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Climate change

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Climate changeW is a significant and lasting change in the weather pattern over a period of decades to periods of millions of years. In this article we discuss the rise in the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans since from the 19th to the 21st century (the current global warming).[1] Global warming is expected to have far greater negative effects on developing countries as on developed countries.

The science of climate change

Although the existence of global warming is unquestioned since 1896[2], there are people that remain critical of specifics written in some reports of the IPCCW and other organisations. These people, called climate change skepticsW, make critical analysis' and so are able to make a positive contribution.[3]

Often, civil government politicians and economists try to bend information of climate change skeptics to their own advantage, portraying an image that global warming does not exist, poses but a minor problem, or may even be beneficial, so as to be able to not act on it, and as such prevent them of losing votes due to this issue.

Uncertainties in the impact of global warming

Natural disasters caused or aggrevated by global warming

Although global warming itself has been proven, there are many uncertainties in predicting the effects global warming will have on the world. The IPCC is certain that following effects will occur, though the severety and time thereof may differ to some extend of the numbers mentioned in the reports:

  • changing weatherpatterns (greater or fewer precipitation on specific areas, the weather is also expected to be much more radical). This will negatively affect farming[4][5][6][7]
  • natural disasters (ie mud slides, hurricanes, ...) are expected to occur much more frequently. Death toll in 2003 = 150000 people [8][9]
  • Sea-level rise[10] will contaminate a very large percentage of the agricultural fields with sea salt and make them no longer suitable for continued food production.[11] In addition, many low-lying islands and coastlines will need to be abandoned, forcing many people to move.

Climate change mitigation

Several options are available to reduce the global warming. Most of these (the most efficient ones) are lifestyle changes (ie diet, propogation, ...) and can be put in place today. We also do not need to wait for any specific technology to became available. Rather, the essential technology is allready here today.[12][13]

Our options are:

  • Reduce carbon consumption
  • Carbon sequestration - prevent consumed carbon from getting into the atmosphere. After combustion, pump it underground or underwater.
  • Remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, e.g. through ocean nourishment, biochar, planting trees.
  • Reduce the temperature in other ways (paint roads and roofs white, spray sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere, to reflect a proportion of sunlight back into space. Note: this direct temperature reduction does not reduce carbon levels, so ocean acidification from higher carbon dioxide is still a problem.
  • Climate change mitigation: build heat tolerant houses (passive solar with suitable insulation), flood control barriers)
  • Grin and bear it: put up with the inconveniences and the expected loss of biodiversity and increases in certain types of natural disasters (and hope that there will be improvements in other areas).

The best solution is probably a mix of some of these, as no single solution or even class of solutions appears adequate. The less action is taken, the more we will depend on the "grin and bear it" option.

Technology

The bright green approach puts its trust in technology to give us answers in time, if we just put suitable resources into researching and applying solutions.

Technology is advancing and technologies such as thin film solar photovoltaicsW (e.g. copper indium gallium diselenideW) offer great hope. However, the rate of progress is uncertain, and as climate change is already happening, action is needed now, without waiting for these new technologies.

Low hanging fruit

The logical place to start is in the area where potential gains are greatest and costs are lowest. This is energy efficiency, and it offers cost savings in many areas. Thus the most important, pressing actions to be taken can be taken immediately without economic penalty, with suitable planning. Financial planning is an important aspect of this, as investment now may be required to gain long term benefits; it may be important to have programs such as light bulb exchanges or loans for energy efficiency measures (perhaps paid off through electricity bills[14])

Another measure is renewable energy, which is more attractive in some locations than others (e.g. solar and biodiesel may be the most cost effective sources of electricity in a sunny isolated location, and solar hot water is perhaps the most cost-effective form of renewable energy in most locations[verification needed]). At this stage the majority of the population in developed countries have access to renewable energy through "green energy" offered by electricity companies (which is often not truly "green", but it varies in degree). The cost premium for such energy is very modest compared with most people's overall living costs (and modest compared with the money that most people spend on luxuries or entertainment). See How to increase the uptake of green energy.

Reducing carbon usage

Simple living offers various ways of reducing impact as well. To have a serious impact, these need to be actions which appeal to a large number of people, which may be very difficult without changes at the community level. The self-sacrificial aspects of simple living are unlikely to appeal to many people, based on past patterns.

Other aspects do improve quality of life and are at least possible. These include promotion of behavior changes, and changing infrastructure in ways that encourage lower-energy behavior. Building of cycleways rather than highways, making communities more walkable, making public transport a more attractive option, and introducing congestion charges (as in London) are supported by many sustainability advocates and organizations.

Ensuring that buyers of houses and other buildings have access to all appropriate information about energy costs, livability (which improves with good passive solar design) and environmental impact, could make a big difference to the building industry, and ensure that sustainability is taken more seriously by more builders.

Cost effectiveness of action

Note that the cost balance may appear different if externalities are accounted for - e.g. deaths due to vehicles, including emissions; improved health from cycling and walking acting to reduce health costs and improve productivity; and possibly even social cohesion as a result of people mingling on cycle, foot, and public transport, instead of traveling by car.

Notes

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming
  2. Discovery of global warming by Svante Arrhenius
  3. Take the stick controversy Michael E. Mann hockeystick graph for example which has been proven wrong. A significant rise in the new graph (by McIntyre and McKitrick) is still predicted, but the graph is less abrupt
  4. www.knmi.nl/africa_scenarios/brochure_Afrika.pdf
  5. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Water/images/precipitation_intensity_map.png Precipitation changes
  6. http://climatelab.org/@api/deki/files/462/=Desertification_map.png
  7. One solution is to grow less fragile crops, ie more resistant to changes in watering
  8. 150000 people killed by global warming upto 2003
  9. http://climatelab.org/climate_change_security
  10. Sea level rise: 2m rise expected by 2100 A.D., 6,5m by 2200 A.D.
  11. Earth under water documentary
  12. See an overview of the measures needed at http://kvdp.blogspot.com
  13. Politicians often portray a different picture but it is not based in reality
  14. If the energy company benefits from people using more energy, there may be a conflict of interest, so different reward models need to be explored; when the energy company is a government-owned corporation, this may give more flexibility to apply a different model in order to encourage uptake. (See Incentives for sustainability and Incentives to pollute.

See also

Interwiki links

External Links