an uncertain certainty

In my last post I spoke a lot about climate change doubt. It seems even with the validation of chief Australian researchers there are still issues with public acceptance of climate change science. So, I thought I would drag up the science and clarify what parts are certain and what parts are merely educated speculation.

The United States Global Change Research Program recently released a report outlining the state of climate change science. The report put forward three key factors describing the certainty of recent scientific work:

• When coal, oil and natural gas (i.e., fossil fuels) are burned or land is cleared or burned, carbon dioxide (CO2) is created and released into the atmosphere. There is no uncertainty about this.
• Because CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) trap heat, if more is added to the atmosphere, warming will result that can lead to climate change. Many of the details about how much warming, how fast, and similar issues are uncertain.
• CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) are not like conventional air pollution such as SO2, NOx or fine particles. Much of the CO2 that enters the atmosphere remains there for more than 100 years. In order to reduce concentration (which is what causes climate change), emissions must be dramatically reduced. There is no uncertainty about this basic fact, although there is uncertainty about how fast and by how much emissions must be reduced to achieve a specific stable concentration. Most experts would suggest that a reduction of CO2 emissions of between 70 and 90% from today’s levels is needed. This implies the need for dramatic changes in energy and other industrial systems all around the globe.

For me the only certainty is that we need to modify our behaviors, and this is regardless of whether our CO2 outputs are really contributing to global warming . We need to act and live more sustainably, which means reducing our excessive unnatural outputs to the environment.

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