Looking for respectful opinions about global warming

Dan Robinson

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John, do you think that early shift may have been purely reactionary to Gore, et al taking up the cause on what, at the time, seemed to be a distinctly political platform? I'm curious if the paper tries to discern a cause for that rather than just showing the gap itself.
 
Don't know - I am not sure that would explain one side shifting more than the other. In the paper, they do attribute the shifts to positions of political elites on both sides, but don't really try much to explain why there was more shift on one side than on the other. IMHO a shortcoming of the paper, although the actual numbers are very interesting.

Also interesting - the journal has every article since 1960 online for subscribers and for members of the Midwest Sociological Society (which publishes the journal), and this is the second-most downloaded article in those 59 years.
 
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rdale

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John, do you think that early shift may have been purely reactionary to Gore, et al taking up the cause on what, at the time, seemed to be a distinctly political platform? I'm curious if the paper tries to discern a cause for that rather than just showing the gap itself.
I absolutely believe that was the primary cause. Conservatives hate Gore, and this was his platform.

That's the only difference I can find from the decade prior when conservatives were totally fine with losing the aerosol hair spray to save the ozone hole.
 
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I'll chime in here...

My background is I have a PhD in Astronomy for studying Mars atmosphere. During my graduate school days I used what were global climate models for Mars. So I have some background in having to understand radiative processes for planets.

The science is quite settled that warming will/is occuring. I welcome debate as to the effects, but let me explain why the atmosphere will/is warming.

We can all agree that over the long term energy in must equal energy out with a planet. The energy going into a planet is from sun light at visible wavelengths. The light that is absorbed must be re-emitted back to space. This light that is absorbed at the surface is re-emitted at IR wavelengths. In IR wavelengths the sky is not at clear. The light as it is attempting to travel back to space is often absorbed by the atmosphere because the atmosphere is not transparent in much of these wavelengths. What is occuring with global warming is the atmosphere is becoming less and less transparent. To counter the lack of efficiency the temperature gradient must increase towards space. Now remember the energy in must equal the energy out. This means where light finally does escape to space, at the top of the atmosphere, the temperature must remain fixed. Since the gradient has increased though that means the (average) surface temperature has gone up.

What causes the atmosphere to become less transparent at IR wavelengths. One is to increase what are called greenhouse gases. These are gases that absorb in the IR. Nitrogen and oxygen don't, but CO2 and water vapor (and methane) do. Most CO2 absorption lines are already optically thick. That is wavelengths that these gases are most effective the gas already catches most of the light. That's not to say increasing the concentration has no effect, you can broaden the absorption wings (like what is occuring with CO2). You can also broaden the line by increasing the temperature as well. Gas like methane is not optically thick that's why you hear it is a more potent greenhouse gas, because more methane directly deepens the absorption line.

What I have described is what is called a gray atmosphere model. This simple 1d description explains warming. We have GCMs that incorporate more effects, these also predict warming.

This process that explains temperatures of the atmosphere on Earth, are also used to explain temperatures on other planets, like Mars that I studied. So to summarize, we have simple models that explain heating, with physics verified from multiple planets, we have complicated 3d GCMs that show similar heating, and we have observations supporting that warming. That's a pretty solid position to stand on in science.
 
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What I have described is what is called a gray atmosphere model. This simple 1d description explains warming. We have GCMs that incorporate more effects, these also predict warming.
Thank you Robert for providing what (in my opinion) is an ACTUAL response to what is not a simple question to answer without folks digging their heels in with dogma and hysterics when the topic of climate change pops up.

Since this is your area of expertise, and since you’ve replied with a solid explanation, could you possibly add to it a bit with the following in mind:

1. Could Earth be Warming as a result of non-human causes, such as volcano activity, wildfire activity, etc?

2. Could the Earth be Warming as a result of human and non-human activity in regards to deforestation?

3. Are there any plausible solar anomalies or cycles that could be causing a temporary or cyclical period of Warming on earth?

4. Are astronomers seeing ANY signs that other planets in our solar system are also experiencing overall “warming” trends?

I think your expertise and response to those questions above may help others in forming their opinions. Once again I thank you for such a nice, level-headed reply! Cheers 🍻
 
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I absolutely believe that was the primary cause. Conservatives hate Gore....That's the only difference I can find from the decade prior when conservatives were totally fine with losing the aerosol hair spray to save the ozone hole.
“Hate” is a strong word, and although I’m not a fan of Gore, I also don’t hate the guy (full disclosure: I voted for Bill Clinton & Obama for his first term in office). My opinion of Gore lies in his rhetoric and lack of his predictions being accurate.

That said, regarding the aerosol / ozone comments:

1. Yes, the U.S. managed to make major improvements in the area of fluorocarbon emissions from things like hairspray and air conditioner cooling agents and the like.

2. The US and some other countries have worked to reduce motor vehicle emissions as well which has improved air quality. I don’t think there is anyone that would dispute basic things like that.

The biggest issue I see, is that while the US may be the leader of cutting back hazardous emissions into the globe’s atmosphere, we are only one nation. We aren’t the “world.” So therein lies the issue:

How does the US impose tough EPA restrictions worldwide? Particularly if there are no economic advantages in other countries to do so?

I understand that my writing this puts geo-political topics right back on the table regarding climate change, but honestly, if the rest of the world isn’t playing by our standards, how much effect would something like the “Green New Deal” have if every other country isn’t held to the same standards?

Yes, certain countries like the US, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ and some other European nations might try to assimilate, but that would be ignoring major areas like China, Russia, India, Pakistan etc, that would have zero motive to play along.

It reminds me of banning plastic straws: The US could ban them permanently, however, it’s already been demonstrated that the major source of plastics in the ocean originate from nations that are not the US. So... then what?

As a side note: Given the sneak-appearance of Asteroid 2019 OK last week that caught astronomers off guard, and deemed it a city-killer, it seems that the biggest threat to our planet may not be the climate... it’s probably killer asteroids. Maybe. Idk... not my area of expertise. 😳
 
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3. Are there any plausible solar anomalies or cycles that could be causing a temporary or cyclical period of Warming on earth?
I'll answer this in pieces as it takes time to formulate informed responses. Also, I'm bound to get interrupted by a 1 year old if I try and do it all at once. I'll start with #3, since this is the easiest for me to quickly explain.

Between solar minimum and solar maximum the variation in the solar constant (the energy flux from the sun is 0.1%). That's 1.361 to 1.362 kW/m^2. We can quickly estimate what would be the long term average change on the atmosphere. Remember Flux in has to equal Flux out for long term equilibrium. So at the top of the atmosphere…
S*2*pi*r^2=4*pi*r^2*sigma*T^4.

S_new=1.362 kW/m^2

S_old=1.361 kW/m^2

Do some algebra… r’s cancel…

->>> S_new/S_old=T_new^4/T_=old^4 ->>> (S1/S2)^(0.25)=T_new/T_old ->>> 1.0007347=T1/T2

Let’s say Earth is ~300K (make that T_old), that means T_new=300.22K. So, the variability from the sun’s cycle would be a 0.22 K or 0.22 C change. This is much smaller than the variation we are talking about, which is on the order of 1.5 C or greater!!!

Also minimums have been more pronounced recently, so this doesn’t support a warming trend either.

Side note, my office budy in grad school is now a solar astronomer at NASA, and one office over was the guy who now runs what's left of Sunspot observatory. They would be happy if they could support an argument that the sun is effecting the earth more, because that make's it easier for them to get money. However, they don't see that... (the scientists are just in it for the money argument runs both ways...).
 
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As an aside, while I am/was an 'expert' on Mars atmosphere (specifically the effects of buoyancy waves on Mars dust storm development), I will try to best answer the other parts... However, I am not as well versed in some of those subjects. Note, I did once get to sit down with a climate scientist, and ask him about his confidence in various issues. His response was the warming being from CO2 and it being man-made, plus the doubling effect of the water-vapor feedback is very solid. Confidence decreases as you move away from those points. So what are the long term consequences on forests, etc, become more and more uncertain.

As an, another, aside, we (as a society) spend a shit ton of money to make sure small changes to a system do not result in horrible consequences. For example what was supposed to be a safety improvement for the 737 MAX resulted in 2 crashes from what was again supposed to be a minor change.

While yes we can dispute the ultimate consequences of small changes to a system for what will occur, the end result could be better, or much worse. However, we don't get to play with multiple versions of our atmosphere, for what is a small change to the system. There's a risk uncertainty argument that is almost never discussed here.

Also from an Astronomy perspective, Earth hasn't always had oxygen. There's no reason this planet HAS to provide a habitable environment for us, it just conveniently does. Even if this warming was natural, you'd think we should be preparing for what is a very big warming signal.

I'll get back to answering the other 3 questions...
 
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...........His response was the warming being from CO2 and it being man-made, plus the doubling effect of the water-vapor feedback is very solid. Confidence decreases as you move away from those points. So what are the long term consequences on forests, etc, become more and more uncertain.

MY COMMENT: I think its the level of uncertainty as we move away from the more solid evidence that gets skeptics even more "skeptical"... as it appears from there, a lot of conjecture enters the picture, and less "provable science". As relevant here on this forum, for the longest time the theory of tornadogenesis was pretty much "settled science" requiring a rear flank downdraft and other conditions to exist for tornado formation. Fast forward to 2019, and there are now new schools of thought that RFD plays little part, and pressure / other factors cause tornado formation unrelated to any RFD... this was more my point earlier in this thread... yes, we can see certain things happening with earth's climate, but do we "know" 100% why we see it, and is it all really "settled science?" <<<<<<-----------

As an, another, aside, we (as a society) spend a shit ton of money to make sure small changes to a system do not result in horrible consequences. For example what was supposed to be a safety improvement for the 737 MAX resulted in 2 crashes from what was again supposed to be a minor change.

MY COMMENT: That WAS an unfortunate thing with the 737 Max... had those two pilots been properly trained on how to appropriately respond to a faulty angle of attack warning and auto-adjustment, and did a manual override, that could have been avoided... but I understand your point there. <<<<<<-----------

Also from an Astronomy perspective, Earth hasn't always had oxygen. There's no reason this planet HAS to provide a habitable environment for us, it just conveniently does. Even if this warming was natural, you'd think we should be preparing for what is a very big warming signal.
Thank you again for these responses! At least for me, they make sense, and are fact-driven. I never like emotional-based discussions when it is the actual data we should be looking at. I am really curious about whether other planets may be warming as well. I will be researching this in the meantime. Thank you again! (I did the quote thing wrong so please see my comments within my reply here)
 
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I'll get back to answering the other 3 questions...
OK... I see my comments are being moderated, so let me clarify my position here: I am NOT a climate change denier, nor advocate. I am questioning the entire "settled science" commentary made almost everywhere (so no, it's not specific to this forum).

The biggest challenge I see for the "settled science" camp (meaning those, and again, I do not mean specifically here, that are stating there is no alternative to the "98% of Scientist Agree Climate Change Is Happening / Human-Induced" theory):

From the American Meteorological Society as to the "evidence" of Climate Change:

"Precipitation—a key link between the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, and the cryosphere—is increasing over the northern middle–high latitudes, especially in autumn. Over the United States, annual precipitation has decreased in the Southwest but increased over the Great Plains, Midwest, and the Northeast; U.S.-averaged precipitation has increased by about 4% since 1900, mostly from the increase in autumn precipitation. Heavy precipitation (e.g., maximum daily precipitation in consecutive 5-year segments) has increased in both intensity and frequency since 1900, especially in the eastern half of the United States and notably in the Northeast. Areas that receive limited precipitation, sometimes called drylands, are increasing in area. The combination of warmer temperature and reduced precipitation in some regions has increased the risk of drought and drought-related impacts. There is evidence that wildfire seasons are increasing globally and areas where wildfires occur are expanding.


The number and intensity of Atlantic hurricanes have both increased since the early 1980s, but much of this increase may be due to natural variability of the atmosphere and ocean. Furthermore, there is little trend or even a decrease in hurricane activity in other ocean basins, so the global trend, if there is one, is not clear. There is evidence that ocean warming is providing more energy to make hurricanes more intense.


There is no sign of an increase in the most violent U.S. tornadoes (those rated EF4 or EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale). However, there is evidence that annual U.S. tornado activity has become more variable since the 1970s, with larger tornado outbreaks separated by longer periods of below-average tornado frequency. Because of the wide range of natural variability in tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and other localized weather events, it may take longer for any persistent changes related to human-produced greenhouse gases to become detectable."

So, those are not my words, they can be found here:


There are variables and observations that simply do not fit into one camp or the other. That was my point. There could be other possibilities. And I believe as scientists (whether credentialed or not) the objective is to question everything, look at the data, and go from there.

I hope that clarifies why I made the comments I have made.
 

rdale

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It seems you have two things mixed up... For example - "there is no sign of an increase in the most violent US tornadoes" has nothing to do with evidence of warmer global temperatures. You are looking at IMPACTS. Not all impacts are known or measurable.
 
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I am working on answer #4. It's giving me an opportunity to look through new data I haven't looked at since I left the field. There's few consistent sources of data for other planets over long periods of time.
 
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Jeff Duda

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1. Could Earth be Warming as a result of non-human causes, such as volcano activity, wildfire activity, etc?

2. Could the Earth be Warming as a result of human and non-human activity in regards to deforestation?

3. Are there any plausible solar anomalies or cycles that could be causing a temporary or cyclical period of Warming on earth?

4. Are astronomers seeing ANY signs that other planets in our solar system are also experiencing overall “warming” trends?
For completeness, pretty much all of these questions can be answered by reading through the IPCC's climate assessment reports. They come out every ~5 years. The 5th one was released in 2013 or 2014, so the 6th one is not far from being published. You can read the entirety of these (going back to the first one) here: Reports — IPCC

The organization of the last few reports is that they contain 3 major sections: a science/technical based section, a section on impacts/vulnerability, and a section on mitigation, which is usually accompanied by recommendations to policy makers. I recommend reading just the first section on the technical basis of climate change. That for the 5th assessment report (AR5) is here: AR5 Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis — IPCC

The link to the PDF version, where your questions are most likely to be answered, is here, especially in sections TS2-4: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_TS_FINAL.pdf
 
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I am working on answer #4. It's giving me an opportunity to look through new data I haven't looked at since I left the field. There's few consistent sources of data for other planets over long periods of time.
Chalk one up for the non-astronomer / non-climatologist (me) at least stirring up interest enough to look at new data 😁

And that was really my point earlier in this thread. I wasn’t throwing barbs at anyone... I (personally) just never like hearing “the science is settled” regardless of what the science or field of science happens to be. When the science is settled, it implies there are no other possible explanations for what is being observed or recorded. As the human race knows all too well, that is rarely, if ever, the case.

I will review the IPPC findings that were also added in the thread. I have been reading the items that the American Meteorological Society attached to its position summary.

I also read the comment from rdale, which, I understand what you are saying. But if we are to look at climate change, are we just talking about only an increase in temperature as the definition of climate change, because as I understand it, climate change isn’t just about a few degrees increase, it’s also about the effects of said increase.

Given that the results of said increase is (as of now) not fully understood, and in fact has many anomalies or results that would NOT be expected, it’s enough to at least leave enough room for explanations that are not simply “human induced.”

To give this topic my own due diligence, I will review all the links that were provided and read all listed books etc. I can be persuaded, but the evidence should be rock solid. This is a topic that has divided the world, and I think we owe it to each other to hear all valid opinions... but I respect that I may have some limitations when it comes to atmospheric physics and astrophysics (neither were my major lol). Thanks for the replies all... and I do mean that... cheers 🍻
 
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Jeff Duda

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I can be persuaded, but the evidence should be rock solid. This is a topic that has divided the world, and I think we owe it to each other to hear all valid opinions... but I respect that I may have some limitations when it comes to atmospheric physics and astrophysics (neither were my major lol).
I find this statement disagreeable, and I don't like the connotation it leaves. The only way in which this topic has divided (parts of) the world is how to mitigate climate change from a political standpoint. The underlying philosophical part of this is that "the truth is the truth...regardless of whether or not you believe in it." The goal of science is to discover the truth. As of mid-2019 there is a preponderance of evidence uncovering the truth that the planet is warming, and that humans have significantly contributed to it. I think this issue is less about division and more about how long it takes for the vast majority of people on Earth to "get onboard" with what is highly likely to be the truth. The resistance to accepting this likely truth (whether because it means you can't make as much money or because you find it "icky", e.g.) is the only substantial source of division here.
 
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For #4, the longest temperature record for any other planet is on Mars. It only spans 6 mars years. The Landers that roamed for years didn't have a met package (the more recent ones do), so the longest temperature record comes from limb observations from an orbiter. Attached is from Kass et al. presentation a year ago. You can see it warms and cools, but those are the effects of dust storms, what is the climatological average of that weather, and the change of it, would take a long time to deduce given the far sparser data. The radiative transfer though used to predict the over all structure of the atmosphere of Mars, and all other planets, is the same physics used to predict how changes in concentrations of CO2 will alter the temperature structure of Earth.
 

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I find this statement disagreeable, and I don't like the connotation it leaves. The only way in which this topic has divided (parts of) the world is how to mitigate climate change from a political standpoint. The underlying philosophical part of this is that "the truth is the truth...regardless of whether or not you believe in it." The goal of science is to discover the truth. As of mid-2019 there is a preponderance of evidence uncovering the truth that the planet is warming, and that humans have significantly contributed to it. I think this issue is less about division and more about how long it takes for the vast majority of people on Earth to "get onboard" with what is highly likely to be the truth. The resistance to accepting this likely truth (whether because it means you can't make as much money or because you find it "icky", e.g.) is the only substantial source of division here.
There was literately zero connotation I ascribed to what I wrote. It’s a statistical fact that not everyone is going to agree with climate change.

To put it in a different context, since I am a licensed healthcare professional, I would offer you the following example:

As heart disease rates climbed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the medical profession and dieticians everywhere told everyone to stop using butter, substitute margarine instead. One problem; despite the medical science being “settled” that butter was evil, there was now the unintended consequence of more heart disease forming from the establishment pushing butter substitutes because polyunsaturated lipids turned out to be horrifically worse than simple saturated lipids like butter. And these were the brightest in the medical communities pushing this myth.

Please don’t take what I say, as my argument against the evidence that the earth is warming.

It is a fact however, that not all nations will conform to whatever policies the UN comes up with. Maybe they will, but history isn’t on the side of the entire world unifying behind any one idea. Particularly one where it will cost money they don’t have. Anyway, I’m still reading the links you provided... so I just wanted to clear up the item you had taken issue with. It wasn’t written with any connotation assigned.
 
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There was literately zero connotation I ascribed to what I wrote. It’s a statistical fact that not everyone is going to agree with climate change.

To put it in a different context, since I am a licensed healthcare professional, I would offer you the following example:

As heart disease rates climbed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the medical profession and dieticians everywhere told everyone to stop using butter, substitute margarine instead. One problem; despite the medical science being “settled” that butter was evil, there was now the unintended consequence of more heart disease forming from the establishment pushing butter substitutes because polyunsaturated lipids turned out to be horrifically worse than simple saturated lipids like butter. And these were the brightest in the medical communities pushing this myth.

Please don’t take what I say, as my argument against the evidence that the earth is warming.

It is a fact however, that not all nations will conform to whatever policies the UN comes up with. Maybe they will, but history isn’t on the side of the entire world unifying behind any one idea. Particularly one where it will cost money they don’t have. Anyway, I’m still reading the links you provided... so I just wanted to clear up the item you had taken issue with. It wasn’t written with any connotation assigned.
The difference though with medicine is that it can't be easily distilled to first principals of physics. It can be with in this instance. Increasing the optical depth increases surface temperatures.
 
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When I see things like "Particularly one where it will cost money they don’t have" it sounds more like politics than science to me. I say this because it argues that the only costs people might encounter are if they do something to reduce human contributions to climate change. This viewpoint totally ignores the fact that there are tremendous costs associated with NOT doing something. If you don't believe that, ask anyone who lives in Paradise, California. Or perhaps Miami, Florida, where more and more of the city is getting flooded even when there is NOT a hurricane or tropical storm. Getting back to the science, if you look at the AMS material quoted in Gary Latimer's post above, Point 1 regarding precipitation is VERY consistent with the point that deleterious effects are occurring from climate change - more and worse floods in some parts of the country, more drought and wildfires in others. And both the temperature trends and the consequences are very consistent with what models linking carbon dioxide to climate are saying. Just because there is not a clear effect on, for example, the frequency and severity of tornadoes does not mean that there are not significant and serious effects on other aspects of climate that influence human lives.
 
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Todd Lemery

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Really interesting stuff here guys. I’d especially like to thank Robert for pointing out things I’ve never even seen being discussed anywhere else. Very informative.
Does anyone have any links to papers done on what would be the perfect temperature for Earth? Would it be a degree or two cooler, warmer, or is it just right where it is now? If the temp could be locked in (not likely), what temperature would benefit mankind the most?
There would be a ton to look into. For instance, warmer temps would increase usable crop lands North, but decrease lands South. Someone else pointed out that some areas are getting drier, while some areas are getting wetter.
That would be a super interesting read if a comprehensive study has been done on that. I wasn’t able to find it myself.
 
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Really interesting stuff here guys. I’d especially like to thank Robert for pointing out things I’ve never even seen being discussed anywhere else. Very informative.
Does anyone have any links to papers done on what would be the perfect temperature for Earth? Would it be a degree or two cooler, warmer, or is it just right where it is now? If the temp could be locked in (not likely), what temperature would benefit mankind the most?
There would be a ton to look into. For instance, warmer temps would increase usable crop lands North, but decrease lands South. Someone else pointed out that some areas are getting drier, while some areas are getting wetter.
That would be a super interesting read if a comprehensive study has been done on that. I wasn’t able to find it myself.
There's not really an ideal temperature. It is what it is. Remove CO2 the Earth would be a very cold place. It's not really the temperature that is the problem, it's the rate of change, and whether that new equilibrium is hospitable to us. Sure plant an animal life can evolve, but at the rate of change that is occuring? Also, do we want to move our cities, sources of agriculture, ect. Yeah, maybe there may be some positive impacts. I went to Italy, a wine region was happy in many ways, they had noticed over 400 years they now have 1-2 weeks longer growing season. The one thing they don't like though is they've noticed the hail frequency has gone up which can damage the plants.

To get a sense of the rate of change the world is used to, vs, what is coming, xkcd is always a good comic that distills information down to a relatable context.

FYI, I'm reading up on questions #1, and #2.
 
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When I see things like "Particularly one where it will cost money they don’t have" it sounds more like politics than science to me. I say this because it argues that the only costs people might encounter are if they do something to reduce human contributions to climate change. This viewpoint totally ignores the fact that there are tremendous costs associated with NOT doing something. If you don't believe that, ask anyone who lives in Paradise, California. Or perhaps Miami, Florida, where more and more of the city is getting flooded even when there is NOT a hurricane or tropical storm. Getting back to the science, if you look at the AMS material quoted in Gary Latimer's post above, Point 1 regarding precipitation is VERY consistent with the point that deleterious effects are occurring from climate change - more and worse floods in some parts of the country, more drought and wildfires in others. And both the temperature trends and the consequences are very consistent with what models linking carbon dioxide to climate are saying. Just because there is not a clear effect on, for example, the frequency and severity of tornadoes does not mean that there are not significant and serious effects on other aspects of climate that influence human lives.
Right... but I wrote that statement with the background that the United States, Canada, UK, NZ, Australia, and a handful of other nations MAY invest in programs to help stop/reverse climate change. But.. and this is what I was referring to, OTHER nations, particularly ones where their GDP may only be a fraction of the US or UK/Canada etc., likely will not be as eager to make the changes we need to reverse climate change.

IF countries like China, India, Russia, that cover a large part of the planet's real estate, are either not in a financial position to make the changes, or, simply don't want to make the changes, there is little we can do about it. Sure, we can slap sanctions on them, but so what? That really doesn't solve the problem.

I KNOW we all want to separate out politics from the issue of Climate Change, but the reality is that WORLD politics will determine the success or failure of reversing the warming of the planet. I'm fairly confident the US and many western nations will take steps necessary, regardless of the political climate in the US currently. But big picture, will the rest of the world? I have a lot less confidence in that happening.

BACK TO SCIENCE: IF only a handful of western nations contribute to reversing climate change, does anyone know if that will be enough to save the planet? (That is a real question, not a snarky one)