The Center for Alternative Technology in Britain released a report that says Britain could reduce their carbon emissions to net zero by 2030. It means we don’t need to rely on technology that hasn’t been developed. I hope it gets good publicity and maybe the U.S. can see what options are really available.
The subtitle for this book is The Human Cost of Climate Change. It paints a scary picture of what the world will look like in fifty years and a hundred years. It also makes a compelling argument for why we can’t afford to ignore what is happening. The book assumes that there will be a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature by 2100. This is on the low end of the temperature rise that can be expected. It’s smart in that it allows the author to avoid being considered too alarmist and it turns out even a 2 degree rise would be horrific. I think everyone should read this book. Rather than write a true review, I would like to highlight some of the author’s major points.
I knew that the Industrial Revolution was the beginning of humanity’s love affair with releasing greenhouse gases (GHGs, the most important of which is carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere. What I didn’t realize was that the Earth didn’t start warming immediately. It wasn’t until the 197os and 80s that it started and it started slowly. This delay means that even if we stop releasing GHGs entirely right now the Earth would still warm for a while.
One of the major human impacts of climate change will be the displacement of people. People will be forced out of their homes for a variety of reasons; rising oceans will force people away from the coast, higher temperatures will cause droughts and widening deserts, glaciers melting will cause floods in one season and droughts in another. Glaciers store water and release it into rivers as they melt. Melting too fast or disappearing and melting not at all creates floods, droughts and then a lack of water. Hurricanes and other major weather events will get worse because warm ocean water fuels hurricanes. These displaced people will live in refugee camps and overcrowded cities that will have poor sanitary conditions and people packed together breed disease.
The politics involved in global warming are complicated to say the least. But certain things are relatively clear. Rivers don’t pay attention to political boundaries and the need for water will cause conflict. For example, Turkey puts a dam on the Euphrates River and Syria and Iraq have a lot less water to work with. Tens of thousands and maybe millions of people moving to other countries when their countries are no longer habitable will also cause political tension.
What you don’t want to know: There are island nations, including the Maldives and Tuvalu, who will disappear under the sea even if we start cutting GHG emissions right now. “The level of GHGs today is higher than at any point in at least 650,000 years and is currently rising more than fifty times as fast as what would be caused by natural fluctuations.” “The best information we have from still-earlier periods suggests that you would have to go back at least 15 million years to find another time with concentration levels [of CO2] as high as today’s. During that period, temperatures were much warmer than they are today, sea levels were 20 to 35 meters higher, and no permanent ice cap existed in the Arctic.” “Every year, a part of Nigeria about the size of Rhode Island turns to desert. Across the continent, the Sahara is spreading southward at a rate of more than three miles a year.” “Between the mid-1970s and the year 2000, for example, climate change caused the annual loss of more than 150,000 lives….”
I recently read Climate Myths by John J. Berger. I was hoping to learn more about the science of climate change and what, if any, controversies still exist in the scientific community. Perhaps my expectations were faulty, but I was sorely disappointed by the book. The first (and very significant) portion of the book is dedicated to the various organizations that have gone out of their way to dispute climate change and how serious it is. He mentions organizations that don’t exist anymore, which may be interested to a researcher but seem to have no relevance for me. What was helpful was his discussion of certain more prominent climate deniers and why their credentials make them less credible than climate scientists who all agree on global warming and its impacts. However, I didn’t like how far he goes in disparaging some of the organizations, even comparing them to Joseph McCarthy and the anti-communism in the 1950s.
I was disheartened to learn about how the media has helped these organizations and climate deniers by giving them as much air time as the thousands of scientists who agree on the gravity of global warming. One of Berger’s examples was The Wall Street Journal, and here is an article I found: No Need to Panic About Global Warming. If you look at the sixteen scientists who signed the articles very few, if any, are on the cutting edge of climate science.
Another reason for my reading the book was to feel more prepared to refute in conversation those who might be on the fence about global warming. The second (and much shorter) part of the book is helpful for that. He goes through the various ‘myths’ and why they are flawed. I was very glad to find out about the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Cimate Change (IPCC) that operates under the U.N. American politics being what they are, this seems like a good place to point people.
I hope to find books that I feel more ready to recommend. This one is helpful only if you’re specifically interested in the organizations (past and present) who have made enough of American doubt climate change so that politicians are unable to make any progress.