Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Higher emissions scenarios are a certainty for Climate Change

 

One of the things that becomes crystal clear when you read studies about the possible scenarios that Climate Change will bring to our Rochester, NY region (or any region for that matter) is that the higher emissions scenarios are the ones that going to happen. Not the lower emissions scenarios. Take this study for example:

Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009) “The report summarizes the science and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. It focuses on climate change impacts in different regions of the U.S. and on various aspects of society and the economy such as energy, water, agriculture, and health. It’s also a report written in plain language, with the goal of better informing public and private decision making at all levels.” United States Global Change Research Program

There are numerous graphs of what the impacts of Climate Change will be on Water Resources, Transportation, Ecosystems, Agriculture, Society, Human Health, Energy and they show what a particular region will look like in at the end of this century if there is a dramatic change in human behavior (lower emissions scenarios) and if things go on as they are (higher emission scenarios). They are computer projections models based on the best information possible at this time. They are not hysterical Chicken Little ravings from a group seized by an ever-present threat with the goal of undermining the existing power structure—as some of the major non-news outlets suggest. They are government studies based on the work of a lot of experts.

Basically, they say that in the lower emissions scenario where we take stock of our situation and make dramatic cutbacks in greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere things are going to get hot; if we go on as we are they are going to get really, really hot. Already, “Since 1970, the annual average temperature in the Northeast has increased by 2°F, with winter temperatures rising twice this much.” (Global Climate Change Impacts in the US (2009) pg.107) It’s a long report based on a lot of studies, you really ought to read it—those who are responsible for adapting and mitigating the effects of Climate Change around the country are doing so.

Why it’s inevitable that the highest emissions scenarios will occur is that there is nothing that indicates that it won’t. It’s inevitable in the way that if you are speeding down the highway and there’s a sharp turn coming right up and your brakes fail, there’s nothing to suggest that your car will just slow down and make the turn. It’s a matter of inertia. There’s nothing to suggest that a large proportion of our citizens will make the massive kind of changes towards renewable energy and conservation that will be needed to stop our greenhouse gas emissions from soaring. Mostly, folks around here are fighting renewable energy like wind farms tooth and nail. We are now at 395 parts per million molecules (ppm) of carbon dioxide, when 350ppm is the suggested concentration. What’s significant about 350ppm? Check this out: “350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.” from 350 Science | 350.org

Unless a vast majority of our public makes immediate changes in their behavior to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases there is going to be a very hot future. And, there’s absolutely no indication at all that these kinds of changes are going to happen. In fact, we’re going backwards:

Climate Change: Public Skeptical, Scientists Sure : NPR The American public is less likely to believe in global warming than it was just five years ago. Yet, paradoxically, scientists are more confident than ever that climate change is real and caused largely by human activities. Something a bit strange is happening with public opinion and climate change. Anthony Leiserowitz, who directs the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, delved into this in a recent poll. He not only asked citizens what they thought of climate change, he also asked them to estimate how climate scientists feel about global warming.  (June 21, 2011) NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR

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