More on our warming globe
July 18, 2005
Recently there were letters debating the science supporting global warming. I thought I would share some additional information.Russ Andrews in the Aspen Daily News criticizes the paper for supporting the “thesis that human caused carbon dioxide is the primary cause of global warming.” There has been considerable coverage in the national press about a lack of consensus on global warming. What the media often neglects to clarify is that there is unprecedented scientific consensus that the emission of human caused carbon dioxide is the primary cause of global warming. This consensus includes the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Academies of Science from countries leading the research on global warming, and the Bush Administration. The questions that still remain are exactly what impacts global warming will have on our environment and quality of life.Mr. Andrews goes on to quiz the public on what percentage of our atmosphere is comprised of carbon dioxide and what percentage of that carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is caused by humans. I believe this tactic to be misleading. Mr. Andrews is implying that carbon dioxide, especially that which is caused by humans, is insignificant. He didn’t mention that the current carbon dioxide level is the highest it’s been in over 420,000 years. As an analogy, think of pouring water into a funnel. If you pour at the same rate that water exits the funnel, then you could say the system is in a state of equilibrium. This represents how nature has historically been able to manage carbon dioxide. However, if you pour faster, the funnel will overflow. This overflow represents the carbon dioxide caused by humans that is responsible for overwhelming the atmosphere and causing global warming. Mike Mason in a letter to The Aspen Times suggests that some gases such as sulphated aerosols may have a net cooling affect on the climate. It is true that they do have a cooling affect, but not nearly enough to offset the warming from other pollutants. The fact is recent evaluations of past climate computer models show that past predictions of global warming are very closely mirroring actual changes to our climate. In fact if anything, they have been a bit conservative.Mr. Mason also suggests that solar activity may be responsible for global warming. Here he is correct again; however, the IPCC already considers solar irradiance – in fact it has measured it from space since the late 1970s. It’s important, but not as important as other factors, such as roughly a 30-percent increase in carbon dioxide. Thankfully, Mr. Mason does recognize the geopolitical advantages of renewable energy and energy independence. There are a few different ways to reduce our carbon emissions and therefore reduce the effects of global warming, but energy and resource efficiency – getting more GDP out of less energy – is not only the most cost-effective option, but also provides the best option for improving our national security.For more information on the subject, please contact me through http://www.aspenglobalwarming.com. Dan Richardson is the global warming project manager for the City of Aspen.
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