Summary of Global Warming issues
by Bill Haaf, 4/26/06, Pocopson Township resident
The February 2007 issue of The Brandywine Valley Watershed news discussed Global Warming and some possible changes to our watershed. Since then two scientific reports from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change scientists (over 1000 scientists who work in this field had input into the report’s findings) have been issued. These have concluded with “very high confidence” that manmade emissions from burning of fuels such as gasoline, diesel, oil, coal, natural gas is causing the global climate to warm. The second report discussed potential impacts from this global warming. These include sea level rising, droughts, more frequent violent storms etc. These impacts will be felt in America as well as worldwide. There is cause for concern. This article summarizes these reports and addresses the skeptic’s arguments. The next newsletter will suggest possible actions that readers and businesses can take to help mitigate the risks.
The atmosphere is warming, more CO2 is entering the atmosphere as compared to just 20 yrs ago; this level of CO2 in the atmosphere has not been seen for over 100,000 yrs; the oceans have warmed up to a depth of 3 kilometers; the sea levels are rising at twice the rate of the early 1990s. Burning fossil fuels is the cause of the problem; the impact of sun activity or cosmic rays or other natural causes are not significant factors.
This change will not be uniform with some countries having more severe storms with more rain, and other regions suffering droughts. Most areas will have significant changes in rain or snowfall and warmer winters; probably straining the world’s fresh water resources. The southwest USA is expected to suffer more intense droughts and lack of water for crops & humans; The US coastal areas will see rising sea levels and more intense storms.
The question that arises is this what humans have experienced before? The answer is No. The world’s climate equilibrium is entering into an unknown area (at least for human history). This is a complex area to predict so a number of different computer models supported by ice core and satellite temperature readings, etc have been developed and validated against past changes. Thus the consensus of over a thousand scientists is that the potential impacts on our way of life will be very significant in the next 50 and definitely in the next 100 yrs.
Even more troubling is that the official report issued by the world wide climate scientists did not include the higher risks scenarios that some scientists believe could occur. While some models forecast such risks, the majority of scientists could not yet reach a consensus on how big these risks were. More data is being collected. Such risks include the physical collapse of the Greenland ice sheets and a rapid melting in the Antarctica. If these changes occurred, then the global sea levels would rise over 25 feet and permanently flood much of the existing coast line. Also not included in most predictions are the various “feedback” actions such as warming of the permafrost that in turn would release much more CO2 and methane; or that the change in ocean acidity would eliminate a major CO2 absorbing mechanism. Any or all of these would in turn lead to more global warming with even more sea level rising and even more intense storms.
While scientists are not sure what changes will occur in this part of the US, significant long-term change is expected and steps must be taken now to help mitigate the possible impacts. Records do show that since 1970, winters in the Northeast US (from Pa. through Maine) have already increased on average 1.3 degrees F per decade – that’s 4 degrees since 1970.
Molecules of carbon dioxide are formed whenever we heat or cool our homes, or cook or do the laundry or drive our vehicles. This gas become part of the atmosphere and part of the problem. This greenhouse gas will remain for over a hundred years trapping heat in the atmosphere raising both the climate and ocean temperature. The world needs to start to deal with this issue now, using existing technology and cut back on these emissions.
There are those who are global warming deniers and who do not believe the data from the scientists working in this field. However they do not present any scientific data to refute the conclusions. Some feel that the changes will be mild and thus good for Russia and Canada; or that Americans can adapt and manage the storms and droughts with technology; or that global warming is plot by environmentalist to take the focus away from the poor of the world. Some feel that we should “do more research”.
All of these denials lack any scientific data or credibility to support them. The IPCC scientists have assessed these in their reports and rejected them. Global warming will impact all of us AND the poor most of all. GW could cause mass immigrations as the poor can no longer grow crops or flee rising sea levels. More intense storms and flooding could disrupt our economy.
Research, while needed, should not delay actions now. Remember that actions now can be cost effective and will avoid the risk of uncontrolled climate changes that could be devastating. Lets look at the leading companies (DuPont, Dow, GE, Wal Mart, Unilever, BASF, BP , Conoco – Phillips, and many others) who have already set greenhouse gas reduction goals. They see the business risks and the need to effectively manage their futures.
The next next newsletter will address steps to take but remember – every person and every business will need to reduce energy use significantly and move away from coal and oil to sources that do not generate CO2 or move to energy sources that release significantly less CO2.
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