Where climate’s concerned, it’s simple math: 2 + 2 = 400

Carbon capture, fossil fuel, greenhouse gas, these are some of the latest and more common catch-phrases used when it comes to the conversation of climate change. Mention any one or all of these alliterative word-groupings and nowadays that’s guaranteed to move or stir the emotions which brings me to my next point.

Two and two

There are two sides to the global warming issue/argument. You either accept it as real or you don’t. If you accept as real, there are two sides here, too: You either believe the global mean surface temperature rise of about 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the introduction of the Industrial Age in 1760 is on account of human activities – specifically, the release into the atmosphere of carbon and other pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels or you are a member of the camp that maintains the position that the temperature rise is due to what is referred to as “natural variations” or “fluctuations” or “oscillations,” call it what you like. That’s the “nutshell” story.

Equals four-hundred

World warming and climate change have become part of the global conversation. We all can or should be able to agree on that.

NASA is advancing new tools like this supercomputer model-created atmospheric-CO2 simulation to better understand how Earth’s climate will be affected if oceans, land can no longer absorb the nearly half of all climate-warming CO2 gases.

Something else we all can or should be able to agree on regardless of whatever your stance on any or all of the above, and this is that there is an increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the air compared to what was present in the atmosphere prior to the Industrial Revolution’s introduction. I just read where the concentration varies in the area of coverage that extends 19 miles up from Earth’s surface, and that is from an average 360 parts per million (ppm) to 410 ppm depending on where one is measuring or sampling. Let’s just say it’s 400 ppm (rounding to the nearest hundred) and we’ll call it square or good.

This week the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland has convened representatives from nearly 200 nations on hand to hammer out (or at least try to) issues related to carbon capture, climate change, fossil fuels, greenhouse gases, world warming, you get the idea, that need hammering or ironing out. And, because of this, there seems to be more in the news related to this subject than what is typical.

The sense I’m getting from reading and watching and listening to all the climate-related news that I’ve taken in on this – in particular that which has been printed and aired (broadcast) over the last month – is that emissions output-wise, the world is going in the wrong direction and because of and coupled to this, the experts are issuing dire warnings.

I’ve heard that global mean surface temperature rise is accelerating, there is only so much time to act (12 years) in ways to help such temperature rise to reverse course before the proverbial point of no return – the point of no coming back, in other words – is reached. I’m not making this up. That’s what I’ve been hearing, reading.

And, the sources where such news I’ve read, watched and heard have been numerous – it’s not like it’s been one or two.

Of course, there is always a part, or so it would seem, where a countervailing viewpoint or two has been included in such news reporting.

There was even one report that combined information on global warming matters with matters related to the quality of the air. I believe it was up to viewers/listeners watching/listening to put 2 + 2 together and wherefrom a connection could be made. I thought it instructional that the entity that reported in this manner did this.

In addition I heard or read where China is the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter and the United States and India are not far behind. I seem to remember also seeing a report mentioning that the top 20 GHG-producing nations are responsible for causing 75 percent of the GHG-emissions problem. If so, in order to make the most progress in terms of reining in said pollution in the air, it should be these 20 that offer, contribute the most when it comes to getting the world in this respect back on track. Incidentally, those 20 make up roughly 10 percent of all those nations at COP24 taking part.

The woods and on finding our way out

The way I see it the solution to this problem is a rather simple one.

If we look at the path that was taken that got the world to this place or state today, then what has to be done is an about-face. It’s the continued and accelerated rate at which fossil fuels are being burned that has resulted in the air being in a most unhealthy state of repair.

I would throw up my hands in defeat if I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is nothing anyone could do to get greenhouse gas and other pollutants back to the levels they were during pre-industrial times. But, this is not the case at all and that makes me hopeful that we will figure this out.

Carbon dioxide scrubber

It is here, at this juncture, right now that my thoughts turn to the scene in the movie Apollo 13 where, on the return portion of the lunar mission, the part where the spacecraft is headed toward Earth and the cabin air is being replaced by carbon dioxide with a prompt on the control panel indicating the danger with the implication being that if a resolution isn’t found to correct the problem, well, to repeat a familiar expression, if they didn’t (they including ground control in Houston) it would be curtains.

History tells us that the Apollo 13 astronauts made it safely back to Earth. If history along these lines repeats itself with climate change, greenhouse gas, world warming all in mind, like those astronauts, we’ll get through this.

Something else from that film that left a lasting impression: “Failure is not an option!”

NASA’s Apollo 13 lunar mission liftoff

Images: NASA/GSFC (top); Kim Dismukes, NASA (next to last); NASA (bottom)

This post was last revised on Dec. 9, 2018 @ 7:17 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

4 thoughts on “Where climate’s concerned, it’s simple math: 2 + 2 = 400

  1. CO2 is NOT a “pollutant” and has NOTHING to do with the ambient temperature. No gas that is 0.04% of the atmosphere can function as a “greenhouse” gas. If you’ve ever owned a greenhouse, you would know that the plastic sheet over the top is what holds in the sun’s infrared radiant heat. That cover is 100%, not 0.04%. We are entering a period of global cooling that is a natural cycle on earth due to reduced sunspot activity and lesser radiant heat hitting the earth. Every prediction of environmental and human disaster the warming bedwetters have predicted have been FALSE over the last 20 years. So we’re supposed to believe there’s only 12 years left until disaster strikes again? Stop insulting people’s intelligence. It’s all a global wealth redistribution plan and nothing else as admitted by the UN on multiple occasions……..a total scientific fraud.

    • I beg to differ. Not all, but some of the CO2 entering the oceans combines with hydrogen, forming H2CO3 or carbonic acid which, in significant amounts, alters ocean pH levels, the result being increased ocean acidity levels. Increased ocean acidity can and does have a detrimental effect on both sea life and marine ecosystems. In this sense, I have a most difficult time viewing carbon dioxide as anything but (a pollutant).

  2. Alan
    I don’t think this is a particularly useful discussion. The entire GHG/Climate Change discussion has yet to find the “magic bullet” that provides a foolproof answer for all but the least thinking.
    So, let me share an overview analysis that will pass muster in any debate:
    1. The human population of the planet has tripled since 1950. We have the data.
    2. The planet’s people are all seeking to improve their standard of living to become more in line with Western nations. We even help them aspire to that goal.
    3. The US standard of living has a per capital energy consumption is five times the global average. We have the data.
    4. Carbon fuels are a finite resource, and will one day be exhausted. Common sense.
    5. If we multiply the global population number by an average energy consumption rate only half of the US, then the global energy consumption will multiply to a very large number. It is calculable.
    6. Then keep in mind that both parts of the equation are always increasing.
    So, we quickly see that the 800-pound-gorilla-in-the-room-that-no-one-wants-to-discuss is the human population of the planet. There is no hope for humans if we do not bring global population under control. And for that, only education or punishment or both is effective.
    No…not pleasant. But those who focus only on reducing our dependency on fossil fuels are, I argue, incapable of grasping the real problem.

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