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  Legislators are taking a sector-by-sector approach this session, but is it enough?   The problem with greenhouse gas emissions  

Story by The Oregon Herald Staff - Story Source
Published on Friday April 23, 2021 - 2:11 AM
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Climate change mitigation consists of actions to limit global warming and its related effects. This involves reductions in human emissions of greenhouse gases as well as activities that reduce their concentrations in the atmosphere. Fossil fuel combustion accounts for 89% of all CO 2 emissions and 68% of all GHG emissions. The most important challenge is to eliminate the use of coal, oil and gas and substitute them with clean energy sources. Due to massive price drops, wind power and solar photovoltaics are increasingly out-competing oil, gas and coal though these require energy storage and improved electrical grids. Once that low-emission energy is deployed at large scale, transport and heating can shift to these mostly electric sources.

Mitigation of climate change may also be achieved by changes in agriculture, reforestation and forest preservation and improved waste management. Methane emissions, which have a high short-term impact, can be targeted by reductions in cattle and more generally by reducing meat consumption.

Political and economical responses include carbon taxes and other emission pricing models, abolishing fossil fuel subsidies, simplified regulations for the integration of low-carbon energy and divestment from fossil fuel finance.

Almost all countries are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change . The ultimate objective of the UNFCCC is to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of GHGs at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. In 2010, Parties to the UNFCCC agreed that future global warming should be limited to below 2 °C relative to the pre-industrial level. With the Paris Agreement of 2015 this was confirmed.

With the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C, the International Panel on Climate Change has emphasized the benefits of keeping global warming below this level. Emissions pathways with no or limited overshoot would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure including transport and buildings, and industrial systems. Pathways that aim for limiting warming to 1.5°C by 2100 after a temporary temperature overshoot rely on large-scale deployment of carbon dioxide removal measures, which are uncertain and entail clear risks.

The current trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions does not appear to be consistent with limiting global warming to below 1.5 or 2 °C despite the limit being economically beneficial globally and to many top GHG emitters such as China and India. Many who deny, dismiss, or hold unwarranted doubt about the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming self-label as 'climate change skeptics', which several scientists have noted is an inaccurate description. Climate change denial can also be implicit when individuals or social groups accept the science but fail to come to terms with it or to translate their acceptance into action. Several social science studies have analyzed these positions as forms of denialism, pseudoscience, or propaganda.

The campaign to undermine public trust in climate science has been described as a 'denial machine' organized by industrial, political and ideological interests, and supported by conservative media and skeptical bloggers to manufacture uncertainty about global warming.

The politics of global warming have been affected by climate change denial and the political global warming controversy, undermining the efforts to act on climate change or adapting to the warming climate. Those promoting denial commonly use rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of a scientific controversy where there is none.

Organised campaigning to undermine public trust in climate science is associated with conservative economic policies and backed by industrial interests opposed to the regulation of CO 2 emissions. Climate change denial has been associated with the fossil fuels lobby, the Koch brothers, industry advocates and conservative think tanks, often in the United States. More than 90% of papers skeptical on climate change originate from right-wing think tanks.

Since the late 1970s, oil companies have published research broadly in line with the standard views on global warming. Despite this, oil companies organized a climate change denial campaign to disseminate public disinformation for several decades, a strategy that has been compared to the organized denial of the hazards of tobacco smoking by the tobacco industry, and often even carried out by the same individuals who previously spread the tobacco industry's denialist propaganda.

Arguments and positions on global warming

The Fourth National Climate Assessment includes charts illustrating how human factors—not various natural factors that have been investigated—are the predominant cause of observed global warming. Some climate change denial groups say that because CO 2 is only a trace gas in the atmosphere it can only have a minor effect on the climate. Scientists have known for over a century that even this small proportion has a significant warming effect, and doubling the proportion leads to a large temperature increase. The scientific consensus, as summarized by the IPCC fourth assessment report, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other reports, is that human activity is the leading cause of climate change. The burning of fossil fuels accounts for around 30 billion tons of CO 2 each year, which is 130 times the amount produced by volcanoes. Some groups allege that water vapor is a more significant greenhouse gas, and is left out of many climate models. While water vapor is a greenhouse gas, the very short atmospheric lifetime of water vapor compared that of CO 2 means that CO 2 is the primary driver of increasing temperatures; water vapour acts as a feedback, not a forcing, mechanism. Water vapor has been incorporated into climate models since their inception in the late 1800s.

Climate denial groups may also argue that global warming stopped recently, a global warming hiatus, or that global temperatures are actually decreasing, leading to global cooling. These arguments are based on short term fluctuations, and ignore the long term pattern of warming.

These groups often point to natural variability, such as sunspots and cosmic rays, to explain the warming trend. According to these groups, there is natural variability that will abate over time, and human influences have little to do with it. These factors are already taken into account when developing climate models, and the scientific consensus is that they cannot explain the observed warming trend.

At a May 2018 meeting of the United States House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Alabama's Representative Mo Brooks claimed that sea level rise is caused not by melting glaciers but rather by coastal erosion and silt that flows from rivers into the ocean.

Climate change denial literature often features the suggestion that we should wait for better technologies before addressing climate change, when they will be more affordable and effective.

Conspiracy theories Main article: Global warming conspiracy theory Global warming conspiracy theories have been posited which allege that the scientific consensus is illusory, or that climatologists are acting on their own financial interests by causing undue alarm about a changing climate. Despite leaked emails during the Climatic Research Unit email controversy, as well as multinational, independent research on the topic, no evidence of such a conspiracy has been presented, and strong consensus exists among scientists from a multitude of political, social, organizational and national backgrounds about the extent and cause of climate change. Several researchers have concluded that around 97% of climate scientists agree with this consensus. As well, much of the data used in climate science is publicly available to be viewed and interpreted by competing researchers as well as the public.

In 2012, research by Stephan Lewandowsky concluded that belief in other conspiracy theories, such as that the FBI was responsible for the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., was associated with being more likely to endorse climate change denial.

Inhofe holding a snowball on the U.S. Senate floor. In February 2015 climate change denier Jim Inhofe, who had previously called climate change 'the greatest hoax ever perpetrated against the American people,' claimed to have debunked the alleged hoax when he brought a snowball with him in the U.S. Senate chamber and tossed it across the floor. He was succeeded in 2017 by John Barrasso, who similarly said: 'The climate is constantly changing. The role human activity plays is not known.'

Donald Trump tweeted in 2012 that the Chinese invented 'the concept of global warming' because they believed it would somehow hurt U.S. manufacturing. In late 2015, he called global warming a 'hoax.'

alse beliefs In 2015, at a town council meeting in Woodland, North Carolina, two individuals said they feared that solar farms would draw too much energy from the sun, one of whom was a retired science teacher who worried that this would interfere with the photosynthesis of nearby plants and also that it could cause cancer in humans.

Explaining the techniques of science denial and misinformation, by presenting 'examples of people using cherrypicking or fake experts or false balance to mislead the public,' has been shown to inoculate people somewhat against misinformation.

Dialogue focused on the question of how belief differs from scientific theory may provide useful insights into how the scientific method works, and how beliefs may have strong or minimal supporting evidence. Wong-Parodi's survey of the literature shows four effective approaches to dialogue, including ' people to openly share their values and stance on climate change before introducing actual scientific climate information into the discussion.'

Emotional and psychological aspects Main article: Psychology of climate change denial Florida State Senator Tom Lee has described the emotional impact and reactions of individuals to climate change. Lee says, 'If these predictions do bear out, that it's just economically daunting. I mean, you have to be the Grim Reaper of reality in a world that isn't real fond of the Grim Reaper. That's why I use the term emotionally shut down, because I think you lose people at hello a lot of times in the Republican conversation over this.' Emotional reactions to climate change may include guilt, fear, anger, and apathy. Psychology Today, in an article titled 'The Existential Dread of Climate Change, has suggested that 'despair about our changing climate may get in the way of fixing it.' The American Psychological Association has urged psychologists and other social scientists to work on psychological barriers to taking action on climate change.

Responding to climate denial - the role of emotions and persuasive argument An Irish Times article notes that climate denial 'is not simply overcome by reasoned argument,' because it is not a rational response. Attempting to overcome denial using techniques of persuasive argument, such as supplying a missing piece of information, or providing general scientific education may be ineffective. A person who is in denial about climate is most likely taking a position based on their feelings, especially their feelings about things they fear.

Lewandowsky has stated that 'It is pretty clear that fear of the solutions drives much opposition to the science.'

It can be useful to respond to emotions, including with the statement 'It can be painful to realise that our own lifestyles are responsible,' in order to help move 'from denial to acceptance to constructive action.'

Farmers and climate denial Seeing positive economic results from efforts at climate-friendly agricultural practices, or becoming involved in intergenerational stewardship of a farm may play a role in turning farmers away from denial. One study of climate change denial among farmers in Australia found that farmers were less likely to take a position of climate denial if they had experienced improved production from climate-friendly practices, or identified a younger person as a successor for their farm.

In the United States, rural climate dialogues sponsored by the Sierra Club have helped neighbors overcome their fears of political polarization and exclusion, and come together to address shared concerns about climate impacts in their communities. Some participants who start out with attitudes of anthropogenic climate change denial have shifted to identifying concerns which they would like to see addressed by local officials.

People who have changed their position 'I used to be a climate-change skeptic,' conservative columnist Max Boot admitted in 2018, one who believed that 'the science was inconclusive' and that worry was 'overblown.' Now, he says, referencing the Fourth National Climate Assessment, 'the scientific consensus is so clear and convincing.'

Climate change doubter Bob Inglis, a former US representative for South Carolina, changed his mind after appeals from his son on his environmental positions, and after spending time with climate scientist Scott Heron studying coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef. Inglis lost his House race in 2010, and went on to found republicEn, a nonprofit promoting conservative voices and solutions on climate change.

Jerry Taylor promoted climate denialism for 20 years as former staff director for the energy and environment task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council and former vice president of the Cato Institute. Taylor began to change his mind after climate scientist James Hansen challenged him to reread some Senate testimony. He became President of the Niskanen Center in 2014, where he is involved in turning climate skeptics into climate activists, and making the business case for climate action.

In 2009, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev expressed his opinion that climate change was 'some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects.' After the devastating 2010 Russian wildfires damaged agriculture and left Moscow choking in smoke, Medvedev commented, 'Unfortunately, what is happening now in our central regions is evidence of this global climate change.'

Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine, reached a tipping point in 2006 as a result of his increasing familiarity with scientific evidence, and decided there was 'overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming.' Journalist Gregg Easterbrook, an early skeptic of climate change who authored the influential book A Moment on the Earth, also changed his mind in 2006, and wrote an essay titled 'Case Closed: The Debate About Global Warming is Over.'

Weather Channel senior meteorologist Stu Ostro expressed skepticism or cynicism about anthropogenic global warming for some years, but by 2010, he had become involved in explaining the connections between man-made climate change and extreme weather.'

Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, funded by Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, has been a prominent critic of prevailing climate science. In 2011, he stated that 'following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I'm now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.'