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Five Scientists on Climate Change

In Le Gardien on November 30, 2015 at 12:46 AM

According to a Time magazine article from November 2, 2015, the world’s second richest man Bill Gates is currently putting “$2 billion” of his foundation’s money into raising awareness of the world’s energy problems—aiming to help achieve a cheaper and as reliable energy system with zero carbon dioxide emissions. Billions of dollars in mind, here are five well-respected scientists, including a geologist, two theoretical physicists and an economist, discussing climate change—a major headline this week with world leaders gathering in Paris.

First, Dr. Richard Alley, a Penn State University geology professor and contributor to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), discusses his 2011 documentary funded by the National Science Foundation—Earth: The Operators’ Manual. “Global warming is an unavoidable consequence of known physics,” according to Professor Alley. He says, “We can use climate science. And we can use it to make us better off.” Of all the factors affecting climate historically, carbon dioxide has clearly been “the biggest control knob.”

Second, Dr. Michio Kaku, a City University of New York physics professor, explained some of the cost effects on the economy speaking on CBS News in 2014. He explains a few facts and anticipations, “Farmers realize that summer is almost a week longer than normal. Insurance rates are going to go up because of flooding in many areas. We see increasing heat spells means more visits to the hospital. And so we’re seeing the beginning of it now. Sea levels are rising. Temperatures are rising. Alaska and Greenland are beginning to thaw out. And so we’re beginning to see the beginning of what could be trillions of dollars in property damage.” Answers reside in achieving “efficiency” in car engines and long-term adoption of new energy resources like solar and hydrogen.

Third, Stephen Hawking, a theoretical physicist at University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time, cautions in a recent documentary of his own that, “We don’t know where the global warming will stop, but the worst-case scenario is that Earth would become like its sister planet, Venus, with a temperature of 250 centigrade and raining sulfuric acid.” He adds, “The human race could not survive in those conditions.”

Fourth, Dr. James Hansen, a Columbia University climate  science professor and former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has been discussing the science behind extreme weather events and their relationship with climate change. Citing a 2014 study, he explains that “three standard deviation-anomalies” from the distribution of temperature deviations over the 1950s to the 1980s that would have been expected 1 percent of the time are now covering a much larger 10 percent of the land mass in the southern hemisphere today—making for higher occurrences of forest fires, extreme droughts, heat-waves, etc. Because the temperature distribution has shifted upward he concludes that, “We know that almost all of those [anomalies] are due to the fact that it’s global warming.” His proposed remedy is placing a price on carbon emissions.

Fifth, Ken Arrow, a Stanford University economics professor and IPCC subject matter expert contributor as well, says “It’s quite clear we have to reduce the amount of emissions.” A carbon tax applied to all the various energy forms containing carbon, e.g., petroleum, etc., represents the most simple proposal with support from most economists because it targets a “broad incentive.” An alternative is to issue licenses, which can be bought and sold—that is, the so-called “cap-and-trade” system. He says both options will work.

Earlier in the year the Pew Research Center recorded that 68 percent of Americans agree “there is solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.” More recently, a majority of people in 40 nations polled by the Pew Research Center responded that climate change is a “serious problem” and “support the idea of their country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement in Paris.”

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