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Climate Change (an Environmental Issue)


Climate Change (formally called Global Warming) has been identified as a threat to our economic and environmental future. The evidence suggests that the addition of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses is trapping more heat and warming the planet. This will cause the polar ice caps, glaciers and permafrost to melt and to raise sea levels enough to inundate coastal regions. The climatic changes will also cause droughts, floods and more severe weather. This is contributing to the extinction of many plant and animal species, and could lead to enormous human suffering.


In order to truly evaluate the evidence, we must first think about it in the correct context. The current term is Climate Change. This may be the current politically correct term, but it is quite generic and could apply to any type of change to our climate. Although the term Global Warming is more specific, it is not completely accurate.

Warming implies a rise in temperature. Although heating something may often raise its temperature, it is not the only possibility. For instance, when heating something you could cause a phase change as in when ice melts and becomes liquid water. What our planet is really experiencing is an increase in the amount of energy stored or trapped within our planet’s atmosphere, oceans and land masses. In physics, a transfer of energy is also called heat. Therefore, a better term for what we are experiencing might be Global Heating.

It takes 333,000 joules of energy (heat) to turn 1 kg of ice at 0° C into liquid water at 0° C. As a comparison, if you add another 333,000 joules of energy (heat) to that 1 kg of water at 0° C, you will raise its temperature to 80° C (176° F), which is getting pretty close to its boiling point. As an experiment, you could heat a pot of ice water on a stove. As long as you keep stirring it and there is still ice left, the temperature of the water will remain at 0° C. Only after the ice melts, does the temperature of the water start to rise towards its boiling point.

Therefore, with Global Heating, the Earth can be storing up a lot of energy without a significant temperature rise. In fact, if there is a sufficient enough melting of the polar ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, the global temperature could actually drop, at least until most of the ice has melted. Of course, regardless of what happens with the average global temperature, the melting of the ice that was on land and the expanded volume of the warmer waters would raise global sea levels.

There are various estimates of how much ice will melt and how much sea levels will rise over the next few decades and centuries. Even so, the consensus seems to be that enough ice will melt to raise sea levels by 6 feet by 2100. With just a 6 foot or less rise in sea levels, some of our biggest cities and prime crop lands along our coasts would we flooded. After 2100, a runaway greenhouse effect could soon melt all the remaining ice. Once all the ice has melted, all the extra water and the thermal expansion of the ocean water could raise sea levels up to 250 feet.


Since we have not seem more dramatic changes and without having precise measurements of past and current conditions, some people are questioning whether or not there is any Climate Change (Global Heating), or are outright denying that there is any or at least denying that humans are the cause. The trouble with proving or disproving Climate Change (Global Heating) is that our climate is a very complicated thing with many different processes acting in many different ways and in many different places. Changes in one component of our climate may change many other components and these resulting changes may raise or lower regional and global temperatures. Nevertheless, there have been recent changes in our environment and climate, and much of that change seems to be from human activity.

One measurement is the rise in global sea levels. Between 1880 and 2013, sea levels rose 8 inches, which is a rate of about 0.04 inches per year. That may not seem like much, but the rate of sea level rise has risen since 1993 to an unprecedented rate of between 0.11 and 0.14 inches per year, and the rate of sea level rise is accelerating. Even at a rate of 0.14 inches per year, see levels would rise another 12 inches between 2014 and 2100, which would inundate many low lying regions. However, evident suggests that the rate of sea level rise will increase enough to raise sea level by 6 feet by 2100.

Another measure of Climate Change (Global Heating) is global warming. Even though heating is the real measure, warming is sometimes a good indicator of heating. This is especially true when the warmest 10 years on record, as of 2020, have occurred between 2005 and 2020. The warmest year on record was 2020, followed by 2019, 2016 and then 2017.

We have also seen a lot of plants and animals move farther North or up to higher elevations. Growing seasons have gotten significantly longer. Some areas are now experiencing more droughts and other areas are now experiencing more flooding. Some weather patterns and storms also seem to have gotten a little or a lot more extreme. Since 2017, we have seen an increasing number of record breaking hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, and heat waves.

Energy Changes

In order to get an accurate picture of what is happening with Climate Change (Global Heating), we would need to compute the change in the total amount of energy being stored. This is complicated by the need to add in the energy needed in phase transitions, but also by the fact that different substances require different amounts of energy to raise their temperature by the same amount. Not only are there big differences in the energy required to warm air verses water verses soil verses rock, but even a big difference in humid air verses dry air. For instance, it takes approximately 1.84 joules per gram of energy to raise the temperature of water vapor by 1° C verses only 1 joule per gram for just the air.

Therefore, in order to determine the total amount of energy stored in our planet’s environment, we must determine the energy resulting in temperature changes and the amount of energy that has gone into phase changes. Since the energy needed for temperature changes varies by substance, we must determine not only the average temperature for each substance, but also how much of each substance there is. At the very least, we need to consider all the energy that has gone into melting ice when we consider our temperature changes. Only by tracking the changes in total stored energy will we be able to determine how much Climate Change (Global Heating) we have.

However, we do not need to know the precise amount of Climate Change (Global Heating) to see that it is real. We only need to know the precise amount in order to see how much time we have before things get so out of hand that we have a runaway greenhouse effect that would doom our civilization.


Without the extra energy being trapped in our atmosphere going towards melting the planet’s ice, this energy could all go towards warming and eventually cooking the planet. Of course, our climate is a complicated thing, so there still may be some hope. A number of different things could help to cool things off. For instance, a big volcanic eruption could put enough soot and ash into the atmosphere to block a significant amount of sunlight, although a big volcanic eruption would also have a lot of undesirable consequences.

With warmer temperatures, there will also be more water evaporation. This will pull heat from the water and land, and send it into the upper atmosphere where more heat will radiate off into space. The added cloud cover may also reflect more sunlight in the daytime, but it would also trap more heat at night. In fact, a cloud cover's ability to trap heat may exceed its ability to radiate or reflect heat. We just need to think about the cloud cover on Venus, where the average surface temperature is 480° C (896° F).

Given the complexities and the changes that will happen to our planet’s weather, air circulation, and ocean currents, we do not know what will happen. There is always the possibility, however extremely unlikely, that some cooling processes may stop the temperature rise before we all become toast, or may even send us into another ice age. However, whatever happens, all the extra energy from Climate Change (Global Heating) is disrupting our climate and is harming all life on Earth, including ours.


Even with all the evidence that shows that Climate Change (Global Heating) is occurring, there are still a lot of people who deny it is happening. Some of these people know it is real, but deny it due to political, financial or other reasons. Others have been convinced it is not real. It seems that these people either simply do not understand the science or they are hoping others do not understand it. I have heard these deniers give lots of arguments for why Climate Change (Global Heating) is not real. If you do not understand the science, many of these arguments may seem plausible, but in every case their arguments do not hold water.

One of the biggest issues occurs when people confuse weather and climate. Weather is what we have over some short period of time like a day or a week. Climate is what we have over longer periods of time. Deniers will point to some cold snap as proof that the planet is not warning, while ignoring the heat waves. However, we need to look at the long term averages in order to see whether or not our climate is changing.

In fact, theories about climate change actually predict that we will have more cold snaps along with more heat waves. All the extra heat being added to the atmosphere is causing it to circulate more. Heat rising from the equatorial regions will travel farther North, which will cause more heat waves, but it will also more often push colder air farther South, which will cause more cold snaps. On average, we will experience more extreme weather, while our climate will see rising temperatures.

Deniers also often point to earlier predictions by climate scientists that we were headed towards another ice age, trying to present this as proof that climate scientists do not know what they are talking about. However, when climate scientists were predicting another ice age, they were basing that on two things. First, we were polluting our atmosphere with a lot of soot that was blocking sunlight, and in turn helping to cool the planet. Second, according to the historical climate record, we were actually due for another ice age.

Between then and now, some things have changed. First, we have made great progress in reducing our pollution. We are no longer putting as much soot into our atmosphere, and in turn not blocking as much sunlight. Second, we have added a lot more greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. We have added so much greenhouse gases that we have actually prevented having another ice age, which in some ways is a good thing. However, there is now so much greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that we have swung our climate towards overheating.


Even if we cannot now definitively say how bad Climate Change (Global Heating) is or will be, we can still easily see that our climate is changing. Given the changes we are making to our environment, we must conclude that we are having some effect on our climate and that the chances are pretty good that these changes are not for the better.

The only real way to be sure that we are not causing a problem is to stop adding more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and to restore the forests, the meadows, the grass lands and the wet lands that can help soak up the excess carbon dioxide. To do this, our goals must include turning to renewable energy sources and reversing urban sprawl. Simply reducing our overpopulation problem would actually go a long way towards meeting these goals.

The good news is that we can do this in a way that will actually be good for our economy, our health and our happiness. This can be accomplished by restructuring our economy so that we do not waste our resources and by redesigning the way we lay out our communities.

Next Section

Community Planning - Ways to better organize our Communities so that people and other living things come first.

Last Updated:
Sunday, February 19, 2023
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