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".
Friday, March 4, 2016
The Centennial Commemoration of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. II.
Paris is sparing no extravagance for the centennial
celebration of the 2015 climate agreement, themed “Paris 2115”.The EiffelTower is decked out with the newest efficient
lighting fixtures, highlighting the sky blue of the United Nations flag,
intermingled with the Tricouleur, the red, white and blue of the French
flag.Laser light shows projecting these
colors playfully pierce the air around its spire.
The Étoile and Arc
de Triomphe are adorned with exotic vegetation brought from far reaches of the
planet, symbols of the preservation of the environment resulting from one
hundred years of sustainable climate policies resulting from the agreement.
The most striking
aspect of the celebration is that several hundred thousand people from all
around the world have descended on The City of Light, to mark the centennial of
the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreement
limiting emissions of greenhouse gases.The
2015 agreement enshrined the goal of keeping the increase in global average
temperature to under 2ºC (3.6ºF) above the preindustrial temperature, i.e., the
temperature before humans began burning fossil fuels.The agreement also included the more stringent
goal of keeping the rise below 1.5ºC as a more ambitious option.
Just under 200
nations, all the U.N.’s members, joined the agreement.Now the member nations are celebrating, for
they had in fact summoned their resources and achieved the more stringent
goal.This required that restraint and
discipline be applied by each nation, each independently of, but in concert
with, the constraints developed by every other nation.The 2015 agreement made these constraints
voluntary, nation by nation.It is remarkable
that the member nations all accepted the responsibility of fulfilling their
pledges, with records and validation open for all to see.Indeed, since the original 2015 pledges were
deemed inadequate to attain this goal, the nations repeatedly reconvened every
five years, and intensified their efforts by developing ever more stringent
reduction pledges.The centennial we are
now celebrating honors these pledge extensions.Without these extra efforts we could not have kept the global
temperature from increasing as little as it has today.
How did this come
about?After all, the energy needed for
industrialization and raising living standards in developing countries,
obtained almost entirely from burning fossil fuels, had underpinned their
headlong rush to economic growth for more than a century.The fossil fuel industry was a significant
fraction of the world economy, and the fuel companies exerted their
considerable political power to maintain the status quo, extracting ever more
fossil fuels each year.This path,
called “business-as-usual”, would have brought the world to an average
temperature rise of about 4ºC, a truly devastating result.
world over, working in collaboration with the fossil fuel companies and other
segments of the economy, transformed the world’s energy sector.Governments and company managements,
realizing the dangers of continuing along a business-as-usual path, transformed
their political frameworks and business models.The companies came to realize that there was profit to be gained by
developing and deploying renewable energy sources, and redirected their
development budgets accordingly.New
research and great economies of scale made solar and wind energy, for example, economical
yet highly profitable.Energy storage
was optimized with new battery compositions and physical storage modes.People began to see new beauty in renewable
energy installations.In the meanwhile,
biotechnology researchers developed genetically modified crop plants that withstand
the stresses of heat and drought more effectively than the old wild strains. Research ingenuity also optimized yields of
biofuels to provide all the needs of the growing airline industry.
transportation has also been revolutionized.Self-driving vehicles now navigate e-highways, minimizing the need for extra
weight to protect us from crashes.They
are powered by newly developed highly efficient renewable energy sources.
small island nations that signed on to the agreement in 2015 no longer exist,
because their islands were swallowed up by rising seas over the intervening one
hundred years.Already by 2015 sea level
had been rising because, averaged over the seasons of the year, more ice melted
from polar ice masses into the ocean than was deposited by fresh snow and ice. Rising seas were already locked in by then. Indeed, by 2015 ice loss had been
accelerating because temperatures over the ice masses were rising rapidly.Now as we fete the centennial, many coastal
regions around the world have been lost to ocean inundation.
and Hailong met each other last night at the Korean pavilion.Paris 2115 is organized around these centers,
representing each nation of the UNFCCC agreement, all around the city.Each one displays highlights of the
environmental and sustainability contributions they have made in the past
hundred years that brought us to this week’s celebration.The three new friends are circulating among
the pavilions, trying to take in as many as they can, from countries large and
reaches its peak tomorrow, as major personalities from the UNFCCC and various
nations speak about the significance of this occasion, and the way
forward.Of course these speeches will
be streamed live as holographic displays in all the pavilions, so that all the
celebrants can experience the immediacy of the presentations.
The Paris Agreement
reached in December 2015 represents major progress on the path to controlling
worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases.All 197 U. N. member nations agreed to its terms.This accomplishment is due in large part to
departure from earlier attempts at negotiating a treaty involving imposing
predetermined limits on emissions from each nation.Instead the Paris Agreement solicits
voluntary pledges from each which, once filed, are subject to review and
verification by the U. N.
Prior to the
convening of the Paris meeting almost all nations had already
submitted their pledges.A scientific
evaluation shows that those pledges are insufficiently ambitious to achieve the
goal of keeping the global average temperature increase less than 2ºC during
this century.Climate model calculations
byFawcett and coworkers (Science, 2015, Vol. 350, pp. 1168-1169)
show that the current voluntary pledges will keep the annual
Actual (up to 2010)
and projected annual rates of emission of CO2 from energy and
major industrial sources from 1990 to 2100.The heavy lines are summary representations for four emissions
scenarios.Top to bottom these are the
reference case of no emissions reduction policy in place; no reduction policy
up to 2030, then a 2% per year reduction in emissions; implementation of only
the current voluntary pledges through 2030, continued unchanged to 2100 (curve
labeled INDCs); and the current voluntary pledges to 2030, then further
reduction by at least 5% per year to 2100.The individual thin lines are actual modeling runs repeated many
times.IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change; AR5, Fifth Assessment Report issued 2013-4.
rate of CO2
emissions level at their present rates up to 2100 (curve labeled INDCs in the
graphic above).Since these are annual
rates, the emissions will continue to raise the total accumulated CO2
level throughout this period, leading to a steady rise in global average
temperature to 2100.Only the lowest
heavy blue curve shows a decreased rate of annual emissions after 2030,
accomplished in the model by imposing a stringent reduction in annual emissions
rate of 5% per year.The accumulation of
CO2 in the atmosphere continues, admittedly at lower rates,
throughout this period.As a result the
global average temperature will still continue rising from its present
(unprecedented high) value at a slow but measurable pace.
The Paris negotiators recognized this deficiency, and
included the intention in the Agreement to reconvene in five years to assess
progress and to encourage updated pledges including more ambitious emission
reductions from the member nations.It
also mentions explicitly the more stringent goal that reductions should in fact
be ambitious enough to keep the increase in global average temperature below
Some nations and
provinces around the world have already undertaken efforts to lower greenhouse
gas emissions. China’s pledge lays out increasing annual emissions until 2030,
mainly from burning coal, then a reduction in that rate.But the recent economic slowdown in that
country appears already to be leading to lower emissions than anticipated.As part of its pledge, China intends to expand pilot cap-and-trade
limits on emissions in some of its cities to the nation as a whole.
Australia imposed a carbon pricing scheme in 2012,
but it was repealed in 2014.In addition
Australia is now severely cutting back its spending
on its respected government scientific research organization, including its
climate science section.This impedes
the country’s and the world’s ability to track its greenhouse gases and
Commission announced a plan in 2010 to reduce emissions by 80% below 1990
levels by 2050.Europe implemented a cap-and-trade Emissions
Trading Scheme (ETS) a decade ago as part of its participation in the Kyoto
Protocol, the UNFCCC agreement preceding the Paris Agreement.The ETS has had difficulties that are preventing
it from achieving its full potential.
The U.S. federal government has been unable to enact
laws to limit emissions because the majority party in one or both of the
Congress’s chambers does not admit the need to address man-made global
warming.But President Obama has
undertaken executive steps that will double fuel efficiency of the nation’s
vehicles, and will increase the efficiency of electricity generation in
electricity generation.Independently, California and some other states have policies
limiting emissions similar to the reduction intended by the European
In Canada, the province of British Columbia has had a revenue-neutral carbon tax in
place since 2008.Revenues collected
from the tax are used to lower tax rates in other categories.Use of fossil fuels has dropped with no
effect on the province’s economy.