Climate Conversations : Climate Change

Clyde Burnett, Peak to Peak.  California Governor Jerry Brown says, “Climate Change is a slow-moving disaster”. It includes episodes of destruction, personal hardships, and costly adaptation. Recently, California has suffered the loss of 42 people, 6,900 homes, and 3,000 vehicles in over 210,000 acres of destruction by wildfires. Wide areas of Northern California were warned of extremely hazardous air quality for many days. The fires in Napa and Santa Rosa destroyed entire areas of small businesses, homes and large hotels. I find the Weather Channel interviews relating to California wildfires, especially of retired and incapacitated citizens, emotional beyond objective science.


Are we guilty of contributing? Our United Power is using energy from three solar farms to our northeast, but it still uses 45% coal, 22% natural gas, and 5% local renewable-mostly solar.


Still, we have announcements of the positive trend to renewables especially in China and even the US, despite the stupid leadership of our Federal Congress and Administration.


The climate denier politicians will argue that we have always had floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. But these are extreme! Science provides clear information on the CO2 contribution to the atmospheric greenhouse trapping that produces the global warming that leads to our planet’s response with extreme weather. The Arctic is warmer, mid-latitude air masses are warmer and larger, with sluggish weather systems guided by a northward shift in a slower jet stream. Mid-latitude warmth is in part due to the stronger Hadley Cell, identified nearly 200 years ago. This is an upward condensation in the tropics leading to warm dry subsidence of high pressure in mid-latitudes.


Then we have the complicated feedback effects: Evaporation from oceans on 70% of Earth increases water vapor greenhouse trapping that warms the oceans that increases evaporation, etc. The human-caused additional CO2 trapping warms even more, to continue feedback. Warmer air can hold more water vapor that can trap more heat, so there is less nighttime cooling, yielding average warmer air. Drier forests are vulnerable to more wildfire resulting in costly damage and adaptation. We have more CO2 with more trapping with warmer air, and with fewer trees we have more CO2. Recall my Feb 2015 column: CO2 has an atmospheric lifetime of centuries. Get used to it!


There have been warnings with little or no effect. There was a lesson at La Jolla to student Al Gore from Roger Revelle over 60 years ago warning of our civilization’s experiment with increasing CO2, and then 20 years ago Jim Hansen’s warning to Congress. There have been other communications: there was a Forrest Whitman column interview on June 2006 in the Mountain-Ear with yours truly at Fritz Peak observatory about global warming. Then a later Fritz Peak interview announcing this local author’s 2007 book signing at Blue Owl. That was the first book, “The Greenhouse Effect- a Legacy”, which was followed by “The Family Guide to Disruptive Climate Change” and “Nature’s Greenhouse” that can be found in local libraries and at Another 2007 publication of a book contributed to a Nobel Prize: “An Inconvenient Truth” and its sequel, “Our Choice”. There was also my column. “Global Warming and Climate Change” for the Newsletter of the Friends of Loxahatchee on the eastern edge of the Everglades, and the keynote address at their 2013 annual meeting “Climate Change Science and Florida Climate Adaptation”.


We now have an EPA plan that is a flagrant departure from today’s environmental science. It is particularly ridiculous in the face of today’s evidence of our planet’s response to human-caused enhanced atmospheric heat trapping. Individuals in the Administration, Congress, and electorate who support this plan have a lack of understanding of scientific logic or appreciation of the ugly ramifications of such a policy.