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Global Warming and Climate Change: What Do We Really Know?

by Larry Carley copyright 2021-10-01 updated 2022-06-01

Is it true or not? What do we really know about Global Warming and Climate Change?

People who deny Climate Change is real say it is a scam hyped by environmentalists and clean energy proponents who want to tax petroleum out of existence. On the opposite side of the issue are those who say the sky is falling and we have to act now before it is too late. Unfortunately, politics and conspiracy theories have gotten in the way of factual science.

Twelve Things We Know (Real Facts) About Global Warming and Climate Change:

  1. The Earth's climate has been changing since day one. So yes, climate change is real and ongoing. The gases in our atmosphere and the climate conditions that result are NOT stable and are constantly changing over time. Many factors play into this including solar activity, volcanic activity, shifts in ocean currents and atmospheric currents, photosynthesis (plants converting atmospheric CO2 into Oxygen), chemical reactivity (atmospheric CO2 and oxygen reacting with various elements, minerals and sea water) and human activity (burning fossil fuels for energy and transportation, clearing rain forests and industrial activity).
  2. geological CO2 and temperature changes

  3. The Earth's climate has undergone long cyclic periods of hot and cold (mostly cold) over eons of time. These Ice Age cycles in more recent geologic history have typically lasted about 100,000 years, with mini-Ice Ages and warming cycles within each larger cycle.

  4. The most recent mini-Ice Age that took place in the Northern Hemisphere started about 20,000 years ago, and ended about 11,000 years ago. So for much of recorded human history, we have enjoyed an unusually warm period that has been favorable to agriculture and the growth of our human civilization. That's the good news. The bad news is we don't know how long it will last, whether it will get hotter or colder, and what impact climate change will have on our lives.

  5. Although most of the warming-cooling cycles throughout geologic history (that goes back hundreds of millions of years) have occurred over very long periods of times (tens of thousands of years), some mini-Ice Ages have occurred rather suddenly.

  6. The last mini-Ice Age to hit Europe and North America 20,000 years ago happened over a period of only 10 to 20 years! The drastic climate changes it produced caused many plants and animals to go extinct, and forced many humans to migrate to warmer areas to survive.

  7. During that last mini-Ice Age, a glacier estimated to be 3,000 feet thick covered much of North America and the area where Chicago is now. That would be a covering of ice and snow more than twice the height of the tallest skyscrapers in Chicago. Image the effect if that happened today!

  8. CO2 is a global warming gas because it causes the atmosphere to retain heat. The concentration of CO2 in recent years has not only been rising but also accelerating at an alarming rate. In 2012, average global CO2 levels exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in recorded history. In 2019, peak CO2 levels exceeded 440 ppm. The last time it was that high was 3 to 5 million years ago! During the Age of the Dinosaurs 150 to 200 million years ago, scientists say the atmospheric concentration of CO2 was about 5 times higher than today. But the planet also had a much warmer and wetter climate then.

  9. In the 1,000 years that preceded the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, atmospheric carbon dioxide held steady at around 270 to 280 parts per million. As coal powered the growth of industrialization and transportation, CO2 levels began to creep up about 1 ppm per year. It continued to increase at that rate until the 1970s when it began to increase at an even faster rate, which scientists attribute to the exponential growth of the human population, energy consumption, industrialization, deforestation and vehicle usage. There has been no increase in volcanic activity or other natural sources of CO2 that would account for such a rapid rise in CO2 in the atmosphere. As a result, the global average temperature has increased by about 1.8°F from 1901 to 2016.

  10. historical CO2 levels

  11. The world population is currently around 7.7 BILLION people. The world population at the start of the Industrial Revolution in 1800 was only 1 billion, a number that took humanity 10,000 years to achieve. By 1930, the world population doubled to two billion, then three billion by 1960, then four billion by 1974, and five billion by 1987. Such an exponential growth rate is unsustainable. All of these people are leaving a HUGE carbon footprint on the planet.

  12. As the world has industrialized, more and more people who used to live in rural areas have moved to cities seeking jobs and opportunity. And as their standard of living has risen, they have been buying cars like crazy. Twenty years ago everybody in China rode bicycles. Today, China is the world's biggest market for auto sales, exceeding the U.S. and Europe. China now has over 300 million registered vehicles vs. 281 million in the U.S. The world car population has been doubling every 20 years since 1976. As a result of all this growth, the world vehicle population is now approaching ONE AND A HALF BILLION cars and trucks (1.42 billion to be exact as of 2018), and 99.97 percent of these burn gasoline or diesel fuel. As of 2018, there are only about 3.5 million electric vehicles worldwide . In the U.S., transportation accounts for about 28 percent of total CO2 emissions, while power generation also accounts for 28 percent.

  13. coal-fired power plants

  14. Coal-fired power plants continue to be a major source of man-made CO2. China has nearly 2,400 coal-fired power plants with more than 1,000 new plants planned for construction in the years ahead. India is next on the list with almost 600 coal-fired power plants, followed by Europe with 470. Currently, there are about 360 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. However, since 2010 nearly a third of these coal-fired plants have been shut down or converted to less expensive and cleaner burning natural gas (which produces only about one-fifth as much CO2 as coal when it is burned). The rapid growth of wind and solar power has also reduced the demand for coal.

  15. annual CO2 emissions by country

  16. Political agreements have been made to address the issue, but not everyone is onboard and some are reversing direction. The Paris Agreement of 2015 created a voluntary plan of action for governments around the world to reduce their use of fossil fuels to reduce CO2 emissions. The goal of the agreement was to keep global warming caused by man-made CO2 to less than 2 degrees C (about 4 degrees F) in the near future, with the eventual goal of stopping and stabilizing temperature increases. Although 197 nations signed the agreement (including the U.S. and China that together account for 40 percent of all global emissions), some including Russia, Turkey and Iran have not formally adopted the plan. Also, in 2018 President Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement citing the need for continued energy growth. Most saw the move as a political favor to his supporters in the fossil fuel industry.


So what conclusions can be made from this information?

It's obvious that human activity over the past 200 years, and especially the most recent 20 years has had and will continue to have a major impact on CO2 emissions, Global Warming and Climate Change.

Scientists have documented an increase in average global temperatures of around 1.5 degrees F in the past couple of years. This is a significant trend that is already having serious consequences.

More heat in the atmosphere means more energy and moisture in the atmosphere. This, in turn, means much more rain for some areas (those once in 500 year floods are now happening every few years!), more drought in other areas, more forest fires in the western U.S., and more (and stronger) tornadoes and hurricanes causing more deaths, injuries, destruction and financial loss from climate-related disasters. More heat in the atmosphere also means more melting of polar ice caps and a corresponding rise in worldwide sea levels. Glaciers have been melting and shrinking at an accelerating rate, with some disappearing entirely. Maybe you should rethink buying that beach front property in Florida because half the state may be underwater in the not too distant future!

IF anything can be done to mitigate Global Warming and Climate Change (and I'm not sure we can considering the number of people and vehicles on our planet, our dependence on fossil fuels, and the money and politics behind the fossil fuel industry) , we had better be doing it sooner rather than later.

Some say we may have already passed the tipping point and that anything we do individually or collectively going forward will be too little too late. I hope this is not true because I want my grandchildren and great grandchildren (and myself) to continue living in a world that is hospitable to human existence and civilization.

Reducing our reliance on coal-fired power plants by converting them to cleaner burning natural gas, or replacing them with wind, solar and yes nuclear power generation can reduce global CO2 emissions. Nuclear has its own drawbacks and risks, but it terms of CO2 it is a clean energy source.

Electric vehicles that get their power from clean or relatively clean sources is another step we can take to reduce CO2 emissions. Electric car battery technology has come a long way in recent years and continues to improve. Some of today's electric cars can drive over 300 miles on a single charge, and others are coming that will go much further than that. Electric car sales are also increasing, with over a million sold worldwide last year. More electric cars are now being sold in China than any other country. But until there is a significant shift away from the internal combustion engine to battery or fuel cell powered transportation, those 1.42 billion fossil fuel burning vehicles that are on the road now will continue to be a major source of CO2 (not to mention oxygen depletion, which itself could be an even more serious problem down the road!)

Stopping the destruction of tropical rain forests, smarter land use policies, reducing urban sprawl, making homes and buildings more energy efficient, changing vehicle usage patterns to increase public transportation options and vehicle ride sharing are additional changes that are being made to reduce our carbon footprint and CO2 emissions. Family planning to slow world population growth is also essential.

Finally, how about less hot air and B.S. from politicians who don't know what they are talking about? That would be a huge help!

Additional Food for Thought Regarding Global Warming

The Earth's atmosphere is about 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen and the rest is trace gases including argon, methane, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide (only 0.04 percent). The current average year-round temperature for our planet, according to NASA data, is 58.3 degrees F (which is up from 57 to 57.5 degrees from the 1940s through 1970s).

Because CO2 traps and holds heat, the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more heat is retained and the higher the average temperature of the planet.

The planet Venus, which is almost the same size as Earth but is closer to the Sun, has an atmosphere that is 96 percent carbon dioxide. This has created a runaway greenhouse effect that has raised the average temperature on Venus to 846 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead!

Methane Is An Even Greater Threat to Global Warming

Methane is an even greater threat to Global Warming because it traps and holds heat 21 times as much as carbon dioxide. Methane (natural gas) is a byproduct of oil drilling and production, organic material breaking down in landfills, and natural gas emissions from rice paddies, animal manure, cow farts, peat bogs, swamps, lakes and thawing permafrost. Although methane accounts for nearly 10 percent of all global greenhouse gases, it has been increasing, from 700 parts per billion (ppb) in 1750 to 1,818 ppb in 2011. To make things worse, methane can persist in the atmosphere for up to 100 years or more.

Click Here for more information from the EPA about greenhouse gases.

Jet Vapor Trails Are Also Warming The Planet

Jet aircraft contrails are also playing a role in Global Warming. When combustion byproducts (water vapor and CO2) exit a jet engine and hit the cold upper atmosphere, the water vapor condenses and forms a vapor trail cloud. The vapor trails produced by commercial jet traffic can trap enough heat to cause a localized increase in temperature. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, all air traffic was temporarily grounded for three days while officials sorted things out. Meterologists noted a drop in temperature during this period in areas near major air hubs due to the lack of vapor trails in the sky.

Click Here to read about what happened when jet traffic was temporarily grounded following 9/11.

Some scientists have also said that jet vapor trails alone may account for much of the global rise in temperatures since the 1970s!

March 2019

Trump Slashes Global Warming Research Budget

The Trump administration is cutting climate and ocean research programs as well as education initiatives, grants, and other activities throughout the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The administration is cutting NOAA’s budget to about $4.5 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2020, a drop of about 18 percent, nearly $1 billion, compared with the agency’s FY 2019 enacted budget.

The budget cuts will terminate most climate research programs within the agency’s Climate Program Office and eliminate climate competitive research funding. Among other cuts, the budget cuts would terminate the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the National Sea Grant College Program, and some Arctic research, decrease funding for ocean exploration and research efforts; and eliminate coastal zone management grants.

Trump also wants to kill any climate change research within NASA's budget. The 2019 budget of $1.78 billion is an almost 6.5 percent less from the $1.92 billion allocated in FY 2017. The reduced budget cuts kill five Earth science missions, including the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3), which would observe carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.

Instead of taking action to do more research on global warming and climate change, the Trump administration has decided to stick its head where the sun don't shine and pretend the problem does not exist. God help us!

November 2019

Average Global Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Yet Another Record High

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports that levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high. The impact of this continuing trend will be more climate change, higher temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems.

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017.

The increase in CO2 from 2017 to 2018 was very close to that observed from 2016 to 2017 and just above the average over the last decade. Global levels of CO2 crossed the symbolic and significant 400 parts per million benchmark in 2015. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the oceans for even longer.

Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide also surged by higher amounts than during the past decade, according to the WMO network which includes stations in the remote Arctic, mountain areas and tropical islands.

Since 1990, there has been a 43 percent increase in total "radiative forcing" (the warming effect on the climate) by long-lived greenhouse gases. CO2 accounts for about 80 percent of this, according to figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration quoted in the WMO Bulletin.

“There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, in greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere despite all the commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “We need to translate the commitments into action and increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of the mankind,” he said.

“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was 3-5 million years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3°C warmer, sea level was 10-20 meters higher than now,” said Mr Taalas.

Global emissions are not estimated to peak by 2030 but will continue to increase if current climate policies and promises are not met. We are falling behind the greenhouse gas targets that were set at the Paris Agreement. The difference between “where we are likely to be and where we need to be” is known as the emissions gap.

November 2019

U.N. Warns Climate Chaos is Coming if Nations Don't Drastically Reduce CO2 Emissions Now

The United Nations Environment Program issued a report that predicts the world will heat up another 3.2 degrees C (5.7 degrees F) within 10 years if carbon emissions are not curtailed five-fold. Current efforts to reduce carbon emissions are falling far short of what they have to be to limit average global temperatures increases to 1.5 degrees C by 2030. Scientists say if the temperature continues to rise beyond 1.5 degrees by 2030 there will be severe consequences for everyone.

To minimize the impact of global warming, greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut 7.6 percent a year for the next 10 years. But over the past decade, carbon dioxide emissions from the use of fossil fuels have risen on average by 1.5 percent a year. In 2018, the total reached 55 gigatonnes, a 2.0 percent increase over 2017.

The 20 wealthiest countries that make up the G20 are responsible for 78 percent of all emissions. But so far, only the EU, the UK, Italy and France have committed to long-term net zero targets. President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, and seven G20 members, including Australia, Brazil and Canada, need to take more action to meet their current carbon emission target. Russia, China and India also have to make more effort to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels.

China has the world's second largest economy and their greenhouse emissions continue to grow, although they appear to be on track to peak before 2030, which is the target date that China set for itself. China has invested heavily in renewable energy such as solar and wind, and it leads the world in electric vehicle infrastructure. However, the U.N. report says per capita emissions in China are now in the same range as the European Union due to the huge growth in China's car population.

Earth Day 2020

Earth Day April 22, 2020

New Documentary Planet of the Humans takes a Hard Look at the Green Movement

Is Clean Energy going to save the planet? Will power from wind and solar replace coal-fired power plants? What about burning biomass (trees) to generate energy?

Planet of the Humans by Jeff Gibbs and produced by Michael Moore takes a hard look at the Green Energy Movement and what is really going on behind the scenes. It turns out many so-called green energy alternatives are not so green after all!

I won't comment further other than to say it is a real eye-opener and thought-provoking examination of where we are heading as a species.

Spoiler Alert: COVID-19 is the least of our worries based on what this documentary reveals about our never-ending thirst for energy and consumption!

Here is the link if you want to watch it on YouTube (it's free):

Movie Link: Planet of the Humans

April 2021

Average Daily CO2 Levels Hit Another Record High

According to readings from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, the average daily CO2 readings for April are 419.17 ppm, compared to 416.67 a year ago.

The peak CO2 reading occurred on April 3 at 421 ppm, another all-time record high.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 slowed industrial output around the world, it did little to slow the steady climb in global CO2 levels. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere now is 50 percent higher than it was 200 years ago.

The global average for CO2 in 2020 was 412.5 ppm, with an increase of 2.6 ppm during the year.

June 2022

U.S. Supreme Court Rules EPA Can't Regulate Power Plant CO2 Emissions

In a 6-to-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the Environmental Protection Agency does NOT have the authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to regulate power plant carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing power plant CO2 emissions is one of the Biden administration goals for helping the United States achieve its carbon emission goals. Reducing carbon emissions from all sources is an essential component in trying to minimize Climate Change. SCOTUS said Congress will have to decide whether or not the EPA can set new emission standards for power plants.

This is BAD NEWS for the effort to slow or prevent global temperatures from rising in the years ahead. At the pace things are going, world measures to reduce carbon emissions are lagging way behind the initial goals set back in 2015 with the Paris Agreement. Russia's unwarranted invasion of Ukraine in February and the disruption that has caused in the delivery of natural gas and oil to Europe from Russia has forced Germany to reopen previously closed coal-fired power plants.

Carbon dioxide measured at NOAA's Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory peaked for 2022 at 421 parts per million in May, pushing the atmosphere further into territory not seen for millions of years. Some scientists fear it may already be too late to prevent global temperatures from rising excessively over the next decade. CO2 levels are now more than 50 percent higher than pre-industrial levels.

According to NOAA, CO2 levels before the Industrial Revolution were consistently around 280 ppm for almost 6,000 years of human civilization. Since then, humans have generated an estimated 1.5 trillion tons of CO2 pollution offsite link, much of which will continue to warm the atmosphere for thousands of years.

Climate change caused by global warming will alter weather patterns significantly, and likely cause massive damage to agriculture in many parts of the world. With a global population now approaching 8 BILLION people, food insecurity and starvation in much of the Third World will become a reality for up to a THIRD of the world's population. Grain shortages caused by Russia's war on Ukraine is already causing shortages of food in the Third World.

Consequently, the SCOTUS decision to hamstring efforts to reduce carbon emissions from power plants will have very real and serious consequences that go far beyond our own country.

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Related Links:

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Fourth National Climate Assessment by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Global Warming Update

Ocean Acidification Is A Big Problem: Here's Why

Rain Forests in Peril: What Needs To Be Done

Sierra Club Climate & Energy Reports

United Nations Climate Change Action

Additional Reading:

Saving Us, A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World By Katharine Hayhoe (copyright 2021)

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