Climate Change and Political Will

The following post was printed (in nearly the same form as below) as a Letter to Editor in The Daily Gazette on Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

The members of Schenectady Torch Club got a sober reminder last Thursday night (March 8, 2012) about the precarious nature of the earth’s climate from Dr. Ryan Torn of the University at Albany, SUNY.  Dr. Torn, an atmospheric scientist, carefully explained the various forces that determine the earth’s climate.  He clarified the causes of dominant air and ocean currents, their variability from season to season and around the globe, and the fact that small changes in these forces can make a large difference in weather patterns.  Dr. Torn emphasized the science of what we know about these forces and how they affect the overall budget of energy the earth receives from the sun.

It became clear that the greenhouse gases (such as CO2 and hydrocarbons such as methane) being released into the atmosphere starting with the industrial age are helping trap some of the heat that would have escaped to space.  However, the increase in the earth’s average surface temperature accounts only for a fraction of this heat.  The rest of the heat is being trapped in the oceans and are released only very slowly.  Thus, if human beings stopped today to release any more greenhouse gases, the earth’s average surface temperature would continue to increase for many more years.

Despite these established facts which are accepted by over 95% of scientists, forces in our culture keep us from making any reasonable progress to address this challenge.  For one of the most advanced countries in the world that has benefited so much from science and technology, and has led so much of the technological progress, the lack of national will to address global climate change is beyond my comprehension.

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One Comment on “Climate Change and Political Will”

  1. Gary Says:

    I share your concerns. It is depressing indeed that I appear to be the first comment to this blog post from three months ago.

    The ice in the Arctic Ocean is the most important leading indicator of climate change. The extent of ice in the Arctic Ocean today is well below its extent on this day in 2007, the year of the record low September extent. Here is a link to the relevant graph from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

    As with the houusing bubble that led to the financial crisis of 2008, we will ignore all evidence until disaster is imminent. But this bubble is much, much bigger.

    People below the age of 50 need to understand that the futrue beyond 2020 will test their wisdom and courage far beyond any test faced by their parents generation. Educate yourself now. Read Jim Hansen or Paul GiIdling.

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