Can We Control and Reverse Climate Change?

If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change

— would you want to?

Climate scientists are more than 95 percent certain that human influence has been the dominant cause of global warming. They are about as sure of this as they are that cigarette smoke causes cancer.

The big question in my mind is, can we ACTUALLY make a difference and thwart this warming trend, or have we done Too Little Too Late? I do not have an answer but can only perhaps draw you to your own conclusions, based on a few findings and links, should you care to drill down.

Humans are gifted with amazing thinking power. We can imagine things beyond palpable reality and we can build very strong theories and beliefs about what we imagine.

Beliefs can lead to political orientations. They can lead to religious faiths. They can lead to cults and conspiracy theories.

Some folks firmly believe, in spite of certain measurable facts, that “Climate Change” is just a hoax – a thing just made up to perhaps manipulate us?

As with most government initiatives and scientific communications, a lot of short form buzzwords / acronyms prevail and some of these can be confusing.

So it is with reading this article – but be not dismayed. Help is on the way… you will hopefully have no problem digesting some alphabet soup such as UNFCCC, IPPC, COP26, PNAS RCP8.5.

Here is a handy tool for coming to grips with understanding a myriad of complex issues about Climate Change:

Six Fundamental Questions

Let’s look at the issues by arranging them into manageable chunks: what / who / how, etc.

Problem statement:

97% of scientist agree that climate change is real and accelerated by human contribution. Earth’s climate has been changing throughout history. Just in the last 800,000 years, there have been eight cycles of ice ages and warmer periods, with the end of the last ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — with human civilization and the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution

Scientists have long known that greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere surrounding our globe — such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, or water vapor — absorb certain frequencies of our sun’s infrared radiation (heat) and reflect them back toward the Earth.

It’s like being in a car on a hot sunny day with the windows rolled up. These gases essentially envelope the earth and prevent this heat from escaping too quickly back into space. They trap that radiation at the surface and keep the planet warm.

Carbon cycle experts estimate that natural “sinks”- processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere -on land and in the ocean – have absorbed the equivalent of only about 50% of the CO2 we emitted each year in the last decade 2011-2020. Because we put more CO2 into the atmosphere than natural processes can remove, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has bee accumulating each year. This is NOT NET ZERO.

Earth is now warming at an unprecedented rate. This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Luthi, D., et al.. 2008; Etheridge, D.M., et al. 2010; Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.) Find out more about ice cores (external site).

When you look at the above chart, it is ok to say “Yikes!” Recent variations in the Earths temperature, weather events, sea levels and sea ice indicate that the rate of change since the mid-20th century is unprecedented.

As with most government initiatives and scientific communications, a lot of short form buzzwords and acronyms are used.

But be not dismayed. Help is on the way… hopefully you will have no problem digesting some alphabet soup such as UN, UNFCCC, IPPC, COP26, PNAS RCP8.5.

Looking at who is involved for this global effort, at the highest level we have the UN.

Flag of the United Nations

The United Nations headquarters are in international territory in New York City, with other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna, and The Hague (home to the International Court of Justice).

The UN was started just after World War II with the goal to have World Peace. It has grown  from the original 51 Member States in 1945 to the current 193 Member States. (There are 195 countries in the world today).

Even with World Peace on shaky grounds these days, the UN has also taken on a significant mandate called the the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Around 450 staff are employed at UN Climate Change.

The Conference of the Parties (COP) meets every year as the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP. They review the implementation of the Convention, make decisions and adopt any other legal instruments necessary to promote the effective implementation of their ideas, including institutional and administrative arrangements. Wikipedia lists a history of all the COPs here.

Aside from the iconic UN and other organizational initiatives, we have what seems to be but only a few individuals trying to push things along. Names such as David Suzuki, Robert Redford, Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore, Greta Thunberg, and Yvon Chouinard come to mind.

Maybe we need about 100,000 more luminaries in the world like the folks above. A few of them have written books and produced documentaries.

Patagonia Founder gives away 100% of the $3 billion company to fight climate change
Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s founder, has long been a pronounced environmental activist, but his most recent move is categorically shocking. Patagonia announced that “[as] of now, Earth is our only shareholder [and] ALL profits, in perpetuity, will go to our mission to ‘save our home planet’.” 100% of the company’s shares were donated to a trust and non-profit which “will use every dollar received to fight the environmental crisis, protect nature and biodiversity, and support thriving communities, as quickly as possible.” 

The Chouinards received virtually no tax benefit for this charitable act and instead incurred meaningful cost in structuring and executing on their donation. The hope is that Patagonia’s actions will act as an example and inspire a new degree of corporate activism that outshines traditional shareholder capitalism. With this, Yvon Chouinard can rest easy, saying “now I could die tomorrow and the company is going to continue doing the right thing for the next 50 years, and I don’t have to be around.” (Full article)

For many years now we have been gradually transitioning to energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gases, such as solar, wind, biofuels, and nuclear, though some of these energy sources face hurdles ranging from manufacturing capacity to debates about where to install some facilities.

Beyond these measures, HOW we get a handle on climate change must involve a meeting of the minds.

We need to become aware of the magnitude of the problem. We need to be informed, to be enlightened and in a position to act and change the apparent deadly course our environment is taking. The National Geographic documentary “Before The Flood” is a good start to becoming enlightened.

We have the IPPC – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who are a United Nations body for reviewing the science related to climate change.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The IPCC produces comprehensive Assessment Reports on topics agreed to by its member governments. They cover the state of technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place.

IPCC also produces Methodology Reports that provide guidelines for the preparation of greenhouse gas inventories. At this writing, the IPCC produced their Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) which consisted of three Working Group contributions and a Synthesis Report.

The IPCC website has a number of Videos that indicate progress of various groups.

In 2015, in Paris, France during November 30 to December 11 the UN held a conference (COP21) and came up with the historic Paris Agreement. Then in 2018 the IPCC was invited to produce a Special Report on global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways. 

AR6 Report

The Working Group I contribution was finalized in August 2021 and the Working Group II contribution in February 2022.

The AR6 report was comparing 2°C of warming to a scenario with 1.5°C of warming. The researchers found that this half-degree difference is actually pretty important, since every bit of warming matters. Between the two outlooks, less warming means fewer people will have to move from coastal areas, natural weather events will be less severe, and economies will take a smaller hit.

COP26 climate pledges

The Problem With Net-Zero

AT HOME – How You Can Help Reduce GHG Emissions

  1. Get a home free energy audit offered by many utilities. Then put the recommendations into practice: installing programmable thermostat / dual-paned windows / more attic insulation / insulated doors – and collect rebates.
  2. Purchase Solar Panels / “green tags,” or compensatory energy credits that add renewable power to the grid equal to the power you use.
  3. Adjust your thermostat down 3 degrees in the winter and up 3 degrees in the summer;
  4. Install solar lighting.
  5. Look for the Energy Star Label when it comes time to replace appliances.
  6. Reduce your use of energy reliant products: televisions and computers. Turn off computers when not in use.  Newer computers are not harmed by frequent shutdowns.
  7. Reduce the amount of time spent aimlessly surfing the web.
  8. Reduce the amount of time you watch television.
  9. Many electronics use a trickle of electricity even if they are turned off. By connecting electronics to power strips or surge protectors and turning these off when not in use, you can greatly reduce energy consumption.
  10. Install tankless water heaters;
  11. Wash clothes in cold or warm water;
  12. Air dry clothes – hanging clothes out to dry requires no electricity or natural gas use.
  13. Check out the EPA’s website.
  14. Get your family involved – Develop a plan to reduce daily electricity use around your home. Ask each member of your household to take responsibility for a different electricity-saving action.

ON THE ROAD – Use an Electronic Vehicle instead of a “Gas Guzzler”

The jury may be still out on that.

If you find it is not feasible to do some of these things, you are not alone. This is part of the problem. To adopt / embrace a lot of these things is often not convenient.

I don’t need to show pictures of what we have heard about or seen in the news.

In Greenland there are studies going on “as we speak” to measure the amount of annual melting that is going on at the base of glaciers. Research reveals northernmost glaciers on the globe are melting at record speed.

Motivation for being concerned about Climate Change can be found everywhere. Here are but a few evidentiary scientific examples.

2017 / Prairie Climate Centre

New maps highlight changes coming to Canada’s climate

2020 / PNAS / RCP8.5 tracks cumulative CO2 emissions

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of America is a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary scientific journal. For the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report (AR5) – four global climate models / scenarios known as Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) were adopted. Each RCP is a greenhouse gas concentration (not emissions) trajectory used for climate modeling.

Representative Concentration Pathway modeling

Four different climate futures, all of which are considered possible depending on the volume of greenhouse gases emitted in the years to come.

The RCP scenarios use historical greenhouse gas emissions until 2005, and projected emissions subsequently. A widely used scenario and the most aggressive in assuming fossil fuel consumption is RCP8.5

The WHEN is NOW, hopefully with continuous global ongoing effort.

It seems that we may have become the makers of our fate – with mankind’s ultimate destiny to go the way of the dinosaurs in another epochal planet event. That would be a shame.

The term “business as usual” has been used in some reports to describe our reality in dealing with change. I wrote a song that has in the chorus: “We’re all in this together, a world of shrinking size. You see it happening before your eyes, the power of money leads to compromise“.

Business dictates that we must be pragmatic. For example, we could not shut down the world for a month and cause COVID to die of natural cause; we had to be cognizant that some things and some people had to keep doing what they do. So it seems with Climate Change; for example, we cannot just stop cold turkey producing petroleum products.

– The powers that be cannot stop carrying on with “necessary” economic business
– Most of us prefer to ignore some of the science about climate change

The power of money, perceived entitlement and the need for convenience leads us to compromise; to soften socio-economic decisions, regardless of predictive scenarios.

To conclude, I refer to just two things:

  1. According to the science of Milankovitch Cycles, the earth goes through natural hot and cold cycles. But ever since around 1750, the trend has been towards warmer and warmer cycles.

Industrialization kicked into high gear with WWII. We no longer have Net Zero. Now we don’t have enough natural “sinks” to cope with and correct the GHG imbalance.

2. Predictions of Dr. David Suzuki

Can an optimistic spin be put on all this? Can we hit the climate challenge head-on as a golden opportunity? – to promote prosperity, security and a brighter future for all? For example, we could we throw nearly all our resources and money at converting everything to green energy?

To me, it seems like the same kind of opportunity as what came about in the 1950s when the world dealt with recovering from World War II, leading to great prosperity.

Do we have the collective will?

What does all this tell you? Your comments are welcome.



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