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Runninghead: WORLD ON FIRE

World on Fire: How Climate Change affects Earth and Humanity


Carter Baumgartner
The University of Texas at San Antonio

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Abstract

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The change in the Earths climate has made an obvious and extreme shift in recent years. How does
climate change work and who is the one doing the damage? Gasses stop heat from leaving the planet
and traps humanity in a cage for their own destruction. Companies with inefficient green laws and
countries with little to no stoppings for saving the earth are poisoning the atmosphere and killing life
around the world on land and at sea.
In recent decades there has been a major uptick in extreme weather occurrences and deaths due
to change in climate. The waste that humans create by living the new post industrial revolution
lifestyle has caused this by trapping heat in the atmosphere and oceans. The excessive use of wasteful
technologies is ruining the planet because climate change is destroying species and lives. It can be
agreed that no one wants to kill the only world we have and by showing how climate change has
already affected the world, the descent into an even worse situation can be prevented.
Early on in the understanding of climate change it was called global warming due to the lack of
understanding of what worldwide warming would do. To reduce confusion many scientists have
changed the term used to climate change as it encompasses the effects of cooling and such as well.
Scientists needed to clarify because an increase in temperature doesn't always mean something as
simple as an average temperature increase. For instance the melting of ice causes an influx of fresh
water into a very balanced system of currents in the ocean, this could stop or slow the North Atlantic
Current which keeps Western Europe and North East USA warm and then plunge those areas into a
false ice age. Like in the movie Day after Tomorrow, although to be honest not even the harshest of
predicted outcomes are close to the severity shown in that movie.
The usual suspect for climate change is greenhouse gasses, a term for gasses like carbon dioxide
or methane that block sunlight reflected from the planet from getting out which causes a greenhouse
effect and heating up the planet (hence the name). A small scale of this would be how a car heats up
when it's in the sun. The windows allow the sunlight in but not the reflected heat from the upholstery

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out thus heating up the car. The causes of these gasses vary from power plants to agriculture with
residential and commercial actually being the some of the lowest contributors of emissions as seen in
Figure 1. Supplying energy creates the most pollution, as most ways companies do so is by burning
coal or natural gas which releases literal tons of carbon dioxide into the air, almost 2100 million metric
tons in 2013 by USA alone.
All this dumping of greenhouses gasses into the atmosphere caused Europes hottest summer in
500 years, this resulted in between 22,000 and 45,000 heat related deaths over 2 weeks in 2003. This
was due to an only 3.5 degree Celsius increase in temperature on average (Patz 2005). While the
general heat increase worldwide is attributed to worldwide effects of climate change it is thought that
this incident and others like it were because of a much more conspicuous culprit, the cities themselves.
The cities do this by their capacity to act as so called 'heat islands', that is they store heat and decrease
cooling because of reduced vegetation and increased coverage by dark surfaces such as asphalt and
rooftops. Most cities in recent times have shown average temperatures increasing by 5-11 C from
their surrounding country side (Patz 2005).
All of this stored heat has been shown to cause increased deaths and disease onset due to
changes in the average temperature that the people in the area are used to. Because the heat locked in
the cities is harder to get out due to the buildings blocking winds and evaporation as well as the
concrete being better at absorbing and staying hot for extended periods the summers stay hot for longer
and the winters never get quite as cold as they used to. The heat from the cities are increasing but the
native's desired temperature isn't increasing with it fast enough. For example while 17 C in London
(Patz 2005) may be an unusually hot day, in Austin however it is considered average and maybe even
quite cool depending on the season.
From cities to hurricanes the climate is large scale and so it is good to expand ones focus on
larger affects. Only days ago (8/23/15) the strongest hurricane to ever hit North America made landfall

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near Manzanillo, Mexico. While the death toll and cost of destruction was relatively low for such a
storm (a similar storm in the Philippines killed over 6,300 people) that is merely due to luck about
where it hit (mostly unpopulated areas) and that because it developed so fast it couldn't create a storm
surge that would of flooded the area as well as Mexico's diligent response to the disaster as it developed
(Plumer 2015).
A likely explanation for why the hurricane got so strong would be the natural periodic
occurrence called El Nino, and this one is one of the strongest (meaning warmest) on record, the waters
under the hurricane being particularly warm. This is because of all the energy being absorbed by the
oceans, so much excess heat in the air due to its trapping by greenhouse gasses is being pumped right
into the oceans. Shown to be more than 90% of that energy (Holthaus 2015). Also due to increased
temperatures the rates of evaporation have increased leading to more rainfall and higher humidity.
Because dry air is often a slowing force for hurricane growth they now have the capability to grow
more and faster without the usual dry patches (Holthaus 2015).
As the world changes the species on it change to match, this means that as an area gets hotter
many species will move toward the poles or up in elevation to keep their usual temperatures constant.
One of the easiest ways to track how some animals are reacting to climate change is to see how they
migrate now relative to before. Changes in the timing of spring activities, when they breed or appear in
a region, indicate that the animals are indeed feeling the effects of the climate. Birds and butterflies are
starting to breed and appear at their migratory destination earlier while plants are unfolding leaves and
flowering days or weeks before their average times just a few decades ago (Walther 2002).
Tracking species that don't migrate is easier than those that do because seeing the range changes
in a usually non-changing species means that when they do move it is more obvious. Table 1 shows a
few examples and how the animals moved because of certain climate changes in their region (Walther
2002). But what are some examples of people arguing against climate change?

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Those unversed in the science behind climate or mislead by those who believe that there is none
often say the darndest things. The most paranoid say this talk of climate change was made up to
eventually destroy the industrial structure of the world's leading superpowers, and drastically reduce
individual freedom of all citizens in complying with strict environmental laws (Elliot 2013).
Apparently there hasnt been any general warming since 1997 (or 1998 depending on who is asked)
and over 31,000 scientists signed a petition saying humans are not causing global warming. Hawkins
continues to list that arctic ice is up 50% since 2012 and that earlier predictions have continually come
up short (2014).
The problem in saying there is no more warming is that they show these graphs that seem to not
show any sort of change and proclaim that there has been no warming since 1998 (a strangely hot year
to start from). Much of this stems from the scale of numbers talked about here, from 1950 -1999 the
earth was warming 0.113 C per decade, doesnt seem like much. But the climate is much more fragile
than its ever changing temperature would have you believe, and very few disagree with the fact that
this fraction of a degree a decade does indeed count as warming. So if 0.113 C is enough for even the
deniers of a general trend to say it was warming why then does a warming of 0.116 C between 2000
and 2014 not count anymore (Plait 2015)? Scientists against climate change show their graphs and
tables showing only a few tenths of a degree rise worldwide and cry that is no increase! But when
shown the same increase before 1998 they say yes, it got warmer, but only for a little while.
Speaking of disagreeing scientists, the 31,000 who signed some petition decrying global
warming seems like a big number, but again the deniers again use scale to their advantage. Thirty one
thousand may seem like a lot in terms of a school but only that many scientists agreeing on anything
usually indicates its bunk. And one has to consider what people (yes scientists are people too) would
do for money. For as long as smoking has been around there have been doctors to endorse it, for a
while they could claim ignorance but even now there are those with degrees who will claim under oath

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that smoking has no ill effects and then turn around to take money from tobacco companies. So
although some of them undoubtedly believe that there is in fact no global warming the numbers are
skewed by both how many are just taking bribes and that this big number really isnt so big.
Maybe some of them were confused into the believing there is no climate change by people like
Hawkins just straight up lying in his essay. Its amazing how often people will straight up lie to try to
convince someone of something. That is precisely what Hawkins is doing when he claims that many
earlier predictions have been off the mark. Again one has to look at the scale of his claim, he cites
another paper by a Dr. Roy Spencer that says 95% of the 90 models he analyzed were faulty. Those
who want to get to the bottom of this will have to search very hard to get to the bottom of this but they
fill find that the graph Spencer uses is basically made up. By going to the actual data that he used to
base the accuracy on (the HadCRUT4 satellite) one can see that the numbers he is using as the baseline
of change is completely wrong. In fact by plugging in the numbers he should have used, about 90% of
his 90 models are actually too low in their predictions. Not only does this prove many of the models
right but in doing so shows a general upward trend of a much higher caliber than believed by scientists
already on board that the climate is changing.
That these models tend to be under, not over, in their general heat predictions provides some
context as to the rest of the arguments brought up by Hawkins. He often brings up a stat meant to show
how things havent changed at all or how they may be even improving over earlier years, take for
example the earlier said opposition that ice grew by 50% from October 2012 to 2013 the same month.
With this claim he shows his ignorance on how the Earth actually works (although part of knowing
how it works is knowing that no one really knows all that well). His article was written in 2014, so it
could be argued that he didnt have any more information of the larger trend later in the decade and so
only talked of the change from one year to another. But the earth doesnt care for mere years, as it has
drifted through space for billions of those relatively trivial things. This is why all talk of climate

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change (itself a worldwide and long term phenomenon) must be long term. Individual years can have
all the discrepancy it wants if the general trend is changing then a single fluke of a year doesnt affect
the overall conclusion.
And let it be known that this year isnt a fluke in that it was cold, this year had such a difference
from the years close to it because it was especially warm and so melted more ice than expected.
Hawkins cites many pages for his claims which in turn cite more, but again as before if one goes to the
source (a satellite again, used by the National Snow and Ice Data Center) it is shown in an easy to
understand graphic how the extent of ice coverage changes from year to year. Because it is now 2015 it
shows the years from 2011-2015. If those who cited this satellite page had actually looked at its long
term readings (which most of them couldnt do as they jumped the gun and posted look Im right way
before it could be determined either way) they would have seen that 2012 was a particularly low ice
year and since 2013 the ice has receded slowly to begin to match that recorded then. With an
abundance of information it is easy to be overwhelmed and to just trust those who say what you already
believe. But if you want the truth you have to dig deeper and find the real statistics behind everyones
claims.

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References
Elliot T (2012). Put simply, GW/CC doesnt exist. UFO Digest. From http://ufodigest.com/article/putsimply-global-warmingclimate-change-doesnt-exist
Hawkins J (2014). 5 scientific reasons global warming isnt happening. Town Hall. From
http://townhall.com/columnists/johnhawkins/2014/02/18/5-scientific-reasons-that-globalwarming-isnt-happening-n1796423/page/full
Holthas, E (2015). Its Undeniable: climate change made hurricane Patricia worse. Slate. From
http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/10/23/hurricane_patricia_was_made_worse_by_cli
mate_change.html
Patz, J A, Campbell-Lendrum D., Holloway T, Foley J (2005). Impact of Regional Climate Change on
Human Health. Nature. From
http://www.nature.com.libweb.lib.utsa.edu/nature/journal/v438/n7066/full/nature04188.html
Plait P (2015). Yeah, about that global warming hiatus Slate. From
http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2015/06/05/global_warming_hiatus_new_research_
shows_it_doesn_t_exist.html
Plass, G (2008). Carbon Dioxide and Climate. Scientific American. From
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/carbon-dioxide-and-climate/
Plumer B (2015). Hurricane Patricia: why a record storm did surprisingly little damage. Vox Energy
and Enviornment. From http://www.vox.com/2015/10/26/9615274/hurricane-patricia-aftermath
Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (2013). EPA. From
http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html
Walther, G et al (2002). Ecological Responses to Recent Climate Change. Nature. From
http://www.nature.com.libweb.lib.utsa.edu/nature/journal/v416/n6879/full/416389a.html

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Table 1.

Note: Walther, G et al (2002). Ecological Responses to Recent Climate Change. Nature. From
http://www.nature.com.libweb.lib.utsa.edu/nature/journal/v416/n6879/fig_tab/416389a_T2.html

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Figure 1.

Note: Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (2013). EPA. From


http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html