In this week’s readings we explored articles in the field of climate change science and how human-induced greenhouse gas emissions influence changes in Earth’s climate systems. We also explored the scientific background and major terminologies associated with the climate change debate. These readings created the opportunity to understand the scientific, economic, political, environmental and social context of the unprecedented changes in Earth’s climate systems and how to engage stakeholders in the field of climate change science.
The Worldwatch Institute’s article entitled “Climate Change Reference Guide” provided a summary of some of the competing concepts, facts, and scientific background of climate change and how humans have significantly altered the climate landscape by releasing greenhouse gases, especially CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere that has never being experienced in Earth's history. The article is widely used as a resource guide on climate change among policymakers and other stakeholders in understanding the scientific argument that Earth’s climate is changing as a result of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and that these trends need to be addressed with urgency avoid any meltdown that is the making The authors conveyed in its simplistic form some of the concepts in climate change science and briefly examined the political diplomacy, which engineered and supported the scientific background of climate change discourse. They briefly explored the timeline of climate change diplomacy by highlighting some of the national and international discussions and treaties that have since paved the way for understanding the urgency and “moral obligations” to take action in reducing our emissions to safe ourselves and future generations. The authors referenced some of the leading institutions, climate change scientific papers, and non-governmental institutions such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that are instrumental in presenting the case that Earth’s climate is changing at an unprecedented rate and that we need to act to reverse the current state of warming to avoid global catastrophic events. The IPCC recently released its newest report suggesting that globally, 95% of scientists are certain that Earth's climate is warming because of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
The Report of Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summary for policymakers was established on previous scientific assessments conducted by the IPCC, which incorporates new and emerging evidences that point to human and natural drivers, especially the burning of fossil fuels, as the major cause of greenhouse gas emissions, which in turns impact global temperature increase amongst others. The authors argued that since 1750 human activities have increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere at an unprecedented rate and that this increase is causing climate viabilities (IPCC 2007). The melting of snow and ice, increases in global average air, and the increase of average sea level rise all point to increase in global temperature, which also indicates that the Earth’s atmosphere is getting warmer (IPCC 2007). Also, at the continental, regional and oceanic scale, changes in precipitation patterns, the acidification of oceanic waters, significant changes in wind patterns follow by unusual heat waves and droughts have being observed globally (IPCC 2007). Paleoclimatologists use climate sensitivity indicators to document changes in Earth’s climate on a time scale to understand climate viabilities (IPCC 2007). However, paleoclimate data suggest that the warmth in the last 1,300 years is substantially unusual. Thus, the report suggests that the rate of warming in the Earth’s climatic system needs to be addressed, if humanity should be able to regress the catastrophic consequences for continuous temperature increase at this current trend.
Mike Hulme’s chapter on the “Discovery of Climate Change” explores the origin of anthropogenic climate change and discussed how climate change became an issue of national and international significance. The chapter further discussed the underlying scientific argument that human-induced activities are the major drivers of global climate change reflecting back to the 19th and 20th centuries. A lot of scientific works and theories were built by these six scientists namely; John Tyndall, August Arrhenius, Guy Steward Callender, Charles David Keeling, Syukuro Manabe and Wallace S. Broecker on issues ranging from greenhouse gases, climate sensitivity, global temperature, carbon cycle, climate models and abrupt climate change respectively. Though these great men did whatever they could to establish so many theories pertaining to climate change, there are still some mishaps raised in peoples mind because the social, economic, cultural and political aspects of it is always overlooked. Whenever one talks about climate change all that comes into mind is just the scientific knowledge of it; but it shouldn’t be forgotten that all over the world climate change is seen and means differently to every society.
Muselli and Freudenburg (2012) argues that there are enough evidences in the scientific literature about the reality of global climate change, which is mostly due to human-induced activities, even though there are still skeptics who out of the “politics of doubts” continue to deny the existence of climate change and the consequences of global temperature increase. Muselli & Freudenbury (2012) maintains that, if enough doubt can be raised about the relevant scientific findings of global climate change, regulation and policy can be avoided or delayed for years or even decades, while such a pattern can lead to the opposite of the one usually feared.”
The RealClimate is an open source platform that is being used by experts, professionals, policymakers and scholars to engage the public and other professionals about issues related to climate change, global warming and related topic within the scientific community. One of the most recent articles published by Anders Levermann entitled “the inevitability of sea level rise” discussed how small increase in global temperature as a result of the continuous increase of greenhouse gas could have significant impact. The question of “how much impact could be sustained by a community in coastal region with just an increase in 0.8 degree C is not measureable and should not be underestimated? This is a complicated question that forms part of the policy decision-making process as to what we as humanity can accept as a justifiable or realistic level of temperature increase and at what price we are willing to pay? Or do we take into account vulnerable geographic settings when making these decisions?
“Government leaders and non-governmental organizations have embraced 2 degrees as the maximum temperature rise allowable if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided” (Worldwatch, 2009). Why should the determination of the “allowable maximum rise in global temperature” be a discussion solely at the governments and non-governmental levels? What impacts would this decision have on small island states that are already experiencing the mayhems of the exponential increase of global temperature?
Hulme, M. (2009). “Why we disagree about climate change.” Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity, Cambridge University Press.
IPCC, 2007: “Summary for Policymakers.” In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Solomon, S., D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M.Tignor and H.L. Miller (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
McKeown, A., and Gary, G. "Climate Change Reference Guide." Worldwatch Institute. N.p., 2009. Web. 04 Sept. 2013.
Muselli, V., Freudenburg, W. R. (2012). “Reexamining Climate Change Debates Scientific Disagreement or Scientific Certainty Argumentation Methods (SCAMs)?” American Behavioral Scientist June 2013 vol. 57 no. 6 777-795.
RealClimate. “Climate science from climate scientists.” Available: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/start-here/. Accessed 4 September 2013.