Climate Change Science
Inherent great danger
It is important to express what the problem is accurately. The issue is air/atmospheric pollution, and the impacts are much more than climate change.
We can figure out a lot about the danger of Greenhouse emissions without complex computer models.
The main sources of GHG emissions are already dangerous and have been damaging the environment and human health since the fossil fuel industrial revolution. Burning more fossil fuels causes more health damaging effects of fossil fuel air pollution.
Adding GHGs to the atmosphere to the
atmosphere is catastrophically dangerous
because the climate system is characterized
by enormous inertia and momentum.
The great momentum is because of heat stored in
the ocean and because CO2 emissions last in the
atmosphere thousands of year (100,000 years in
The carbon cycle we are taught about is a carbon
re-cycle that only stores carbon for a while, then
returns it to the atmosphere.
The carbon cycle can only truly sink carbon
(removing it from the carbon cycle) extremely
slowly- hence CO2 lasts many 1000s of years.
Another reason for momentum and catastrophic
danger is that many chain reactions are set
in motion of many interacting reinforcing impacts
and many feedbacks.
Taken together greenhouse emissions warm and
energize the lower atmosphere causing global
warming, climate change (disruption), extreme
weather events, ocean acidification (on top of
ocean warming), and amplifying feedbacks.
CLIMATE EMERGENCY INSTITUTE
The Health and Human Rights Approach to Climate Change
2013 Stanford research.
The rate of climate change is 10 X faster than past 65 million years. On today's high emissions scenario it will be 50-100 faster by 2100
IPCC AR5 Heat added to the planet from GHG emissions
In science terms we have the terminology of the issue poorly expressed.
The issue is ATMOSPHERIC GREENHOUSE GAS POLLUTION
Mainly caused by FOSSIL FUEL POLLUTION (of air water and atmosphere)
This results in deadly air pollution that is a huge factor in deaths from many causes.It is deadly to the biosphere CLIMATE SYSTEM DISRUPTION
and OCEAN DISRUPTION acidification (CO2)+heating+ deoxygenation
BC Soot The greenhouse particulate aerosol emission black carbon soot has now been found to be 2nd to CO2 in emissions global warming
Radiatve (heat) forcing
by emissions IPCC AR5
Let's start with the sources of the greenhouse
emissions. They fall into two main general
categories- industrial age energy production
and industrial age food production. The
big three GFHGs are classified as long lived
GHGs, due to their long atmospheric lifetime
It is more than significant that these are also the two main general sources of our industrial
age consumer culture chronic degenerative diseases and death, like cancers, diabetes
and cardiovascular disease. Fossil air pollution is well known as a cause and aggravation
of asthma and chronic respiratory disease.
There are three main greenhouse gases naturally produced by planet Earth that are
the planet's thermostat, swinging the climate in and out of ice ages and warm inter-glacials.
Right now we are at the top of a warm period and normally would be cooling off on
the way to an ice age.
Now it just so happens that the main greenhouse emissions produced by
our fossil fuel industrial age are the exact same three greenhouse gases
- carbon dioxide (CO2) methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
We emit several others as well constantly, in smaller amounts.
Then consider that we intentionally try to burn the most fossil fuels that we
can to constantly increase our energy fossil fuel energy output, which we call
'economic growth'. It has to constantly increase out global CO2 emissions,
which has to constantly increase radiative forcing (planetary heating and
And we are doing this at the peak of a warm period.
The constant emission of several long lasting (in the atmosphere) powerful
global warming greenhouse gases would seem to be inherently highly dangerous.
The reason is because they are long lasting they all have to accumulate in the
atmosphere so long as they being constantly emitted, and it would have to take
a very long time after stopping emissions for their concentration in the
atmosphere to drop.
We know they are very powerful because they are 'trace' gases existing in tiny concentrations of parts per million and parts per billion.
Even so they make the difference between a habitable planet and a frozen lifeless planet.
Then on top of that there is another big reason.
Climate change science is all about feedbacks.
Dangerous climate change is all about +ve amplifying feedbacks.
It is multiple amplifying feedbacks that can lead to runaway global climate
change AND ocean acidification
1. Fast FB There are +ve and -ve fast feedbacks that act almost immediately
the climate system is forced (warmed heated). The largest of these amplifying feedbacks is increasing water vapor (a GHG) which increases with warming.
2. Slow FB There are very large sources of slow feedbacks that take significant amount of warming to respond. These are loss of ice sheet albedo cooling and planetary emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) - both in response to global warming.
Catastrophic climate system danger
The greatest global warming danger is all about positive amplifying feedbacks.
Forcing the climate system is inherently catastrophically dangerous because many very large positive amplifying feedbacks predominate.
Climate system inertia and momentum
A most important feature of the climate system which makes forcing with constant GHG emissions is its great inertia, and therefore great momentum when it responds to forcing.
The science of the greenhouse emissions is of course fundamental to the science of global climate change.
I am using the term GH emissions, because black carbon (BC) or soot has been found to be possibly second only to CO2 in warming effect.
o GHG emissions cause global warming - average increase in the surface temperature.
o Global radiative forcing (heating) is the best indicator of global change- includes all heat gone into the oceans and into melting snow and ice,
o Global warming cases climate change
o Industrial GHG emissions add heat AND energy to the lower atmosphere, warming and energizing it.
o Global warming
o Increased energy and water vapor lead to torrential rains and floods
o Atmospheric trace gases - so very powerful greenhouse warming agents.
o (r)Radiate heat in the lower atmosphere warming the surface of Earth
o Long lasting (in the atmosphere) - especially CO2 and nitrous oxide (N2)
o A large proportion of CO2 lasts 1000 years -causing a very long lag from de-carbonizing world energy to atmospheric CO2 stabilization
o Persistent (in the atmosphere) because of long life times - takes stopping all industrial emissions and hundreds of years to stabilize
o Cumulative - a small addition or any constant addition of long lasting GHGs will build up the atmospheric concentration
o GHG emissions are constantly produced by fossil fuel energized industrial manufacturing and services
The World Ocean
The largest and important component of the climate system is the World Ocean (all the oceans).
o Atmospheric CO2 emissions cause ocean acidification
o The Ocean causes a lag (delay) from greenhouse emission (all GHGs) to a steady average surface temperature increase
o The Ocean gives up heat very slowly - causing a long lag from stopping emissions to global temperature stabilization- this is most of the enormous inertia (then momentum) of the climate system.
o There is great inertia to causing global climate change and great inertia to stop climate change
o The Ocean heat lag from emissions to surface warming takes 30-50 years and the heat is slowly given up to the surface for many 100s of years.
o Global warming lasts 1000s of year because of the ocean heat lag and CO2 persistence
Climate Emergency Science – Greenhouse Gas Pollution
The three most important greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for global temperature control of the planet are also the three greenhouse gases that our modern industrial civilization emits in vast amounts into the atmosphere.
They are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O).
The scientists say that carbon dioxide and methane are ' the thermostat’ of the planet, which is clear from the ice core data.
It looks like nitrous oxide is also involved in the planetary thermostat.
Methane's rise and fall matches the temperature rise and fall the closest.
The fact that they are all 'lasting gases' (IPCC calls these 3 main GHGs long lasting) or persistent in the atmosphere makes them more dangerous because they are cumulative in the atmosphere over time, so long as they are emitted.
CO2 is the most persistent. A simple climate model shows twenty per cent of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere lasts for 1000 years. Nitrous oxide emitted will last for at least 100 years. They are therefore for extremely persistent and cumulative.
The fact is that by the nature of their industrial sources for goods and services, they are constantly emitted - making them even more dangerous.
They are also all 'trace gases' present in the atmosphere at minute concentrations. Carbon dioxide is present in parts per million parts of (ppm). The other two gases are present in even lower concentrations - parts per billion. We know that without these tiny trace concentrations of greenhouse gases the planet would be 30 degrees C cooler than it is and would support no life. Therefore these three greenhouse gases are extremely powerful global warming agents. This of course makes them more dangerous still.
We have therefore proven by the basic science of the greenhouse gases and simple logic that constantly emitting them is extremely dangerous.
Of course the gases are not inherently dangerous so long as they are in a stable safe atmospheric concentration; we need them in the right amount in the atmosphere to survive. It is the industrial services and activities that constantly emit the GHGs. that is the great danger.
There have been natural large increases in atmospheric GHGs that have resulted in extinction events wiping out most of life. We know an increase in CO2 and methane has been behind these massive extinctions.
Each greenhouse gas has a particular quality that increases the danger of its emission.
CO2 Carbon dioxide is regarded as lasting in the atmosphere for 100 years. However, it is extremely persistent because 20% of emissions last in the atmosphere for 1000 (one thousand) years.
CH4 Methane lasts in the atmosphere for 12 years, but the emissions of methane carry on global warming longer than 12 years. This is because methane disappears over 12 years because it is converted to other greenhouse gases, notably water vapor and carbon dioxide.
Another dangerous aspect of methane emission, which is unique to methane, is that more methane is poured into the atmosphere the longer subsequent emissions last in the atmosphere. Methane is an extremely potent global warming gas. Its global warming effect (global warming potential) is 100 times that of carbon dioxide for 10 years after emission and 70 times that of carbon dioxide for 20 years after its emission.
N2O Nitrous oxide is extremely persistent in the atmosphere lasting at least 100 years. Over this period of time its global warming effect is 300 times that of carbon dioxide.
These are the three main global warming greenhouse gases being constantly emitted by fossil fuel industrialized civilization. Industrial civilization emits other greenhouse gases too.
These are ground level (tropospheric) ozone and a long list of human-made chemicals, most of which are halocarbons.
Trop O3 Ground level ozone is a result of fossil fuel air pollution. It is formed by a chemical reaction in the air catalyzed by heat and sunlight, and therefore its concentration increases with global warming. It is toxic to plant health as well as to human health. As a result, the increased concentration of ground-level ozone with global warming will damage agricultural crops. It will also reduce the capacity of planetary vegetation to take up carbon dioxide from the air, and this is projected to constitute a significant carbon feedback (by which global warming gives rise to more warming).
HaloCs Halocarbons Although the human made greenhouse-gas industrial chemicals are present in the atmosphere at the smallest concentration of all greenhouse gases, they include the most potent global warming and the longest lasting of all greenhouse gases.
Industrial emissions of all long lasting greenhouse gases must stop because of the particular dangerous qualities of each, as well as their accumulative property in general.
BC Black carbon (soot) is a particulate (not a gas) that is a global warming emission. It warms the planet because the black particles absorb heat very well. Additionally soot is transported to the Arctic where it reduces the cooling solar energy reflecting property (albedo) of snow and ice, thereby giving rise to more global warming.
Recent science indicates its total global warming effect is second only to CO2.
The science makes it clear that constantly increasing atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse pollution is inherently catastrophically dangerous to all future life (land and oceans). The envtal health issue is air and atmospheric POLLUTION, both causing death and disease.
However the science is based mainly on computer models which do not account for the very worst effects because they are 'tuned to the modern climate system' (NRC 2011 summary) These include abrupt changes, tipping points, failure of land and ocean (increased) carbon sinks, large planetary sources of amplifying feed-backs and increased climate sensitivity with degree of warming and time. They do not account for combined additive/synergistic final effects and the assessment models do not project impacts beyond 2100. The assessment application of the models fail to account for risk, because while all projections have wide ranges of results only the mean is not applied, not the worse/worst case.
Aerosols (atmospheric suspended particles)
Warming air pollution
Cooling air pollution
Stopping fossil fuels will stop this cooling, boosting the warming (unmasking the full hidden warming, estimated at up to an extyra 1.1C. This will increase prcipitation and extreme weather more.
Jan 2018 Climate Impacts From a Removal of Anthropogenic
The IPCC Working Group covers the science
IPCC WG1 SPM Summary for Policy Makers