As Donald Trump’s inauguration day approaches, uncomfortable conversations seem inevitable. And no topic can heat up a room quite as fast as global warming, as many Americans view this subject through a political lens rather than a scientific microscope. Back up your arguments with facts with this list of five global warming arguments for 2017.
This statement, while popular among science deniers, couldn’t be much further from reality. There is overwhelming evidence that not only is the earth warming, but that humans are causing it.
In fact, if it wasn’t for greenhouse gases like CO2 to absorb radiation, the average global temperature would be about -18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) COLDER than the current average! At those temperatures, the earth couldn’t support life’s essential ingredient: liquid water.
How does the greenhouse effect, work you might ask? It’s a matter of simple physics.
- The sun is a star in space. It is hot. Thanks to the nuclear fusion, the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) and visible radiation (among other wavelengths).
- UV and visible radiation travel to the earth.
- A percentage of this sunlight is reflected back into space while the rest is absorbed by the earth and re-emitted at a lower energy in the form of infrared (IR) radiation.
- Greenhouse gases absorb IR radiation, trapping heat in the atmosphere and making the earth a nice and warm place to live.
Think about what happens when you leave your car windows rolled up in the summer. When you return to your vehicle, it is uncomfortably hot because your car trapped in heat. This is the greenhouse effect.
Image: NASA, CC-BY
The issue with CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) is that we are releasing excessive amounts into the atmosphere. And, since CO2 will stick around for centuries, the human effect on climate will be felt for years to come.
Image: NASA, CC-BY
Although many media outlets often present “both sides” of this issue, there is no real debate among those actually studying the science. The peer-reviewed literature speaks for itself. Here are some facts:
Svante Arhennius, a Nobel Prize winner, first calculated the potential of CO2 as a greenhouse gas over 100 years ago. Surely he did not have any political motive.
Science is based on gathering information without prejudice. Scientists dedicate their life to it, often with little to no recognition.
Think about this: we wouldn’t ignore or belittle a doctor if she gave us a diagnosis we didn’t like. Why would we do the same to scientists? If anything, we might ask for a second opinion. In the case of global warming, asking another credible scientist will only confirm the current diagnosis.
Conversely, funding for the climate change counter-movement has a very dark and questionable history.
It is true that tiny variations in the earth’s orbit may contribute to ice ages… but over periods of hundreds of thousands of years! The rate of the current temperature increase is roughly10x faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming and unprecedented in recorded history.
As for the sun, fluctuations in the solar output have a very small impact on climate, in comparison to other factors. At the very most, the sun contributes only 10% to the current warming trend. By saying that the sun is controlling the climate, you are in essence claiming that earth’s climate is very prone to minor changes.
Image: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Humans affect the planet in many ways, whether it is exploiting ecosystems or dumping greenhouse gases into the air. Our species could even send the planet into a nuclear winter if a particular world leader was so inclined.
And it’s not just humans that can change the planet either. The reason we have oxygen to breathe today is thanks to the work of tiny microbes millions of years ago.
It’s beyond time that we recognize our impacts on this planet instead of denouncing sound science and propagating false narratives.
Top image: Richard Hutchings, Getty Images
Joel Rindelaub is an active scientific researcher and Ph.D. chemist based in Minnesota.