Saturday, October 09, 2010

Chad Tolman on the Science of Climate Change

Dr. Chad Tolman has a well written piece on the science of climate change in the News Journal today. Read it and learn:
Addressing global warming must be made a priority
by Chad Tolman

Jeff Montgomery had a great front-page article titled "The truth about cap and trade" on Sept. 22. Unfortunately, as someone said, "Truth is the first casualty of war."

After spending more than 20 years studying, speaking, and writing about energy and climate change, let me tell you the truth as I see it.

The vast majority (more than 97 percent in a recent study) of climate scientists agree with the consensus position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that: 1) the Earth's global average surface temperature is increasing; 2) the primary cause is increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases -- especially carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas); and 3) continuing to release carbon dioxide will cause increasing damage to human health and welfare, as well as the extinction of many of the Earth's plant and animal species.

Delaware is especially vulnerable to sea level rise, which is accelerating, and is caused by the expansion of water as oceans warm and the melting of glaciers on land. Current estimates are that sea level could rise by as much as 5 feet by 2100, but could be much more than that -- threatening our port of Wilmington, coastal towns, power plants, refinery, wastewater-treatment plants, homes, businesses, roads, beaches and wetlands.

Studies of Earth's climate history show that sea levels have risen as fast as 5 meters (17 feet) in a century during past periods of rapid warming. Given enough time -- for the oceans to fully warm, the ice to melt as much as it's going to, and vegetation to shift -- sea level during the past 40 million years has changed by 20 meters per degree C (37 feet per degree F).

So far the global average temperature since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution has increased about 1.5 degrees F, with most of the increase in the last 30 years; 2010 will likely be the hottest in recorded history. We already have too much waste from fossil fuels in the atmosphere (about 390 parts per million ofcarbon dioxide). Jim Hansen, a leading U.S. climate scientist at NASA and Columbia University, has urged that we reduce carbon dioxide to 350 ppm or less if we are to minimize the risk of serious damage.

Sunday will be an international day of climate awareness and action in over 150 countries. Here in Delaware we will be planting 350 trees in a project co-sponsored by the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, the Delaware Nature Society, the interdenominational Coalition for Climate Change Study and Action, The Nature Conservancy, and the Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH). Learn more about the planting at: We will also be holding a workshop at DCH on the afternoon of Oct. 10. For details see: delaware-climate-workshop.

Unfortunately for Delaware, two of our candidates for Congress -- Glen Urquhart and Christine O'Donnell -- have not only said NO to cap and trade, a system that has successfully reduced sulfur emissions from power plants, they also seem blissfully unaware of the threat to Delaware posed by climate change -- especially sea level rise, and the huge financial losses that will come with a failure to respond.

Nicholas Stern, a British economist, has published an extensive study of the economics of climate change, and concluded that responding in a timely way will cost annually between 2 percent and 3 percent of world GDP (for the U.S., that's about half of the military budget); delaying could cost 20 percent of world GDP each year. Do we make the transition to a clean and sustainable energy economy now, or do we leave a mess for our children and grandchildren?

Anyone wanting to understand why we need a green revolution and how it can renew America should read Thomas Friedman's book, "Hot, Flat and Crowded, Release 2.0" (2009).
For more climate science, read Chad's blog, Climate Change News.


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