The Evidence for Rapid Climate Change

 

My last post, “Why We Badly Need a Revenue Neutral Carbon Tax” makes the case for combatting global warming with a sensible free market mechanism such as a carbon tax rather than a hodge-podge of arbitrary national and state regulatory actions. Since many of the Facebook responders to this post deny the reality of global warming in the first place, I have decided to present the overwhelming evidence for its existence.
When ninety-seven percent of climate scientists worldwide agree that climate change is real and they have assembled a massive amount of measurement data to back up this claim, I think we have to take them seriously. For example:

  • The Global Surface Temperature is Rising. Global average temperature has risen 1.4 F since the early 20th century as shown in the chart just below which also shows the close correlation with carbon-dioxide concentration.
    Capture2
  • The Sea Level is Rising. It has risen at an average rate of 1.7 mm/year over the last 100 years and at the rate of 3.5 mm/year since 1993 which is equivalent to one inch every seven years.
  • Global Upper Ocean Heat Content is Rising. The top 700 meters have warmed by .3F since 1969. Thermal expansion of the ocean water as it warms contributes to the sea level rise.
  • Glacier Volume is Shrinking Worldwide. Just Greenland and Antartica alone have lost at 150 cubic kilometers of ice annually in recent years.
  • Declining Artic Sea Ice. Both the extent and thickness of artic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades (see chart below).
    Capture1I accept the reality of the scientific evidence for global warming but I am certainly no “alarmist” in terms of what our response should be towards addressing it. It will be many, many years before renewable energy sources like wind and solar are able to make a substantial dent in worldwide energy needs.
    The best thing to do in the meantime is to attempt to decrease carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels through carbon capture and storage. A carbon tax would create a huge economic incentive for the coal and oil industry to solve this problem. If and when they figure it out, it is likely that the technology involved would rapidly spread around the world.
    This would represent a real solution to a very serious problem.

Why We Need a Carbon Tax III. Natural Gas Is Not a Real Solution

 

Most people agree that global warming is for real and that it is caused by a buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mostly from carbon dioxide.  We need to respond to this existential threat and the U.S. should lead the way.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations call for a 30% reduction in carbon emissions, from 2005 levels, by 2030.  Since fracking has led to a natural gas boom in the U.S. and the burning of natural gas only emits half as much carbon as the burning of coal, it is very likely that the new EPA rules will lead to a major replacement of coal by natural gas in U.S. energy production.
CaptureBut there is a downside to this approach as pointed out in yesterday’s New York Times, “The Potential Downside of Natural Gas,” as follows:

  • Natural gas is starting to replace nuclear power which has no carbon footprint. Last year five reactors announced that they would close because of the low cost of natural gas. This will increase CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • Fracking for oil produces natural gas as a side product which may not be easily marketable. This excess natural gas is either burned off or escapes unburned releasing methane which causes even more damage than CO2.
  • The low cost of natural gas is also slowing down the development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

A far more efficient system of reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be to tax its emission from any fuel source.  The most commonly mentioned amount is $20 per ton which would raise the price of gasoline by about 10 cents per gallon.   This way the use of all forms of fuel, including coal, oil and gas, would be taxed equally based on how much carbon they emit.  This would create a huge economic incentive for developing carbon capture in fuel combustion, which is the ultimate solution to eliminating CO2 emissions.
In other words, we have a huge problem on our hands which needs an effective solution.  Half measures will not get the job done and will just cause lots of confusion and political controversy in the meantime.  It’s time for some real leadership!