Dire Predictions Book Review

Posted: August 30, 2017 by Mike Hubbartt in Academia, Book Reviews, Environmental Posts, Reviews, Uncategorized
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By Mike Hubbartt, © Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved.

Title: Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change 2nd Edition 2015 Product Details
Author(s): Michael E. Mann and Lee E. Kump
ISBN: 978-1-4654-3364-0
Published: 2008,2015 by DK Publishing
Price: $24.95 (hardback)
Length: 224 pages

Author Bios

Dr. Mann has undergraduate degrees in physics and applied math, a Masters degree in Physics, and a Ph.D in Geology and Geophysics. Dr. Mann has published books (The Hockey Stick, The Madhouse Effect) and over 180 peer-reviewed publications on global warming, and has testified in congressional hearings about the subject, as well as made himself available via social media to people with questions on global warming.

Dr. Kump has an undergraduate degree in geophysical sciences and a Ph.D in Marine Science. Dr. Kump has published over 100 peer-reviewed publications on global warming, and his work has appeared in documentaries produced by National Geographic, BBS, NOVA Science-Now, and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

These two scientists are far more reliable sources on climate change than special interest commentators with an agenda to cast doubt on climate change. Let’s take a look at their book and see what the scientific data shows.

 

Table of Contents

Introduction – do NOT skip this section! Great intro to climate
PART 1: Climate Change Basics
PART 2: Climate Change Projections
PART 3: The Impacts of Climate Change
PART 4: Vulnerability and Adaption to Climate Change
PART 5: Solving Climate Change

 

INTRODUCTION

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the international body for assessing the science related to climate change. The IPCC was set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to provide policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. ”
http://ipcc.ch/news_and_events/docs/factsheets/FS_what_ipcc.pdf

Dire Predictions explains the findings of the IPCC on climate change, using clear and detailed visual graphics to demonstrate the data in the 5th IPCC assessment.
Note 1: As of 2017, there is a new assessment on the IPCC website (ipcc.ch).
Note 2: The IPCC/Links website page contains links to different government websites that contain climate change information, and the US EPA website no longer contains Climate Change data per President Trump and EPA Admin Pruitt – for pre-Trump information, see  https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climatechange_.html

 

CLIMATE VS. WEATHER

“We plan our daily activities around the weather. Will it rain? Is a storm or a cold front approaching? Weather is highly variable, and, although considerable improvements in weather forecasting have been made, it is still often unpredictable.

Climate, on the other hand, varies more slowly and is highly predictable. … Climate represents the average of many years’ worth of weather. This averaging process smooths out the individual blips caused by droughts and floods, tornadoes and hurricanes, and blizzards and downpours, while emphasizing the more typical patterns of temperature highs and lows and precipitation amounts.”
Introduction, Dire Predictions

Sen. James Inhofe (republican, Oklahoma) received a BA from the University of Tulsa in 1973, when he was nearly 40 yrs old, which is commendable. Checking his biography (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Inhofe and https://www.inhofe.senate.gov/biography), t I was unable to find out what he studied for his undergraduate degree, nor could I find any graduate school credentials for the senator. On Feb 25, 2015, Sen. James Inhofe appeared at the US senate and used a snowball for the reason his does not believe that global warming is happening (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/02/26/jim-inhofes-snowball-has-disproven-climate-change-once-and-for-all/). Yes, a person elected by the people of Oklahoma to represent them in government doesn’t understand the basic difference between weather and climate.

For the sake of people that don’t understand the difference between weather and climate, let’s summarize:
WEATHER: highly variable and unpredictable.
CLIMATE: varies slowly and highly predictable.
CLIMATE REPRESENTS THE AVERAGE OF MANY YEARS WORTH OF WEATHER.

THINGS THAT INFLUENCE CLIMATE

  1. Latitude (location on the Earth)
  2. The oceans
  3. The atmosphere
  4. Atmospheric Circulation – the Hadley Circulation

Fascinating information about ice ages in this section. When they did and didn’t occur.

 

GREENHOUSE GASES

It is important to understand what greenhouse gases are, since climate change deniers often attempt to claim these are not important or that science is wrong is stating certain things are greenhouse gases. According to scientists that actually study climate science:

“Greenhouse gases exist naturally in Earth’s atmosphere in the form of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and other trace gases, but atmospheric concentrations of some greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are being increased as a result of human activity. This increase occurs primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, but also through deforestation and agricultural practices. Certain greenhouse gases, such as CFCs and the surface ozone found in smog, are produced exclusively by human activity.”
Dire Predictions, Introduction page 14

Something in this section is very important today, as current news in 2017 shows that the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting, and that ice sheet has remained intact during climate changes over the past 2 million years. The fact it is melting is extremely important, as it shows we are experiencing something today that hasn’t happened in 2 million years!

 

PART 1: CLIMATE CHANGE BASICS

THE ROLE OF SCIENCE AND SCIENTISTS IN UNDERSTANDING CLIMATE CHANGE

“Basic principles of physics and chemistry dictate that Earth will warm as concentrations of greenhouse gases increase. Though various natural factors can influence Earth’s climate, only the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations linked to human activity, principally the burning of fossil fuels, can explain recent patterns of global warming.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 16

Scientists study climate change, and often find themselves questioned by special interests or people hired to look for reasons to contest climate change. Scientists approach climate science the same way they approach other topics: using the scientific method (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method).

“Scientific conclusions arise from time-tested theories, accurate observations, realistic models based on the fundamentals of physics and chemistry, and consensus among colleagues working in the discipline.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 21

Real scientific conclusions are not based on what is politically correct, what pleases conspiracy theorists, or what is economically prudent. We do not live in a Star Trek universe where everyone has a theory, so the opinions of people that doubt climate science but lack a scientific education do not trump scientific theories.

 

IPCC 5th ASSESSMENT – WHAT IT MEANS

The 5th assessment of the IPCC makes predictions about the possible outcomes we can expect from climate change. I understand why possibilities that are low are not as alarming, but I do not understand why any politician would reject risks that 50% or greater probability of happening. Intensified cyclone activity, raising sea level (threatening coastal communities around the globe), rising surface temperatures (affecting plant and animal life, as well as humans), impacting the amount of sea life (reducing a food source for a growing population), and a change in long term weather patterns are serious. The IPCC report shows these dangers, yet many politicians ignore them and the outcome, endangering our children and grandchildren, as well as plant and animal life on this pale blue dot we call home: Earth.

Why do politicians argue against climate change? Ask your representatives in the US house and senate. And when (and if) they respond, ask them for the scientific data/peer-reviewed papers that back their position. And be sure to ask them why they disagree with scientific consensus, where 97% of climate scientists agree global warming is happening, is caused by human activity, and is a serious threat to humanity.

 

WHAT IS THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT?

A greenhouse lets sunlight in, reducing heat loss from wind and trapping the heat so the enclosed area is warmer than the outside. These are used in cold climates, as well as when there is a need for warmer climate plants in cooler parts of the world.

“The greenhouse effect occurs on our planet because the atmosphere contains greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are special – they absorb heat, which then warms the atmosphere. Not all gases are greenhouse gases.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 22

The greenhouse effect is simple:

  1. The Earth receives sunlight and warms up.
  2. The Earth begins to radiate heat.
  3. Radiating heat encounters greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane) that absorb and retain the heat.

When greenhouse gas levels increase in the atmosphere, more heat is retained and the Earth gets warmer.

Positive feedback loop – in global warming, it happens when one change (like increased carbon dioxide) causes another result (more water vapor in the air) – water vapor is a greenhouse gas, so more water vapor means warmer Earth.

Negative feedback loop – in global warming, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide causes increased amounts of water vapor (a greenhouse gas) in the air – clouds form. Some clouds trap heat, while others reflect heat, and so this isn’t as much of a factor as positive feedback.

Anthropogenic – human generated. A cause for concern, since we started burning fossil fuels over 200 years ago and have not done anything to remove the excess carbon dioxide. This anthropogenic greenhouse gas has been increasing without a mechanism to reduce the extra carbon dioxide, so our Earth is getting warmer.

Greenhouse gases can be studied in the past, by analyzing ice from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Scientists take core samples of the ice and analyze the air bubbles in different times to see how much greenhouse gases were present. Core studies show far more greenhouse gases are present today than in pre-industrial era air. Not good.

“If we use existing fossil-fuel reserves and do nothing to capture the Carbon dioxide released, atmospheric carbon dioxide will exceed anything experienced on Earth for over 50 million years.”
Dire Predictions, Part 1 Climate Change Basics page 43

There was a myth that climate scientists in the 1970s predicted a new ice age was coming. This was published in popular magazines, not scientific magazines nor scientific journals, and was not the opinion of climate scientists. It was speculation and it was wrong.

The authors discuss climate models in this section, in detail and showing the strengths and weaknesses of them. Many climate change deniers argue that models are bad or inaccurate, but I have not seen any model complaint that was not addressed by scientists. Climate change models are being updated and enhanced, which proves that scientists want the best models possible. Science needs accurate data, but that does not mean we cannot use what we have now, even though it bothers climate change deniers.

 

PART 2: CLIMATE CHANGE PROJECTIONS

“researchers can draw certain conclusions given best-guess scenarios of fossil-fuel burning and the average projections of theoretical climate models.”
Dire Predictions Part 2 page 82

Some critics claim that climate change is false because we still have winters. Ridiculous. Climate scientists believe that, as climate change speeds up, there will be fewer frosty days (that doesn’t infer it will never be cold or frosty), longer heatwaves (that doesn’t mean we will only have heatwaves), and more intense rainstorms (that doesn’t infer we never had intense rainstorms).

Climate Sensitivity – the amount of warming to expect when factors controlling climate change. This shows how how much Earth will warm with increased greenhouse gas emissions.

We have limited real temperature data for land and sea, about 150 yrs for land and 50 yrs for sea, so scientists use tree rings and ice cores to estimate how average temperatures varied over time in the past. We can track solar activity and volcanic eruptions and greenhouse gas concentrations much further back than 150 years, and these help improve our climate models, by helping discern when climate change was influenced by natural or human factors.

By studying historical climate information, science shows that continued buildup of carbon dioxide results in warming of the Earth. Since burning fossil fuels adds greenhouse gases to the air and seas, increased reliance on fossil fuels increases the amount of greenhouse gases and so increases the temperature of our planet.

Recently, there was a false pause, where it appeared that global warming slowed, but that was a result in sparse data gathered, plus a few natural factors that offset global warming. These natural factors included volcanic activity, a short term reduction in solar output, and a series of La Nina events. When you factor in ocean heat content and arctic sea ice losses, the climate change models are still accurate – our planet is heating up, even though natural factors masked global warming during this false pause.

There have been IPCC projects for nearly 25 yrs, and the early ones have proven to be quite accurate. What should concern people living near the coast, is that sea levels have risen as projected for each of the earlier IPCC projections, A large percentage of global population live near the coast, so many people can expect to be impacted in the future, based on current expectations.

While some climate change deniers attack the IPCC findings by claiming they overstate the impact of global warming, actual evidence shows the IPCC predictions underestimated the effects of climate change.

The most conservative estimates for climate change over the next century are grim, with a 50% chance we will exceed 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) increase in average global temperatures. That 2 degree increase is viewed as a dangerous amount of climate interference by humans – called a tipping point. The most liberal estimates are far worse than 2 degrees C increase, with effects far more devastating.

Precipitation will be affected by increased average Earth temperatures, meaning more droughts and more floods. Cold seasons would see more precipitation and warm seasons should less precipitation, which is only good if you like plenty of snow in the winter and no rain in the summer. Increasing droughts could have a terrible impact on desert regions of the world.

Increased temperatures means we can expect to lose ice from our two largest continental ice sheets: Greenland and Antarctica. If the Greenland ice sheet melts, it would result in rising global sea levels of 16’ to 23’!  If the West Antarctic ice sheet melts, that would add another 16’ of rising sea levels. If you live in Louisiana, Florida, New York, or on any island in the ocean, you should be very concerned.

With the evidence we see from climate science, I cannot understand why people would choose to deny climate change and refuse to understand science. Harvey, a recent Cat 4 hurricane hit Texas, and most people were willing to accept the news from climate scientists about that hurricane, so they left endangered areas. Why accept some of what climate scientists say and reject other information? Because special interests promote doubt about climate change, but they don’t interfere with warnings about hurricanes. If you accept scientists are right on hurricanes, you must accept they are right on global warming.

 

PART 3: THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

If you are a climate change denier, this is the section you should focus on. Scientists expect human and animal habitats will be impacted by global warming, and that we will see mass extinction of many land and sea creatures which will affect animal and human food chains.

Climate change will result in less food to feed more people, so who gets to eat and live? We can expect wars as people lack what they need to survive and they will want with others have. We can also expect mass migration of people from less developed countries to the most developed parts of the planet. More people means less surface area to grow or raise food, meaning still less food.

We have already started to see rising sea levels affecting people in Louisiana (Katrina, 2005) and Texas (Harvey, 2017), and the heavily populated eastern seaboard will lose habitat land and heavy storm surges will cause increasing damage and property losses to people and businesses, affecting our economy – insurance companies aren’t in business to pay out more than they bring in, so insurance rates will soar.

If the Greenland ice sheet melts, we can expect over 19’ increase in sea level. Belgium and the Netherlands in Europe, the entire eastern seaboard, the gulf coast, and the west coast will lose much of the available land. And coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef will be impacted by global warming too, impacting the sea life dependent on reefs and reducing parts of the food chain we humans need that eat food from the oceans. And with ice in the arctic and Antarctica gone, life that lives (like polar bears) in those parts of the world will be gone, except for the animals kept in zoos. That will be a tragedy as we learn from studying life in the natural environment.

Droughts, which we have been experiencing since the early 2000s in Texas, Oklahoma and California, reduce plant and animal food production and increase food costs for people everywhere. And flooding won’t just cause loss of life by drowning. Many infectious diseases spread in water, and having more floods means more people are exposed to those diseases and so health costs will also rise.

All continents will be impacted by climate change. Yes, even the US and Europe, as well as Africa and Australia. Less coastal land for people to live on, famine from reduced food production, more disease from floods, and economic chaos from skyrocketing cost increases in every aspect of life. And war, meaning too many people will die far from home and family and friends, trying to gain what they lack.

The only good news we have right now? That the amount of global warming impacts how much our world is affected by global warming. If we act now and reduce our carbon emissions into the environment, we can reduce the changes that happen in the future.

 

PART 4: VULNERABILITY AND ADAPTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE

For our economies to change, we need to reward use of alternatives to fossil fuels and to provide a carbon tax to reward companies that use less fuels that add to the carbon dioxide levels in our environment.

Rising sea levels means our global communities will need to either pump out the excess water like Holland, or move inland. The costs for either will be huge, to individuals and to each country.

We will need to find more fresh water, which could be done by desalination plants if we can find an economically feasible means to mass produce fresh water. We need to produce more food on less arable land, so improving the efficiency of growth/production, as well as reducing spoilage will help.

To adapt to climate change, we need to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use for energy sources. Alternatives like solar and wind and tide power, as well as nuclear will reduce the fossil fuel we need for energy sources, which reduces carbon dioxide output to the sea and atmosphere. Alternative transportation – more trains, intercity mass transit, and electric-powered vehicles – will reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is another way to adapt. Reducing carbon dioxide from cars by carpooling and improving engine efficiency will help reduce our carbon footprint. Reducing emissions from power systems – as President Obama did by requiring coal powered plants to decrease greenhouse gases – will help, as long as another administration doesn’t make changes that eliminate those emission savings.

Unfortunately, President Trump as made rolling back changes that help the environment a priority of his administration. Removing the US from the Paris Climate Accords was President Trump’s defining act that may well be his lasting legacy – and not for the better I am afraid.

Many ecosystems around the world are sensitive to climate, and many will be wiped out unless we make changes now. Our scientists have seen the effects of climate change on sea corral, and the changes have been accelerating in recent years as greenhouse gases increase.

The truth is, economically it is less expensive to address climate change now that after it gets far worse. We can’t expect to see things immediately return to pre-industrial era conditions, but we can hope to see lower temperatures and less dangerous weather systems. Climate Scientists have shown that higher concentrations of greenhouse gases will take a long time to remove from the environment, so the longer we wait to reduce emissions, the longer the recovery time.

We can do something besides reduce emissions. Implement a carbon tax to reward companies that produce fewer greenhouse gases. This is not popular among republicans, but we are all Americans first and our country’s needs should come before party needs. We are past the point where we can do nothing and things will fix themselves. The cost of inactivity will escalate the longer we ignore or fail to correct the problem. That should motivate anyone that cares about this planet more than profits.

 

PART 5: SOLVING CLIMATE CHANGE

Adaption will help, but we still need to do more to solve global warming. We need to work with the other countries of our planet together, as we all impact each other. Unfortunately, President Trump removed the US from the Paris Climate Accords, so a future administration will need to make alliances with other countries and get political buy-in to prevent some other politician from harming our environment for the sake of profit.

We also need to improve engineering processes to reduce power wasted by inefficient transmission, improve tools like stoves to use fuel more efficiently (reducing the amount needed). This chapter of the book shows graphs that demonstrate the potential places we can reduce greenhouse emissions, along with the costs for each place.

Creating more wind farms and tapping more water power sources like dams and tidal power systems will help. We also need to stop trying to get more fossil fuel from the Earth, so reduce or eliminate fracking (which has proven a problem in Oklahoma, where they are experiencing earthquakes up around 5 on the Richter scale) in 2017.

Using lighter colored surfaces on the roofs of homes and businesses and road surfaces means less solar energy to be absorbed, which will help as well. Using electric cars instead of gas burning cars will make a tremendous difference as well.

We also need to consider future building projects, to reduce power needs and to utilize alternate power sources like solar. We may want to eat less red meat, as cows produce methane, and wheat doesn’t. Nothing wrong with people adapting by having meatless days during the week, which is healthier for us too.

Planting more trees as well as rewarding countries that preserve trees will help. We can’t match the efficiency of trees to convert carbon dioxide to oxygen, so planting more is a good option. Some people propose returning carbon to our environment, the same way that fossil fuel holds carbon. There are np good methods at this time, but that will change.

Each person on Earth can help in the fight against global warming. Reduce your use of carbon dioxide producing power systems. Add solar panels and energy efficient appliances to your home. Bike to work or work from home to save gas (and money) while reducing carbon dioxide output. Have a meatless day, where you eat no red meat one day a week. Add insulation to your home, turn off unnecessary lights, get rid of power-leaching power strips, and turn down your thermostat in the winter (and turn it up in summer). Communicate with people that doubt climate change and get them to see the reality of the problem. And write your government representatives and remind them they work for you, not the fossil fuel industry, and we need them to make laws to protect our planet. Plant a tree and a garden at your home.

We must act now. Global warming is real, and a serious threat to life on our planet. Sea life and land-bound life alike are at risk, and the effects will last a very long time, affecting our descendants who will rightly blame us for leaving them in this predicament. Climate change is a very real danger and we need to push our politicians to stop taking special interest money opposing climate change and to start fighting for us, their constituents. Inaction is no longer a realistic option.

 

CONCLUSION

This is an update to the first edition of the book, which includes updated scientific data. The pages in the book are thicker than normal and loaded with illustrations, graphs and images to help convey the information. The book is organized into five sections, which are easy to read sequentially or in any order you like. I hope that some people that embrace climate warming denial either buy or borrow this book from a library and read it with an open mind – I don’t see how any real, intelligent, and unbiased reader could go through this book and still believe global warming is not a real issue.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5 possible and strongly encourage that it be purchased and read by everyone in your family. This material should be easy enough for people with a high school education to understand, and it has enough detail for people with higher education to enjoy.

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