Global Warming/Climate Change
1. WHAT IS KNOWN AND AGREED UPON
2. There is a greenhouse effect (it’s what keeps the planet warm)
a. Not the same as ozone depletion!
3. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and its concentration in atmosphere has been rising
4. Humans burning fossil fuels and (destroying carbon sinks, e.g., burning forests) is responsible for (some? most? all? of) this increase in C02 concentration
5. Average temperature of the planet has been rising
a. Since 1970, each successive decade has been warmer
b. Warmer now than ever in last 400 years
6. ADDITIONAL CLAIMS SOME DISPUTE
7. Virtually all climate scientists agree that human s are the main cause of climate change
a. How much temperature change is due to natural variation?
b. Isn’t the only rational thing to do given our lack of expertise, to believe these scientists?
8. Industries who might suffer from policies to address climate change have been funding scientists skeptical of climate change in hopes of preventing these policies
9. Climate models have predicted the already occurring rise in temperature
10. Likely additional increase in temperature of perhaps 3 degrees centigrade (4-5 fahrenheit) is possible
a. When earth a couple of degrees cooler, NY city under mile thick sheet of ice
b. Last time earth was 3 degrees warmer, sea level was 24 meters higher
i. I don’t think scientists do not expect 24 meter rise in sea level this time?
11. POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
12. Melting of polar ice caps
13. Sea level rise (due to meting of ice caps and warmer ocean expands) of perhaps 2 feet
a. Serious problems for island nations and coastal communities
14. Possible changes in ocean currents
15. Warming of oceans and resulting more powerful hurricanes
16. Loss of biodiversity as species can’t migrate fast enough or through human barriers (cities and farms)
17. Greenhouse winners and losers:
a. Canada better climate for agriculture
b. American Southwest becoming a permanent dust bowl
18. POLICIES TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE/GLOBAL WARMING
19. Conservation (use less energy)
20. Increase energy efficiency (hybrid cars, green appliances, compact florescent bulbs)
21. Switch from non-renewable (oil/coal) to renewable energy (wind, solar)
22. Increase alternative transportation
a. Railroads, busses, bicycles
23. In general, move to a green economy
24. NO REGRETS ARGUMENT FOR RESPONDING TO CLIMATE CHANGE
25. Most of the policies that help with global warming are good policies for other reasons
a. We will eventually run out of fossil fuels so it makes sense to begin switching to renewable sources sooner rather than later
b. Becoming more efficient in our use of energy saves us $ and resources
c. Providing alternative to the car culture enhances social freedom
d. Renewable energy is less polluting, so a move to renewable energy is good for human (and non-human) health and environmental justice
26. So if we adopt policies to address global warming, we will have no regrets, even if these policies were not needed to respond to global warming (because they are good policies for other reasons)
27. ETHICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
28. Environmental injustice:
a. Rich (who have caused it) will be better able to adapt, than poor who will suffer more (and are least responsible)
b. Present generations who benefit (cheap energy), shove the associated costs off onto future generations
c. Unfair for developed world to expect developing world (e.g., China) to shoulder most of the costs of mitigating climate change, given that the developed world (unfairly) has used up the earth’s capacity to benignly absorb greenhouse gases
Study questions on climate change
1. Explain in some detail the problem of climate change, including its causes and potential impacts.
2. What is the difference between the climate change problem and the problem of ozone depletion?
3. What sorts of policies do we need to adopt to address climate change?
4. What is the no regrets argument for responding to climate change?
5. What issues of environmental justice does climate change raise?