting GHGs, but take GHGs out of the atmosphere. As carbon dioxide is the main GHG that is long lasting, we must arrange to absorb massive amounts of this gas through biological and perhaps physico-chemical technological means. Because it will be very hard to lower the temperature, we must do all we can to stop the rise at 1.5 degrees. As well, we must pay much more attention to and reduce the short-term warming susbstances such as methane and black carbon soot.

 

Answering the Deniers

 

The deniers have challenged almost every idea in climate science and strategy, but have concentrated on two points. They claim that the Earth is no longer warming, and that if it is warming (note the contradiction) that it is due to natural causes. It is true that the period from the late 1990s to 2009 has plateaued a little in the warming trend according to UK data, but the USA's NASA data indicates a continuing warming more clearly (see graphs on webpage Basic Global Warming Information). Oscillations  have always been part of the warming trend. Moreover, this period has been the warmest decade since records began, very likely for 120,000 years since the height of the last warm period between the ice ages. According to science, warming since 1970 has been mainly human induced, and even the cooling from 1945 to 1970 was mainly due to human pollution in the form of very fine dust called aerosols mainly emitted by energy factories. Once this pollution was lessened in the ‘developed’ countries, the warming resumed. Ironically, such pollution from developing countries continues to cause a significant cooling effect. However, some warming since 1900 has been natural, due to a rise in solar radiation, just as some cooling has been natural. Some variation in the sun’s output has caused warming and cooling effects whereas violent volcanic eruptions of dust have resulted in temporary cooling effects. On the other hand, internal changes in the oceans cause most of the temperature oscillations such as the extreme high of 1998. These are only gradually being understood because of the difficulty of studying water bodies many kilometers deep. 

 

Non-CO2 GH Gases and Dusts

 

Another line of science (not denial) is challenging the idea that carbon dioxide is the dominant greenhouse gas in the short-term. Although undoubtedly carbon dioxide is very important in the long-term, several researchers have been emphasizing the part played by methane, black soot, low level ozone and other influences, especially in the short-term. A long discussion over the time period over which the gases should be assessed (as mentioned above) has recently been given new importance by ice research. Because earlier science indicated a relatively slow climatic deterioration, perhaps over 100 years, the influence of methane was assessed over this period, but more recent science, particularly studies of ice melting, has warned of the likelihood of quicker deterioration, over a few decades, so it has become more appropriate to assess methane over a shorter time period, thus making it more important. But this is controversial as the deterioration rate is disputed.

 

This and other aspects of the reappraisal of the influence of methane should lead to a new evaluation of strategies, putting more emphasis on reducing the use of livestock products, drainage of irrigated rice fields, and so on. We should move towards veganism, eating a little kangaroo meat, while not ignoring energy changes. But again, as with the temperature aims, major governments are either slow to understand or slow to react, probably partly because of the strength of the carbon dioxide concept, as most do not understand the CO2 equivalent idea  as well as the influence of the livestock and meat and milk processing corporations. I suggest that we should drop the term carbon dioxide equivalent and call it combined or integrated greenhouse gas concentration or some similar term. This combined influence figure is calculated by converting all the GHGs to "forcings" or influences higher than in pre-industrial times. Everyone should realize that this dispute is a normal part of science and government, not some victory for the deniers. It has long been realized that even within the pure biophysical research of academia, old well intrenched scientific theory dies hard as some of the older professors have an emotional attachment to their ideas. In this case we must insist they listen as it is a matter of life and death.

 

The Chinese or the USA

   

Although to Westerners and the poorest, the Chinese government may seem intransigent, the main problem is the US Republican Party and the fossil fuel, tobacco and other companies that finance it through bribery, known as donations. Mr. Obama is not at fault, as it is the Republicans that almost totally oppose any Democratic proposal to reduce emissions. Thankfully, a few Republican state governors support emission reduction. Is it that they are smarter or is it that they care more, or is that they do not have fossil fuels in their states? This Democratic-Republican divide on climate science and policy is relatively new as President Bush Snr. was reasonably open-minded. The Republicans appear to have mainly succumbed to denial fostered by "think tanks" financed by industry over the 20 years or so since then. (Denial is treated in IT'S THE LIFESTYLE, NOT THE SCIENCE the Copenhagen and After Blog and in its special sub-page Sceptics and Deniers)

 

Behaviour Change

 

Thus discussion of the exact form of emission reduction is seriously weakened by the belief of the denier corporations that their grandchildren will not suffer, if in fact they care at all about their grandchildren. In the case of methane, we can easily reduce our meat and milk intake, but we need globally coordinated governments to provide education and incentives to make it widespread. This website is emphasizing that our GHG emission behaviour should change before we manage to spread appropriate technology, unless a war footing is applied to industry, and products are rationed. We cannot be sure when climate change will get really serious and possibly eventually out of human control so we should act with precaution, and that means quickly and decisively. Three particular strategies are introduced here: the academic strategy, the hierarchical strategy and the people’s web strategy, explained in other sub-pages.  We must not simply reduce emissions as individuals and groups, but coordinate the effort globally as some governments are trying to do, and coordinate it globally through the WWW as this website is proposing.

 

Comparing Errors

 

A final point derived from Greg Craven: compare two futures. In the first, an error is made if the extreme deniers are right and the globe is not warming but we spend a lot on new forms of energy resulting in some loss of income and unemployment. In the second, an error is made if the scientists are right and the globe is warming, but that we do nothing new, and the temperature continues to rise until billions die and violence spreads. Which error would you rather risk? Moreover, adult education could result in populations understanding the value of job-time sharing, limiting the spread of unemployment. Certainly, if we take action on energy, meat and milk at least, many in the modern sectors will see their incomes decline, but if we do nothing, most of our descendants may be dead within a century. All readers must try in their own way to help overcome what the evidence suggests could be a catastrophe. If you do nothing and the ice sheets or the Amazon forest collapses, don’t look your children in the face. 

 

References 

 

James Hansen, 2009. Storms of My Grandchildren

Hansen et al., 2008. Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? Open Atmos Sc. J.

Tim Lenton et al., 2008. Tipping elemnets in the Earth's climate system. PNAS   

 

 

  Copyright © 2009 Michael Tuckson.  All Rights Reserved 

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Semi-Random Slogans

Invite a denier to lunch

Eat less meat every day

Form a small climate group

Inertia will kill us, twice

Holiday on bicycles

Learn how to plant and nurture trees

Drain your rice fields sometimes 

Auction caps 

Grow and store carbon 

Write to a newspaper in a denier region 

Help the employees, not the fossil fuel owners

Read a book, not a newspaper, on the bus

350 not 450

Study tropical forest protection

Why are most deniers men?

Carbon tax before cap and trade

Look for a home closer to work

Write a new page for this website

Oppose lobbying

Put a new slogan on your bicycle or bag every day 

Study the latest climate science first

No air-conditioning before lunchtime

Drink just a little cow milk

Study Earth's thermal inertia

Learn how to teach

Send parts of this website to a politician

Grow and store carbon in houses 

Organize exchanges with Asian universities 

Grow crops not livestock

Rationing is equitable

Study thermal inertia in buildings

Practice dialogue, not argument

Behaviour before technology

Make a bicycle path plan

Don't use concrete

Drive a much smaller car

Study the denier claims

1.5 not 2.0

Don't use trees for offsets

Work with a bilingual person 

Eat even less meat every day

Support better democracy

Do deniers care for their grandchildren? 

Paint your roof white

Oppose advertising by polluting companies

Consume less, save money

Form an international group 

Help a politician to learn

Making cement emits CO2.

Education must be global 

Grow and store carbon in the soil

Fans, not air-conditioning

Lobbying is bribery

Study growing algae

Improve the school curricula

You can't read driving a car

Find dated photos of glaciers

Study which companies bribe political parties 

How do you entice a denier to want to learn?

Share your job with an oil driller

Plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere

Have you tried Tahini dip?

What do deniers understand?

Dress less formally in the heat

Design a more tempting commuter bus

Get to know a denier's children

Pay tax to fund retraining

Less clothing, not fans

Eat kangaroo meat 

E-commute

Improve the university curricula

One is enough

Interview a climate scientist on video

Insulate your home

Open a wind turbine factory in a coal town

Study Earth feedback processes

300 not 350

Wheat is safer than rice

Take men's fashions up, and women's down

Use a condom in emergencies

Share some job-time

Protest forest destruction

Wear a cotton coat

Study tree plantations

Eat just a little cheese

Get to know a denier's grandchildren

Why do the rich want to grow?

Put on an extra jumper when its cold outside

Offer a new job to a coal miner

Adopt two

Join an NGO today

Political bribes, not donations

None is enough

Holiday close to home

Invest in a diverse plantation

Wear less in the heat

Talk to migrants about emailing home

Make compost

Promote eco-tourism for locals

Read more of this website

Ask a politician have they read James Hansen

Eat less cream

Jumpers are cheaper than gas

Arrange a climate debate

Build a thick-walled house

Study how to turn moderate deniers

Study fast growing trees

Hand out appropriate leaflets at railway stations

Study your local energy organization

Learn about the delights of veganism

Study Chinese

Practice walking

Shirts are enough in hot weather

Support rapid research on how to turn deniers

Try an IUD

Asians make blankets from cotton and kapok

Get to know your neighbours

Recycle jumpers and coats

Holiday by mass land transport

Drink red wine, not milk

Support rapid research on capturing CO2 from the air.

Hand out leaflets at bus stops

Men's legs are beautiful too

Talk to local government about recycling biological waste

Keep a stock of morning after pills

 

Adopt another one

When will the USA go metric?

Write and publish leaflets

Holiday on a sailing ship

Start a course on climate change and solutions

Exercise periodically when its cold

Farmers now support the Green party

Give a talk at the local school

Chocolate's great with soya cream

Climate crisis not climate change

Share a car with your neighbours

Study tipping points and irreversibility

Email government ministers

Form a climate group with your neighbours or friends

Read Climate Cover-Up

Study palaeo-climatology

Soon meat becomes less tempting

Improve your foreign language skills

Adopt a baby girl 

Write an article for your local newspaper

Read Storms of My Grandchildren (after reading some climate science such as on this website)

Take plastic packaging off at the shop

Climate emergency not climate crisis

Ask you government to make a good video on the climate emergency

Move your company to where your workers live

Invite your favourite denier to a vegan lunch

Ask the supermarket to turn off half the lights

Study carbon taxes in more than one nation

Join yours with other climate groups

Shop at dimly lit shops

Email people you know abroad

Ask a climatologist to explain the various! meanings of CO2e

Plant and nurture trees in your garden till its full

Learn about biochar

Study the bus routes in your town or city

Support James Hansen for the Nobel Prize for physics, peace or whatever.

Protest new oil exploration

Install a solar thermal hot water heater

Shop for food where the fridges have lids or doors

Plant 10 trees a month in neighbours' gardens and in parks

Ask your adult children what they think

Write a better letter to the newspapers

Organize a demonstration outside coal company offices.

Where are the Nobel prizes for Earth and social sciences?

Form a climate group at work

Give a talk at a school in a coal town

No children is best

Buy a glass of wine for a denier

Start an NGO

Support honest and intelligent politicians

Study short-term GHGs

Join a good political party

Give a talk at a school at an oil town

Study hire-purchase for solar panels

Stake out a coal energy factory

Don't export coal or oil

Work in a vulnerable area

Invest in geothermal

Live with a farmer family in the holidays and help them plant trees

Build a sailing ship

Give talks at the local town.

Hand out leaflets at another station

Video a debate

Move to a swinging seat in time for close elections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
 
 

 Michael Tuckson

The website author and publisher, December 2009.

 

Easy Summary

 

We must try to understand up-to-date climate science coming out over the last few years that warns of possible disaster. Ice shelves and sheets are melting much faster than before. Global temperatures are rising, with oscillations due to ocean oscillations. Natural causes are minor compared with pollution. This understanding must be spread by advanced adult education, especially among the powerful. As many readers as possible must spread understanding.

 

Denier leaders are funded by the fossil fuel, tobacco and similar corporations and/or are ideologues. Their arguments are always against, not considering pro and con, as with real science. They rarely call for better understanding, just attempt to confuse. None are climate scientists. Their motivation is salary and weak government, not salary and discovery. Either they do not care about their descendants or they do not understand the probable future.

 

We must put more emphasis on the short-term greenhouse influences such as methane. Carbon dixide must be captured from the atmosphere. Also we must lead with behaviour change before appropriate technology spreads. Birth control is important in some regions. Job-time sharing and retraining can reduce any unemployment resulting from mitigation measures. Mitigation must be coordinated globally by government and citizens in modern sectors. City pairing could be useful.