Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
See the Tabbed Pages for links to video tutorials, and a linked list of post titles grouped by topic.
This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
California Backtracks on Its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Program
praiseworthy effort to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, initiated by former
Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, suffered a major setback when
present Governor Jerry Brown and state legislators agreed to exempt petroleum
from the program.They succumbed to
intense pressure from the oil industry.
further global warming and its harms we all have to limit accumulation of
additional atmospheric greenhouse gases.The oil industry campaign in California has the opposite effect, ensuring addition
of more gases rather than minimizing their buildup.We and future generations will suffer the harmful
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, addressing a United Nations conference on the environment in
June 2005, indicated his understanding
that climate change is an indisputable threat.He revealed his plans to combat global warming, stating
California will be a leader in the fight against
global warming….I say the debate is over. We know the science, we see the
threat and we know the time for action is now."
Governor’s leadership California enacted emissions reduction legislation,
its Global Warming Solutions Act,
in 2006 (read more). The Act imposes statutory limits on the annual emission rate of carbon
dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) only until 2020,
requiring reduction to the level of 1990 by that date.Yet, recognizing that more drastic reductions
in greenhouse gas emissions are required in order to minimize global warming,
Schwarzenegger further issued an executive order establishing the goal of
reducing GHG emissions by 80% below the level of 1990 by 2050, with an interim
objective of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.These limits are modeled after similar goals established by the European
debate is over and the time for action is now….[T]his is the challenge of our
time. And it is our responsibility to leave this world a better place than we
found it, but right now we are failing future generations.”
Lobbies for Exemption.On September 10, 2015, however, according to
a report in the New York Times, the Democratic majority in the California
Senate and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown opted to exempt oil products from the rules of the plan. They faced successful opposition from Democrats in
the California Assembly.The report stated
that the legislators succumbed to intense pressure from the oil industry, including
a massive advertising and mailing campaign, to let them continue operating unhindered.
This opposition asserted, incorrectly, that
the restrictions could result in gas rationing and a ban on minivans, stating,
for example, “This law will limit how often we can drive our own cars”.The photo below shows a Los Angeles, California highway during rush hour, showing how
important it is to “drive our own cars”.
Clogged rush hour
traffic recently on a Los Angeles,
remaining after the exemption for petroleum still keeps California on target in other segments of the energy
economy, including energy efficiency and providing for renewable electric
power.Nevertheless, removing petroleum,
which powers automobile traffic, excludes a major contributor to total GHG
emissions from the overall emission limits.
a major setback for Gov. Brown,
for he strongly supports his state’s emission reduction program.In addition, it clearly compromises the
strength of his position before international negotiators involved in
finalizing a worldwide agreement on emissions reduction under the umbrella of
the United Nations.
President Obama highlighted
the damages to Alaska resulting from global warming already under
way, during his visit there the week before.In a major speech he stated
Arctic is the leading edge of climate change --
our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces.Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as
fast as the global average….Last year
was Alaska’s warmest year on record….[a]nd the impacts
here are very real….[Damages] could cost billions of dollars to fix.”
British Columbia’s carbon fee.In contrast to the rollback of the limits on
GHG emissions that California is carrying out, the Canadian province of British
Columbia has implemented a revenue-neutral carbon fee.The program went into effect in 2008.It progressively raised the fee each year
until 2012.The fee continues in effect
at that level.It is revenue-neutral,
because the increase in revenues from the fee are returned to British Columbia
taxpayers by reductions in other taxes.
The more GHGs are emitted the higher the temperature of
the entire earth system becomes.The
excess heat stored in the atmosphere, reflected in higher long-term global
average air temperatures as well as in the total excess heat energy stored in
the oceans (about 90% of the total heat), is directly related to the total
excess burden of CO2 and other GHGs that accumulate in the
atmosphere.These GHGs originate from humanity’s
use of fossil fuels to provide our energy.CO2 emitted into the atmosphere remains there undiminished
for centuries.As long as we continue to
emit excess GHGs into the atmosphere the total heat content of the air + oceans
will continue to increase.
This is the reason that it is essential to minimize annual rates of GHG
emissions, ultimately reaching near zero annual emissions.Only then will the total heat of the air +
oceans stabilize at a new, higher value governed by the higher level of GHGs
then prevailing.So the faster humankind
succeeds in reducing annual GHG emission rates to near zero, the less will be
the increase in the new stabilized global average temperature.
This reality is why the action of California’s
legislature is disappointing, indeed counterproductive.The continued unconstrained emission of CO2
from burning gasoline and other petroleum products slows the needed reduction
in GHG emission rates, resulting in a higher stabilized global average
California’s economy alone contributes about 1/7th of America’s entire economic activity, as of 2014; its proportional energy economy likewise is comparable since the various
sectors of the economy provide the demand for energy use.For this reason any backtracking in California’s
ambitious program to reduce its emissions rate is a serious, and irreversible,
Evidence of the devastation wrought by man-made global warming is already
apparent in California.Its multi-year droughthas critically affected its agricultural productivity, and triggered forest
wildfires that are more extensive than in past decades.Droughts typically arise when rain and
snowfall are less than expected.But the
current drought is more severe because of the excessive heat that worsens the
dry conditions.It is unconscionable
that oil industry interests seek to perpetuate the activities that lead to
California’s extreme drought.
Valerie Trouet and colleagues published a detailed analysis of precipitation in
mountains of eastern California online in Nature Climate Change in September 2015.
They focused on the annual mountain
snowfall that on melting provides much of the water resources for the state,
going back to 1500 C.E.They found that
the water originating as snowfall in the winter of 2015 was the least for the
entire 515 year period examined.The likelihood
of such a low snowpack having occurred in the past is estimated at once in
every 3,100 years, which points out the extreme nature of this year’s minimum.In view of projected worsening of man-made
warming in the Sierra
authors fear “major future impacts” on the region’s water storage ability.
The self-serving exemption from GHG emission limits by the oil industry
enhances its short-term financial gain, but also contributes to long-term worsening
of global warming, with all its harmful and damaging effects on the world’s population.Even so the companies’ executives and
shareholders, and their progeny, will be affected to the same extent as others
around the world will be.This select
group of individuals can’t build biosphere domes over their homes and places of
work to protect them from harm.Their
own actions will come back to harm them and their children.
This notion has been poignantly underscored by President Barack Obama, who
said in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2014
“Climate change is a fact.And when our children’s children look us in
the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable
world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”
Conclusion.The damaging effects of global warming are already upon us, and are made
worse by our continued use of fossil fuels, and other GHG-producing
activities.All peoples of the world
have to coalesce around positive steps to minimize further emissions and
stabilize the heat added to the earth system.