CLIMATE SCIENCE LITE
CLIMATE SCIENCE LITE     

If you really love the science.

Here's an online math modeling tool from the University of Chicago that allows changes that effect radiative energy balance for the earth to be demonstrated.

  • As a demonstration, first click on "RRTM" to go to the "Full-Spectrum Light in the Atmosphere" calculator. Behind what you see on the screen are the maths that take into account all that's been discussed here about radiative energy balance on earth. 
  • You'll see input data on the left, and a graph showing blue and gold arrows, with the gold modeling solar radiation and the blue infrared radiation and the down arrow modeling incoming and the up, outgoing. Above both the table of data and the graph is the conclusion that under these inputs, "If the Earth has these properties...then it loses as much energy as it gains".
  • If we make one change, from 400ppm to 800ppm in the "CO2 (ppm)" field, and hit return, the legend at the top changes to "...then it gains energy at a rate of 4 W/m2" indicating that the energy balance with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has tipped to allowing less energy out, resulting in warming. 
  • If we now change "Surface Temp(K)" from 284.5°K to 287.2°K, (subtract 272.15° to convert to Celsius) the calculations returns to "If the Earth has these properties...then it loses as much energy as it gains", indicating that the earth will warm 2.7°C (X1.8 or 4.86°F) to restore energy balance if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration doubles from 400ppm.  

Here's a good description of how solar energy is distributed over all of earth based on seasons and latitude.  

 

How photosynthesis, plant respiration and transpiration works. 

 

The science of allocating resources is economics. Here's a presentation on the economics of energy. 

 

Among the consequences of global warming are rising sea levels. They well could be the most expensive to adapt to, but they are among the hardest to predict. Miami as only one example of cities at risk, has begun the process of planning that adaptation. We have always known that on earth it's warm at the equator and frozen at the poles. What varies is the timing and latitude of the freezing point. There is some indication that the warming so far has tipped the climate away from ice and snow at the poles. If that is true, sea level rise becomes by far our biggest adaptation challenge. 

 

Of course the root cause of what we are facing is too many people consuming too many resources each, compared to the capacity of our only planet. Certainly some of that, like longer healthier lives is good, but to judge the rest we have to consider all of their costs, the full impact. 

 

We know all of this science. We can predict the overwhelming consequences and the cost that reality will impose on all of us. But, we under react and with no sense of urgency. Why?

 

It seems to me for two reasons. The truth that we now know is inconvenient. And, many large corporations are threatened. Let's take these two one at a time.

 

Anthropogenic global warming is extremely inconvenient. The truth of it imposes un-affordable consequences for merely continuing down the present path. It requires change from what is comfortable, familiar, safe, known, doable and already in place. There is nothing at all to recommend it except that Pandora's box is already open. Not changing is un-affordable, changing only very costly. 

 

While to tax payers and consumers and most corporations global warming is inconvenient and expensive, for those in, or invested in, the fossil fuel business it is catastrophic. Millions of jobs gone, trillions of dollars of value rendered worthless. People who know no other skills out on the street. A huge retraining bill affecting all of us. The casualties of a war that nobody wants. 

 

Those in fossil fuel businesses follow the same single rule as all corporations. Maximize profit for the shareholders. That is their legal obligation. What does that require of them? As technology offers no real alternatives what they are left with is advertising. The mainstay strategy of modern business. But even that breaks down into three types. 

 

First, product advertising. The selling of things that require fossil fuels like gasoline powered automobiles for instance. Every one put on the road is an almost guaranteed market for fossil fuels for many years. Or gas/oil furnaces. Or planes and ships. 

 

Then there is culture creation. The use of 100 years of practice in the art of brand marketing.  The creation of culture that values what you are selling. Including the culture of resisting change or mistrusting science and/or government.

 

Finally political advertising. Many people miss the point that each political campaign doesn't set out with a budget. Their only plan is to raise as much as possible and spend it all. So whatever donors are willing to offer to support their agendas, is part of the arms races for each office.  Invariably the best funded candidate wins. 

 

For those who rage at this news, there may be an appropriate analogy with going to the Dr and getting told that tests unequivocally indicate cancer, recovery from which does not have favorable odds. They say that rage is part of grief and having to let go of life certainly entitles one to grieving. 

 

When the rage is over however those who can, do what has to be done. That's what got us this far.

 

"Futures" talks about the various scenarios that we could choose among to bequeath to our progeny. "Choices" outlines some of the alternatives that we can decide among.

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Peter Zuris

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