Climate Change for Dummies
“Now, I’m not a scientist,” says one climate change denying Republican after another, before bloviating some ill-informed opinion on the subject. Both House Speaker John Boehner and the next Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said it. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has said it too, which is ironic for a state that will be most affected by rising sea levels. “All the science isn’t in” on climate change, we hear that a lot, and it’s true. Only 97% of the science is in; that’s the percentage of scientists worldwide who say that not only is climate change happening right now, but that we’re mostly responsible for it. The other 3% are paid whores of the fossil fools industry, and many of those are the same folks who testified for the tobacco companies decades ago, that there was no evidence that smoking cigarettes causes cancer.
I have never heard a Democrat deny climate change, only Republicans or conservatives. In fact, I discovered an interesting coincidence. The population of the U.S. is about 5% of the planet, and a little less than half identify themselves as Republicans. That means that roughly 97% of the world’s population is not a Republican. Democrats, for the most part, believe in and trust science. So how do these non-science people view their world? They can see that the sun and moon both rise in the east and set in the west, so is it obvious to them that both bodies must be revolving around the Earth, as it travels along through space on the back of a huge tortoise? Be careful not to fall off the edge. I find myself wondering if some of these people know how babies are made. The scary thing is that some of them are in positions of power. Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA) said in 2012: “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” Wow, and this guy is an M.D.! In the Senate, we have James Inhofe (R-OK), who once likened the EPA to the Gestapo. He’s also the author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. This is the guy who next month will be the Chairman of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee. Damn — I think I just wet myself.
“Climate change is just a theory.” That’s right, too. It is a theory, just like the theory of gravity. Republicans believe in gravity, don’t they? Climate change used to be called global warming, and the current “theory” is that it was changed because it sounds less scary. We were talking about in the 1980s, when another Republican, Ronald Reagan, told us it was caused by cows belching and farting. Remember that? The truth is that they are separate things. Global warming causes climate change. The word global refers to a planet-wide phenomenon, and the word climate has a more local or regional connotation.
Every time there’s a winter snowstorm we hear: “Where’s yer global warming now, haw haw haw!” I’ve heard clowns like Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachman ask: “How can carbon dioxide be a pollutant? I’m breathing it out right now! And plants need it!” Following that logic, we should be able to replace the Amazon’s lost rain forests by pumping even more CO2 into the air. Kentucky State Senator Brandon Smith said this in July at a committee hearing about new EPA regulations: “I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that[?]. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars, there are no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.” NASA would dispute that, as they give the average temperature on Mars as -81 degrees F, and on Earth it’s 57 degrees. Hey, isn’t Kentucky coal country? Now I’m not a scientist, but I’m going to try and explain how this all works, for those science challenged people out there who think like the aforementioned boneheads. So listen up, dummies.
“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it.” The quote has been misattributed to Mark Twain; it was said by a writer and editor named Charles Dudley Warner, in the 1880s. Well, it looks like we’re doing something about it, alright. The atmosphere is made up of various gases. The sun’s rays pass through the atmosphere and warm the Earth’s land and water. The planet then gives off heat energy, which radiates upwards. CO2, and to an even greater extent methane, reflects some of the heat back down. It’s similar to the glass in a greenhouse, hence the term “greenhouse effect,” and why they are called greenhouse gases. Climatologists continually monitor the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Prior to the industrial revolution, that was about 280 ppm, or parts per million. The upper level recommended is no more than 350 ppm, and we’re now just over 400 ppm. By far the biggest producer of CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels, it’s just that simple. It’s why the many of the last several years have been the hottest on record. Methane is produced by the breakdown of living things. Most of it is beneath the earth or ice — we call it natural gas. It has 20-30 times as much reflectivity as CO2, although it breaks down faster. As the polar areas warm, huge pockets of methane are being exposed to the atmosphere, and that’s real trouble.
As the planet gets warmer, moisture evaporation increases, both from land and sea. The drying of the land is what’s causing severe droughts like the one in California. All this increased moisture adds water vapor to the atmosphere. It’s called the Water Cycle. We have about 5% more water vapor in the atmosphere than before the industrial age. This is from NASA’s website: “One expected effect of climate change will be an increase in precipitation intensity. A larger proportion of rain [or snow] will fall in a shorter amount of time.” That’s why the Buffalo, NY area got five feet of snow in a 24-hour period this past month. It’s why storms will tend to be more severe, including tornadoes and hurricanes. It’s exactly as predicted by the climate models. That’s as simple as I can make it.
Global warming and climate change are the new normal now, and they’re only going to get worse, I’m afraid. The fossil fool industry has an enormous amount of power and political influence, so they’re only interest is to extract the last drop of oil, the last lump of coal, and the last puff of natural gas, before they’re ready to turn to alternatives. By then the Earth will look a lot like Venus, where the surface temperature is hot enough to melt lead, somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 degrees F. That’s why Venus is described as experiencing a runaway greenhouse effect. I find it kind of ironic that fossil fuels are made up largely of decaying dinosaurs, and today it’s the decaying dinosaurs that are digging it all back up. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if they’ve known all along that by warming the planet, the Arctic ice would melt, and they could get to all those oil reserves up there. As Sarah Palin used to say, “Drill, baby, drill!”
Alright, so we’re in for it. The weirding weather we’re seeing today is the result of the stuff we pumped into the atmosphere 30-40 years ago, so the worst is yet to come. But you know me, I’m the eternal optimist. There are several benefits of global warming. First, it will lower our heating bills in winter (if winter is something that will exist in the future). Of course, a lot of those savings will be offset by an increase in the use of air conditioning, because it will be so damned hot.
Have you ever wanted to live on the coast? Soon, you will be! Surf’s up! And you won’t have to go all the way to Venice to see gondoliers pushing lovers along in gondolas while singing Italian love songs. You can just go to one of today’s coastal cities, like New York or Miami. The neighborhood will be a lot quieter, too. We’ve had enough of all those noisy insects and birds chirping all the time, and soon we won’t have to worry about that infernal racket. It will be quieter, too, because the water crisis we’re about to face means there will be no more lawns, and therefore no more lawnmowers, edgers, or leaf blowers. I can’t wait.
Trying to lose weight? It’s hard to find time to go to the gym, and it can be expensive. Soon, though, you’ll be sweating off those pounds, and you won’t even have to work out! Isn’t that great? And don’t worry about your pets. You’ll be eating them to stay alive during the global food shortage. Then again I could be wrong about all this, because as I think I told you earlier, I’m not a scientist.